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Bilingual language terms

If you grew up in a bilingual environment, you probably never heard of these terms. However, in an education setting, teachers and speech therapists who work with bilingual children, use a lot of different terms that they should know in order to make the best assessments and eventually develop the appropriate program for these strudents. The following words are used to describe certain chracteristics of the very complicated bilingual language acquisition!

Passively Bilingual = a passively bilingual child of person is one that understands the second language but can’t speak it. This happens mostly to adults and when someone is starting to learn a second language.

Language Loss (or language attrition) = This is a very important characteristic of bilingual language acquisition. It is defined as “a potential consequence of second language acquisition, where the person losses their ability to use the first language due to lack of use or exposure”. Unfortunately this happened a lot in past decades when speaking two languages and having an accent was seen as something negative.

Code Switching =  mixing languages in the same sentence or conversation. This is very important to understand when working with children who are bilingual. It can be seen as lacking enough language skills in both languages. However, when a bilingual person can switch between two languages, it means that their skills are proficient enough to be able to manipulate the languages in different ways.

Borrowing =  speaking in one language and “borrowing” a word/s from the second language. This primarily occurs when there is not a word for that particular object or idea in the language that is been spoken. Very common among bilingual people.

critical period hypothesis = The hypothesis claims that there is an ideal ‘window’ of time (first few years of life) to acquire language in a linguistically rich environment, but that after this period,  language acquisition becomes much more difficult and effortful. This can be applied for first and second language acquisition.

Here , I only gave you a few of the terms that are used in an education setting about bilingual language acquisition. In a future post I will explain some more! 

Have you heard any of these terms?

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Silent Period: Suggestions for the classroom teacher

Last week, we learned a little more about what is the the silent period and why is this a natural process in second language learning. Today, I’ll give some suggestions for classroom teachers who have second language learners in their classrooms and what to do to help them, if they suspect they are going through the silent period.

As we know children in the silent period should not be forced to speak before they are ready. They need time to listen to others talk, understand what they hear, and observe their peers’ interactions with each other. Even when they are silent, they are learning the language!

Here are some suggestions for the classroom  teacher:

  • Ask YES/NO questions: Allow the child to respond with nods of “yes” or “no”, this gives them the opportunity to participate in a non-threatening situation.
  • Accept as response facial expressions and body language. Nonverbal cues such as eye contact, flipping through pages, writing, pointing, or grabbing our should be accepted as responses. Again, this allows them to feel welcomed without the pressure of saying it right.
  • Share a word or two in the child’s language: This is also an opportunity to make the child feel welcome and gain trust.
  • Pair them with a buddy who speak their language: Other children can help them understand the rules/routine of the classroom.
  • Focus attention on listening comprehension activities/building a receptive vocabulary: Remember this is the natural process of language acquisition, so you are helping that process.

These are a few suggestions, to make the child feel welcomed, comfortable, without pressures, that will allow learning in a loving, caring environment.

Can you think of some other ideas?

Growing up bilingual: Misa’s Story

About a week  ago, I received an email from a reader who, after reading some of my posts about bilingualism, wanted to share her story about growing up bilingual. Here’s Misa’s story. 

What would you do, if your child had to become bilingual? My life changed just like that, when my mom gave birth to me in North Carolina, U.S.A.

            My hair is black, my eyes are brown, my skin is yellow and I could speak both Japanese and English. I was born in North Carolina and stayed there for a year and then moved to Georgia. I don’t actually remember the days when I lived in North Carolina, so my life practically started in Georgia, is what I think. Living in America was nothing different to me. Although my parents are both Japanese, and of course I’m Japanese, my home town is America, so nothing got in my way. I went to school in America and acted like American like every child does. I understood myself as Japanese, but inside my heart was all American. To think about it now, maybe it was weird, but that how I was those days. When I was in 4th grade, I was going to school normally. When one of the students in my class asked me, “You look Japanese, but speak English with no trouble. You speak Japanese too right? So, which one are you?”

            That gave me a shock. Since I was born in America and had been living until then, I never thought about who I really was. As a 4th grader, nothing really came up on my mind. I thought myself as an American because I was born in America and I wanted to be an American because that was how I grew up to be, but is that actually the truth? Then, an idea came up to me, when I thought about my other school, Japanese school, popped into my head. Japanese school is an ordinary school that I went to during my American life, only on Saturdays, studying for 7 hours every week. Those days, I hated to go to Japanese school because I didn’t know why I had to learn Japanese when I was in America. I loved America and prayed that I would never leave America and was just confused of my mixed life. I loved my friends there, but I never liked to study about Japan. Maybe I was just stupid, but that’s how I honestly felt during those days. Though I didn’t like to study in Japanese School, when I thought about the question my classmate asked me, maybe that was why my parents made me go to Japanese school. What I thought was that maybe my parents understood my inside feeling and that’s why they made me go to Japanese school only on Saturdays. They probably didn’t want me to forget the feeling to be Japanese since they are Japanese. Though I thought about that, I still don’t really know the actual answer to the question, but I hope it has got a little closer to the answer of what I wanted.

            On June 26, 2008, my life in America ended. I had to move to Japan for my dad’s work. At first, I begged my parents to leave me in America, but nothing changed their mind. They took me to Japan to let me see the outer world of America. It wasn’t like I had never gone outside of America, but that was what they told me to persuade to come. Once I got there, I took a test to go to the school and succeeded. From September, that was where I went. That school that I went to aimed of policy like America with much freedom like no uniform and you could wear any hairstyle you would like, but probably because it was in Japan, it was nothing like America’s school. Though that was the truth about the school I went to, since each and every one of them was from a different country. I liked the way how each student in school had their very own thought. As I say, they each had their own color to themselves. For example, if you give each country in this world a color, that person that has been living there, would have that color inside of them. And also, if that person moved to another country, that person will get that color inside of them as well. Like that, the school I went to had many colors. Meaning, unless you were not living in the totally the same place everywhere with someone else, no one would have the same color as you. And that was how, I explain my unique school as a rainbow with many more patterns. Thanks to that, I was able to not blend in, but get along well with my very good friends.

            I might go through many troubles living in this country, going to this school, but because everyone has their own thought, I think I will be able to get it over with, with many people’s advice.

            I hope, when I end my life, that I would be able to understand of who I really am and why I was born in this weird colorful life.

Thanks Misa!

What a beautiful way to describe being bilingual! So, what color/s are you?

About Misa: She is a 16 year old high school student who is still living…you guessed it, Japan!

The battle of the homework!

The new school year is in full motion by now. Students know where to go and they are getting more comfortable with their teachers and peers. And now… the battle of the homework begins! For some students, it is hard to focus and do their homework at home. Parents also struggle because many want to help make this task easier but nothing seems to work.

Here are a few tips to help the homework battle be less… work!

  • Find a place for homework: Having a specific place (and time) for homework, makes it a routine, therefore, there is less struggle. It is simply something we must do. No arguments.
  • Review the instructions: Discuss with your child what the homework is about. This is also a great opportunity to tell your child that if they don’t understand something they should ask their teacher. This will teach them be responsible!
  • Start with the most difficult task: At the beginning of homework time, they might have more energy, so start with what’s more challenging.
  • Take breaks: This is especialy important with younger kids. Have frequent breaks and make sure that you also schedule some time for questions.

See? homework should be something they do everyday, it should be expected and not be a struggle. Homework time could also be a good time to get to know what kind of student your child is and maybe you’ll learn what is his/her learning type!

What other homework strategies have worked for your family?

photo: iStock

How do kids learn? Part 2

Last week, we started talking about how kids (and we) learn. We learned that there are 7 styles and last week we talked about 3 of them: Linguistic, interpersonal and intrapersonal.

This week we will talk about 2 more learning styles logical and spatial.

Logical: This child is very mathematically inclined. They enjoy solving problems, especially if they are math related. They are very logical, straight-forward types of learners and they will ask many questions on how things work and how things relate to one another. Some of their favorite toys might be building blocks, and pattern puzzles. This type of student learns best by categorizing, classifying, and working with abstract patterns or relationships. As a parent, ask them to make a chart or to show relationships between different items. They will not only come up with an answer, but they will be able to explain the process and developmental stages of the relationship!

Spatial: These are the visualizers. They spend most of the day dreaming, watching movies, and staying as far away from reality as possible. If they seem particularly “down”, asking them to draw a picture will get you much further into the nature of the problem, than asking them to tell you about it. As a parent allow them to develop their senses and their natural artistic abilities and encourage any type of creative endeavor. They are very good at working with colors and pictures, and using the “mind’s eye“. Allow them to play a couple of educational computer games, or to daydream under a tree. They could be hard at work thinking about a particular problem, but have yet to put it on paper. These types of learners are very artistic, although they often have problems expressing it. 

Does your child (or you) lean towards either one of these learning styles?

Back to school! Are you ready?

In the next few weeks most kids will go back to school! Woohoo! Time to make new friends, learn new things and have new adventures! But…

…going back to school can be challenging and stressful as well. For both children and parents! There are many things that can be stressful for children: new environment, new teacher, new peers, new routine, homeworks, tests, etc. But parents can help children feel less stressed about the challenges and changes that come with the new school year. Here are some ideas:

  •  Be positive! Every time you talk about school do it in an exciting/positive way. You can talk about the excitment of meeting new friends, wearing cool clothes, and even the new cool school supplies!

 

  • Encourage them to talk to you, when something is not ok. Kids need to know that they can come to you for whatever reason they don’t feel comfortable or something is happening at school. This will make them feel less anxious about the new experience!

 

Also, start adjusting the routine before school starts. Did you know kids need to sleep 9 or more hours? Lack of sleep will impact school performance in a negative way (and will make them grumpier!). Also, make sure you change your schedule to be more available the first few weeks of school.

Do you have any other ideas? What has worked for you?

Is your child ready for Kindergarten?

August arrives and parents start getting ready for school…well, and the kids too! But when you have a child who is just starting in Kindergarten, parents can get stressed about how ready their kids are for school. Do they know the numbers? colors? letters? write their names? But, should they know these skills before they enter school? Isn’t that the reason why they go to school, to learn these things?

Let’s review some definitions of school readines.

The Maryland Model for School Readiness defines school readiness as the state of early development that enables an individual child to engage in and benefit from early learning experiences. As a result of family nurturing and interactions with others, a young child in this stage has reached certain levels of social and emotional development, cognition and general knowledge, language development, and physical well-being and motor development. School readiness acknowledges individual approaches toward learning as well as the unique experiences and backgrounds of each child.

Experts say no single or simple factor determines whether a child is ready for kindergarten. Instead, a child’s development needs to be evaluated on several fronts. Their ability to think logically, speak clearly, and interact well with other children and adults are all critically important to success in school. A child’s physical development also needs to be considered. (http://www.babycenter.com/0_kindergarten-readiness-is-your-child-ready-for-school_67232.bc)

Scientists describe a school-ready child as having the ability to experience, regulate, and express emotions. Also, to form close and secure personal relationships, explore the environment and learn. 

Did you notice they NEVER mention how many colors, letters or vocabulary words they should know? That is because it is more important how they learn the information than what they learn. So kids have to be emotionally ready to the demands of school or they won’t benefit from the learning!

So forget about the colors and the numbers! Here are some things the child needs to do in order to be ready for school:

  • Work independently
  • Attend or listen to what someone else is saying
  • Get along with other children of the same age
  • Learn and participate in structured situations such as play and story reading
  • Focus and listen to one  person in the classroom
  • Learn in a co-operative learning environment where children learn from teachers and form one another
  • Play with other children (wait their turn in line and so on)
  • Here are some things parents can do to help their children be ready for school:

  • Teach them to pick up their clothes
  • Teach them to put their toys away
  • Give their children the opportunity to listen to and learn language through story telling
  • Provide a daily routine that includes regular times for meals
  • Establish a bedtime that gives your child eight or more hours of sleep at night
  • Provide opportunities to play with other children
  • For more tips visit this website!

    Do you have more ideas how to help your child get ready for Kindergarten?

    photo: iStock