Category Archives: Encouragement

Meet the inspirational mum behind the Sunshine Box

This month we have an interview with inspirational mum, Deborah. She has allowed the difficulties she has gone through do help her develop a unique way of helping others.

Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a mum of

four children aged between 5 and 28 years old. We are based in a second-hand bookshop in North Wales, where we moved thirteen years ago to escape the stress of our lives in middle England. It is beautiful here by the mountains and the sea, and offers a much calmer way of life.

What encouraged you to develop your product?
We have created the Sunshine Box to bring smiles, lift spirits and encourage self-care. The items are not age specific so they are ideal for anyone affected by health issues, as we have been. They would be very therapeutic for anyone with anxiety or depression but, equally, would be loved by an elderly relative who you don’t see as often as you’d like, to remind them that you are thinking of them.

There are other subscription boxes on the market but often with a higher price tag, so many people can’t afford it.
It made me so frustrated! We decided to create our own, at a lower price, offering better value for money because, for us, it is about spreading the sunshine where it is needed, not about profit.
You can buy a one-off box or take out a monthly subscription for only £15.

I hear you offer another subscription?
We also offer a subscription called Wise Reads, where we have customers fill out a form telling us about their book preferences and then we send them a second-hand book every month, chosen especially for them. It’s fantastic fun for any booklover! Prices are £5 for 1 book or £7 for two books.

Taking time for self-care, or encouraging this in others, is so important. If this interview has inspired you to sign up to one of the brilliant subscription services, please get in touch via the links below.
https://www.pebblewise.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/Pebblewise-295311664133531/

Betty and Cat – Hennie’s Multilingual writing adventures

This week I have a real treat in store for you. An interview with the amazing Hennie, author of the Betty and Cat books.

Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Holland, immigrated to Montreal, then lived in Toronto, moved back to Holland when I had a mid-life crisis, and now spend my time between Holland and France.

How many languages do you speak?
I speak Dutch, French, and English. I studied German, but for some reason, the words won’t come out of my mouth properly! My current thing is learning Spanish.

Have you always been keen on languages?
I’ve always been keen on communicating, and sometimes it takes another language. At home, languages were always a thing – my dad was keen – he spoke four and started learning Spanish at an advanced age. He also thought Esperanto was the way forward and learned that.
Living in Montreal at a time when the English were in power, we were the only family I knew that had Francophone friends. We were different, they were different, and the people we lived among (the Anglophones) must have thought that we were different. Somehow, that ended up making us more tolerant, and I think more interesting in the long run.

Could you tell us a little about your language learning journey as a child,
Learning English (there were three of us kids; my parents already spoke school-English when we immigrated) was always fun at home. We shared stories, we showed off, we were shown off (I remember my dad having me recite Humpty Dumpty into a tape recorder for the folks back in Holland). It was never considered a chore, hard, un-fun, or extraordinary.
New year’s day we had Dutch friends for lunch and ended the day with French friends. My husband is American. So: we started the day in English, nattered in Dutch over lunch, spoke French all evening, and then went home talking English. There are millions of people all over the word who live like this, and were probably never taught to make a big deal of it. It just happens.

Could you tell us a little about your career background?
I was a copywriter all my working life. My greatest joy was writing a two-part children’s story for the newspapers around the Santa Claus Parade, sponsored by the department store I was working for. I even got a fan letter.
What inspired you to write and publish your books?
A friend here in France, an illustrator who has grandchildren growing up bilingually in Brussels, asked me if we couldn’t collaborate on a bilingual kids’ book. She ended up being too busy to illustrate it – but I caught the bug, and did it. Not for a second, though, did I consider a translated book – the Betty & Cat books just flopped out in two languages.

Anything else you’d wish to add?
There are so many people around the globe working with kids – and adults – teaching second, third and more languages it gives you hope for the future. Tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner. And one way to truly understand is to learn the language.

Find out more about Hennie’s amazing books at bettyandcat.com

Inspirational mum Kerry from Discovery Bubbas

This months inspirational mum is Kerry from Discovery Bubbas.

Hi Kerri, could you tell us a little about yourself.

I am a mummy to one 2.5 year old girl and a wife to a musical and hard working man. I was a nursery nurse prior to having my little one, so I am qualified and experienced in childcare and early years education, I initially took up some nannying when my daughter was 11 months old which was lovely because I could take her with me and she became friends with the families own little girl, but I stopped the nannying because I was at the same time just developing my ideas and starting up my Discovery bubbas group- which is sensory, messy exploration and creative play sessions. I decided to set up and run these type of sessions because I love it, all of that kind of play was my favourite thing to plan for and watch the children enjoy during my nursery nurse career. It is so beneficial to their development as it links in with many areas in the EYFS- EARLY YEARS FOUNDATION STAGE. It is very well known and widely researched that creative play, art and the freedom to explore and express themselves is great for a child’s individual way of learning and their current play and learning patterns or ‘schemas’.

How did your business come about?
I had the idea of setting up a messy play type group quite a few years ago, whilst I was still a nursery nurse
But the time just was never ‘right’,but once I had my daughter I just knew I didn’t want to go back to a ‘normal job and my husband and I agreed that I should be there for her and not put her in someone else’s care, especially if it meant me returning to doing just that but for other people’s kids, that just did not make sense to us, me looking after other kids whilst our precious little one was being looked after by someone else? No sense in that! anyway, I started thinking about this messy play group idea again whilst on maternity leave and the more I thought about it and the more ideas I wrote down,I knew I had to just go for it and do it. I started to get resources and equipment in here and there whilst I did the bit nannying and with some help from my mother in law I set up and started running Discovery bubbas at the end of Feb 2016. What I love the most about running the sessions is not only can my daughter come along with me and get the benefits from the sessions herself too but I just LOVE it, from the planning of session activities and seeing all the ‘little Discovery bubbas’ enjoying it and reaping the benefits and learning whilst having fun. The sessions are suitable for and mainly aimed at little ones from approx 6 months to 5 years, it’s a stay and play session which means parents/carers are to stay and join in the discovery fun with their little ones.

I am currently just making plans for this new year to start running some separate sessions for older children 6+ during school breaks, these will be; Discovery kids- STEAM (science,tech,engineering,art, math) club, this is a hands on mixed activities workshop which incorporates the STEAM concept/education system.
I am also planning to put together a range of ‘little discoverers’ activity kits, including busy bags, Mini STEAM challenge kits, ‘create, make and do at home kits’, tinker/DISCOVERY boxes and more.

How do you market your group?
I mainly use Facebook to advertise and promote Discovery bubbas,I have given out flyers but Facebook is working fine for me at the moment, I am listed on some kids activity directories and bloggers sites like Sophia’s diary and I have noticed an increase in page likes since listing on there. I do find that word of mouth and people recommending and reviewing my sessions helps a great deal, I have had new people come to sessions after being told about them by a friend.

What is your biggest success so far?

My best moment or session so far just has to be the special ChristMESS session I did on 12th December, I raised £50 for Herts young homeless and put together a kindness care basket from donations I asked people to bring to put in it and as there was a lot donated I split it, half to Herts young homeless and half went to the St Albans and hertsmere women’s refuge. I also had Mickey and Minnie Mouse come visit near the end of the session which was great.

Who inspires you?
My dad has been my biggest inspiration when it comes to working hard and to try things out, to see the funny side of life and to be honest and kind, he did and still does work hard to provide for his family and that instilled in me the drive to always value whatever ‘work’ I did and do, it just so turns out that I followed a path which has now lead me to set up my own little venture doing something I enjoy and it makes a difference by enhancing and promoting children’s development. Of course my daughter, my little star, is also my biggest inspiration, do it all for her.

What advice would you give to anyone out there thinking of setting up their own business?
My advice to anyone thinking about setting up a similar class or any other type of class or little business, is to just ‘go for it’, do your research, talk to people and just do it!

Thanks Kerri, it’s been a joy to chat to you!

If you want to find out more about Kerri’s Discovery bubbas sessions check out.
Facebook.com/discoverybubbas and Discoverybubbas.webs.com

You are fascinating!

As I started my business three years ago I came across Sally Hogshead. I took the simple personality test and learned a lot about myself and what makes me tick. Using this understanding I changed the way I sell myself and market my business.

You probably know how you see the world. But do you know how the world sees YOU? You are fascinating!
How can you make the best possible first impression? How is your personal brand most likely to be seen by
others… at your best?
Sally Hogshead, the founder of How to Fascinate, sent me afascination-advantage-system-how-the-world-sees-you-1-638 gift code that allows me to invite 100 people to
take the Fascination Advantage® assessment for free.
I want to share mine with YOU, so that you can discover what makes your personal brand fascinating.
Here’s my special code: YOU-LinGOFASCINATE.

The first 100 people who use it will get their fascination profile for free!
So how do you take the assessment?
1. Go to HowToFascinate.com/you and use my code: YOU-LinGOFASCINATE.
2. Take the assessment (it only takes about 3 minutes).
3. Get your fascinating results, and see what makes YOUR personal brand most captivating.
Plus, you’ll be invited to get your own gift code, to share with 100 of your friends and followers.

I’d love to know how you get on. Let me know how you get on in the comments below.

Can preschoolers learn coding?

As a mum in business I love to celebrate what other amazing business mummies are doing. This month we’ve got an inspirational interview with Liane from creative kids; coding site Mama.codes. We met at Mumsnet Workfest a few months ago.. so, can preschoolers learn coding?

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Hi Liane could you tell us a little about yourself and your family?

Sure, I’m a mum of two (my daughter is 8 and my son is 5), living in south London and married to my student sweetheart 🙂
I’m a digital journalist – turned product manager and consultant – turned entrepreneur! I spent 12 years working at the Guardian website on the News, Politics and Travel sections, then I went part time after having my daughter and found longer-term project work easier to manage than 24/7 news. I worked on the Guardian’s mobile and apps team and loved working more closely with software developers and exploring emerging technologies. We even designed an iPad app before we’d ever seen an iPad for real as Apple kept them under wraps until launch day!

Why did you decide to launch your business?

I’d gone freelance and set up my own digital consulting business which was very flexible while my youngest was under 3. One day, a friend of a friend (and now my co-founder Alice Thompson!) suggested meeting for coffee. She told me she’d been teaching her then 4-year-old daughter to code creatively, using jokes and songs, etc. and wanted to share what she’d learned with other mums in the form of local meet ups and maybe a website. She already ran the impressive Mums Make Lists parenting website with our third partner Luci McQuitty Hindmarsh, which had excellent content and a huge following in both the US and UK.
It sounded amazing – I didn’t want my daughter to miss out on this important new skill and knew that she wasn’t super excited by the coding she’d done at school or with me during Hour of Code.
Alice asked if I’d like to get involved on a very mum-friendly basis, school hours and term time only and the rest, as they say, is history! We have over 90 coding projects on the site and teach Year 1-3 classes at a London primary school, we’re launching an afterschool club and holiday workshops and have over 1,000 users signed up to our website.

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How are you finding it fits in with your family?

It’s amazing, I can work whenever it suits me, day or night, from home or while watching a swimming lesson. We are mostly a home-working team, talking via skype and constantly ‘chatting’ via Google Hangouts. We meet weekly, either in a Shoreditch co-working cafe for our startup ‘fix’ or at our new office in Docklands, thanks to being finalists in the MassChallenge accelerator programme (a bit like X Factor for startups!).

We are particularly inspired by Dame Steve Shirley, who founded a company of freelance coding mothers who worked from their homes – in the 1960s! (Her TED talk is fantastic) We try and work like crazy during term times and then give our kids a lot of time during school holidays.

Anything else you wish to tell our readers?

Running your own business is hard work but massively rewarding, and it’s really simple and inexpensive to get started. Once you are your own boss, there’s no turning back! Similarly, people shouldn’t be so daunted about learning to code… it’s just another language skill, and if our kids can pick it up, there’s no reason us parents can’t join them for the ride!

 

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Mama.codes offers creative coding projects for children aged 3-8 (and their parents and teachers!)
It’s free to sign up and try 4 introductory, step by step projects. Readers of this blog can then claim a 25% discount on the Bundle of Fun pack of 50 beginner coding projects. Use promo code LINGO25

What are you waiting for?

Do you think coding is a language? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

What is Little Lollapalooza?

debbieAs a mum in business I love to celebrate what other amazing business mummies are doing. This month we meet the amazing Debbie Denyer founder of Little Lollapalooza A chance for children to explore their curiosity and imagination through art and sensory holiday workshops, events and parties. So, without further ado, over to Debbie.

 

I’m Debbie Denyer. I live in Beaconsfield with my partner Lee and daughters Chloe, 5 yrs, Amelie, 2 yrs and our dog. Before launching Little Lollapalooza I worked in Business Improvement, but with a background in 3D Design and Product Design, time spent teaching art classes, painting murals in Nepalese orphanages, a stint teaching English as a Foreign language to children in Nepal and Greece and work as a Housing Officer it’s been a varied career!

 

Little Lollapalooza was launched because I had ‘mummy guilt.’ I worked long hours. I aspired to be a Business Improvement Director and eventually a CEO, but when I went on maternity leave my husband sadly passed away very suddenly from cancer. I had a 5 month old baby and my world had fallen apart.

 

Chloe’s dad was an amazing man, with a passion and love for life that was infectious. He believed that you should find something that you loved and do that for work. I returned to work, but battled with myself over the limited time I spent with my daughter. Time was the one thing that my husband didn’t have with her and it seemed like I owed it to all of us to try to do things differently. So four years down the line, with a new partner and another baby I decided to launch Little Lollapalooza.

 

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I run Art & Sensory school holiday workshops, parties and events for children from 18 mths – 8 yrs old. You might find yourself painting with water pistols, pendulum painting, inventing junk model monsters, creating a giant collage, squelching slime or delving your hands into rainbow spaghetti.

 

My daughters love coming to the school holiday sessions and enjoy testing out my ideas at home. My job means that I can do the school run (which I’m not sure is always a good thing, particularly in winter!) and we can travel a lot during school holidays, which is a passion I gained whilst teaching English abroad.

 

It’s a challenge to juggle running a business with two small children. A lot of work is done during nap times and once the children are in bed! I’m keen to expand the business (so that we can afford the holidays) and because I really believe in encouraging children’s curiosity and imaginations. I’ve got some exciting plans for the future, if you want to know more, sign up to my e-newsletter on my website.

 

I’m running a Halloween Half Term Workshop on 27th October in Beaconsfield, Bucks.

Inspirational mum Mandie from Les Puces

IMG_0369 As a mum in business I love to celebrate what other amazing business mummies are doing. This month we meet the amazing Mandie Davis, the founder and creator of Les Puces Ltd, providing language classes to pre-school and primary aged children. So, without further ado, over to Mandie.

Imagine sitting in a café and at the next table is a young mum and her toddler.  The mum takes out a baby book of words and starts reciting verb conjugations to her little one.  “I go, you go, he goes ….”   She looks across at you and whispers “He just doesn’t seem to get it – he can recite verbs but not string a sentence together and he doesn’t seem to understand what I say.”  Your advice would undoubtedly be “Just talk to him!” a table

My daughters were brought up in Germany and France.  The eldest is trilingual and the youngest bilingual.  The only language lessons they had at school were to learn English!  They learned their new tongue by immersion, by simply imbibing the language until it became their own.  Let’s face it, communication isn’t just about words.  You can have a pretty good guess at what someone is saying to you based on the situation, context, the sound of their voice and their facial expressions, and so you slowly start to piece together this wonderful jigsaw of language.

When we teach our children their first language, they make errors as they grow. I remember the sweet mistakes made with words like hospital (hosbibal) and cheeks were always ‘sheeks’! As they grow, one turns to subtle corrections such as changing ‘they goed’ to ‘they went’ and eventually comes the exasperation on hearing ‘should of’ and explaining, one more time, that there is no verb ‘to of’! Group

So I have taken the same tack when forming the teaching modules for Les Puces Early Years French classes. Using 4 methods of learning – by rote; though songs, music and rhyme; through hearing gentle instructions when making something or colouring, where you can guess what to do; and through story telling with beautiful illustrations (and no words). These methods prepare a child for more formal lessons in school and they establish a good accent and ‘ear’ for the language while they are still young enough to be able to really hear the nuances.

I felt that communication was an imperative skill for my girls. It leads to confidence and an interrogative mind. As they grow to be young adults I trust that this also gives them understanding and tolerance of others; something becoming more important in the world we share.

To find out more about Les Puces Early Years French classes in your area please email mandie@lespuces.co.uk or go to out website www.lespuces.co.uk

Mandie Davis is the founder and creator of Les Puces Ltd, a provider of language classes for pre-school and primary aged children. Currently offering classes across Kent and Sussex, Les Puces have plans to expand across the UK and are about to launch in France, teaching English to French children.

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Mandie has created some brilliant resources, for sale through her shop.

Are you an inspirational mum who would like to feature in our blog? We’d love to hear more!

You’ll never guess what happened on Friday!

On Saturday I went along to Mumsnet workfest 2016. I was still very surprised to be going along. Twenty two hours before I did not know I was going! I got a tweet from Barclays to say I’d won a pair of tickets. I looked at the website and was so excited about the line up. Just a quick call to my hubby to chat about childcare and I was all set to go. The Mumsnet workfest looked to be aimed as mums returning to work after maternity leave. I figured there were a couple of seminars that looked really good and it was a great opportunity to network.

The most surprisingCath andMe part of the day was when I met Cath. I arrived early and got chatting to another he. She had an awful lot in common with me. I’m from Bradford, and she lives there now. We both LOVE languages, especially German, so we chatted about that, about our families, and the Lingotastic classes I run. Anyone who has read my blogs, or met me in the flesh will know that family language learning is my passion, so another mum looking to bring more language learning into her family life and maybe run classes like mine is an absolute joy to me. Cath said this was something she’d like to do so discussed my journey and ideas for her to work towards something similar.

The first event was with the keynote panel of Karen Blackett OBE, Jo Whiley, Jess Phillips MP and Kirstie Mackey. It was awesome to hear them share their stories and “How they do it all.”Panel speaking
Karen is a truly inspirational women who has created a culture in her company which includes and celebrates family. Jo Whiley shared how through her radio career she has worked with supportive people who have allowed her to be a mum as well as an employee. The two shining light pearls of wisdom from this session were “One good parent is enough”- Jess, and “Bring the whole of you to work” – Karen. If the day had stopped there, this would have been brilliant already.

I’m self employed, so the break out session on The Key to building your business was just what I wanted to hear. It was so great to hear others stories. I heard what I know now to be true, “Starting your own business is not the easy option”. I also had the time to reflect on how lucky I am to have a hubby who has let me run a selfie2business which did not make any money for the first two years.
For the second breakout session I walked in, and the lovely Esther Stanhope was bouncing around with excitement. It was titled “How to network when you hate small talk” There were lots of brilliant little tips I could quickly put into practice. We had to break into pairs and speed network. I found out that Katie loves Bradford (where I’m from) and writing and blogging. I was so excited I took a silly selfie. She confessed that prior to this she was a selfie virgin!

Lunch was delicious restaurant quality food and great chance to network. I chatted with a bilingual Russian & English mum about what they do at home, and she said advice and support would make a massive difference to her as her daughter grows. This was a massive encouragement to me and something I am considering I how to work in practice.

 

I went along to the self esteem workshop with Kim Morgan from Barefoot Coaching. The room was pretty full. It was a high speed session including many ideas and a couple of group exercises. I came away with a revelation that as women we all struggle with similar issues which was a real eyeopener to me. Her book The Coach’s Casebook looked a good way to follow up on the session.

We were so fortunate to be able to find out “What we did next”-inspiring stories with five awesome women who were inspired to launch their own business by Workfest 2015.

I was so excited that the guest speaker this year was Matthew Syed. My hubby has been reading his book “Bounce”, so I was excited I could hear him speak. He presented so clearly. This was a real lightbulb moment, to see my own growth mindset and fixed mindset. It was a real eyeopener as a mum, to help me to encourage my own children to see that if things go wrong, failure is not final, and though failing we learn how to do it better next time.
MattSyed If you want to buy his books Black box thinking and Bounce for yourself, click through.

It was an awesome day and I came away feeling comfortable in my own skin and that I’m not doing a bad job as a mum. Not bad at all for an event I’d not heard about before the Friday.

This blog is the first in a monthly series celebrating women in business and the workplace. I believe that if something is not celebrated it can die, so I want to take the chance to celebrate some awesome women. If you’d like to write a guest blog for us get in touch.

OPOL or bust? What’s the best method for language learning?

I’ve heard it said many times that one parent one language (OPOL) is the best if not only way of family language learning. It is often held up as the Holy Grail of bilingual families.
In our home OPOL was not possible, as my husband was not keen to do this. He’d only lived in England two years by then and felt consolidating his English was most important. I’m native English and had studied German to GCSE, so started to pass on what I knew when our son was small. Maik did help me work on my German, so me and my son were learning together. We found some French books in a local shop when he was a little over a year and we started to read those to him now and again.

Il fait comment le caméléon?

Il fait comment le caméléon?


It was all very ad hoc, and in the very early internet days we did not come across anyone doing the same. I just felt it was important so we shared German books together, recited days of the week in the car, sung along to nursery rhyme CDs, counted on the swings, played with toys which spoke German and watched German DVDs together as well as German satellite TV. My thinking was to give as much language exposure as possible which he could build on in school. Yearly visits to Germany provided a good chance for him to meet German speaking people and practice speaking. Food vocab was considered most important! We celebrated German festivals like Martinstag and Nikolaustag together. It was hard work and I was not sure how much difference it was making.
A few years later my girls were born and I met a few German speaking mums with similar age children. It was so encouraging to be able to speak to someone outside our family in German and talk with them about how they brought German into their family. We shared books, DVDs and CDs which was great. We also found out about a German Lutheran church about an hour away so we were able to join with them for Martinstag and Nikolaustag.Nikolaus Boots
My children are not fluent in German but can understand a lot and communicate in the country. My son can easily pick up native accents (and mimic regional accents too) and speaks better Dutch than his parents. I put this down to hearing and using a few languages from a young age. My six year old was astounded when I told her some families only speak English.

So back to the opening question, OPOL or bust? What’s the best method for language learning?
I think there is no best way of family language learning. Raising multilingual children is a flexible and very personal process, do what works for you and your family, make it part of your lifestyle. It needs to be something which works for you and your family in the long term.
Bilingualism is a massive asset to your children in the long term and as parents we are so fortunate to be able to give it to our children. Just do what works for you all and enjoy the journey together.

What has been your family experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or you could even write us a guest blog.

What language learners can learn from actors

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My gorgeous, talented husband @lingotutor

Last weekend our family were on stage in The Magic Toyshop by Andrew Willment.

I was helping backstage and it got me thinking. Acting is a lot like language learning. Here is why I think so.

 

Actors learn lines and phrases. They use cues and context to learn their lines.  Many polyglots start a new language by learning key phrases and build from there. When I started to learn Mandarin in January 2015, a  phrase I picked up quickly was:

Wǒ xiǎng yào yībēi kāfēi xièxiè. – I’d like a cup of coffee thank you

It was not long before I figured out how to ask for a cup of tea.- Wǒ xiǎng yào yībēi chá xièxiè.

 

Actors learn a script 

Benny Lewis in his book Fluent in 3 months talks of the value of writing a script in the target language, and learning it to start basic conversations. I’ve been learning Urdu with Eurotalk this month. I’ve learned to say  good morning – Subah Bakhair, Thank you – Shukria, goodbye- Alwidah. With these simple greetings I’ve been able converse with Urdu speaking parents and build up more Urdu as the speakers helped me.

 

Good actors are able to improvise when dialogue goes off script.

Good language learners are not flummoxed when they do not know a word in another language, they simply explain using word they know and communicate their point. I use this a lot when talking to my mum in law in German!
Acting is a lot of fun and allows to you be another person (or simply a more confident you!)

A Turkish proverb says

“One who speaks only one language is one person, but one who speaks two languages is two people.”

I’ve taught my first Chinese New Year class of 2016 this week. When I can communicate and sing in Mandarin it’s an amazing feeling; as I get into the swing of the class I feel I’m flying!
My favourite part of the Magic Toyshop play was these lines…

No look up there, he’s flying …. up… in the air!

Heavens above that’s impossible!

Yes, and someone needs to tell them that or they are going to carry on doing it!

So I tell you… go and do the impossible. Go out there and have a go at communicating in another language, and let me know where it takes you.

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