Want your child to learn a second language, but wondering if it will be worth the time and effort? Kids’ schedules are already full of school and extracurricular activities, so parents must be selective when taking on anything new. Read on for some compelling reasons why bilingualism is definitely worth the effort.Continue reading The Many Benefits of Bilingualism
April 30th of each year is the culmination of Dia! Diversity in Action.
Dia! Diversity In Action
Also known as El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), Dia! is a nationwide initiative from the American Library Association that helps libraries connect their patrons to more bilingual and multicultural resources.Continue reading DIA! DIVERSITY IN ACTION
Language Lizard and our colleagues at Mantra Lingua UK were honored to support a recent charity initiative of eClinicalWorks, to provide literacy materials to thousands of dual language families in Tennessee. Continue reading Charitable Program Provides Bilingual Books in Spanish, Arabic and Kurdish to Language Learners
Have you thought about hosting a Parents Night event just for your bilingual families? It’s a great opportunity to create a personal connection with parents who have a unique set of concerns, as well as a valuable skill set to bring to your classroom. Continue reading Parents Night for Bilingual ELL Families
In previous posts, we’ve discussed the benefits of home language maintenance. However, many parents struggle to maintain the home language (HL) for a variety of reasons. Here, we offer some concrete suggestions that parents can use with elementary-aged children, to ensure they receive the cognitive, cultural and professional benefits of bilingualism.
Teachers can share the following strategies with parents and even provide assignments that will support HL maintenance. Educators can also build bilingual book libraries to provide resources for children to read at home in the HL, and at school in English.
- Require your child to speak to you in the HL while at home. Give praise for doing so, and do not punish the child for wanting to speak English. Children will need several daily reminders to speak the HL.
- Have one parent do homework with the child in English (as that is the language at school).
- Provide grade level-appropriate homework for your child in the HL. If possible, coordinate with the teacher to select homework that is related to what they are doing in class. If there is not enough time to do this on the weekdays, pick a weekend day to do it.
1. Incentivize your child. Example: If you do this homework, then we’ll go to the_____________. If you don’t finish, we cannot go.
2. During the summer, do homework in the HL on a regular basis (if possible, work with your child’s teacher in determining summer assignments.
- Find cartoons, music, movies, multicultural books, apps and educational shows to play for your child in the HL. Screen time should be limited.
- If possible, send your child to your home country. If you still have family there, you may be able to arrange a home stay where the child gets maximum exposure to the HL.
- Explain to your child why it is important for her/him and your family that he or she speak both languages. Young children can understand and think critically about the importance of bilingualism, such as:
1. Maintaining the family’s native culture.
2. Maintaining communication with family who only speaks the HL.
3. Having pride in where you come from.
4. Being wll prepared for the future and a bilingual world and workplace.
- Give age appropriate examples of how others value their bilingualism. Examples: “My friends at work wish they spoke two languages,” or “your teacher is so proud of you and impressed by your bilingualism,” or “I got my job in part because I speak two languages.”
- Provide a print-rich environment for your child in the HL: Have your child help you choose fiction and non-fiction books in the HL, make grocery lists, write letters to relatives, and do other writing tasks in the HL. Reading and writing in the HL takes time and effort, but is important.
- Stay firm, confident and proud of your “HL Only” rule while in the house. Children in elementary school are much more likely than middle school or high school children to eventually accept the rule and adapt to it.
- Think of HL maintenance as part of parenting – you’re the enforcer!
- Do not get discouraged when your child doesn’t want to speak the HL. If your child is just making the change to home language use, start by having your child speak to you in the HL for an allotted amount of time each day.
1. Be creative and pick a phrase in the HL that your child must use a couple of times a day for that week, for example.
2. Tell your child it’s like a challenge or a game: “If you speak to me in Spanish after school for 20 minutes and during dinner, you’ll be rewarded with _____.” Sticker charts, point systems, and more will show your child how s/he is progressing and s/he can earn something after reaching a certain point.
- Do not criticize your child for using incorrect grammar, having an accent, or using the wrong word when speaking the HL. It’s natural to make mistakes, and you can gradually correct him or her with gentle reminders.
- If you have an infant as well, have your elementary school child speak to the baby in the HL only (for the benefit of both children).
Don’t be afraid and don’t get discouraged if the time and effort to implement a plan seems overwhelming at first. It will become part of your routine, just like anything else you’ve established in your home. Reach out to other parents who are in your situation, join online communities of bilingual parents, and do your own research if you have the time. There are many resources out there that can help you! It’s very rewarding when your child can speak to you and to others in your native language.
Guest author Emily Enstice is a former teacher at Willow Creek Academy, a K-8 charter school in Sausalito, California. She received her doctorate in International and Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco.
This blog post is linked with the monthly Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ tips, teaching strategies, and resources!
“Facts About Languages” by Elaine Smith via Flickr is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) https://flic.kr/p/VoddCu
Nearly one in three U.S. children live in a household where a language other than English is spoken, but are the same number of children fluent in their home language? Actually, many parents struggle to maintain the home language for a variety of reasons: when spoken to in the home language, children respond in English; some teachers encourage English only at home (the perception that another language confuses children is false); parents, their children and many societal groups view home languages as inferior to English. These examples of parent struggles with home language maintenance resonate with immigrant families across the U.S. Continue reading Benefits of Home Language Maintenance, From Parents’ Perspectives
What kind of people are most likely to be bilingual? What motivates them, and what benefits of bilingualism do they enjoy? Whether you’re bilingual, in the process of learning, or just curious about learning a new language, you’ll want to check out these interesting stats regarding bilingualism in the US.
It’s one in the afternoon and I enter the classroom armed with language books, handouts and a number of other paraphernalia to make this another “greatest lesson ever.” I arrange my things, write the date and the topic on the board and turn to face a room full of what I expected to be eager faces. Instead of bright eyes and curious expressions, I see blank stares and even a few grimaces. “Buenas tardes,” I try. The class gives a collective groan. My enthusiasm fizzles.
Every language teacher at some point or the other, usually very early in their career, has faced this situation. It’s when you are meeting a group of students for the first time but they’re old enough to not be impressed by onomatopoeic name tags. Your cheery disposition has no effect on “Happy Harry” or “Joyful Jessica.”
Foreign language teaching has gone through a number of methodologies and approaches; each purporting to be better than the other. According to Richards and Rodgers (2014), “efforts to improve the effectiveness of language teaching have often focused on changes in teaching methods… such changes have reflected changes in the goals of language teaching, such as a move toward oral proficiency rather than reading comprehension as the goal of language study; they have also reflected changes in theories of the nature of language and of language learning” (p.3). Furthermore, “common to each method is the belief that the teaching practices it supports provide a more effective and theoretically sound basis for teaching than the methods that preceded it” (Richards & Rodgers, 2014).
Despite the pedagogical strides, unfortunately for the majority of classrooms, the grammar translation method or rote learning maintains supremacy as the means of teaching. This approach came out of the methods used to teach classical languages such as Greek and Latin and focused on the repetition of grammatical forms, imitating the speaker and involved translating sentences from the target language to the native language (Celce-Murcia, 2001).
How many of us can recall the endless lists of verb tables and vocabulary? In fact, any oral language practice was simple repetition of sentences, which according to Richards and Rodgers (2014), “were designed to illustrate the grammatical system of the language and consequently bore no relation to the language of real communication.” Hence, came the search for method of language teaching that emphasized the use of language for its main purpose: communication, while abstractedly, or intentionally teaching grammar.
The most recent approach to language teaching takes this view of using language as a means of communication. The Communicative Approach, as it is called, focuses on teaching contextual functions and notions. Reading, speaking and listening skills are emphasized in activities since they occur together in the real world and the rules of grammar become an outgrowth of what students learn (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). There is no set way of using the Communicative Approach. It largely depends on whether the teacher wishes to emphasize fluency or accuracy. There are also different versions of the approach, which have become methods in themselves. One such method is Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT).
Nunan (2004) describes this approach as “learning by doing”. He proposed that “intellectual growth occurs when learners engage in and reflect on sequences of tasks” (p. 12). These tasks should be activities that students would naturally engage in on a day-to-day basis: real world tasks. As such, a sequence of classroom tasks may include reading a job advertisement and writing a resume in the target language, calling to make a doctor’s appointment or even a hotel reservation. The tasks are designed for students to engage in language use to make transactions, to socialize and even for enjoyment, which are all a part of everyday interactions.
Nunan (2004) makes a distinction between what he calls “target tasks” and “pedagogical tasks.” Target tasks, he wrote, “refers to uses of language in the world beyond the classroom” while “pedagogical tasks are those that occur in the classroom” (p.1). He further explained that, “a pedagogical task is a piece of classroom work that involves learners in comprehending, manipulating, producing or interacting in the target language while their attention is focused on mobilizing their grammatical knowledge in order to express meaning, and in which the intention is to convey meaning rather than to manipulate form” (p. 4).
Ideally, in the communicative language classroom, both types of tasks should be used. Pedagogical tasks help to practice the grammar and vocabulary specific to a particular topic and may even have real world connections. One such task may be for students to plan a birthday party while constructing sentences which describe what each person will do. The sentences will include the future tense and vocabulary related to parties such as decorations, specific foods and gifts. A target task from this exercise would be to ask students to create and exchange invitations for the same party.
The Communicative Approach and by extension, Task Based Language Teaching involves collaboration. Students must work together on tasks either in pairs or in groups in order for the communicative objective to be met. After all, language is designed to be exchanged. Task Based Language Teaching does offer a lot of potential in the classroom for changing how students learn as well as their overall attitude to languages.
Importantly, the role of the teacher has changed. He/she no longer transmits knowledge to the learner but encourages the learner to use the knowledge that they have and through tasks to build that knowledge. The role of the learner changes too. Nunan (2004) wrote that “by using ‘task’ as a basic unit of learning, and by incorporating a focus on strategies, we open to students the possibility of planning and monitoring their own learning…” (p. 15). That is to say, students become self-directed. They determine how to approach the task and may even understand the subject matter in different ways.
That said, the students’ reaction to my greeting when I entered the classroom betrays their attitude to learning a foreign language. Their reticence came about as a response to the teaching styles that they have encountered with the result being that the new language isn’t any clearer to them now than it was when they first began learning.
As I explain my goals for the lesson and the tasks that they will be doing, I have to keep all of that in mind and determine that my approach must make language learning more meaningful. When we begin, I can see the expressions changing, and their questions about how to do the task shows that the creative gears are again turning.
And the “greatest lesson ever” begins.
Celce-Murcia, M. (2001). Language teaching approaches: An overview. In Teaching English as a second or foreign language (Vol. 2, pp. 3-10). Retrieved from http://files.sabrikoc.webnode.com/200000087-a23cda4300/Language_Teaching_Approaches_Celce-Murcia1991.pdf
Nunan, D. (2004). Task Based Language Learning . Cambridge University Press.
Richards, J., & Rodgers, T. (2014). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press.
“school” by justine warrington via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 justine warrington
Language Lizard is pleased to announce new multilingual “talking” charts that allow students to hear explanations of key terms in English, geography, math & science in many different languages, including English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.
These charts are invaluable resources for teachers who support a linguistically diverse student body. Using these charts with the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, newcomers and English Language Learners (ELLs) can hear key terms explained in their native languages, allowing for a better understanding of subject matter content.
Students simply select the language that they want to hear from the right side of the chart with the PENpal, and then tap a subject term to hear an explanation of the word in the selected language. Teachers and students can also use “talking labels” (recordable stickers) to add their own recordings of additional information to the chart.
There are four new Talking Charts, and they can be purchased separately or in a value pack of 4 Multilingual Charts.
The English Multilingual Terms Chart includes explanations and examples for terms such as alliteration, apostrophe, conjunction, differentiate, figurative, imagery, narrative/narrator, onomatopoeia, personification, preposition and synonym.
The Geography Multilingual Terms Chart includes explanations for erosion, estuary, habitat, infrastructure, landscape, latitude, longitude, pollution, settlement and much more.
The Math Multilingual Terms Chart includes terms such as adjacent, circumference, coordinate, decimal, denominator, diameter, equilateral, fraction, isosceles, perimeter, perpendicular, radius, ratio, symmetry and vertical.
The Science Multilingual Terms Chart includes absorb, amphibian, circulation, condensation, combustion, evaporation, friction, nutrient, organism, particles, respiration, vertebrate and more key terms.
These new charts work alongside our popular Multilingual Phrases for School Talking Chart which allows teachers and administrators to communicate more easily with student language learners as well as parents who do not speak English well.
The following languages are available on the charts: Arabic, Czech, English, Farsi, French, Lithuanian, Mandarin Chinese, Panjabi, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovakian, Somali, Spanish, Sylheti, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese and Yorub
The US is a country of many languages. In public schools, about 10 percent (4.5 million) of all kids are English Language Learners (ELLs). Of those ELLs, Spanish is the first language of about 71 percent, but there are hundreds of different languages spoken in US schools. Any one school can have a dozen or more languages spoken by its students.
Schools put different types of learning programs in place to help students transition to speaking English. One example is sheltered instruction, which combines English language development strategies with content area instruction.
American schools typically offer five categories of English language programs. The programs offered at any given school or district depend on school demographics, student characteristics, and available resources. The US Department of Education provides resources to educators working with ELL and foreign born students, such as the Newcomer Toolkit.
Check out the graphic below to learn more about ELL learning in the US. To find diverse children’s books in many languages to support literacy among ELLs, feel free to browse the Language Lizard website.
(Graphic included with permission from Gergich & Co.)