Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pulling Apart the Myths of Multilingualism

Does anyone else remember those "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" books?  I used to think that my adventure of (trying) to raise my children to speak English and Spanish just happened to me, and that if some key choices in my life had gone another way, I would be living a different adventure than the bilingual one I am currently in.  For example, my friend just happened to see a preschool hiring for an English-Spanish interpreter, and I just happened to get the job, which just happened to make me continue using my Spanish into motherhood.  However, as I look back and think, "Well, what if I did not apply to that job.  I probably would not be blogging about Spanish, right?  I would have forgotten the language and moved on to something else, right?"  Until I sat down to write this post for the Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival, I think I would have agreed, "Right."  But as I began to think about our bilingual adventure, I began to realize the answer is "Wrong."

Language is something that gets in you, ya know?  You do not just wake up one day and decide, "I am going to speak two languages now."  Language is a process, a journey, an adventure.  The more I understand this truth, the more I think I will understand how to pull apart all the bilingualism myths that exist.

So what are some of the myths I have faced in my raising-bilinguals adventure?  Truthfully, most of them have come from my own insecurities or doubt.  I will share with you my Top Five list of multilingualism myths I have believed which hold me back in this bilingual adventure, what I have observed that debunks them, and what I am doing to combat them.

1.  My children will be confused if I speak to them in two languages.
I remember the day at the park when I realized this was not true. My oldest child was around three years old and I had been really trying to use Spanish more with him since his younger brother had been born.  We were at a park one afternoon and a little girl said something that sounded like Spanish. I noticed but did not say anything, and my oldest son piped up, "Mommy she speaks Spanish like you!"  It was then I realized that he could differentiate between the two languages and tell when I was switching.  He could even label them.

2.  My children will be delayed in English if I try to teach them Spanish.
It was this myth that held me back from speaking Spanish with my first son when he was born.  I had a dear friend then that told me I should only speak Spanish to my son so that he could learn it growing up.  I thought her suggestion sounded absurd.  How would he learn English if I only spoke Spanish to him?  I regret not taking her advice.  I like what Naomi Steiner says about this subject in her book 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child: "You should also know that there is a broad range of "normal" for each milestone in language development, even in monolingual children.  This spectrum can be striking.  For instance, some monolingual toddlers start talking profusely by 18 months, while others only begin putting two words together in their first shaky sentences at around 24 months." If anything, bilingual children come out ahead in the end because they know two languages rather than one.

3.  It is too late for my children to be bilingual because I did not start from birth.
Again, Naomi Steiner addresses this in her book, and it gave me much hope when I read it.  She labels the two processes of becoming bilingual as "simultaneous bilingualism" and "sequential bilingualism."  In the first, children learn two languages at once, while in the latter children learn first become fluent in one language, and then add a second language.  Steiner says, "A solid first language can actually be helpful when it comes to learning a second language, because skills from the first language can be transferred to the second."  She also points out that "a baby's brain is pre-wired to learn multiple languages," and that ability does not go away until puberty.

4.  I cannot raise bilingual children because I am not a native speaker of both languages.
After a few years into this bilingual journey, I have met and read about many monolingual parents that successfully raised bilingual children.  That is enough proof for me to keep going.  The second part of beating this myth is finding a group of other like-minded parents that can support you and encourage you in your journey of raising bilinguals.  I have found an endless amount of support, encouragement and resources from all the members of MKB, and I am starting to find people in my local community.  It helps to know you are not alone.                            

5.  Raising bilingual or multilingual children is easy.
I don't know if this is really a myth that anyone would believe, but I feel like it needs to be said.  Raising children that are fluent in more than one language takes lots of time, research, dedication, perseverance, and resolve.  It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Size Ordering in Spanish with Pumpkins // Ordenar por tamaño con calabazas

I have always loved Highlights magazine.  Now I love it even more after discovering that each issue has a story introducing Spanish words and vocabulary.  If you do not subscribe to Highlights, check out their website because they also have a bilingual magazine they off for 2 through 6-year-olds.  But until you get your own copy, you can probably find some to borrow at your local library.  Our library keeps all the old issues tucked under the shelf of the current month, and they allow library patrons to take the old ones home just like a library book.  Each month a new magazine is published, so the themes are seasonal and apply no matter what year it is.  Below is a fun activity we did after reading a pumpkin story from last year's October issue.


Marcos goes to the pumpkin patch with his mom and finds three pumpkins: a big one, a bigger one and the biggest one.  Although the story is written in English, Marcos uses some Spanish phrases when speaking with his mom.  This type of format works well with my boys (or any children learning Spanish) because they can follow the story line, and figure out what the Spanish means through context and by the wonderful illustrations.


Even parents who do not speak Spanish can read these stories with their kiddos.  You can see in the photo above they highlight the Spanish text in red, and then follow it up with a pronunciation and translation box.  You can learn the phrases with your child, and then find opportunities to use that phrase in your day-to-day.  Or you can practice by doing this extension activity that we did!


We did a size ordering activity.  I cut out three pumpkins to match the ones in the story.  I let my boys tear some brown paper (fine motor practice!) for the stems.  First I modeled putting the pumpkins in order.  You can use Spanish phrases like I did, or say as much as you feel comfortable. 

For example:


"Esta calabaza es grande.  Y esta calabaza es más grande.   ¡Y esta calabaza es la más grande!"

Or:  
"This pumpkin is grande.  The next pumpkin is más grande.  And the last pumpkin is la más grande."




Then hand them the pumpkins and glue and let them at it!  I wrote the size words on the pumpkins after we finished so we could point to them and say each size order name for practice.  Feliz pumpkin-ing!





Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Spanish Vocab Practice

I have some students that *gasp!* do not like to memorize vocab.  I mean, it makes sense.  Flipping through endless amounts of flashcards to remember new words just does not feel natural.  It isn't really.  Is that how babies learn to talk?  No.  I would venture to say vocab might be one of the hardest obstacles for students of the Spanish language, the second hardest being feeling too shy or intimidated to try the new language by speaking out loud.  My goal as a teacher, or coach really, of the language is to make sure everyone is enjoying learning Spanish.  Language is best acquired if you are having fun--this goes for kids and adults alike! 

Buuut, if you must learn some new vocab do it with a fun game!  One of my favorite ways to practice or introduce new vocab is with the game Memory.  And I have found those pre-cut foam shapes work great for a quick and easy way to whip up your own game.  Grab some fun Halloween foam shapes like the pumpkin ones I used below, and play a game with this fun Halloween-themed vocabulary.


Spanish Word
Spanish Pronunciation
English Word
calabaza
kah-lah-BAH-sah
pumpkin
bruja
BRUH-hah
witch
fantasma
fahn-TAHS-mah
ghost
dulces
DOOL-sehs
candy
 
 I had this pack on hand from last year.  You could also cut out your own shapes from regular foam sheets.  I have found the foam works well because it takes out the step of laminating cards, and stands up to all the wear and tear from students using them multiple times.
 Make sure you mix and match the colors to make the game more challenging (like for ages 11-16), or you can make sure that each pair is the same color to make it a little easier for the younger ones (ages 6-10).
You can just write the noun, or you can write the definite articles with them.  Using the definite articles helps students learn the gender of the noun, so I always try to include them when I can.
 And as you can see I use the definite and indefinite so my students can practice both.  If you want to know what I mean, check out this video about definite and indefinite articles in Spanish. 

 See how some of the pairs are the same color, and some are different?  Tricky, I know. 
 To play, mix them all up.  Lay them face down like this!
 Then you and your students can take turns turning two over at the same time.  If it is a match, that player gets another turn.  If it is not a match, move on to the next player's turn.  As each one is flipped over make sure you talk about each word and talk about how to say it in the opposite language that it is written.  This reinforces the vocabulary for all the players.

What fun games do you use to practice new words!?  I would love to hear about it in the comments below.  Happy Memory-ing!

Monday, October 27, 2014

31 Days of ABC // A de araña

It is October, which means 31 Days of ABC is in full swing over at All Done Monkey.

Letter-focused lessons tops the list as one of my favorite ways to teach Spanish to my kiddos!  Participating in the 31 Days of ABC makes for a great way to get letter-learning ideas from parents and educators living around the globe.  Be sure to check out the 31 Days of ABC home page over at All Done Monkey (link above).  Then look up the words in Spanish, and use the activities to learn the Spanish letters as well!

For the letter A at our house (pronounced "ah" in Spanish) we did some fun araña (spider) activities.  First we made a little spider story to practice counting and asking "How many?"  I have shared the story below so you can print one out too and follow along at your house!  Since the holiday Halloween is upon us where we live, I thought spiders would be a nice and spooky place to start with our alphabet learning in the month of October.


Before you print the story, let's talk about how to read the story and understand what it means.  Here's a quick list of vocab.  Click on the words to hear how they are pronounced.



Spanish Word
Spanish Pronunciation
English Meaning
ah-RAHN-yah
spider
KWAHN-tahs
how many
like the English word “eye”
there are/are there
EH-stah
this
tehl-ah-RAHN-yah
spider web
tee-EHN-ay
has


The title of the story is "¿Cuántas arañas hay?" or "How many spiders are there?"  Each page has a picture of a spider web and the story tells how many spiders are on the web.  For example, one page says "This spiderweb has five spiders."  Read each page with your kiddos and help them count out the spiders for each web.



We had some Halloween foam stickers left over from last year, and I was like "Oh those would be perfect!"  They did turn out really cute, but they were a PAIN to peel off, and my big man could not do it by himself.  It even took me a while and a few spiders lost a few legs.  *Wince.*


Can you see the dimple in this picture?  The activity was short enough that it held my big man's attention and he enjoyed counting with me.


Of course, he wanted to do it in English first, which I obliged.  I try not to push Spanish on him if I can tell he is not enjoying it.  With this one, we learn best if we are having fun and not forcing learning.


So we counted first in English, then read it all together in Spanish!



I did not attempt the stickers with my little guy.  I got out the paint and we finger painted the spiders on.  Even that was not quick enough for him!  And he lost interest pretty quickly.  So I just held his hand and we counted swiftly for each spiderweb.  Another thing I learned is that if you are going to paint your spiders, be sure to do that first before you assemble the book--that way the paint can dry without smearing onto the other pages.

Print off your own book here and let me know how it goes!  We did some other fun spider-related activities that hopefully I will be able to post about later.  And don't forget to head over to All Done Monkey to check out all of the other amazing alphabet activities!!