Check out my guest post for Multicultural Children's Book Day on how learning a language promotes tolerance for diversity at the Multicultural Children's Book Day website:
The seal of biliteracy is one of the best things that have happened to promote the cause of world language study in the U.S. schools. It is displayed on a student’s diploma or school record upon graduation from high school, and it is awarded to students who can demonstrate proficiency in English and another language.
Originally designed to recognize students whose native language is not English, it is proof that a student has maintained or improved his or her native language skills while mastering English.
It is now also available to English-speaking students who can demonstrated proficiency in another language. In the U.S. where language requirements are abysmally low compared to those of other countries, it indicates legitimacy and support by the state for the importance of knowing other languages.
For the individual student, the seal shows colleges and possible employers that he or she is prepared to interact effectively in our multilingual world.
Over 20 states have approved use of these seals, and more are considering them. Each state has its own guidelines for obtaining the seal. The following article will show you which states currently offer the seal to their students.
Today while I was waiting to pick up some medicine in the pharmacy, I overheard a little boy talking with his Mom. The conversation started with horses and buggies, lead to toy cars, then the little boy mentioned JFK (InternationalAirport). (We live near New York City.)
The boy declared: JFK is the same in French. His mother didn’t accept that. Then he said JFK is the same in Spanish. His mother objected again. The boy said, well I know Mandarin. The mother agreed. At that point, I couldn’t resist asking..
The boy is in kindergarten, and in our school district, all children take Mandarin starting in kindergarten. Then, in grade 3, they can change to Spanish. Later, in middle school, they can switch to French.
This boy is off to a good start: no inhibitions, no “I’m a boy, and boys don’t do languages” He will have all the advantages of a complete education, so that he is prepared for the global world as well as a very fulfilling life.
I wish that all children had the opportunity to start languages at an early age. Unfortunately, in the U.S., according to the latest figures, only about 15% of elementary schools offer any form of language program.
That’s why I wrote the book, ¡HOLA! Let’s Learn Spanish. That’s why I’m working on Bonjour! Let’s Learn French. These books can be used by anyone, whether or not they know the language.
The audio version is free and downloadable on the website http://www.polyglotkidz.com. They give children roughly 6-10 an early and fun introduction to learning language. This is especially meaningful in districts where children don’t have the advantage of early language learning in elementary schools.
Please share this information with anyone you know with a child in his/her life and who would like to give that child the gift of an early start in language learning.
Just as there are more boys than girls studying the STEM subjects (sciences, technology, engineering and math), there’s a gap between the number of boys and girls studying foreign languages. Many boys either drop out or don’t enroll in language classes. Why?
The few academic studies that appeared during my Google search are not currently accessible, so I’m going to offer a few theories on my part.
A common conception in English-speaking countries is that knowledge of another language will not bring economic benefits. The attitude that learning languages other than English is not important dates way back, when the U.S. was supreme and Europe was in smolders after two World Wars. This was before the global economy. So boys who had the responsibility of preparing to be the sole provider of a family, may not have taken language study seriously. Times have changed, but old attitudes still persist.
Is there some embarrassment involved with trying to speak a new language: making unfamiliar sounds, and making mistakes? Boys may be more susceptible to this than girls.
My own experience teaching elementary school is that boys do just as well as girls, if they start young enough. As they get older, they may be more affected by the attitudes of society. Unless parents, peers and society remind their children of the importance of learning many skills so that they can compete in the global world, the children will lose the motivation to continue and their possibilities will be limited.
In the U.S., most students start study of a foreign language at age 12, just as they are becoming more self-conscious and aware of the opposite sex. They don’t want to make fools out of themselves.
This article written by Carolyn Little, a teacher of French in a boy’s school talks about her efforts to encourage boys to continue studying French. Look at the chart and you will see some interesting statistics. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/engaging-boys-world-language-classroom-caroline-little
check out this video on what it's like to be a simultaneous interpreter
It’s hard finding the time to write a blog while I’m busy promoting my book, looking for reviewers (if you know any who would like to review ¡HOLA! Let’s Learn Spanish, please send them my way), and learning more about marketing for dummies, such as moi.
I’ve begun work on the next book, Bonjour! Let’s Learn French. Full disclosure: it’s already written, but I’ve dillied and dallied for so long, that I need to look it over and refresh it.
The first part that I need to do over is the “craft”: how to do an impressionist picture…with crayons. I had written it already using watercolors, but I think that crayon will be easier for children. I’ve been drawing a beach scene over and over and over! I want to get it picture perfect for the book. I keep making mistakes. I’ve been doing oil paintings for over 20 years, and it’s easy to correct oil paintings. With crayon (and water color) you can’t correct, unless you buy erasable crayons. Check it out yourself! So, I keep doing the same scene…it is getting better, though.
Still, crayon is easier, and all kids have them, don’t they? Anyway, I’d love to do a video, impressionist painting is my thing, and hope to put it on the website for the book.
I wrote a guest post for another blog and thought that it was worthwhile adding to this blog:
In addition to having a useful skill for careere and having the cognitive benefits that come with learning a language, knowing another language is fun and it’s an adventure. When you use another language, it’s like going to outer space; you are discovering a new world. Knowing another language gives you the tool to explore another culture on your own. Other countries have not only beautiful monuments, colorful customs, holidays, music and celebrations; they have their own history, their own government, their own literature. We share our common humanity, and we have much in common, but other cultures have found different ways to deal with the issues of the human condition, and we have much to learn from one another.
One of the aspects of international travel that we don’t often think about is this: we are, each one of us, an ambassador for our country. We have the opportunity to explain our culture, to correct misconceptions, to combat stereotypes, to exchange ideas, to make connections and friends and to create good will. We can be much more effective in doing this if we can speak the language of the country we are visiting.
In the U.S., we live in our huge, great country. We are a continent, a world unto ourselves, sort of isolated from the rest of the world. Have you noticed that almost everything from abroad comes to us filtered in English? Unlike other countries, where subtitles are used, voices in foreign languages are dubbed in English. Something is lost in the translation!
When I lived abroad after college, I became aware that the U.S. is not the center of the world for people living in other countries. Of course, they follow news events, and especially music from the U.S. with great attention, but they have their own lives, their own worries, problems, their own culture, and their own opinions. It was a revelation to me, and it can be applied to all people: others have their own thoughts, interests and priorities, and we must respect, value and appreciate the differences and similarities. It’s an important lesson of life.
My tai chi teacher is taking Mandarin lessons. He’s a native speaker of Cantonese. He told us the other day: “Just as tai chi is good for the body, learning a foreign language is good for the mind”.
We can learn a language at any age. Learning a language gives the brain a workout. Among the many benefits of learning the language is that, according to the latest research, it develops the “executive function”, which is the area in the brain which controls the ability to suppress irrelevant distractions. The discipline to switch between one language system and another strengthens this function of the brain.
So, for children who speak at least two languages, the benefits of a more efficient brain will increase their mental capacity for all the studying that they will have to do, and all the thinking that they will do throughout their lives. For adults, one of the great advantages of being bilingual is that it can delay the onset of dementia for up to five years. Lifetime benefits!
So start learning a language! It’s fun!
Our toddler 20 month old granddaughter lives too far away for us to see her at this time of the year, so we Skype. Since our daughter works, they have an au pair girl from Colombia who speaks to her in Spanish. We want her to know two languages. She still does a lot of baby talk, but she says a few words that we can understand, like “Hi, baby”, “book”, “baba” is bottle, and agua for water. The other day, her parents sent a video where she is in a park. Some ducks were passing, and my daughter said: ¡Hola, patos! Hi, ducks! The baby repeated. She is repeating more these days. She said pato the next day when we skyped. We were thrilled!
If you have small children, start them with another language now. The sooner you start, the better their pronunciation will be.
I have been writing guest posts about how monolingual parents can get their kids started learning a language, and I will be writing about that soon on our blog.
Animal sounds are fun to make, and they are among the first sounds that children learn. My baby granddaughter know that the cow says “moo” and the duck said “Qua..”. I wonder whether without ever seeing these animals except in pictures she really knows what they are?
Animals don’t talk the same way in different languages around the world. Actually, they do make the same sounds, but speakers use different words in different languages to replicate the animal sounds. In most languages, cats say “meow”, more or less, but the similarities stop there. Often the word for the sound depends on their sound systems. So, dogs say “woof”, and “bow wow” only in English. In French, a dog says “ouah, ouah; the “w” is not used in French words. In Spanish, it’s “guau, guau”, the “g” is hardly heard.
In the book ¡HOLA! Let’s Learn Spanish, the crickets say “cri, cri, cri”. That’s Spanish for the cricket sound! Is there such a word in English? Not that I know of, although you must know what sound a cricket makes. Many animals don’t have a word for their sound in languages. I hope they don’t feel left out!
For a cute video which explains why the words for sounds are so different in different languages, click here:
You may think that repetition, repeating the same idea or fact once or several times is boring or tedious, but in language learning, it is de rigueur!
Do you have a baby in the house, or if you have children, do you remember how they started speaking? My granddaughter is 18 months old, and she does a lot of babbling. We can’t understand most of it. It sounds like she’s asking a questions, because her voice goes up at the end, but we don’t know what she’s saying. Maybe she does!
She knows the words,” hi”, “baba”, meaning “bottle”, “Dada” and “birdie”, because there is a bird feeder right outside the kitchen. She doesn’t quite have the pronunciation, but she’ll get it right in time.
In other subjects like science or math, you have time to think before you apply some information that you have studied. With language, you must speak at the rate that you think. That means that the language should be set inside your brain so that you can retrieve it automatically, almost without thinking. Of course, when we are learning a language (and I’m learning Japanese), that’s not the case!
In ¡HOLA! Let’s Learn Spanish, the activities are designed to encourage repetition. That’s the thinking behind the activity “Expresión Diaria Daily Expression”, where kids try to use the same expression in appropriate situations as many times as they can in one day.
Try saying “¡Qué mono! (m) or ¡Qué mona!(f)” (How cute/ pretty!) as many times as you can in one day. That expression will be yours!