Category Archives: Culture

Shine light in the darkness -Martinstag

Today we met with lots of other German families to celebrate St Martin’s day. (Martinstag) This is commonly celebrated by all in Germany whether they go to church or not.

Sankt Martin

We heard the story of St Martin.

Sendung mit der Maus

He choose to share what he had with a beggar. In that sharing of his cloak he gave the man warmth and comfort. He stopped what he was doing to make a difference for that one man and so is still remembered today for his kindness.

German children remember this by making lanterns and walking in the dark singing songs.

During the service the children were asked about people having difficulties who needed God’s light to shine on them. The children wanted to remember those without homes, Oma and Opa, those who were sick, soldiers and those in Paris.

Kerzen

After the service we went out with about other families to shine our lights into the darkness.

We sung

“Ich gehe mit meiner Laterne,und meine Laterne mit mir,
Da oben leuchten die Sterne und unter da leuchten wir.
Mein Licht ist aus ich gehe nach Haus
rabimmel, rabammel rabumm – bumbum!”

“Laterne, laterne, Sonne Mond und Sterne!
Brenne auf mein Licht, brenne auf mein Licht aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht!
Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne”

“This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let shine, let it shine”

There were lots of home made lanterns from the very basic to intricate 3D foxes. We had some Oma sent with electric candles. We have used real candles before but they set on fire and had to be stamped out!!

We do this each year as a chance to meet with other German speaking families. It is a great visual reminder of how even a little light makes a difference in the darkness.

Do you celebrate Martinstag with your family?
How do you pass on your culture to your children?

Let us know in the comments below.

Remembrance Sunday . Don’t mention the war!

PoppiesAs I bought a poppy the other day I chatted to the bloke selling them.  It’s a bit complicated in our house as we’re English and German and any mention of the war can be a bit emotive amongst the older British generation.

Having said that, we really enjoy the Fawlty Towers episode “the Germans

Don’t mention zee vor!

My grandparents were farming in Lincolnshire during World War II and my husband’s grandfather was a German soldier. My mum in law has a really old book full of cigarette cards which were popular collectables as Hitler was rising to power.

Osnabruck-Rathaus-building

We were married in a registry office rebuilt in 1954 after it was bombed . We’ve visited a u-boot in Bremerhaven. Which likely bombed British boats in WW2

 

Our children thought nothing of being German and English (except when it comes to football) but, whilst visiting my parents a few years ago they watched an old war film. A character shouted “watch out the Germans are coming” which my girls picked up and kept saying it to daddy!

 

So what is Remembrance Sunday about?

 

As a family we talk about the brave soldiers who fight so we may have peace. To us remembrance Sunday is a time to say thank you for the great sacrifices they have made whatever side they fought on.

 

What do your family do on remembrance Sunday?

Confessions of a German grammar geek (yes I like alliteration!)

With my amazing wife

With my amazing wife

This week we have a guest post from Maik with some breaking news about exciting new developments here at Lingotasic. Anyway I’ll let Maik tell you more…

 

Hi there! I’m Sarah’s husband Maik. When Sarah started Lingotastic, little did I know how quickly she would become (and I’m not exaggerating) an international phenomenon. At the time of me writing this blog, I think the numbers are at over 500 Facebook likes and 2,000 Twitter followers from across the world. Not to mention all the re-pins on Pinterest. Within a short time she’s managed to establish links with other language enthusiasts in the U.S., Taiwan, France and Wales to name just a few. All this on top of her regular language classes for tinies in the good old Home Counties.

Now the time has come for me to join my wife on the exciting rollercoaster ride which is Lingotastic. But let me tell you a bit more about myself. My name is actually pronounced Mike, and I’m originally from Germany.

Growing up in Germany, Languages have been a part of my life from quite early on, starting with learning English in school from year 5, French from year 7, and later additions of Latin, Spanish, Polish and some Hebrew. Yes, I do like languages A LOT!

Of course in a lot of cases I had a vested interest. Learning English allowed me to pick up twice as many jokes in my favourite sci-fi comedy, Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs” and watch dozens of cartoons like Inspector Gadget in the original. Oh, and it also meant I could watch, and understand reasonably well, the original UNCUT version (including all the gory bits normally cut out for German telly) of the Terminator movie when it was on cable from the Netherlands.

Asterix and his "big-boned" friend Obelix

Asterix and his “big-boned” friend Obelix

In the same way, Latin helped when reading my favourite comic book series … Asterix! Which was of course originally written in French. So after our school organised an exchange with a school in Rennes, France, I naturally returned home with my luggage containing a good number of Asterix books in their original lingo.

As for Polish, well this was actually during my University days, when I was studying European Business Studies. And it was basically a cut-price summer holiday! A full month of residential language learning in Czieszyn, Poland, including accommodation and food for a few hundred deutschmarks (this was pre euros).

Lots of Vodka. Got to try it all ...

Lots of Vodka. Got to try it all …

Naturally it involved making a lot of friends who would help try all of the 30-odd different brands of Vodka on the shelves of the local supermarket. It must have helped, or at least not been detrimental to the learning experience. I was actually reasonably fluent at the end of the month, having arrived in Poland with practically no prior knowledge.

It was also during my University days that I met Sarah – and we were married just a couple of months before I submitted my dissertation. Of course you know of her passion for languages, so it was only natural for us to bring up a multilingual family. Although honestly all those years ago I could hardly have imagined us singing the Two Tigers song in Mandarin, La vaca Lola in Spanish or entering an Esperanto language challenge as a family. But you’ve probably seen a lot of the mad stuff we get up to on the blog already, like randomly sticking Flashsticks post-its in all sorts of places.

There’s plenty more stuff in the pipeline for Lingotastic, including a multilingual CD of all the favourites from the classes and more! And I’ll be helping to develop our programme to go into nurseries and schools, doing classes, and lunchtime as well as after school clubs. Making language learning part of everyday life is what Lingotastic is all about, making it literally child’s play across the age groups.

The enquiries are already coming in from schools, as well as parents interested in after school tuition. Exciting times ahead, and I’m glad to be on board for this next phase of the adventure of Lingotastic!

Ukrainian, Russian and English with Mykhalo and Anna

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Hnatyev Family

This week I have to pleasure of interviewing two friends of mine, Anna and Mykaylo about their language learning journey and speaking three languages at home.

Hi Mykhaylo and Anna. Could you tell me a little about your language learning journey?
Mykhaylo: I was born and brought up in Ukraine to Russian speaking parents. At home we spoke Russian and I went to a Russian school in the Ukraine. We were taught French and English in School but as I lived in a Soviet Country the furthest I expected to travel to was Poland so it was purely academic subject with little use outside of school.
Anna: I was born in Moldova to Russian speaking parents. I studied Romanian in school as an additional language I learned some English at school. I went to university in Romania and really found it difficult to understand what was happening. As I read for my assignments I would have a dictionary in my hand to look up what each word meant. I also studied German at university.

Do you think children can be introduced to languages from a young age?
Our Children spoke Ukrainian and Russian at home. Our elder son studied Helen Doren English at Nursery school. We were shocked when we heard nursery rhymes in the UK and we recognised them like Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill.
As multilingual parents how do you keep three languages working at home, especially with your children attending an English school
Mykaylo: We are mostly focusing on Russian speaking at home Russian speaking television programmes online about travelling to other countries and reading books in Ukrainian to keep the language. He is concerned when going to the Ukraine he can’t speak to his friends. He may continue to learn Russian but to write Russian has lots of rules. He will need to do additional exercises to learn Russian properly or it will be a terrible mess. Many younger Ukrainians and speak Russian well but when I comes to writing it is a different thing.
Anna: Our youngest boy gets frustrated that people do not say his name correctly. He is starting nursery soon and we will send a list of Russian words he uses to help the teachers.

What are the cultural differences in the UK to the Ukraine?
In urban environment there is very little traditional singing. Babies are sung lullibies. We used to watch a short cartoon and hear a goodnight song on the state television. We have familiar famous short poems which are passed down generation to generation.
The school system in UK seems much more relaxed than it is in the Ukraine. It is a much more intense programme in the Ukraine with little time to play in school.

So you’re working in the UK now what do you do?
I am working in business development and client relationships management role in the UK representing a Ukrainian software development company ELEKS.com

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Singing four languages in forty minutes.

Yesterday as a family we went along to a multicultural, multinational event called Go Fest.

As a family we think it is very important for our children to see and experience different cultures.
We went along to a multicultural concert by Resonance
Resonance

In forty minutes we had learned and sung along in Farsi, Hindi, Bemba and Urdu. My young girls were soon singing along and shaking their shakers. They loved the Indian drum and handheld Indian cymbals. We found a few phrases we recognised like “Jai Ho” There was a lot of repetition of phrases which really helped us pick the songs up quickly. Us older ones had a lot of fun as well!

One of the group, Rob Baker is an Ethnomusicologist. He studies music in it’s cultural context and spent a long time in West Africa capturing local music and helping people compose songs in their own language. Exciting stuff!

Music is a brilliant way to engage with other cultures and languages. Is there an event you know about your family can join in? Let us know how it goes!

Resonance
run song writing workshops encouraging groups to write songs in their native language and so strengthen their cultural identity. The band are from Singapore, Britain, Italy and Germany. Some of the band members have spent a lot of time in Mali and Tibet and so studied the culture and music of the countries.

Conchita Wurst and Döner to go

Last weekend we really enjoyed watching Eurovision. We were chatting to some friends and it led to a discussion on Eurovision entries and singing in your native language. Of the 40 entries to Eurovision only 10 were not in English and only 4 of those made it to the final.

I think this is part of a bigger picture of English creeping into other languages.
We were in Germany at Easter, in my husband’s home town. On a visit into town one day, I was shocked by the amount of English in everyday use in Germany. In a five hundred metre stretch of High Street I took these photos.

A few were simply importing English names and phrases such as…

A few more were English phrases with German added such as…

Most were a weird German/ English mix which make no sense at all in English. Maybe a new language called Denglish?


(You may need to click on the thumbnails to see the picture in full)

To be honest, as I speak both languages I did not notice some of these until I started looking! If you’ve noticed why I’ve included these pictures, let me know in the comments below!

On chatting to another German friend, I think the main reason is that English is “cool”. The younger generation like to be different to others so they use their own words, and marketing is quick to pick up on this.

David Bellos in his book “Is that a fish in your ear?” states that the purpose of language is not mutual understanding but forming a sense of community by excluding others who do not speak that language. Evidence of that is in regional dialects and the fact that some words have different meanings to different sub-cultures.

The English language has a long history of borrowing and incorporating words from other languages such as Latin, Saxon, French and many more.

Cultural fashions change. Two hundred years ago French was the language that influenced others. Who knows what it will be in fifty years time?

Languages often have their own culture attached to them. So with singing in Eurovision or even bringing across foreign words to your language, is something being lost or are languages enriched by this sharing? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Interview with Kristin Hellberg from Bilingual By Music

As a family we’ve found it difficult to find good language learning resources, so over on our
resources page. we’ve compiled lots that we’d recommend. These resources were created as individuals realised there was a need and that they were able and willing to meet that need. There are inspiring stories behind all of the resources and this time we hear the story of Kristin Hellberg, Founder of Bilingual By Music.

elibbm1

Hi Kirsten. Could you tell me little about yourself and your family?

I was born in Sweden but moved to London at age 19 to study Musical Theatre. I started working as a performer and appeared in various West End shows as well as doing voiceovers and TV. I went on to do a BSc in Psychology followed by a MSc in Business Psychology.

Both me and my husband are Swedish, so its very natural for us to have Swedish as the Family language at home. It’s also important to us that we can talk to our 3 kids in Swedish, since that is our ‘emotional’ language.

We live in London and the children go to English speaking schools, they are very much exposed to English every day. We try our best to “promote” Swedish and Sweden to them as much as possible. Its not always easy though. We often find that they speak English with each other when they play together on their own for example.

How does your product help family language learning?

I think music can be a fantastic tool in language learning. Music has rhythms, structures and rules just like languages. Language learning involving music can be a fun way of repeating words and understanding concepts. Its also a great way of remembering new words. The songs on our Swedish-English album are songs that are sung in both the UK and Sweden, so families already recognise the tunes. I think its lovely to point out the similarities between the countries and cultures. We are currently working on a Swedish-English Christmas album which should be ready in time for Christmas 2015. On a sunny day this week we went to record “Let it snow”!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell those reading our blog?

I think its absolutely fascinating and I really enjoy reading about bilingualism and how it all works. There is so much interesting research that is being done as well and Twitter and Facebook is a great way of finding references and ideas.

Try to expose yourself and the children to the minority language as much as you can. Read books, listen to music and songs, watch films, use playful apps. Also try to embrace the culture, which for Swedes would include Midsummer, Lucia playing traditional games such as ‘Bro Bro Breja’ and enjoy the Swedish food traditions such as Semlor, våfflor, leverpastej etc.

Bilingual by music kids song swedish and english illustrated by asa wikman 2 © asa wikman

If you fancy learning some Swedish or Danish, Kristin at Bilingual By Music has produced some gorgeous bilingual CDs with familiar songs. You’ll be singing along in no time… I’ve a few Swedish speaking mummies who rave over these CDs. They’re also available on ITunes, Spotify and Amazon.

Website: www.bilingualbymusic.com

FB: www.facebook.com/bilingualbymusic

twitter: @bilingualbymu

Countdown to Blast Off to Spain. ¡VAMOS!

I hope you’ve had a lovely Easter break!

We’ve just finished a term of French. Each time we finish a block I’m astounded at how much the mums and little ones have picked up. By the end of the term almost everyone was singing along, knowing all the words!

This term, only two weeks in two mummies messaged me excitedly to say their little ones were saying the “Toc Toc Toc” rhyme word perfect. (They are only just two years old!)
We’ve recorded our version of this over the holidays. I hope you enjoy it!

We made some lovely Easter crafts and learned some French along the way.
rabbitsJoyeuses paques cardoeuf de paques

We enjoyed the Bébés Chouettes story this term. We had a few little ones worried that Maman Chouette had gone, but she always came back safely!

bebe chouettes

It’s been great to have a few more families join us this term and we are expecting more next term.

We had a lovely surprise on the final Chesham class where two mummies brought cake to share after the class. Yum!
easter cake

This week we’re starting with a Spanish holiday class at Little Beans and Co then blasting off to Spain to meet “la Oruga Muy Hambrienta!” It’s going to be an exciting term. We’ve some favourite songs like “la Vaca Lola” and new translations like “Cinco Patitos” Here’s a sneek preview.

Mandarin Chinese New Year Fun.

Lion dance

On Saturday, the sound of drums thundered thoughout Chesham town
centre as people gathered to watch a traditional Chinese New Year
lion dance. However, not far up the road, in Chesham Library, you
could hear children singing in Mandarin Chinese as they took part in
a popular Lingotastic event run to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

craft chinese new year

Enthusiastic children made their own Chinese Dragons and “blasted off”
to China with their rockets; they also learned how to say hello in
Mandarin (你好 nǐ hǎo)) and even had a close encounter with a dragon!

dancing dragon

Attendees heard the story of the Chinese Zodiac and used puppets to
act it out themselves, as well as learning how to sing Happy Birthday
in Mandarin生日快乐 (shēng rì kuài lè). Two tigers joined in the fun, listening to a Mandarin song about themselves 两只老虎 (liǎng zhī láo hǔ) and the children then played a game to another
song called Find A Friend 找朋友 (zhǎo péng yǒu). The fun event rounded up with a hearty
chorus of Good New Year 新年好 (xīn nián hǎo ).

boys chinese new year

The families who came along ranged from those with a smattering of
mandarin to those who heard if for the first time that day. “The
children were all really enthusiastic and really quick to pick up the
songs and phrases in Mandarin; it was amazing to see,” said Sarah
Barrett, the founder of Lingotastic, who organised and ran the event
at the library. “Children are so keen to learn other languages and it
is magical to see their progress.” Lingotastic runs language classes
for children from birth to age 6 in Chesham, Chorleywood and Gerrards
Cross. For all classes and further details, visit their website at
www.lingotastic.co.uk.

4 Ways that Bilingualism Prepares Children for a Better Future

Today we have a Guest post from Paul Martin. He’s an English teacher living in Buenos Ayres and a writer for Language trainers. So without further ado, here it is!

All parents want to do whatever they can to ensure that their children have all the tools they need for a happy and prosperous future. And one of the greatest gifts you can give your child — one that will last for his or her entire life — is that of bilingualism. Given young learners’ natural curiosity and aptitude for learning languages, childhood is the perfect time to learn and master a new language. Further, beyond knowing another language, bilingual children enjoy a host of other benefits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

lingotastic_picture
Picture by Pixabay

1. Increases cultural awareness
Some say that language holds the key to understanding culture. Indeed, learning a language isn’t just about learning new words — it’s about connecting with an entirely new way of viewing the world. By learning a foreign language, children are connecting with not just vocabulary and grammar, but also the culture and history of that language.

2. Enhances creativity
When children learn another language, they’re exercising their brains in new and unusual ways — language-learning forces them to think outside the box, to expand their horizons. And all this mental energy has a positive effect, even outside of the realm of language
recent study has shown that bilingual children solve mathematics problems more creatively than monolinguals.

3. Improves problem-solving skills
In addition to getting their creative juices flowing, knowing another language helps children think analytically. A Scottish study found that bilingual children performed better than monolingual children at tasks that required problem-solving skills. And what’s more, these problems didn’t just involve linguistic matters — bilinguals outperformed monolinguals in both language and arithmetic-related problems!

4. Protects against future neurological problems
One of the most surprising benefits of bilingualism is that it can keep your brain healthy even later in life. It’s recently been found that people who speak multiple languages show a significantly delayed onset of age-related decline in neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s. Just as daily exercise keeps your body healthy, bilingualism is a work-out for your brain, and keeps your mind healthy.

From giving them a more global, worldly outlook to protecting them against future cognitive decline, bilingualism is a gift that truly keeps giving. And aside from making them creative problem-solvers, knowing another language is just so cool! Indeed, if you want to prepare your child for the future, there’s no better thing you can do than teach him or her a new language.

paul_thumbnail
Paul writes on behalf of Language Trainers, a language tutoring service offering personalized course packages to individuals and families. Check out their free online level tests and other resources on their website or send them a quick inquiry quick enquiry to find out more about their tailor-made lesson plans.

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