Category Archives: guest post

How to Promote Your Child’s Development with Modern Toys

This week we have guest post from Rachel Summers.
How to Promote Your Child’s Development with Modern Toys

All kids love toys, that’s a given. It’s something that all parents deal with, and most of us actively encourage. Not only do we love seeing our kids happy, but we know it’s important to keep them entertained if we want to get anything at all done throughout the day. However, most importantly, we know that toys and playing can be amazing for our child’s development. It’s important to know what kind of development your child should be aiming for at each age, and their key milestones. Information on this is available at Child Development Info. The following tips can help you make sure that the toys you get for your child are the most helpful in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional growth.

1. Set a Foundation with Social Skills

Social skills are the first steps to your baby’s development, and they can start really early with games that involve sharing or taking turns. This could be with passing a ball or building blocks together. As your baby grows into a child, board games that involve multiple players and interaction can be a great way to teach them social skills.

2. Find Games That Encourage Creativity

Any game that encourages creativity is great for a child’s development. The parts of their brains that imagine things when they are children develop as they grow, creating creative thinkers and problem solvers. You can build on this as they grow, which could help them in the work place in later life. Games where your child uses their imagination are games without wrong endings, and with multiple options, so your child can become flexible and not need any rigid rules. Business magazines such as Forbes describe in detail how creative thinking is essential in the modern workplace, and that you can instill these skills early.

3. Tailor Games for Toddlers

Once your baby has grown out of some of their basic toys, you can start teaching them things like shapes and colours, as well as helping them practice their motor skills. These skills can help your child grow into happy, healthy, and active adults. Providing your toddlers with motor skills can give them confidence in their physical ability which is great when they start school.

4. Make the Most of Technology

We all hear how kids are going to be zombies who can’t interact with real people, because they spend all of their time with iPads or in front of a TV. And letting your child watch mindless TV or play silly games isn’t good for them in huge amounts – however you can utilise technology to your advantage. On a single tablet you can have thousands of story books, educational games and activities, and even apps to help develop a flair for writing, art, or music. Much like businesses will use UK Top Writers to make sure their content is flawless, parents can use apps and websites to build on their parenting skills and make sure they’re doing everything they can for their child.

5. Develop Their Language Skills

At a certain age, all babies will be able to talk. However, their level of language and their ability to express themselves can vary massively, so finding toys that are interactive, that speak or ask them to speak, and that address emotions and feelings can help them grow. Many adults struggle with communication, so you are doing your child a massive favour by helping them build on this skill as early as possible.

There will be times when a toy is just for fun. However, the rest of the time toys should be used to help your child advance and grow into a capable school child and confident adult, and assessing whether a toy meets any of the criteria described above is a great way of checking whether a toy is really good for your little one.

Games for Language Learning? For Children and Adults!

This week we have a guest blog from Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Games for language. Like us they are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. Over the them…

 

When you watch young children at play, you know: children love playing games. For them games are a way to explore the world around them and to try out how things work.

 

Indeed, many parents help their young children acquire their first language in a playful way. Who hasn’t imitated the sound of a cow or a dog for a child and matched it with the picture and/or word of the animal?

 

As young children learn to speak, they start to identify objects, learn letters and numbers, spell simple words, sing songs, etc.

 

Parents and caregivers often turn such a learning activity into a game they play with children.

 

Also, many children now play games on toy tablets or their parent’s tablet or phone. Some of the games are language based and improve a child’s native language skills.

DIGITAL GAMES

For digital language learning games, the rules are often simple. The player gains points or advances for making the right match, and loses points or has to replay for getting it wrong. Graphics, sound, and gamification features add fun and excitement.

 

Games for very young children often match a picture or sound with a letter or word. Games for preschoolers teach them to recognize words, how to spell them, and how to sound them out. For school children, games can get more complicated. These often involve sentence building, spelling races, and grammar searches.

CHILDREN LEARNING A SECOND LANGUAGE

It’s clearly not difficult to introduce children to different words for various objects. Whether a “dog” is labeled a “Hund” (German), “chien” (French), “perro” (Spanish) or “cane” (Italian) will not matter to a child. Children remember a new “label” easily and correlate it to its picture or sound, as long as they hear the foreign word often and consistently.

 

Children that grow up bilingually have no problem retaining both languages, as long as they continue to use them.

Research has demonstrated the benefits of learning more that one language as a child. One important benefit is that the foreign sounds children hear in their early years are retained by them, even if they stop using the language.

 

Thus, exposing children to the sounds of a foreign language as they grow up will make it easier for them to relearn that language later on.

SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING GAMES FOR CHILDREN

More and more language games for children are being developed, both as web apps or as native apps, available from App stores.

 

Typical ingredients of second-language games are:

  • Flashcards
  • Fun graphics and sound
  • Simple rules, involving hit and miss
  • Rewards, in the form of advancement, points, trophies
  • Lots of repetition
  • Interactive play

 

Figuring out how a game works is all part of the learning.

 

Children as young as 2 1/2 or 3 can start with simple games, matching pictures with the audio of foreign words.

 

When children learn to read in their native language (ages 5-8), games can include simple words in their own language, plus audio of the foreign word.

 

Once children can read quite well (ages 9 and up), the games can be more challenging and include longer texts in the foreign language.

 

GAMESFORLANGUAGE

Although our Gamesforlanguage courses and Quick Language Games were originally developed for adult learners, we have found that many school-aged children have started playing them.

 

This French Quick Language Game, for example, shows some of the games included with our free courses. (Click on the link above or the picture to play it!)

 

Through feedback, we have learned what works for young players:

 

  • The courses and games are interactive
  • The travel story appeals to older children (4th grade and up) who travel with their parents
  • The story sequel format with 36 (or 72) Scenes also works well for children
  • Text-based games practice individual foreign words, phrases, and sentences, as well as English reading and spelling
  • Foreign spelling is practiced with simple words
  • Story podcasts advance listening skills

MANY DIFFERENT ACTVITIES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING

It ‘s clearly a good idea for children to engage in all kinds of different activities to learn and practice languages. Digital games are just one tool.

Other favorites are songs, easy books, audio stories, board and card games, not to forget conversations with family and friends, at home or on FaceTime and Skype.

Our 3-year-old granddaughter, for example, is taking French Skype lessons with a tutor several times a week. She loves to sing “un deux trois” and is very proud when she can surprise us with a new French word from time to time.

 

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

How do you do languages at home with your children?

Let us know in the comments below.

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.

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