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
One of the most popular ways to raise a child bilingually is by using the OPOL approach – One Person, One Language. It seems to be one of the easiest ways for children to distinguish between languages, because they become aware that they should speak a different language with different people.
Using our family as an example: I am a native English speaker and my husband is a native Italian speaker. We live in Italy and both speak each other’s language, however not to a native level. We have two children aged two and four years old. We have spoken with our children in our own native languages from the start to give them the best chance of becoming bilingual early on.
OPOL vs MLAH approach with language exposure
MLAH (Minority Language at Home) is another common approach to raising bilingual children. This is where one language is spoken within the home, and the other out in the community. With this approach, both languages seem to have the same amount of exposure.
With the OPOL approach, most of the time one language is lacking in exposure, the minority language. Therefore, it is extremely important that the parent who speaks the minority language sticks to it quite strictly to make it work. It is not always as easy as it sounds.
We live in Italy, the community language is Italian, therefore I am the only exposure to English my children have. It would be quite easy for me to switch to the community language, however I never speak with my children in Italian, only English. It can be quite difficult sometimes in public. There are some people who stare, or ask why I am speaking English with them when we live in an Italian community. I try my best to make my children feel comfortable enough to speak back with me in English, no matter where we are, and who we are with.
Consistency plays a key role in the language learning process
If parents are not consistent using only one language speaking to their child, there is a risk that your child will become confused. Although my husband and I mix languages between ourselves, we speak ONLY our native languages with our children. They learned from very early on, who they should speak with, in which language. They know they are expected to respond to us in the language we speak with them. They are so used to it now in fact, that if I “joke” and say something in Italian, they usually laugh at me and get embarrassed because it doesn’t seem right.
Yes, it can be difficult when having family conversations
Using the OPOL approach means conversations at home can become quite “interesting” at times. With each parent speaking a different language, the children are forced to mix between languages in one conversation.
When we are eating a meal together or playing together as a family at home, there is a mix between Italian and English spoken between us all. The one thing that stays consistent though, is that when addressing my children I only speak English, and my husband only Italian, even if we speak a mix of the languages with each other.
If we are with other Italian family members who do not speak English, I stay consistent speaking with my children in English, even if others cannot understand what I am saying. This is where consistency can become difficult, as some people can feel like they are left out of the conversation. When this is the case, I sometimes translate for them, what I have said to my child.
What about adding a third language?
The OPOL approach can also work when raising your children with three languages, it just means a “third person.” Our children are learning Spanish as a third language. We have a “playmate” named Ana who comes to spend time with them. Before she started, we explained our family situation and she has been following the same approach. She speaks only Spanish with our children, and they are expected to respond in Spanish just as they do with us in English and Italian. It was quite amazing watching them take to it so easily.
Is OPOL the only way to go?
Of course this approach isn’t for every family. Before deciding on an approach to follow with your children, it is best to assess your situation, what languages are spoken, by whom, and to which level. Then work out your family language goal choosing an approach to suit.
If OPOL works for you then that’s great. If not, you can always use it as a good foundation and adapt the approach to suit your family goals.
Chontelle Bonfiglio is an Australian mother of two bilingual children. She is a certified ESL Teacher, Blogger, and Creator of Bilingual Kidspot, a website for parents raising bilingual or multilingual children.
Help your children build literacy in more than one language with bilingual books for kids available at Language Lizard!
Learning a new language is hard work – definitely no walk in the park! As a teacher, parent or student, you may find yourself so busy with the basics of vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar that you’re hesitant to add any more work. But idioms – sayings with a shared meaning in a community, which aren’t decipherable from their words alone – are an important part of language learning, too. Read on for some helpful tips to “pave the way” to learning idioms in a new language.
Why are Idioms Important to Language Learners?
The English language has thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of idioms, so there’s a significant amount of day-to-day communication that can be conducted through idioms. Without lessons in local idioms, communicating effectively can be that much more difficult for a language learner.
For older students, especially, learning idioms can be one of the most fun parts of learning a new language. It also helps them get a better sense of the spirit of the community, and understand what that culture values most.
Tips to Teach Idioms
You’ll want to start by choosing a handful of idioms to explore with your language learners. Make your choices based on the most likely social scenarios they will find themselves in, according to their age and development level.
Make lessons fun by using idioms in sample sentences, and asking students to guess their meanings from their context. You may want to include pictures that illustrate when and how the idioms would be used.
Remember to have students practice how to use each idiom properly, since this type of communication can very nuanced. It’s best to teach idioms verbally, and have students practice by role playing.
What are you favorite idioms, in English or another language? Comment and share below!
In the past, we’ve written about online resources that can help educators trying to accommodate an increasingly diverse student population, as well as tips to make the critical first days of school go more smoothly for bilingual students in your classroom.
Today, we take a look at the US Department of Education’s recently updated, detailed Newcomer Toolkit, designed to help educators (teachers, principals and school staff) working with foreign-born students who have recently arrived in the US. In addition to providing general background information like correct terminology, census data and the many contributions of immigrants to our society, the toolkit offers a wealth of additional resources and extensive chapters on a wide array of topics.
We know it’s crucial to create a safe and inclusive environment for new immigrant students arriving at your school. The Toolkit’s second chapter provides guidance on the most effective ways to communicate with parents of newcomers, so they understand their children’s rights, as well as the way your school operates. There is a close look at developing a safe and supportive framework at your school that includes engagement through strong relationships, safety from bullying and other dangers, and creating an environment with appropriate facilities and disciplinary policies.
Provide High Quality Instruction
This chapter in the Toolkit is focused on ways to identify and build on a student’s strengths, and how to help each student reach his/her full potential. Some highlights are addressing common misconceptions about newcomers, and helping the entire school community appreciate the unique global view that newcomers can contribute.
Social Emotional Needs
In the fourth chapter, the importance of addressing a newcomer’s social and emotional needs is examined. Strategies that are specific to teachers, other students, an entire classroom, and the whole school are discussed. There is also a look at the most common social emotional stressors newcomers face.
Partnering with Families
The final chapter of the Toolkit looks at the importance of collaborating with the families of newcomers. You can learn about the 4 stages of parent involvement (survivor, learner, connector and leader), and how each type requires a different approach.
Another section is dedicated to the role of the Parent Center, where families can connect with each other, and parents can feel safe seeking answers from a volunteer or staff member.
The Toolkit is not only a detailed guide for educators working with newcomers and their families, it also offers a wealth of further online resources within, and at the end of, each chapter. We strongly recommend this Toolkit as an important resource for all educators working with newcomers.
What outstanding resources does your school offer families that have newly arrived in the US? Share them below!
“Classroom” by Allison Meier via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5KRnrx
We’re linking up with other educational bloggers to bring you fun ideas and a great giveaway too!
by guest blogger Adam Beck
Though I no longer teach at Hiroshima International School, I return there every year, with my family in tow, for the school’s annual spring festival. For me, my main motivation—apart from seeing old friends—is the sale of used books: children’s books of all kinds, from the school library and students’ homes, at rock-bottom prices.
I practically start drooling as I paw through them.
Each year I come home with dozens of books for our home library: books I can read aloud to my kids at breakfast, books we read together for “shared reading” (taking turns, page by page), and books they can read on their own.
A couple of years ago, we came home from the festival and I dumped two heavy shopping bags of books on the kitchen table. I pulled out a chair and sat, happily examining my treasure and taping together the loose covers and pages. That’s when my daughter Lulu, then 9, approached and exclaimed, “Daddy, we have too many books!”
The truth is, if you stepped inside my little house, you’d probably laugh: It’s bursting with books, to the point where there really isn’t room for them all. Our bookshelves overflowed long ago and there are now piles rising from the floor like sunflowers.
But I turned to Lulu and I replied: “Too many books? You can never have too many books!”
My philosophy of education
“You can never have too many books!” These seven words basically sum up my view of language education since I first became a teacher of bilingual children 20 years ago. Books and reading—lots of books and lots of reading—became my main ally in nurturing language development.
During my time at Hiroshima International School, I flooded my classroom with books and read often to my students. And as I watched their English ability grow, I realized that this same approach would become the cornerstone of my efforts to one day raise bilingual children of my own. I would flood the house with books in the minority language and make reading a daily staple of my family’s lifestyle.
I have seen the rewarding results of this “method” in my own personal experience, but in fact, there is also prominent research which indicates that a correlation between the number of books in the home and a child’s language development and ability, as well as academic achievement and even career success, is evident in countries and languages around the world.
Pursued over a period of 20 years and published in 2010, the authors of the massive study Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations analyzed the lives of some 70,000 people in a range of countries. At the heart of their research was this key question: About how many books were in your family’s house when you were 14 years old? (Any books, not simply books for children.)
At the same time, they gathered background data on these participants, such as the parents’ level of education and occupation, and their own schooling and work.
What does this research reveal? It demonstrates—even given the parents’ level of education and occupation, as well as such factors as gender, class, nationality, political system, and gross national product—that the impact of books is the same throughout the world and throughout many generations: Children in families with a home library of 500 books or more experience significantly greater educational success. On average, these children pursue their education for 3.7 years longer than children in homes with few or no books.
As the authors themselves write: “We find that parents’ commitment to scholarly culture [which they define as “the way of life in homes where books are numerous, esteemed, read, and enjoyed”], manifest by a large home library, greatly enhances their children’s educational attainment. … Scholarly culture has a powerful impact on children’s education throughout the world, in rich nations and in poor, under communism and under capitalism, under good governments and bad, in the present generation and as far back in history as now living memory can take us. … A book-oriented home environment, we argue, endows children with tools that are directly useful in learning at school: vocabulary, information, comprehension skills, imagination, broad horizons of history and geography, familiarity with good writing, understanding of the importance of evidence in argument, and many others.”
Implications for parents
Although this study was concerned more broadly with books in the majority language of each nation, and success in schooling, there are important implications for parents seeking to support the minority language of their bilingual children. After all, success in schooling is a direct outgrowth of success in language development.
Build a home library of books in the minority language—the bigger, the better.
Even if you don’t own 500 books (both children’s books and books for adults count!), the more books you have, and the more you make use of those books by reading aloud to your children each day and reading together, the more your children’s language ability will grow.
And, as the study suggests, the language-related “tools” that your children will gain in the minority language will also be a source of support to them when attending school in the majority language. For example, the knowledge about the world that my kids have gleaned from our English books at home serves them well when studying similar topics in Japanese.
Create an environment of bookshelves and books, not simply digital readers and e-books.
One important reason I haven’t yet shifted much from “real books” to e-books is because real books, in my view, provide a richer environment for the senses. It’s true, we’re slowly getting buried in books here, but the fact that my kids are surrounded by them (and stumbling over them), day in and day out, makes books and reading a way of life.
With bookshelves, books are continuously on display and available for discovery; this just isn’t the case with e-books lurking inside a digital device. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking e-books—they have many merits, not the least of which would be helping me dig out of my housekeeping dilemma. But, to me, they also run the risk of turning books from “public things” into “private things.”
For the sake of my children’s language development, I want our home environment to support my aims, and I think emphasizing books that are tangible and tactile, as “public things” always beckoning to the eye, is a more effective course during their formative years.
Keep in mind that, as these researchers contend, “a taste for books is largely inherited.”
Of course, our main goal involves supporting the minority language of our bilingual kids. But have you ever considered the fact that, in a way, the support you’re providing to your children today will also affect the language development of their kids, your future grandchildren? (Sorry to turn you into a grandparent so soon!)
The study on “scholarly culture” makes this very clear in exploring the question: Where do libraries come from—who acquires a large library? And the authors conclude that “Scholarly culture, and the taste for books that it brings, persists from generation to generation within families largely of its own accord, independent of education and class.”
In other words, if you build a large library of books in your home, your children probably will, too, when they’re adults! And if your children do, your grandchildren will do the same for their kids! And so it goes, generation after generation, a love of language and literacy—and stronger language development—handed down far after your time.
Adapted from the book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids by Adam Beck, founder of the blog Bilingual Monkeys and the forum The Bilingual Zoo. Adam has worked with hundreds of bilingual and multilingual children, from toddlers to teens, as both a classroom teacher and a private tutor. He now lends support to many more families, in all parts of the world, via his book, blog, and forum. He has lived in Hiroshima, Japan since 1996 and is raising two bilingual children in Japanese and English.
How many books do you have in your home library or classroom library? Could strengthening this library help strengthen the language development of your children or students? Please add your thoughts below.
The process of language development in children is an amazing one, and full of so much complexity. Here, we offer 5 fun activity ideas that can help the oral language development of the kids in your home or classroom.
Oral Language and Literacy
So much of language is learned in the early years of life, simply by listening to and interacting with those around us. As time goes by, our oral language skills improve through practice and formal instruction. Oral language is made up of three parts: phonological (how sounds are combined), semantic (the smallest components of words), and syntactic (how sentences are put together).
Literacy begins with good oral language skills. In a classroom setting, it may feel counter-intuitive for a teacher to allow students more time to talk in groups, but there are a number of advantages to doing so. They gain valuable practice with new vocabulary, enhance conversational proficiency, and improve their ability to express their ideas. Also, kids often feel more relaxed when speaking to their peers because they aren’t so worried about giving the “wrong” answer. As such, they are more open to absorbing and learning from what’s being discussed, in turn improving their overall language skills.
Activities for Oral Language Development
No matter the type of activity, keep these guidelines in mind when planning:
- Keep the activity free from anxiety by creating a positive environment to limit the fear of embarrassment.
- Provide clear instructions, possibly in different formats, so that all learning types can understand what’s expected.
- Keep activities engaging by introducing fun or dramatic elements.
- Lastly, remember that kids will need lots of repetition to practice their oral language skills.
Here are 5 activity ideas, from our post about language development in the classroom:
- Mini Circle Chats: Have your students sit in circles of 4 or 5. Give them a list of fun questions that encourage more than single-word answers. Let students know that they can engage in discussions together so they can talk about similarities and differences. If you have a very diverse classroom, ensure that each circle includes a mix of cultures.
- Word Play: Ask students to write 5-10 words (in any language). Have each student share one of their words with the class, and ask the student to explain why he or she chose to write down that word. Does it represent a feeling or an event that took place?
- Memory Drawings: Have students draw their favorite memories, then share with the rest of the class, explaining the different elements of their picture. Or, spread out a long piece of paper and have students draw their memories at the same time on a wall mural. When the time is up, hang the mural up on the wall and let everyone spend a good amount of time looking at it up close and talking about it. Eventually you can have the students sit down on the floor in front of the mural and talk as a group about what they see and what thoughts come to their minds.
- Multicultural Traditions: Have students sit together in a circle to share one of their cultural or family traditions. Then ask others in the circle if they also participate in the tradition with their family and if so, whether or not they celebrate it in the same way. Help students notice that not everyone has the same traditions, and that even the same traditions can be celebrated in different ways.
For those times when group or peer interaction isn’t realistic, an individualized learning tool like the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen can be invaluable in providing the differentiated instruction needed to help teachers reach every student, of all skill levels, in an effective way. Free video and print resources on the Language Lizard website help educators and parents use the Talking Pen to effectively develop and assess oral language skills, as well as build fluency and improve phonemic awareness with their students.
“Girl Talk” by Dean Wissing via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6r3SmY
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There are so many reasons to read to your baby, especially when you’re raising a bilingual child. Not only is reading a great way to bond, it’s a chance to link spoken words with visual images on the page. And don’t forget to get older siblings involved in the bilingual reading fun! Here are 5 tips to getting your bilingual baby book collection started.
Choosing the Right Bilingual Baby Books
Your first bilingual books for your baby should be made of sturdy material that can withstand strong baby hands and teeth. Board books with thick pages are a great choice, as are cloth and vinyl books that can be washed off.
For babies newborn to 6 months, choose books with large pictures in bright colors. Older babies love books with images of their favorite things, like balls, bottles and other babies.
Make Dedicated Reading Time
Life with a baby means getting a million things done each day (and night). Feeding, changing, nap time… repeat. Find a special reading time that works best for your family: maybe at snack time, after a bath or at bedtime. Soon, reading time will be one of the best parts of your daily routine.
Read with Enthusiasm!
Whether it’s animals noises, singing or character voices, your baby (and you) will have more fun when story time is full of excitement, emotion and enthusiasm. But remember to keep your expression pleasant, so baby doesn’t get frightened if there are scary parts.
Name Everything as You Read
Don’t limit yourself to the text on the page. Feel free to point to pictures and objects and name them all in both languages!
Let Your Books Grow with Your Child
As your baby grows, don’t forget to add more challenging stories to your collection. These will have longer sentences, with more complex vocabulary. But it’s ok to keep the old favorites in the rotation! Find multicultural children books that are culturally appropriate. International holidays and common experiences, like making friends or trying new foods, are great topics that your little one will enjoy.
What is your family’s favorite story to read? Comment below and let us know!
Today’s spotlight language is Nepali. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Nepali books.
Where is it spoken?
Nepali is the official language of Nepal, a country in South Asia. It is also spoken in Bhutan, Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar), and India. There are about 17 million Nepali speakers around the world.
How Many People Speak Nepali in the US?
There are relatively large Nepalese communities in New York, California and Texas. According to the US Census Bureau’s most recent estimates in 2014, over 120,000 people in the US identify as Nepalese. Of these, about 25,000 are school-aged children.
Interesting Facts About Nepali
In the past, Nepali was called the Khas language and Gorkhali.
One of the most well known words in Nepali is “namaste,” which means hello. It is usually spoken with a slight bow and palms pressed together. It can be used as a greeting or a goodbye. A more casual greeting is “Tik chha,” which means “How are you?”
Nepali Books – Bilingual Children’s Books
Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Nepali books for children. Here are some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Nepali language as well as a Nepali English dictionary for children.
Do you speak Nepali, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!
“Nepal – Evening lights at Bhaktapur” by Dhilung Kirat via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6gHdSS
“Nepal-map-blank” By CIA World fact book (Image:Nepal-CIA_WFB_Map.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANepal-map-blank.png
What is Differentiated Instruction?
- meet rigorous standards
- focus on essential skills in different content areas
- incorporate assessment into instruction
- provide students with multiple avenues to learning
- respond to individual student needs
What is Inclusion?
Using Technology to Promote Differentiated Instruction and Inclusiveness
PENpal resources can help teachers achieve differentiated instruction and inclusiveness in their classrooms in many ways:
- Provide step-by-step instructions for Learning Centers.
- Students record the telling of a story, add sound effects, narrate a character’s thoughts or imagined conversation between characters.
- Provide narration in different languages and record support for homework.
- Record messages or questions for parents, who can record their responses in English or their home language.
- Use the PENpal as a multi-sensory spelling tool by having students record the word they are spelling, and the phonemes or graphemes that make up the word.
- Use as an assessment tool by keeping all recordings as evidence of a student’s progress.
- Narrate storyboards in preparation for storytelling/story writing/drama exercises. Record dialogue between characters and document additional information, such as length of scene, props, or characters.
- Create interactive wall displays.
- Audio-enhance flashcards.
Don’t forget to check out our comprehensive and informative collection of videos for even more ideas on how the PENpal can foster English language learner (ELL) language development in the classroom and at home.
Language Lizard is proud to announce the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen… The pen that’s bringing sound to paper!
What is PENpal?
An award-winning digital audio “pen” that promotes reading, speaking and listening for a diverse student population. PENpal supports dIfferentiated instruction and inclusiveness.
- Listen to content in many languages by simply touching the pen to interactive books, charts, labels and other learning resources.
- Record your own narrative, music or sound effects with Recordable Labels.
What can you do with PENpal and Recordable Labels?
- Download hundreds of pre-recorded sound files (for free) to turn many of our bilingual picture books into “talking books.”
- Animate any object with sound.
- Allow students to record, save, and playback their own recordings.
- Customize resources for children with special needs.
- Record instructions for students, role play, story tell.
- Send home with parents to support home literacy partnerships.
- The possibilities are endless!
Who is it for?
The PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, along with our multilingual resources, supports reading, writing, speaking and listening for:
- English Language Learners
- New arrivals from foreign countries
- Foreign language learners
- Learners with special needs
- Any student in need of an inclusive resource that develops literacy skills
PENpal is interactive, enjoyable and effective!
Record your own voice with Recordable Labels
- Animate any object with sound
- Record language, music, messages or sound effects
- Change recordings any time
- Record instructions for students, role play, story tell
- Allow students to record, save, and playback their own recordings
PENpal Interactive Literacy Sets
STARTER SETS in your choice of language
- PENpal Audio Recorder Pen
- 4 bilingual books in your choice of language
- A sample set of Recordable Stickers
- A beautifully illustrated picture dictionary (optional)
- USB charger, 4GB SD card and rechargeable batteries
ENHANCED SETS with 10 bilingual books and everything included in the starter sets!
SUPER SETS with 20 bilingual books! (available in limited languages)
Other Great PENpal Products
- Special Literacy & Phonics Sets
- Dictionary & PENpal Sets
- Multilingual Key Phrases Chart
- Various Charts & Posters to Support Language Acquisition
- Phonetic Magnets
- Student & Teacher Recordable Labels
- Oral Progress Reading Charts for Student Assessment
See our full range of PENpal products and exclusive sets
Get comprehensive PENpal FAQs, videos and support