By Karen Nemeth, Ed.M.
Photo credit: christine (cbszeto)
Learning to talk is one of the biggest jobs a baby has to do – so wouldn’t learning two languages be confusing? The answer is: No!
According to the latest research, babies’ brains are so well prepared to analyze, absorb, and make sense of language, that learning in two languages simply comes naturally.
Through their research, Dr. Patricia Kuhl of Washington University and her colleagues have found that infants who grow up bilingual maintain brain plasticity for a longer period of time as they develop two distinct yet connected languages. We also know from York University’s Dr. Ellen Bialystok’s research that this early experience helps children get to school with more advantageous self-regulation skills and can benefit brain function even until old age.
That’s why growing numbers of parents and childcare programs are endeavoring to raise children who are bilingual right from the start. Continue reading Building Baby Brains with Two Languages
When it comes to choosing bilingual books to share with our little ones during the summer, the choices seem endless. Who can decide on just a few when there are so many to choose from?
To help you pick the right bilingual books for your family this summer, we have put together the following lists based on some popular topics.
We hope you will find just the right books to make your summertime as enjoyable (and bilingual) as possible. Feel free to head over to our main Language Lizard website to find even more fantastic bilingual books!
Kids love reading books that make them laugh or have a funny, unexpected twist at the end. Get your children giggling with these books: Continue reading Top Bilingual Books for Summertime Reading
Summer is a wonderful time of year to travel: Children are out of school and the warm days beacon for lazy hours at the beach or walks through cool forests. Whether we are traveling by land, air or sea, we can make bilingualism part of every bilingual child’s summertime adventures.
Both parents and teachers can engage bilingual children in fun travel activities, whether it is during a bus ride with a summer class or as a family on the way to visit grandma and grandpa. Nothing helps the time pass more quickly (and more enjoyably) than with travel activities. Why not make bilingualism a part of it?
Here is a list of some favorite travel activities to do with bilingual children: Continue reading Bilingual Children: Summer Travel Activities
Summertime is upon us! The school year is coming to an end and our favorite summer activities are right around the corner: Running barefoot through sprinklers, savoring a neon-colored snow cone and sitting in the shade of a favorite tree with a good book. What could be better?
Even though school is letting out, children can strengthen their literacy skills with summertime literacy programs, available through local libraries, community centers, schools, bookstores and even online. Bilingual children, in particular, can significantly improve their literacy during the summer by reading bilingual books in both of their languages.
As we mentioned in our previous article, literacy can grow and develop regardless of language. The most important thing is that bilingual children are provided with quality reading materials and an incentive to read them. Instilling a love of reading should always be the primary goal for our students.
Here is a list of programs that can help students strengthen their literacy skills this summer:
Continue reading Bilingual Children & Summer Literacy Programs
The benefits of bilingualism has been a hot topic in recent years. Magazines, newspapers and blogs extol the fascinating ways in which the bilingual brain effortlessly manipulates more than one language at a time, working more effectively and efficiently than a monolingual one on specific types of tasks.
Thanks to their brain’s more robust executive control system (which comes from switching off the language that is not needed), bilinguals are believed to have better skills in tuning out distractions, which means that they are able to focus on what is most relevant at the moment. This can be a very important life skill. In addition, Prof. Ellen Bialystok discovered through her research on bilinguals that bilingualism helped those with Alzheimer’s continue functioning at higher cognitive levels despite having this debilitating disease. Basically, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in bilinguals didn’t show up for five or six years later than those who only spoke one language. Another indication of the robustness of the bilingual brain.
While this research is exciting and inspiring, we also need to make sure that we are careful about how we introduce young children to additional languages. Using a grammar book with a young child may not be the way to go and can even cause a child to never want to learn another language ever again – even though that same strategy may be effective for a teenager or an adult.
Continue reading Teaching Children Languages: Benefits & Strategies
Although the United States has been dubbed “the graveyard of languages” for its lack of heritage language support, today’s children’s futures need not be so bleak. Given the right encouragement, immigrant families can pass on the best of both worlds to their children: a home language in addition to the community language.
For many decades there has been a common misconception that immigrant families will help their children most by completely switching to English in the home. The belief is that the more a family uses English together, the stronger their English language skills will become. While it is true that family members can help one another by practicing English together, English should not supplant the native language in the home. In fact, dropping the home language in favor of English can end up having many negative consequences.
Why would a family do this? A strong desire to prepare children for a competitive education system is one very common reason. Continue reading Supporting Bilingualism: 4 Reasons Parents Should Speak Heritage Languages at Home
There are so many wonderful ways for our children to learn languages today. Online programs offer interactive multimedia opportunities that we could have only dreamed of having when we were young. Bilingual books and DVDs can be found in many libraries around the country, and children’s language learning classes abound.
What parents and teachers sometimes forget is the value of context when it comes to learning a language. Flash cards and online vocabulary games can be fun, but they don’t offer the kind of language development that human conversation provides. We use language for communication, and therefore it is best learned in its natural form: through discussions, conversations and stories.
Continue reading Bilingual Children: 5 Tips for Using Language in Context
As a recent article from the New York Times reminds us, when it comes to children’s books, print is still where it’s at. E-books may be perfect for a bus ride home after a long day in the office, easily tucked away into a briefcase or backpack. And an iPad can help distract us and our children during a long wait in the doctor’s office. But when it comes to the beloved bedtime story or a read-aloud at school, parents and teachers turn to the tried-and-true paper and glue book.
There is something magical about children’s books. Our favorites are those which create the perfect marriage between image and text: a magical storyline weaving and dancing against vivid illustrations and images. We each must have a memory of cuddling up with just such a book from our childhood. It isn’t impossible to recreate this in today’s digital age, but it just doesn’t feel quite the same, does it?
Even though children will often select the same book to be read out loud, this doesn’t mean that having plenty around isn’t worthwhile. Looking through piles of books, each with its own size, shape and colors, can be pure bliss for a young child. It helps children come to realize just how diverse our literary world really is.
Ultimately, the storyline is only part of what matters to a young child when we read out loud to them. The overall experience is the real payback. The way we read a story out loud to children transports them to another world. Holding a book in the hand, feeling the texture of the pages as they are turned, and touching the images is as much part of the experience as reading the text. So is the warmth and comfort of snuggling on a parents’ lap or laying back on a floor pillow while being read to.
Continue reading Children’s Books: Stick with the Real Thing!
With the holiday season approaching, we wanted to let you know about a wonderful Multicultural Calendar that we recently discovered.
This calendar would make a great gift for educators, families and organizations who celebrate diversity and teach children about other cultures and holidays. In fact, we liked it so much that Language Lizard has decided to give a few away!
Developed by artist Sheena Singh, this beautiful calendar includes hundreds of multicultural, multi-faith and diversity related holidays and observances. It provides accurate dates with explanations for each of the world’s twelve major religions and the cultural festivals of most ethnic groups in North America, including Aboriginal People, Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Jain, Jewish, Shinto, Sikh and more. It also includes cultural festivals of over 140 countries. Continue reading Multicultural Calendar – Diversity Calendar 2012
As schools open their doors each fall, students from all walks of life enter. Each has the opportunity to share with other students in the amazing experience of education. Wide-eyed and anxious, children slowly lower their guard and allow themselves to get comfortable with their teachers, fellow students and surroundings. The hope is that this experience will be filled with joy and comfort for each and every student.
For many English Language Learners (ELLs), school is a place of laughter, fun and expansion. Bit by bit language and cultural elements are learned, shared and savored. For other ELLs it is a place of fear, humiliation and intimidation.
Continue reading 8 Tips to Protect English Language Learners from Bullying in Your Classroom and School