Category Archives: Language Learning Journey

Why study abroad with Erasmus?

This week we have a guest post from the lovely Lily. Lily She has just completed her time in Portugal with the Erasmus programme. Lingotastic only exists because of the Erasmus programme, we met in the UK as native German Maik came over with the Erasmus programme. But, enough of our story, over to Lily…

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Hi I’m Lily and I’m a third year languages student. For the past nine months I have been studying in Portugal as part of the Erasmus programme for my degree. I’m studying French and Portuguese, and usually in the UK it is compulsory to spend the third year of your studies abroad in order to gain firsthand language experience before completing your final year back at your home institution. My university is slightly different in that it does not allow you to split the semesters between countries, so the summer vacations either side of the academic year are crucial if, like me, there’s a second language to maintain! So last summer I was an au pair for a family near Lausanne in Switzerland, and this July I will be following an intensive course in Lyon, France. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten everything!

Languages are unfortunately becoming less and less popular in the UK, as options for GCSEs and A-Levels, and many languages university departments have closed in recent years. It’s a real shame as I’ve found my degree to offer me great flexibility with ideas for the future and opportunities for study. I think I was extremely lucky to have had a truly passionate and engaging French teacher at secondary school for 5 years, and her dedication and inspiration helped me to pursue my eventual degree choice. My French classes at school were taught completely in the target language, and as we were all beginners, this was definitely like being thrown in at the deep end. However, it was certainly the most effective way for me to pick up my first second language, which was far more successful than my attempt with Spanish, the classes for which were taught in English.

When it came to choosing degree programmes, I knew French would figure in the mix in one way or another, and the great thing about most of the degree programmes on offer is that you can normally take a language as an elective module, so you can gain accreditation for language learning even if your degree is in maths or zoology. A joint honours language programme was the route I decided upon, and I chose to learn Portuguese ab initio, taking an accelerated course. Sometimes when I tell people what I study, they ask “why Portuguese?”, and I still don’t have a concrete answer. It’s partly because I wanted to learn a language that was a bit more niche and away from the usual European languages that are taught at schools (not that Portuguese is so very niche with over 200 million speakers worldwide, but still), and I also had hopes to spend the year abroad in Brazil, because it would coincide with the Olympics and I thought that would be a good plan. And saying you can speak Portuguese is normally a good conversation opener when you’re talking to people.

As you can imagine, learning a new language as well as starting university in a new city was quite overwhelming, but we all got there in the end! Because the course was accelerated, we learned most of the grammar and the intricacies of the language very quickly, and as a result my range of vocabulary was quite limited, but this was justified with the reasoning that the year abroad would help fill the gaps. I eventually chose to study in Coimbra, Portugal, mainly due to costs and a few other reasons that made staying closer to home more desirable at the time, and I’m so glad I came here! I’ve still got about a month left in which I need to finish some work and take my final lot of exams, but other than that it’s going to be a time to enjoy and relish my last days in Portugal. Erasmus is such a good opportunity for all students, not just linguists, to participate in, because you’re living in a new country with new people, and you’ve got to adapt pretty quickly to a new culture and vibe; my friend who is studying in Germany came to visit me and she said she had more culture shock coming to Portugal than when she first arrived in her host city. It’s not all coffee drinking and partying.

It’s not all coffee-drinking and partying

It’s not all coffee-drinking and partying

, as many people think Erasmus is (well, it is for some, but this academic year carries a lot of weighting for my final degree classification, so I have had to maintain some work ethic throughout), but there are infinite opportunities to meet people from all over the world, to travel to other countries and cities, and to become well acquainted with another city and country. I think I know more of Portugal than I do of the UK in all honesty now!

As far as I can tell, my language skills have improved, and I can hold a more natural conversation in Portuguese, which was my main goal. I certainly haven’t achieved fluency or anything like it, but I’m more competent and I can understand much more, which is all that I could have asked for. Sure sometimes I can share a joke and laugh with the postman, and other times the waiter can’t really understand what I’m trying to order, but it’s swings and roundabouts, which is what I’ve come to expect with language learning. Also, I’ve developed a genuine love for my third language, which is great, because before I came here my relationship with Portuguese was slightly more love-hate, depending on how well my revision was going on a particular day. I would certainly recommend the Erasmus experience to everyone, even just taking a couple weeks out of the year to study a course somewhere abroad would be a great experience for anyone. It’s the best thing I’ve done in my life so far – I know I’m only young! – and I cannot recommend it enough.

Lily has completed her time in Coimbra, Portugal and in now in Lyon France improving her French. Follow her adventures on Lily has a blog.

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How did you boost you language skills? Let us know in the comments below, you could even be our next guest blogger!

Cooking, Carafes and learning Italian

We’ve a brillant guest blog from Kate at Cooking and Carafes She talks about her experience of learning Italian both at home, and in the country.
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I’ve always liked languages, when I was little we used to holiday to Spain and I always had my hands on the phrase book. I would be learning the basics myself and then would endlessly recite numbers, days of the week and other basic phrases to my parents. I enjoyed learning languages at secondary school but French and German didn’t have the same affinity with me as Italian (which wasn’t an option to study). Although I studied Latin which I’m certain built the perfect foundations for when I later went on to learn Italian.

From the age of 10 we started to go on family holidays to Italy and that’s where my love affair with this beautifully romantic language began. Not only did I fall in love with the country; the scenery, the people, the food, the hand gestures, and the list goes on… but the language too.

Italians are so passionate, I used to watch them speaking to one another, gesturing, emphasising some phrases over others and thinking ‘I wish I knew what they were saying’. So once again I began with the phrase book and as holidays became more frequent both my mum and my sister took up Italian evening classes so I would use their books to teach myself.

I taught myself a fair amount and would use the books and the tapes/CDs to help me. When I went to university I got the chance to study Italian as one of my modules on my course. It was by far my favourite subject, so much so I got a First in this particular module. We had a great teacher, Claudio – he made learning enjoyable and fun and would take his time when you needed help.

After uni, I couldn’t contain my desire to travel and learn a language any longer, so in the midst of not knowing what I was going to do once I completed my degree I applied for jobs as a holiday rep in Italy. I was lucky enough to land myself a job with Citalia based on the beautiful island of Sardinia. I thought I’d hit the jackpot… and I had!

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That summer I flew out to Italy and completed my training in the town where my love for the country first began, Sorrento (near Naples). After a few weeks there I flew to Cagliari (an airport that would soon become my weekly hangout with new arrivals and departures!) and was based in the south of Sardinia in a little town called Pula on the coast of Santa Margherita di Pula about 45 minutes from the island’s capital.
Here is where my real language learning journey began…

I moved into my own apartment, right in the heart of Pula, Piazza del Popolo and lived next to a delightful older couple Angioletta and her husband. They ran a small souvenirs shop next door, she would greet me every morning and evening…Piccolina! And would continue to talk to me at a rate of knots in Italian, I didn’t understand a word! In the first few days of being on my own this is when I realised to enjoy this I had to embrace the language. So I began slowly; può parlare più lentamente per favore became my favourite phrase, and the more I tried, the more I learnt.

Sardinia is more popular with German and Italian tourists so although a lot of my friends spoke English it wasn’t as good as some of their other languages. I immersed myself in their culture, I would spend evenings with friends and I would be the only English person so naturally they mainly spoke Italian and the more words I heard and the more I asked what they meant, they slowly began to stick. You learn familiar conversations and can start responding more easily, learning key phrases and words and more importantly how to piece them together – this was a turning point to being able to engage in conversation.

My real time to practice was on my coach journeys to and from the airport, as a lot of my friends worked in hotels or bars so knew English, just some weren’t as confident or as fluent as they were in other languages. However, my coach drivers were all Sardinian so if anything they just spoke more Sard (the island’s dialect), so each week I would have two return transfers with different drivers so I would practice my Italian with them and then when a flight was delayed we’d teach each other over un cafe in the airport’s bar. They would try to get me to learn their dialect and to this day I think I still only know a few phrases one of which was Comme menti staisi? How are you? Which in Italian is Come stai?

I could sit here and regale many moments of learning Italian in Sardinia… like when the concierge from one of my hotels helped me on my first day and I thought he didn’t speak any English so the entire time he let me muddle my way through broken Italian… later on I found out he was fluent, he also turned out to be one of my best friends!
Once I returned home at the end of my season my heart was heavy with love for ‘my’ beautiful island, its people, its culture and my desire to keep speaking Italian.

I continued with a few local lessons and then one to one lessons with local Italian Romilda who was wonderful – her enthusiasm and confidence in me knew no bounds. Unfortunately work and day to day life got in the way and my Italian dwindled.

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A few trips to Italy though and it’s amazing what comes back to you in a short space of time, you only have to hear a word once and it comes back so easily. Now with another holiday on the horizon (to ‘my island’) it’s motivated me to refresh my language skills so I’m using the app Babbel at the moment which is brilliant as it works on repetition and across writing, speaking and listening, along with grammar modules and all at various levels.

Obviously language learning has moved on in the last 20 years since I was at Secondary school, you can now access more tools to help you learn. The internet and smartphones have transformed learning a language, and at the touch of a button you can look up words on a smart phone with Google translate, use an app to help you learn, read articles in different languages, speak to friends in other countries more easily using skype/facetime and messaging services like whatsapp and so on.

However you decide to learn whether it’s at a local college’s evening class or within an online community or in the country itself, it will help build confidence when conversing in other languages, whether it’s on holiday or for business. Learning a new language is hugely rewarding and will also help stimulate your mind so why not start learning a new language today!

My love for Italy has continued, mainly with my love of their food and wine so check out my Italian recipes ideas and wine reviews at www.cookingandcarafes.co.uk

Language learning à Paris

Language learning à Paris

If you follow us on twitter and Facebook you will know Pascal our French puppet has been out and about in Paris during May half term. Can you guess what he saw?

Our nine year old had been asking to go to Paris for a while. We found a good deal on the Eurostar and the most amazing apartment, Le Loft at Chez Bertrand.We’ll be posting a blog soon about our tips for visiting Paris with children.

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As you can see we had a lot of fun seeing the sights. As a family of language learners, of course we had to learn or improve our French as well. Hearing and reading so much French meant us grown ups were using it much more than usual. I realised when crossing the road I automaticly gave instructions in French “Vite!” “Allons-y!” “On y va” The children responded as if they understood. The girls were reading on the Metro “Sortie” Whilst looking around Notre Dame my youngest daughter said “that sortie is closed”.
After a busy day my daughter came home and flopped on the bed. Daddy asked “Est-ce que tu est fatiguée?” My daughter thought this was a very silly word so often said “I’m fatiguée” and “Je suis fatiguée”. Our son has studied French to year 9 and I was surprised how much he used on holiday, as his last school French lesson was two years ago.

Each morning We went to la boulangerie to buy le pain. The children helped write the shopping list. Les bonbons was their favorite thing to write. It was not all unhealthy though. My daughters found some apples with stickers to decorate them “tête du Pomme” I’ve not seen them enjoying apples so much before. In the supermarket the girls were really excited to find l’escargot. Strangely enough, they did not fancy eating them.

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We toured the notable landmarks in Paris and heard others speaking French. The children were really excited to see the famous landmarks in real life. Our Jasmin was so excited about the Eiffel tower I thought she may pop! As you may see from the pictures it was a very wet few days, one day it was so damp we could not see the top of the Eiffel tower and the Seine was close to bursting it’s banks. A few days later The Louvre was closed to move priceless paintings up a floor to safely and the Notre Dame was also at risk of flooding.

We visited Parc Asterix which Maik had wanted to visit for 25 years. We had a lot of fun and read and heard a lot of French there. The rides were really good for all our ages. We’ll tell you a lot more in a blog so stay tuned.

When in Paris we stumbled upon an amazing museum of Language and linguistics called Mundolingua. It was just up our street and really interactive so the kids enjoyed it as well. We could have spent much longer there than we did. It was huge fun and we’ll have a blog all about it on the way.

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Our time in Paris was a great boost to all our families French learning and gave them us real life examples to hang our language learning on.

What langauges are you learning as a family? Have you visited the country to help achieve this? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

What’s the use of French?

We have a brilliant guest post from Jess, on her final week of Erasmus Programme in Nantes, France. Team Lingotastic only exists because of the Erasmus programme, we met in the UK as native German Maik came over with the Erasmus programme. But, enough of our story, over to Jess…

“What is the point of learning French ? Surely they can all speak English over there?”

I am faced with this question almost daily. Friends, family, acquaintances, the internet, even celebrities seem to find learning a second language pointless and a waste of time. (In the words of Jeremy Paxman earlier this month, English is the “only language that you must have”, and learning French is “positively bad for you”)

So, what is the use of French? I often struggle to find the words to answer this question quickly, but in brief: language really is so important in our lives. From the beauty of communication, to the gateway to getting about, language really is essential. We go about our daily business using it, and without language, the world would be completely silent. Learning a second language on top of your mother tongue really is a journey, and you can learn so much more about the world and yourself by doing so. Not everybody on this earth speaks English, and learning French has opened up my mind and given me so many new skills that I would never have gained before.

Hello- multilingual pic

I started my language journey at age 12 in secondary school. Like most of the kids in the class, I never really saw how French could be “useful”, and had a similar mindset to people such as Paxman, thinking that if I spoke English really loudly when abroad everyone would have to understand me (just a hint, this doesn’t work) . It was only at 16 that everything clicked into place, and by watching French films, reading French editions of Cosmopolitan Magazine and listening to French music, I started to see how the language fitted into another culture. I was lucky enough to have a French teacher at A Level who really gave me a love for the language, enough so that I chose to pursue it at a degree level.

Nantes

It is true when they say that you only really learn a language when you become immersed in it. Thanks to the Erasmus Programme, I have been able to study in Nantes, France for the past academic year, and meet the most wonderful people from all around the world. Erasmus is a wonderful scheme and an excellent opportunity for all language learners, as it lets you study or work in the country where your chosen language is spoken, and offers a lot of financial support. I would recommend this programme for anyone looking to improve their language skills, or even start from scratch, as immersion is a great way of getting into a new language and culture.

Learning French in France has helped me improve considerably. You really cannot comprehend how important having a second language is until you live daily life outside of an English speaking country. From organising accommodation, paying rent, getting the bus to going food shopping…all of this requires you to communicate and understand what is being said. You will pick up so quickly, and after a few weeks, it became a second nature. I’ve managed to learn so many quirky expressions, learn so many amazing stories and pick up things that make perfect sense in French but do not even have a meaning in English. I think this is so valuable and special, and helps me love France and French even more.

The skills I have learnt living in France have also been so valuable. Languages teach you so much. You have to think on your feet always, and you have to be confident enough to laugh off the mistakes you make whilst also learning from them. I do not regret moving over to France one bit, and would do this year all over again if I had the time and money. It has been amazing to get this opportunity to go out there and be a part of French society, and speaking the language really makes you feel a part of France.

So the point really of learning a language is that you open your mind. It can take days, weeks, or even years to feel like you have mastered a language, but the skills you gain along with is will aid you for life. I am grateful that my languages journey has been so positive, and I hope that when I qualify as a teacher, my journey can help others to start their own.

If you want to read more of Jess’s time in France check out her blog

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Why learn languages?

This week my friend Teddy Nee from Nee’s language blog talks about the value of learning languages

“Why should you bother learning another language when you already know English?”
Someone might have ever asked this question to you before, and how did you react to it? Or let’s assume nobody had asked this question to you, how would you answer it when you are asked?

I was frequently asked by either my friends or acquaintances why do you learn languages. They know and we all know that I know English because if you can understand this text, it means that I know English. Having been asked that question, I have only one answer, “Not everyone is eager to speak English or can express themselves well in English.”

We should accept the fact that nowadays we can get information from other countries in other languages much easier than, let’s say, 20 years ago. It mainly because of the internet. The internet has really changed our way of life, and it even has created so many jobs that weren’t existed before. I work as an IT engineer, and it is not easy to explain about what I really do to my parents, or even to my grandparents because what I am doing did not exist in their time when they were at my age.

So, this easy access to information has caused globalization to happen where companies can establish partnership with overseas companies, and have the ability to expand their market even to much larger scope, not to mention inter countries, but inter continents.

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English as a universal language
English language which originated from England has apparently became a universal language that two persons from different countries would use to communicate unconsciously because they thought English is supposed to be the language that everyone understands for international communication.

If you often gather information from the internet, you must have realized that most contents are available in English. Therefore, if you know English, you can get much more information that those who don’t know English. That’s the fact! However, I need to remind you that there is still limitation for using English to search for information, especially if the information is more personal that only speakers of the original language could have the privilege for the access.

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Taking part in an international community
When we discuss about a universal language, a question might occur in mind, that is “What is a truly universal language?” and “How do we define a universal language?”. The United Nations even has 6 official languages — English, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Russian. We might also be intrigued to talk about a constructed language for international communication, Esperanto.

Esperanto speakers around the world have been vigorously promoting Esperanto as the language for international communication. Nowadays, we can see many activities done in Esperanto, such as activities related to education, charity, science research, journalism, commerce, and so on. Although there are quite a lot of people who are still pessimistic and skeptical about Esperanto language being a human communication tool.

We need to have more knowledge about other language in order to get access to much more information, and to be able to get to know more people from other countries, especially those who don’t speak English or our languages. On top of that, language learning is like an investment. Spending a little time and effort to learn a language that you could use for your whole life doesn’t seem to be a big deal.

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Choosing a language to learn
When you search for, let’s say, top 10 most favorited languages in the world, top 10 languages with the most speakers, top 10 languages for job seekers, etc. you can get abundant of results. The most important is to know your goal, whether you want to learn the language because there is more job opportunities in your area or you want to learn the language that is completely different from that you have known or you want to learn a language that is similar with that you have known. Deciding the goal is the very first thing you need to do.

If you like challenge, you should choose to learn language from other language family. For example, if you know English, you can pick Hindi, Mandarin or Russian as your target language. If you want to quickly reach higher level of understanding in other language, you should choose to learn language from the same language family. For example, if you know Spanish, you can choose to learn Italian, Portuguese or French.

There is actually a rule of thumb that many language courses don’t teach you. If you want to impress your friends with the amount of languages that you know, learn languages from the same family group because they share so many similarities that you even already can understand a big portion of it without learning. Thus, it is not surprising to know a someone who knows 5-6 languages but those languages are from the same language family.

Depending on your geographical location, some languages might not be useful. Let’s say you will spend some months in Latin America. Your focus should be Spanish rather than Japanese, and perhaps, the second language could be Portuguese. However, any languages will likely be useful if your activities are internet-based since the majority of people around the world have had access to internet nowadays.

So I ask again. Why learn languages? Knowing more languages is always beneficial. Apart from giving you more opportunities to enjoy what speakers of those languages can enjoy, you can also enrich yourself by broaden your viewpoint and increasing your skills. Learning language also trains your brain and it certainly increase your intelligence. No wonder, many articles state the benefits of knowing more languages as if there is no downside of it.

Teddy loves to learn languages.

Teddy loves to learn languages.

Teddy Nee is a passionate language learner and blogger. An IT Engineer by day and a language learner by night. His mission is to raise awareness of the importance of knowing more languages and to educate more people to be global citizens. He believes that learning the language of the others is a milestone to reach world peace. You can correspond with him in Medan Hokkien, Indonesian, English, Chinese Mandarin, Spanish, and Esperanto. Visit his blog at Nee’s language blog.

Can you pass on a language without being a native speaker?

Today we have an interview with Rachel, who is teaching her daughter french, but she’s not a native speaker of french.
I’d been chatting to Rachel before. We met via the Speak to the Future LinkedIn group. I was really excited when I found out she’s teaching her own child French at home, although her mother tongue is English, like we’re doing at home.

Learning about le poisson d'Avril

Learning about le poisson d’Avril

We met Rachel in her hometown of Carlisle in the Easter holidays.

– The first question was from Emily: Why do you live in the north?

I’m from this area and my parents live here. There’s lots to do with little ones in Carlisle.

– What do you do for work?

I’m a freelance translator of French and German and private tutor of French. I also occasionally do some voluntary work in French classes in a local infant school.

– What made you want to introduce a foreign language to M?

I can see that it’s a massive advantage for her to be introduced to languages at a young age. Little ones are like sponges – they learn so quickly. She’s at an age where she’s not shy about using another language. I have the language skills so can pass them on to her. I know she won’t become bilingual through me – I’m not a native speaker and we don’t live in France – but I want her to have a good grounding in another language, to enjoy it and be confident in it. I was surprised from how early on she could distinguish between French and English and how much she has picked up.

– Do you do lessons with your little one?

No, we simply do it as part of our everyday life. She likes to watch “Pierre le lapin” (Peter Rabbit) and other English-language cartoons she knows on the tablet in French, as well as original French-language cartoons. We’ve also got some CDs of French songs – she in particular likes trying to sing along to songs on one called “Maxi Enfance”. We enjoy sharing French books and puzzles. I’ve got a French mummy friend we exchange books with, which is a great advantage.
I joke with friends that I teach her “French by torture” – we play a tickling game where I’ll stop tickling only when she says “arrête”. She often shouts “encore”!
We visit France together. Last time we were there, M bought herself a book. I explained the procedure/what to say, all in French, and she quite happily went to the counter and said all the right things at the right time, and was delighted to have “tricked” the lady into thinking she was French!
She’s just started French lessons at her preschool, so we’ll see if she lets on that she knows lots or is quiet and acts like she doesn’t know any!

"We love to share these magazines together"

“We love to share these magazines together”

Alongside learning the actual language, I also think it’s important to teach M about some of the traditions and culture of France. For example, we recently read an article together on Easter in France, from which M not only learned a couple of new Easter-related words but was also interested to find out about the “cloches volantes” that bring sweets to children in France. We also had fun making “poissons d’avril” as I taught her about this French 1st of April tradition. I was also able to use this activity to reinforce colour words with her.

– Finally, what would you say to other parents wishing to pass on their language skills to their little one?

Go for it! There’s no better time to learn than when they’re young – the younger the better! Especially if you’re a native speaker, but even if you aren’t but have the right background and skills in the foreign language. It’s fun for both of you and wonderful to see their progress.

Is this THE best method for learning a language?

Languages, lessons and learning

This week we have a blog from Alex who is just as evangelistic about early language learning as us here at Lingotastic. Over to Alex…

Hi, I’m Alex the worst tanned Paraguayan EVER. This is a sort of summary of my language learning journey and the entrepreneurial adventure I’ve embarked on since graduating from university in languages last year. I’ve co-founded One Third Stories, where we create bedtime stories that start in English and end in a different lingua.

I would describe my upbringing as alternativo, as there aren’t many people who are born in Paraguay, America del Sud and look this white. I’m told I sound typically British when I speak in inglese, but then when I switch to spagnolo, people will recognise a strong accent from America del Sud that feels out of place, given my pasty complexion. But that’s just me (and my unfortunately pasty siblings).

A none Paraguayan looking family

A none Paraguayan looking family

There are so many benefits to learning another language, but when I was growing up I never realised how lucky I truly was. My parents were missionaries (another reason for my use of the word alternativo), and they made the conscious decision to bring me, my brother and my sister up bilingual. My dad was the linguist (he just loves words) and would speak to us three in spagnolo, and my madre would speak to us in inglese. We attended an international scuola there studying everything in both lingue.

Moving to the UK helped me realise how lucky I was to speak other lingue. From a professional perspective they helped me get my first ‘real job’, as a Spanish Assistant at the scuola I attended as a student (Biddenham Upper School). Academically, I realised that it was something I wanted to pursue further so I decided study Politics with italiano e portoghese at università. My Year Abroad was the best year of my life, and the one where I probably changed the most. I was an intern at Armani, studied in Venice and volunteered in Brazil during the World Cup. I truly believe every person should live abroad for a little while, but unfortunately it’s something that doesn’t happen often enough.

Brazil, France and England/Paraguay during the 2014 World Cup

Brazil, France and England/Paraguay during the 2014 World Cup

Besides offering me experiences to meet amazing people, opportunità to travel and grow as a person, lingue have played opened up so many doors. I graduated last year and with one Third Stories found a way to pursue this passion I share with Sarah, and inspire the linguists of tomorrow. I’m lucky enough to be working with one of my best friends Jonny Pryn, one of the first people I met in the UK, who has a lifetime worth of negative experiences in languages and is absolutely convinced we can provide a single positive one for future generations. If you want to check out our work we have a free audiobook of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to learn español or française.

'The Three Little Pigs'

‘The Three Little Pigs’

‘The Three Little Pigs’

Is this THE best method for learning a language? If you feel like you’ve understood the lingua (italiano) I’ve embedded in my story, then our ‘Clockwork Methodology’ works. If you want to find out a little più about it go to One Third Stories, visit our website or email me at alex@onethirdstories.com

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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.

U Talk Family Frolics

I was asked if I wanted to join the uTalk challenge. I can’t resist a challenge!HelloEurotalk

In January our whole family took part in the uTalk challenge with Eurotalk

I learned some Urdu

My daughter some French.

My son some Polish

My hubby some Latin

So here’s how we got on.. (in our own words)

 

Sarah – was asked if I wanted to join the uTalk challenge. I can’t resist a challenge! Having heard Urdu around me for many years it was a language I’d been thinking of learning for a while and the challenge gave me the perfect reason to. January was a busy month so I did not have as much time as I’d have liked.

On the school playground there are many Urdu speakers who let me practice on them!

I played  Urdu with the u talk app daily and tried out what I’d learnt with others. I had a few comments about speaking very posh Urdu! I said Aap ka shukria – Thank you . They said just Shukria – thanks was fine.

I learned how to say Subah bakhair – good morning and Alwidah -goodbye.

I found learning my first non European language very tricky as I did not have any clues with words I knew! I did like that hello in Urdu is Hello and many foods are the same too.  I’ve a long way to go to fluency but could now identify a question and recognise some numbers colours and a few other random words.

I did not even start to look at script but I have a few words to greet people here in the UK simply by playing with an app. I’m happy with that.

 

Jasmin age 8

I wanted to learn French with Eurotalk to help with the French I’m learning at school. I found the talk now app easy to use. I felt like I learned a lot and it helps me as the app has a better French accent than my teacher at school.

 

Josh age 15

I enjoyed doing the uTalk Challenge as it helped me learn Polish which I used to to talk to a Polish guy at my school. I found it hard to do it all in one month as I didn’t have much spare time on my hands as I am doing my GCSEs this year and I am preparing for mock exams by doing revision and also having a lot of homework to do, as well as revision. The uTalk Challenge helped me learn some useful Polish phrases to greet people in Polish. After doing the uTalk Challenge I not only started speaking Polish, but also started talking and greeting people in other languages as well such as German and Arabic.

 

Maik age – better not mention that!

I guess I had to enter the uTalk challenge, as I couldn’t let my wife win …  But seriously, my Latin, which I spent five years learning all those years ago in school, had lain dormant for a good while. One thing I had found difficult, being a polyglot, was how differently Latin is taught compared to other languages. As it is supposedly a dead language, little emphasis is placed on speaking it. This is why I liked the Usborne “Latin for beginners” book, with which the uTalk challenge tied in rather nicely.
I did struggle with a lack of local native speakers though, who appear to be mainly resident in the Vatican. However, with uTalk taking the “Conversational Latin” approach, which I had only recently discovered myself, this way of getting to grips with the language worked really well in my existing multilingual framework and was great fun, and therefore easy to maintain. I’m not sure whether I will ever need to ask where I can park my car in Latin, but I am now in a position where for the first time I am starting to think in Latin rather than approaching it with the typical analytical mindset that tends to come HelloEurotalkwith reading a (supposedly) dead language.

A Polyglot Christmas

As a polyglot family we think it is really important for our children to experience other cultures. To understand and empathise with other cultures is just as important as speaking the language. Winter is a dark time and midwinter festivals are there to bring light and celebration.
This week’s blog is about the midwinter festivals we celebrated as a family, our polyglot Christmas.
As a German and English family we celebrated St Nikolaus Day on 6th December. Here is a video of us finding our boots the next day.

 

We’ve done this since our children were young. It’s just what we do as family at that time of year. My middle daughter often gets embarrassed about being different, but she was really pleased to discover a few of her Polish friends celebrated St Nikolaus day, too.
Our local church held a St Lucia celebration. I was so keen to see it for myself, having heard a few others talk about it. Here is the video of the event.


After this brilliant celebration we shared some typical Swedish food together and we had the chance to talk to some children who are bilingual Swedish and English. They love that they can have lives in both countries. One girl talked with glee about the summer house her family have in Northern Sweden.

 

As a family we also light the lights of Hanukkah, remembering how God provided for his people when their temple was destroyed. Eight nights of remembering God’s goodness and the chance to learn a bit of Hebrew together.
We celebrated Christmas in the UK with my parents with English Christmas carols and mostly English traditions, though they did pick us up a few times for answering them in German. Have you had a polyglot Christmas? Let us know in the comments below.
ChristmasPicture
I hope you and your family have had a lovely Christmas. It just remains for our family to wish you and your family a very happy and blessed new year.

Sarah, Maik and family.

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