Category Archives: guest post

Why would adults learn languages?

We have a brilliant guest blog from my lovely friend Nathalie. She speaks at least two languages daily and a few more besides, so must be always learning languages. Anyway, over to Nathalie

If you are reading this blog, the chances are you already know how beneficial the exposure to other languages is to children. What about us as adults though? Either you don’t know another language or you already know one, 2, 3… or even more… Either way I feel we should always either practise and improve our skills in one language or learn new ones. I don’t necessarily mean to become fluent but to learn new sounds, new rules, new cultures… Why?

• It sets a good example for the children around you
• It puts you in the position of a learner; no one should ever forget what it feels like to learn new things: the excitement and the challenges! This way you can always sympathise with other learners, especially children
• It gives you focus; you have to be committed in order to learn another language
• It is good for your brain: research has shown that learning languages can help protect against Alzheimer’s
• It gives you direct access to more understanding: of words, of texts, and more importantly of people, even without travelling
• When you have found a way which works for you, it should be enjoyable too; if it isn’t, try another language… or another way!
I am sure they are many more reasons… please do share them with us!!


So which language am I learning at the moment?
I am learning Italian, partly with Duolingo, because I am going to Rome in April and I want to be able to communicate at least a little and I want to be able to pronounce food when I order it! Then I will learn Dutch ahead of a trip to Amsterdam with the football team which I coach and my daughter plays for; I will be encouraging the girls to try speaking Dutch when we’re there! Afterwards, I would like to learn some Arabic as a change from the European languages which I know and love… and an extra challenge!

Which language are you learning at the moment? Let us know in the comments below.

If you want to read more of Nathalie’s blogs and brilliant book reviews check out.
http://www.nattalingo.co.uk/

How do you become a polyglot?

This week we are really blessed to have an exclusive interview with a man who speaks at least twelve languages, Dimitrios Polychronopoulos. I hope it inspires your own language learning journey.


Could you tell us about your language learning journey?

When I was growing up, I dreamed of travelling the world and learning languages to speak to the people I would meet in the different countries I would visit. My first languages were English and Greek. I’m a Greek citizen and I grew up in the United States.

While I’m grateful for the lessons in the evening at the Greek Orthodox Church, where I learned to read and write in Greek, my ability with Greek wasn’t very strong when I was growing up. This is a common problem in many parts of the United States where children often lack peers with whom to speak their heritage language on a daily basis.

One solution to this was offered by Eithe Gallagher who presented at the Polyglot Conference in Thessaloniki in October 2016, and makes a case of promoting home languages in the classroom and I hope that soon we will see this kind of activity spreading to schools worldwide.

As a teenager, I was offered a choice of French, German or Spanish. For the university I wanted to attend, a foreign language in high school was required. Some people told me to protest that rule and say it shouldn’t be necessary in my case because of Greek. Because I was interested in language and culture anyway, I went ahead and enrolled in French courses without really thinking why I should choose this language and not one of the the other two.

The year after I started French, my parents took me to French Polynesia. People spoke fast when I tried to ask questions in my broken French. Despite my mom insisting I switch to English when speaking with the locals, I persisted with French to see how we could manage to communicate.

When two exchange students from France showed up at my high school the next year, they became my best friends and we learned a lot from each other. My French improved so much that I was able to be the first person from my high school to pass the Advanced Placement exam for university French credit. They invited me to France and I eventually earned a scholarship to study in Angers, France.

As I was finishing high school, also I started with my fourth language: Italian. Russian came next when I was 20 and I spent three months on a people-to-people exchange in the Soviet Union.

My sixth language was Spanish, which I added the next year after I was in the Soviet Union. It was amazing to read about the collapse of the Soviet Union in Spanish while visiting Costa Rica.

After university, I started to study Mandarin Chinese and began work in Taiwan as an English instructor.

So in my early 20’s I was up to seven languages to various degrees of competency. From my experience, Russian and Chinese are the most difficult languages I’ve ever studied. I can still converse in both languages and use LingQ and ReadLang as two methods of continuing to practice and improve on them. My Russian is rather basic though and I’m always making mistakes. Russian is difficult in terms of grammar and learning the rich vocabulary, but the alphabet was rather easy to pick up because I already knew the Greek alphabet.

My Chinese is modest, shall we say. It is difficult to learn the idiomatic expressions and the writing system. The first week of study, I also focused only on the tones. Unlike most learners of Chinese, I began simultaneously with the reading and writing. While learning daily conversation, I was also studying the Chinese radicals. After I finished my lesson book and cassettes from Audio Forum, which brought me to a basic conversational level after four months, I began to use children’s school books and learned the Mandarin Phonetic Alphabet to help read texts alongside the complex characters that five-year olds and then six-year olds and then seven-year olds would read at school.

From Taiwan, I moved to the Philippines where I completed a Master of International Studies. The time I spent living in Taiwan and the Philippines, over a span of five years, allowed me to easily enjoy visits to other parts of East Asia and I had the opportunity to explore a lot of the region.

In Manila, I had the chance to practice several of my languages while living at the university. I also began to study Tagalog and then Bahasa Indonesia. Fortunately there was a student from Greece there. My Greek was out of practice, but she helped me get it up to scratch. I also enrolled in advanced Spanish conversation and tried Portuguese for the first time but withdrew because the pace was too slow and boring. There were individuals who knew French and people from Mainland China and Taiwan, so I had lots of opportunities to use these languages, too.

After completing my studies in the Philippines, I moved to Greece and enjoyed my work there as a tour director. When I was on tour, I would also lead groups to Turkey as a part of their two-week journey to the region, so I began to study Turkish as well. In Turkish, I never reached the point of understanding the TV news or reading a newspaper, but I could communicate at the rudimentary level of taking taxis, handling issues with the tour driver and with the hospitality staff.

As for Greek, to reach a level of Greek more like people who grew up in Greece, I enrolled in courses at the Greek American Union in Athens and was placed in advanced classes with foreigners who had been living in Greece for a long time. It was also wonderful to live close to my family in Athens and I really enjoyed the time there.

A few years later, I moved to the Peloponnese and also began to take on tour assignments to Italy. The amounts of work in Italy allowed my Italian to improve a lot. Later I also began assignments to Spain and Costa Rica, which helped boost my Spanish.

One of the activities I enjoyed in the Peloponnese was kite surfing. One of my instructors was Brazilian and invited me to kite in Praia do Laranjal in southern Brazil. So I spent a couple of our winters in Brazil, which are their summers. I had ‘Teach Yourself Portuguese’ audio lessons and although I arrived and spoke Spanish to most people, I was able to switch to what they call Portuñol and eventually to Portuguese with a few Spanish word in it.

The year before I started hanging out in Brazil, I had been in Montevideo at La Herradura Language School. Ever since the day I began to study Spanish in 1991, every time I was in a Spanish environment, my Italian would disappear. Likewise, whenever I was in an Italian environment, my Spanish would disappear. Finally in 2008 I became capable of shifting between Italian and Spanish without much interference between languages. Then I moved to Spain and my Spanish continued to improve and I have fortunately been able to maintain my Italian.

In 2012 I started to study German in Hamburg with colon.de , and then later started to study Dutch on my own and then Norwegian up to A2 level in Oslo with language power and then continued Norwegian on my own after that.

Now I live in Norway where I completed an MBA recently and last year I worked on a tour a few times from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and on to Finland. I’ve dabbled with all four of these languages as well, using material such as Teach Yourself, LingQ and Routledge.

In May of 2016 at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin I introduced my new language website yozzi.com, which aims to become the lang-8 (lang-8.com) for advanced language learners where people submit texts and receive corrections. The point is for people to practice writing entire articles in their target languages, not just sentences and paragraphs which is what lang-8 offers.

In June 2016, I became the congress coordinator for the Society of Intercultural Education Training and Research Europa (SIETAR Europa) sietareu.org for the congress in Dublin in late May 2017. Currently I’m dabbling with Irish.

Now that I’ve fulfilled my dream of travelling the world and learning languages, I’d like to use my languages in new ways, such as encouraging people to improve their writing skills as Yozzi aims to do, and in building intercultural understanding and awareness and to encourage language-learning.


Do you think learning languages is important and why?

Learning languages is a great way to build empathy. When a person has experienced the humility of trying to speak a different language and not being understood, of having a thick accent, bad grammar and limited vocabulary, it can make people who are otherwise in comfortable positions think about the struggle immigrants go through when they move to a new country in hope of improving their lives. Language learning also helps with educational opportunities as one can study in universities in different languages and also with career opportunities.

Do you have any new Language Learning challenges on the horizon?

My biggest focus is to reach an advanced level of Dutch and Norwegian. When there is a sense of urgency, I will likely bring one of the languages I’ve dabbled in up to a higher level. Motivation is the key when it comes to language learning. When motivation isn’t there, it’s hard to push beyond the A1 material. Another thing I have experienced is that if I reach an A2 level in a language but then don’t use it for a long time, the language drifts into a fog and that’s what has happened with Tagalog and Turkish. My main focus is with my twelve strongest languages and if circumstances arise to bring another language up to an intermediate level, then I will likely do so with an intense three-month language challenge, which I find very effective, such as with Brian Kwong’s Add One Challenge.

If you’d like to stay in contact with Dimitris check out these links
to Yozzi on:

twitter @LanguageYozzi
Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/yozzilanguage/

If you’d like to share your language learning journey on our blog we’d love to hear from you.

Would Language exchange help your family language learning?

We met the folks from Lingoo at Language Show Live back in October. We champion the same cause: empowering learners by giving them the right tools to make language learning so natural and enjoyable that it doesn’t actually feel like learning at all. We were so excited when he agreed to write us a guest post, so over to Peter.

Whether you and your family have some second-language skills or none At all, it’s pretty obvious that if you wish to develop those skills.And enter the ranks of LLL’s (Lifelong Language Learners – we love an Acronym in this day and age), you need to get yourself over to the Country where the target tongue is spoken. Job done? Second language ‘in the bag’? Not always the case…A frequent disappointment for those who visit their country of choice Is that they don’t always get the opportunity to try out their Language skills. (“Everyone spoke English on holiday”, “Authentic? We Could have been anywhere!”, “My son spent the whole of his school Exchange with his friends” amongst the all too familiar frustrations.) Maybe this wasn’t the hub of culture and language you were hoping For…

family of four in their back yard

10 years ago, Lingoo was born of a simple solution: putting learners In touch with hosts, in family settings, for holidays or exchanges.Demand was immediate and continues to grow, as more and more families Seek to spend their precious free time on holidays that tick all the Boxes, from authenticity and originality to adventure and fulfillment. So how does it work? Lingoo.com is designed to put you – the parent -Firmly in the driving seat of the matching process, guiding you Through that process to ensure that from the good number and broad Choice of hosts available, you’ll land on the doorstep of the very Best host and environment for you. The fact that these families are on Our website means you can be pretty sure they share your open-minded Outlook on life but add to that your ability to search by Lingoo.combasics (language, location, age of children) and specifics (interests, pets, Religion, diet …) and there’s no pot-luck about it. With stringent Host-vetting procedures in place too, registrants can also rest Assured that their security is safeguarded. Much of the feedback we receive centres on the overwhelmingly positive Impact on children. It’s certainly true that there is no better Environment than an immersive language holiday to see our inquisitive Little ones in sponge-mode (and if only you could bottle the wide-eyed Wonder – “They have _THAT_ for breakfast?!”). Even older children who Are more inclined to feel self-conscious are likely to see the very Point of all that time spent nose-in-textbook. Watch them pat Themselves on the back as they pull a vocab gem out of the bag (and Remember to take some of the credit yourself: you the parent are in Full role-model mode here… a love of languages, a sense of place, an Ability to step out of your comfort zone, we could go on…).

Whereas most family adventures come with a grisly price tag, Lingoo.com effectively facilitates exchanges within the ‘sharing Economy meaning our users can reap the benefits for low-to-no cost. Language exchangers pay only an annual registration fee and those Embarking on language homestays (so not hosting in return) simply add That to a fixed price for being hosted. Were this cost in the Commercial world of holidays, you would have every reason to question Very low pricing; here, a pro-sharing mentality means many of our Hosts are happy to welcome guests for surprisingly small financial return. Whatever’s on your wish-list, visit for inspiration And guidance on arranging a language homestay for you and your LLLL’s (Little Lifelong Language Learners – sorry). Let’s keep those language Fires burning bright for the next generation.

Top tips for learning English with YouTube

This week I’d like to introduce you to Quincy. As an ESL teacher he is passionate about language learning for children. He’s written us a guest blog of his top tips for learning English with YouTube.

Learning English with YouTube- Young Learners
YouTube can be an excellent tool in furthering a child’s English language education. When used as a supplemental form of teaching, children left on their own can retain new information from the practice of watching and engaging with what they see on the computer.
Videos that employ the use of rhymes in song or a similar form such as chanting, are beneficial for the growth of children’s vocabulary and reading abilities. As children learn individual sounds, they soon recognize similar rhymes and alliterations in other words. From there, children can easily move on from detection (listening) of rhymes and alliterations to production (speaking). Continual exposure to and production of new sounds will lead to the formation of complete words, requests, sentences, and eventually dialog.
No matter if you’re a parent or teacher, using exercises like this can really help improve a child’s language ability and serve to help round out the teaching methods used.
Here’s how to start:

The Basics- Learning the Alphabet
DJC Kids has a great YouTube channel for the basics of English such as the alphabet, numbers, colors, etc.

Their video ABC Karaoke does a great job presenting the alphabet and encouraging the viewers to sing along with the goal being to encourages children to speak or actively in order to enhance their language acquisition.

Nursery Rhymes and Songs- Vocabulary Development

Busy Beavers is a series of YouTube channels that offer videos with text in a multitude of languages other than English. The videos themselves are in English, however, the option to use a French or Arabic Busy Beaver channel will help the parent or teacher navigate the site and find the appropriate video to show their child.
Nursery Rhymes and Toddler School

This particular playlist covers a wide range of common nursery rhymes. They are presented in sing-song format allowing children to discover for themselves the repetition of similar sounds.

Advanced English Learners- Dialog and Communication
For moderately more advanced learners, this channel provides longer videos (roughly half an hour and longer) and includes captions at the bottom of the screen that fill in as the speaker in the video completes a word. The dialogs are slow, thus allowing viewers to discern individual sounds and correlate them with the spelled words.

English Singsing

This channel also includes shorter videos with less advanced content, as well as specific videos for ESL students.

YouTube as a Resource
Children’s ability to learn a second language, known as the critical period, greatly begins to decline after puberty. Exposing children to a second language as early as possible will make the second language acquisition process much more effective. YouTube is an excellent and free source to assist anyone wishing to learn English as a second language. There are thousands of videos specifically geared towards younger learners; keep in mind the examples used in this article are merely starting points for anyone looking to further the language development of their child.

Quincy is a former teacher and founder of ESL Authority, a site dedicated to bringing first-hand advice and guides to those looking to get involved in ESL teaching. Currently located in China, he will work for strong coffee and IPAs.

twitter.com/ESLAuthority

Speak Polish! How Kids Make Absolutely Awesome Motivation

I’m learning Polish at the moment with uTalk (blog comjng very soon). This week we are lucky to have a guest blog from Nathan at how to speak Polish. I hope it inspires you to learn Polish too.

Nathan from HowToSpeakPolish.com at Wawel Castle in Kraków, Poland“I don’t know where it is!”

Aged 23, that’s exactly what I would have told you if you’d have asked me about Poland. I hadn’t even met a Pole until 2013. Little did I know that I’d end up marrying the first one that I spoke to!

My name is Nathan and given my background, it’s quite surprising that I’m an ambassador of the Polish language. I was born in 1991 and raised in Swindon, England to a family of Jamaican and Barbadian heritage. Although I am from an English-speaking family, I encountered French at a young age. At school I had Spanish classes too, but after years of lessons in both I could never hold a conversation. Despite my lack of proficiency, exposure to foreign languages as a child taught me how much fun they were and I continued to dabble in them in adulthood.

My Polish language learning journey

Nathan from HowToSpeakPolish.com making friends with a Polish accordion playerI started learning Polish in 2013 after being invited to a wedding in Western Poland. I’d heard false rumours that Polish people were racist towards black people, so I decided to learn some phrases beforehand in order to say hello and get myself out of a sticky situation should it arise.

Nothing would stick! After failing to learn anything from my local library’s audio courses, I actually quit learning Polish – twice! For me, it was third time lucky when I started using my current method to learn the meanings of whole sentences. I bought a cheap phrasebook and went from there.

Following the wedding, I continued learning and started speaking to natives on Skype. After 14 months of struggling, I had finally achieved my goal to speak Polish with natives with ease!

Of course, I never would have achieved my goal without guidance. My language learning heroes are Khatzumoto, Luca Lampariello and Olly Richards. I have been influenced by many others, but these three are a cut above the rest. They inspire me not only with their language proficiency, but also with their willingness to help others to follow in their path. On my website, HowToSpeakPolish.com, I help other Polish learners in the same way that these titans have helped me.

Although I can speak Polish, I continue to study so that I can teach my children to speak Polish from birth. I plan to exclusively speak Polish to my kids. If I don’t, I’ll be robbing them of a suitable environment to learn. I want to give them every opportunity to get to know their mother’s family, friends and history.

My top tips

If I could give you one language learning tip knowing what I know now, it’s “Focus on learning the language that you need”. There are so many languages that you’ll never speak them all. There’s so much vocabulary that you’ll never learn it all. Concentrate on acquiring the words specific to you and your interests.

As for pronunciation, here are my top tips:

If you know someone who wants to speak Polish, tell them about HowToSpeakPolish.com. We can conquer Polish together!

Has this inspired you? Let us know in the comments below.

How do you teach Arabic to your Children?

This week we have a guest blog from Nadine Ismail, from Reinventing Nadine . She lives in the USA and faces the same language challenges as parents the world over.

I am born and raised in Lebanon, a tiny country in the Middle East. Moved to the USA when I got married to my American born husband (He is of Syrian heritage). My native language is Arabic, but I went to French School (so all material were taught in French) and then went to the American University of Beirut, where I did both my BA and MA in Public Sector Administration with emphasis on Human Resources. I always loved languages and while in college, I also studied German for 3 years at the Goethe Institute and finished Elementary level. I worked on projects with the World Bank, UNDP and then moved to the private sector and worked in multinational companies where English was the official business language.

When I moved to the US, I decided to leave the corporate world and focus on what I enjoy doing, being a mother and wife. My blog started as a way to document my journey from a single working young woman in the Middle East to a Mom and a wife in the USA. It started as a food blog, then as my daughter grew, I started teaching her Arabic Language. I discovered how little are the resources out there for mothers like me. I started reaching out to other companies and authors who make products/wrote books and reviewed them and come up with creative ways of using the products. I became involved in my local Arabic school and helping out with the events, the curriculum and started a new Arabic Culture and Heritage class that I teach every Sunday.

I am also a blogger at Arab America ) where I blog about being a bilingual parent, tips about teaching kids/adults Arabic language and heritage. I am involved in a unique Middle Eastern Youth Singing Ensemble that teaches youth to sing classical and folkloric Arabic Songs. I am working on a course to teach adults the language with emphasis on Spoken Levantine dialect. The Arabic language is a beautiful and rich language but it is difficult and challenging. I am currently learning Spanish and Turkish. My daughter who is 7 now, can read and write in Arabic. Here is a video of her reading a book.

My website is now more about celebrating the Arab Heritage and culture through food, arts and the language. I also do traditional Middle Eastern embroidery and share that one my Instagram. In my opinion, the language is the gate to the culture, it opens up all the other doors.

Please find below links to some of my articles and collaborations:

With Arab America:

1.Teaching Kids Arabic
2. Arabic Back to School
3. Alef Baa in Songs
4. An interview with Joudie Kalla, the author of “Palestine on a Plate”
5. 10 Games in Arabic to fight Winter Break Boredom

With Arabic Playground:
My Arabic journey alphabets.
Summer workbook, my journey alphabets.Writing Arabic

Are you learning Arabic or teaching it to your children? Have you come across any other good resources? We’d love to know in the comments below.

My big fat Greek adventure

Greek inscription on an exhibit at the British Museum

This week we have a guest blog from Maik my hubby so here goes, his big fat Greek adventure.

Well, or it may also have been “Greek – An unexpected journey”. But let’s start right at the beginning. The beginning in this case was a family visit to the British Museum at the beginning of 2016. As a family we’re incredibly lucky to live near London, which means a day trip to amazing places such as the British Museum is no problem for us. Among the breathtaking range of artefacts from around the world and different eras, my personal favourites have always been the ones from Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and it was in Room 78 containing classical inscriptions from the 6th century BC to the 2nd century AD that it all began. Being a polyglot family, of course my children expected Dad (me) to be able to understand each and every inscription – dads know everything of course! While I didn’t have too many problems with Latin (thanks to five years if learning it in school and a recent refresher with uTalk), I didn’t really know where to start with Greek. I decided then, that Greek would be one of the languages I wanted to learn this year.

Fast forward a few weeks into May to the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin.I had not yet made any firm plans for learning Greek, as I had been working on Esperanto. However, as luck would have it the first talk I attended at the Gathering was about Greek, with the lovely Lilia Mouma from Mango Languages giving a talk on Greek history and language ranging from the Ancient to the Modern. This was also when I found out two more important bits of information: First, that the Polyglot Conference later in the year would take place in Thessaloniki, Greece; and second that Mango Languages where running a competition to learn Greek (the modern variety) for 20 weeks learning with their app and weekly 1:1 tutoring. Well, I entered the competition, and a short while later found an email in my inbox informing me that I had won! OK, so language learning resources for Greek were sorted.

I have to admit that Greek has been one of the more difficult languages for me. Learning the alphabet took a week or two, but internalising it well enough to be able to read semi-fluently or even write took many more weeks. However, it has been an immensely rewarding experience. What I liked most about the approach taken by Mango Languages was that it was quite different to my normal approach. For one thing, at least in the app, grammar is not explicitly taught, everything is taught in the context of a conversation. Secondly, sentences are spoken at full speed by native speakers rather than the slowed down conversations I have come to expect. Yes, this makes things more difficult to begin with, but with invaluable once I actually got to Greece as (unsurprisingly) real Greeks don’t exactly speak slowly! Of course, having the weekly support from top notch online tutor Vasiliki Baskos helped as well. Although my focus was on Modern Greek, as I had been given access to all of Mango’s language courses, my inquisitive nature led me to sneak a peek at their offering of Ancient and Koine Greek as well. I was pleasantly surprised that they use authentic texts from the very first lesson – the Iliad and the Greek New Testament respectively. I may well end up subscribing once I lose my free access. The range and quality of resources are a language lover’s dream come true … I was able practice my Greek at a restaurant in Germany.

The white tower at Thessaloniki

So,moving forward in my big fat Greek adventure, how well did it work? When I finally arrived in Greece for the Polyglot Conference at the end of October, I managed a basic conversation with the taxi driver who took me to the hotel, I ordered food at the restaurant in Greek and I bought bus tickets, water bottles etc. etc. in Greek. Road and shop signs actually made sense to me, adding to the sense of achievement. It was a special treat to be able to meet Lilia (again) and Vasiliki, my online tutor, in person for the first time. I absolutely loved Thessaloniki, and being able to speak and understand Greek definitely helped at lot. I must go back with the family sometime!

So how did my My big fat Greek adventure end? Coming full circle, back to the British Museum. Despite the Greek language having changed a lot from ancient to modern time, the alphabet has remained the same across thousands of years. So when our family returned to the British Museum for the spectacular exhibition “Sunken cities – Egypt’s lost worlds”, or course I just had to pay another visit to the Ancient Greek galleries. Given that inscriptions tend to contain a lot of names (Alexandros = Alexander the Great for instance), I could now work out a lot of what was written, and the children were suitably impressed. Result!

Are you planning to learn a new language in the new year? Let us know in the comments below.

How do you introduce your culture to your children?

Olga and family
As a multilingual family we love to celebrate other multilingual families. I feel we can all learn from each other in raising a multilingual family. This week meet Olga and her family and hear how she passes on her culture to her children.. So over to Olga.

We are a family of five, living in the UK, West Yorkshire. My name is Olga and I’m originally from Russia. My husband Richard is a British-born Jamaican. I’m a teacher of English and German as well as an interpreter and simply the person who loves life. My husband is a musician so he spends a lot of time travelling. We have three amazing mixed-race kids.

Keano, age 9, was born in Russia and has lived there for his first three years before we moved to England. Teanna, age 4, was born here in the UK and is a very vibrant girl. Ronomi, 6 months old, was also born here and is a very lovely cuddly baby.
All our kids are bilingual. Well, apart from Ronomi who hasn’t started speaking yet. At home we speak two languages on a daily basis – Russian and English and sometimes my husband speaks Jamaican Patois.

“You live a new life for every new language you speak” Czech proverb.

When our first child was born we sort of used “one parent-one language” approach but Russian became the “dominant” language because of my son growing up in a Russian-speaking environment and so, when we moved to England, he struggled with English at first when he started nursery. Then I decided to use both languages to make sure he developed equal language skills in both English and Russian and expanded his English vocabulary so he wouldn’t have any difficulties in school. We would read books in both languages, listen to audiobooks, watch TV in both languages, talk to friends and relatives from both family sides.
When our daughter was born we sort of stuck to the same routine – me speaking Russian and English and my husband – English and Partois. Though Teanna took more time to start babbling she still did all her best to speak two languages at the same time.
Both Keano and Teanna sometimes mix two languages in the same sentences. But I noticed it only happens when they are talking to me as they know that I would still understand them whereas with their dad they would speak only English or a bit of Partois without even slightest effort to switch into Russian.

At the moment me and Keano are trying to learn basic Japanese. He finds it easy to understand grammar and has no problem pronouncing words. I suppose that’s one of the advantages of being bilingual – the ability to easily grasp different languages.
At the moment we as a family are producing the series of videos for Russian-English bilingual kids on Russian history. Keano offered his help to narrate them.

Learning a language is not just about knowing the words and phrases. It’s also learning about the culture of the people who speak it, their history, traditions.

What Chinese phrases you should know before you visit China?

FotoLuciachinaThis week we have a guest blog from Lucia from Lingholic. She is an inspirational polyglot.She is Portuguese and has a degree in English and German. At the moment she is curently taking a Master’s degree in English as a second language for young learners. She is also improving her Spanish and French!

So over to Lucia…

China, the world’s second biggest economy and home to over five thousand years of unique history and culture. Since China opened its door to the world in 1978, it has become one of the top business and leisure destinations in the world. Although traveling to a foreign country is always exciting, but it can also be difficult, especially when you don’t know the language. Of course, you don’t have to learn Chinese for months to become fluent and enjoy your time in China, but there are definitely some key phrases that will be very helpful for your experience. What Chinese phrases you should know before you visit China? I think these phrases are a good start for your trip preparation:

1. Hello
你好 [nǐ hǎo]
The world famous “Ni Hao” is likely the most well-known Chinese word, and for good reasons; in just about every language, you almost always start a conversation with “Hello” or “Hi”, which is why this is likely going to be the most frequently heard and said Chinese word for you during your time in China. As much as a smile is a universal language, it never hurts to also say hello. And if someone says it to you first – Don’t panic, the proper response to a “Ni Hao” is simply another “Ni Hao”.

2. How much (is this)?
多少钱 [duō shǎo qián]
Regardless if you’re the shopping type when you travel, there is no doubt that you will, at some point, have to ask “How much is this?” , it could be at a train station, Bus stop, or a small local restaurant. So make sure you are fully prepared when it comes to money matters.

3. Where is the toilet?
洗手间在哪里? [xǐ shǒu jiān zài nǎ lǐ]
No matter where you are, it’s always good to make sure you know how to find the nearest toilet. Let’s break this sentence into two parts; the first part is the word “xǐ shǒu jiān”, which means toilet, and “zài nǎ lǐ” literally means “at where”. You can replace the first part of the sentence with other words to find out where other things are, for example, “where is the ATM” would be “ATM zài nǎ lǐ” in Chinese.

4. Thank you & Excuse me
谢谢 [xiè xie] &不好意思[bù hǎo yì si]
Good manners never go out of style, even when you’re traveling. Saying thank you in Chinese when you’re in China is a great way to show your appreciation, and if nothing else, you will almost always receive a genuine smile in return!

Of course, having good manners isn’t just about saying thank you. In fact, being as polite as you can be when you’re asking for help is perhaps even more important. Before you ask someone where is the toilet, you can start the sentence with “bù hǎo yì si”, which works like “excuse me” in English. You can also use it to apologize when you accidentally bump into someone, or when you need to get someone’s attention.

5. My name is… I’m from….
我叫 (Your name),我是(country)人 [wǒ jiào (Your name) wǒ shì (country) rén]
There is no better way to experience a foreign country than to talk to the people! Even with the language barrier, you’ll still likely to learn a thing or two about the country and its culture. Start with a smile and “Ni hao”, then follow up with a little something about you!

Last but not least, you should definitely know how to say “No”.
6. I don’t want (something)
我不要[wǒ bú yào]
As a tourist or visitor, you will inevitably become a target for street vendors, or simply receive offers of services and products you may not need. To get yourself out of this type of unwanted situation, you can just politely, but firmly say “wǒ bú yào” or just “bú yào”, followed by the service or product offered.

In addition to a few common phrases, there are also a handful of things you should keep in mind for your trip to China, such as taking off your shoes before entering someone’s home, and always have your hotel’s business card (with Chinese characters) with you at all times.

Are there any other phrases you think are really important to know?

How does it feel to speak a language?

We are really blessed to have a guest post from the inspirational bilingual author Delia Berlin. Prepare to be encouraged and provoked to think.A tall order, but she does it! Emotional Aspects of Language Learning

Delia on deck

I grew up in Argentina and my first language was Spanish. Then and there, any knowledge of a foreign language was universally valued. My school years in Argentina exposed me to German, English and French. Today, I’m only fluent in Spanish and English, but I still have rudimentary knowledge of a variety of languages.
Having spent my adult life in the US, when I had a daughter I had to decide what language to use with her. Since I always thought that speaking more than one language was beneficial, I wanted her to learn both English and Spanish. She was bound to learn English from her teachers and peers, so I chose Spanish. She grew up bilingual, and decades later she is now raising a bilingual child of her own.

So why is it that so many Americans with parents or grandparents who spoke another language never learned a word of it? A friend of mine pointed out that in her family, the first generation of immigrants was focused on fitting in. Learning English and leaving the old language behind was required for upward mobility and success. There was no practical value in teaching children a language for which they no longer saw use. For these immigrants who had left their countries forever, survival depended on growing new roots as Americans.

In the years between the world wars, immigrants arrived in waves. There was a hierarchy for these groups, with the latest one to arrive usually being the poorest and least socially connected, and therefore shunned. With language as the main identifier of one’s group, the quicker one learned English, the sooner this discrimination would diminish. Native languages were a liability. It was only natural for parents to want their children to sound “American” and to be spared these difficulties. As for children themselves, then just like now, their focus was to fit in with their peers.

The first time I noticed a child in the US who spoke Spanish but pretended he didn’t, I was baffled. But then, I understood. Here, if you are middle class and educated, travel and have global interactions, proficiency in Spanish is helpful. But if you are a Latino child in a poor community, speaking Spanish may have given you nothing but grief. And so ironically, emotional aspects come into play and those who are most disadvantaged become less likely to exploit the rich, low-hanging fruit of an additional language, that eventually may give them an edge.

libros2

Although largely spared, I was not blind to the prevalent prejudice and discrimination against Latinos while raising my daughter. I understood that if she was going to speak and maintain Spanish, she had to “buy in” to its benefit. In those days, I didn’t have many bilingual support sources at hand, but a home-made combination of talks, travel, books and even a little Sesame Street, seemed enough to convince my child about the value of her Spanish.
These days, with easier travel, increased communication technology, more diverse populations and a global economy, the practical value of knowing multiple languages has skyrocketed for some. But for many they still remain a stigma.

During the last four decades in the US, inequality has increased resulting in more marked segregation in neighborhoods and schools. In my own town, for example, more than three quarters of the students are Latino, while more affluent adjacent towns have mostly white, non-Latino enrollment.
Our teachers and school administrators do their best to support bilingualism, but with segregation entrenched, prejudice and discrimination are hard to eradicate. Speaking Spanish is not perceived by many of these children as helpful, and this presents an emotional barrier to developing and maintaining bilingualism. How could we change this negative perception in every child who has the opportunity to learn Spanish from a young age?

kids' books

In my community, my contribution comes in the form of writing bilingual books for children and reading them at local schools. Bilingual books help children make linguistic connections between their languages. In their homes, these books allow every family member (a grandma who may not speak English, or a young uncle who doesn’t know Spanish) to share the same story. Children can discuss the story with everyone in the family, and even adults may benefit by improving their own language skills. By reading these books in local schools, I also demonstrate that bilingual skills are valuable. Many of these children have never met an author, let alone a bilingual one. For some of them, this single experience may tip the scale of motivation.

When I’m out with my young granddaughter, we speak Spanish. While rarely anyone says anything, gestures and actions speak louder than words. The wide range of responses from people around us spans from sheer delight to harsh judgment. At times, even I become self-conscious enough to switch languages, as if needing to prove that we can speak English, that we are home.

We all can find our own ways to recognize the value of languages to motivate children’s learning. Our help could come in the form of praise for a child’s language proficiency, or a request for help with a translation. And it could be as subtle as becoming aware of our own reactions to people speaking foreign languages. Worldwide there are different social dynamics at play for each foreign language. Some languages may even trigger public distrust, avoidance, or fear. Children may not be able to articulate these reactions, but they certainly notice and internalize them.

Bio Statement:
Delia Berlin was born in Argentina but has spent most of her life in Connecticut. With graduate degrees in both Physics and Family Studies, she worked in early intervention, education, and administration, and taught child development at the college level. She writes bilingual children’s books, as well as essay collections with her husband, artist David Corsini. For more information about Delia Berlin and her books, visit her website at deliaberlin.com.

If you’d like to buy some of Delia’s lovely books click on the links below.

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