Tag Archives: culture

Multilingual Parenting Masterclass

We’ve been trying to set up an interview with Tetsu for far too long. Maik and Tetsu finally got together after Tetsu’s talk at the Polyglot Conference in Iceland in October.

We have very different styles of teaching but the same aims for our families.  Grab a coffee and have a listen to their chat.

Tetsu, What are your aims and aspirations in raising multilingual children?

My aim is to give them the world.

I want to arm them with an undeniable advantage in the most important skill to develop in their lives: communication. This skill alone will allow them to make more friends, have better career prospects and even lead better family lives. Simply by having languages and cultural understanding with respect to languages, starting early leads to much better results for the same amount of investment in resources, they will already be miles ahead of peers who do not have these when communicating with others. And I firmly believe that teaching them early will be the most effective way to go about it. Most other types of skills and knowledge can be learned to similar levels later in life.

Want to find out more about Tetsu? Check out these links.

www.multilinguannaire.com

His book Pampers to Polyglot: 7 Ideas For Raising Multilinguals Like Me is available via his Facebook page

www.facebook.com/PampersToPolyglot

My YT channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnsvVbHGlecAQktAXzhMH2ZUtSr-kldaT

So, what  are your thoughts? We’d love to hear what works for you in the comments.

Celebrating the first day of school with a Schultüte.

As a German English family we have celebrated our children’s first day at school in a typical German fashion as did their Oma and Opa with daddy, with a Schultüte. It is given to children to make this first day of school a little bit sweeter.

In Germany the first day at big school is celebrated with a Schultüte. A large cone is filled with gifts and sweets to celebrate this momentous occasion. Last week, in Germany I had a look in the shops for Schultüten. They come in so many shapes and sizes, ranging from as tall as the child to about 40cm. There were Star Wars and Cars for boys and Princesses, Unicorns and butterflies for girls. The cones alone were 25 Euros before even starting to buy contents.

I asked my mum in law what she put in my Hubby’s Schultüte, 37 years ago. She answered “Sweets, crayons, pens and other things he would use at school”. This is what I had put in the Schultüte for my children too.

This is a special tradition in our family and a lovely way of marking this special day. When I found out Kiddicone were producing cones that could be used in the same way I was very excited. Sourcing cones and contents from Germany is not easy. I wish it had been around when my children were at school starting age.

The cones can be bought individually or ready filled with school supplies and sweets.

We have a special offer from Kiddicone for you Kiddicones are a brilliant way to celebrate your child’s first day at school. We can offer Lingotastic readers an exclusive discount of 10% quoting code LINGOKID.

Free Delivery” to the U.K. only (an additional charge of £4.99 applies for deliveries to the Republic of Ireland).

Summer adventures at Oxford Castle

Though many of us enjoy the prospect of the Summer Holidays, a break in the routine, time together as a family with less pressure whether you stay at home or go away. Days out as a family are a great way to spend time together and learn something too.

As we are such a cultured family, we were thrilled to be offered the opportunity to visit Oxford Castle. It is only an hour from us and we’d not even heard of it before. It is run by the same company, continuum attractions, who run The Canterbury tales experience we visited back in April. http://lingotastic.co.uk/2017/knights-school-and-chaucer-the-canterbury-tales-experience/

We left the car at Thornhill park and ride. and headed into Oxford. The nearest stop to the Castle is Carfax tower.
The castle was a bit tricky to find on foot. We had to rely on Google maps to get there.

The castle has an amazing history, from the Norman keep, the site of the Empress’s escape, the catacombs where scholar Geoffrey of Monmouth taught and penned the king Arthur stories, to the Georgian Prison wing. It is the site of St Georges Chapel where many believe education in Oxford was born 900 years ago.

For hundreds of years, the site has held both famous and infamous residents, serving as a religious site, a home for royalty, a centre of justice and as the County Gaol.

As the Keep has such a long history, there are many people featured in it, and a handful of their stories are brought to life during the entertaining tour.

We arrived a bit early and had time to peruse the shop and cafe. Whilst sat in the cafe the girls did a bit of language spotting. There was a tour going on in Spanish, one in Italian, a group of Mandarin exchange students some French students, a Polish family, a Bulgarian family that we spotted. I was so proud they could identify all those languages.

We’ve visited a few castles in our time but the fact this one had been the site of a prison for 800 years and many executions had happened there made me a bit uneasy. My children are aged 8 and 10 and some parts of the tour made them uneasy, especially the story of the seven year old girl imprisoned for borrowing a perambulator. This tour is suited to older children and adults. The access, (as it is an ancient building) means you need to be steady on your feet to take part. I would not recommend the tour to those of a nervous disposition.

There was some colouring for children in the in exhibition room which the girls did whilst we perused the exhibition.

The highlight of our visit was Knight’s school. The blokes leading it were really knowledgeable and keen. My girls could not wait to get started on swordfighting. The enthusiasm was infectious. It was great to see them really engaging in this. As we chatted to the lads it made more sense. George and Robin are actually keen fencers themselves so running Knight’s school is just a continuation of what they do day by day anyway.

We spent five hours around the site, including climbing the Mound of the 11th century Motte and Bailey Castle.

On balance, the kids enjoyed the tour, the Knight’s school being the highlight for them.


Oxford Castle Unlocked is open daily from 10.00am to 5.30pm (last tour 4.20pm).

Standard admission prices:
Adult: £10.25, Concession: £9.25, Child: £7.75, Family (2 adults, 2 children): £35

Oxford Castle Unlocked is a 1000 year old castle which also served as a prison for over 800 years. The visitor attraction opened on 2 June 2006 and gives visitors the opportunity to learn about the real people who lived and died throughout the site’s turbulent past. Visitors are able to walk through the ancient buildings and experience the stories that connect the real people to these extraordinary events.

If your children would like to hear more about the King Arthur story, we really enjoyed this version.

Disclaimer:
Our family was given free entry to the Castle for the purpose of reviewing the attraction. These are our own opinions.

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.

Inspirational mum Meghan Fenn

This month’s inspirational mum in business is Meghan Fenn, the author of Bringing Up Brits, and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs. I’m really excited to interview another multilingual mum in business, so here it is.

Q: What’s your career background?

I started out as an ESOL teacher and taught in Prague for two years and then in Tokyo for two and a half years. I taught both children and adults and had an amazing time learning new languages and cultures and meeting lots of different people from all walks of life. I studied English and Art at University and the original plan after graduation was to teach abroad for one year, then go back to the States, get my Masters degree and get a job. Within the first few days of leaving the States and starting a brand new life in a very different country, I met my future (now) husband, a British man from England. That changed my whole life. I ended up marrying said British man in South Carolina, USA, then moving back to England to continue my expat life.

Q: How did your career change after having children?

I did end up getting my Masters, but in England instead, and in Design Studies. After graduation I got a job as a senior Internet designer and worked there until I was made redundant while pregnant with my second child. Of course that also changed everything! I was 5 months pregnant so couldn’t even consider going for interviews, so I decided to start up my own web design company. I thought I’d freelance until after the baby, and then get a job part time as I’d have two babies under the age of two. Again, plans changed because my business really took off and within the first year, I had established a client base, a great reputation and had a constant stream of regular work coming in. I also loved working from home which gave me the flexibility to look after my young children and not have to pay out for full-time expensive childcare. Working from home around my family really suited me.

Q: Where did the idea for your business come from?

There are two parts to my answer because I’ve since started up a new company. So the idea for my first business came directly from what I was doing as an employed designer. I simply started project managing my own web and graphic design work and clients. I advertised in the Yellow Pages and spread the word through client referrals and my website. There wasn’t any social media back then so I had to rely on advertising and getting the word out there through happy clients. I managed to grow organically and keep a steady business going around the demands of a busy young family. Fast forward 10 years, a move from the Midlands to Sussex, and one additional child and I was ready to take my business to the next level. I had been working closely with a marketing and PR professional who I’d met at an awards event and throughout the 6 years of working with her, felt she could help me achieve my business goals. So, I asked her to join my company. She politely declined but suggested we start something new together 50/50. So that was how our company Shake It Up Creative Ltd was born. We do design, marketing, PR, websites, social media and search engine optimisation. We’re essentially a full service design and marketing company.

Q: How did you move from idea to actual business?

Originally, when I was starting out, I asked the nursery proprietor where my baby went, if she would like a website designed in exchange for free child care places. That was my very first job as a freelance web and graphic designer. Paid jobs came very quickly after that. I think once I decided to go for it on my own, I just picked up the phone, registered with HMRC, designed my logo and letterheads and invested my time and energy to make it a success.

Q: What’s your USP?

My USP has always been that I can do the graphic design AND the web Techie work too. That still is part of our USP. We can do it all or as little as you like and we’re flexible. So for example, we can do logo and branding right the way through to website and marketing and PR campaigns. Or, we can simply create a logo or stand-alone graphic design, copywriting or one off PR.

Q: How do you spread the word about what you do?

Through our website, on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) and at regular networking events.

Q: What’s been your most successful marketing/PR strategy?

Networking definitely. But also our #ShakeItHUB free design and marketing help sessions. We offer these to our local business community. They are open to all and people come to us with questions about their website, about a marketing campaign, for help with social media or anything design and marketing related. We give hands-on help with no obligation to ‘buy’ or take anything further. They are very popular and it helps to spread the word about our company and what we can do. It also shows people that we are experts and we know what we’re talking about and that we’re willing to help businesses.

Q: What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

In the early days, it was balancing family life with a home-based office. You have to become very disciplined and use time wisely, work smart so when it’s family time, you can concentrate on that and not work. Now, it’s winning pitches in a very saturated market place. Worthing and Brighton have a huge number of marketing companies so there is a large amount of competition for us.

Q: Why is work so important to you?

I’m a creative person, I have a strong work ethic and I like to be productive. So work suits me. I also want to be a good role model for my children. I have a teenage boy, a teenage girl and a seven year old boy. They know I work, they know I run my own company. They like that and understand why I do it and how that benefits our whole family. Financially as well, we need to be a two parent income family in order to maintain the lifestyle that we want to have and give our children the best start in life as possible.

Q: Who inspired you?

Because I came here to live with no family or friends nearby (or even in the same country), I had to find inspiration from within. That is one reason I wrote my book Bringing Up Brits Expat Parents Raising Cross-cultural Kids in Britain. I wanted to share my story and inspire others and show them that they are not alone, that there are other parents out there doing the same thing and it’s hard. So hard! But if we find others who are going through a similar experience, we can find comfort and encouragement. Now, I’m inspired by my children and how amazing they are and how supportive they are of each other and of us (myself and my husband).

Q: How do you balance your business with your family?

I work full time around the children. So that means I work during school hours. I usually also work a few hours in the morning before they get up and some, not all, evenings. It’s tough running your own company because you’re always ‘on’ especially working from a home office. But it means I can be here for the children when they get home from school, I can do the after school clubs and activities and attend day time school functions. My children are at the age now where I can work (from home) when they are around. I have a room that is my office so I don’t have the chaos of working from the kitchen table. If they need me, they come get me. My eldest is very good with my youngest so during the summer holidays, for example, he can fix lunch for everyone and take my youngest out to the playground. I can also usually take days off here and there when I want to.

Q: What are your top three pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

1. Network in person – this will help you to gain new clients, spread the word about your business and also, very importantly, find people who can help you get set up (such as a trusted accountant or business development expert). Be open to collaboration, service exchanges and coffee meetings to get to know potential clients and business associates.
2. Try to launch with a USP. That will set you apart in a very highly competitive market.
3. Make your own logo, branding and website stand out. People will want to see your expertise and you can show this through your own designs for your own company before you have a significant portfolio to showcase.

If you want to get in touch with Meghan
Meghan is co-director and chief designer, Shake It Up Creative www.ShakeItUpCreative.com
Author of Bringing Up Brits, co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs
www.bringingupbrits.co.uk
www.expatsinbiz.com

If you want to buy your own copy of her books check out the links below

Learn Panjabi the fun way.

This week we have a real treat for you. Kiran Lyall has sent three of her books for me to review. So how can you learn Panjabi the fun way?

 

I was really excited when I saw the resources Kiran had created to teach Panjabi to children. Up until then I had not come across any resources for this. Although I have nothing to directly compare these books to, as someone who has read many children’s books and language teaching books I can tell these resources are good quality and entertaining.

Have Fun With Panjabi introduces high frequency words in Panjabi. The words are written in roman alphabet so accessible to both native and non-native speakers. Each word is also written with an English phonetic guide to help non-native speakers. If there was a way to hear the words spoken it would be a plus to me as a total novice to Panjabi. I’d also like to see it written in Panjabi script alongside the roman script to start familiarity with the script early. I do realise this may confuse some people though.

My First Panjabi Alphabet is a workbook which is really simple and easy to use. A combination of tracing letter shapes and numbers. There are lots of puzzles to identify letter shapes. The workbook contains lots of cultural references both for English and Panjabi. As a mum of three who has used books to help my children with writing, the format feels very familiar.

In addition to writing teaching books Kiran has written a children’s story book, Ria and Raj and the Gigantic Diwali Surprise. The book is in English and introduces some ideas of celebrating Diwali to children in a fun, even silly way.

 

As a teacher who regularly shares stories out loud with children, I really enjoyed the way the story engages the reader with lots of squeezing and squashing and shouting, thus allowing lots of opportunity for interaction whilst reading the story. A great interactive storyline. The illustrations are bright and fun. My daughter aged 8 read the book with me and giggled aloud at points which shows how much she enjoyed the book.

If you want to get your own copies, check out the links below.

 

 

Cooking with Languages- Lisa Sadler

I’d like to introduce my friend Lisa and her brillliant language learning resource, Cooking with Languages. She shares my passion for encouraging family language learning.I’ll let her introduce herself.

My name is Lisa Sadleir. I am the founder of Cooking with Languages and my aim is to do for languages what Jamie Oliver has done for cooking. I’m trilingual myself and passionate about giving children the gift of languages. Conscious that children often see learning as a chore, I’ve decided it was time to make languages fun.

I’m extremely lucky. I have grown up with languages. Speaking languages has enhanced my life and provided me with so many wonderful opportunities. I am British born, educated in France and I’ve been a resident of Spain for almost 25 years. I am a mother to two amazing bilingual children, Joshua and Francesca (the voices of Arthur and Nerea).

I have given my children the gift of languages and we now want to share this gift with as many children as possible.Using food and cooking as tools to learning language makes it more natural. Children are having fun and are not necessarily realising that they are learning!

At Cooking with languages, our mission is to get children motivated about learning languages. We aim to excite and inspire.


5 Reasons Why Our Activity Cookbook Makes Language Learning Fun:
All the content Is In both English and Spanish (facilitates comprehension).
We provide simple and scrummy recipes (simple steps to follow). Ii
Children love Arthur Apple and Nerea Naranja, our fun, language assistants.
There are plenty of games and activities to practise new language and words.
We are making audio available so you can listen and repeat.

Have you ever thought about using food and cooking to enhance your child’s language learning experience? We have and this is why our family project is now Crowdfunding ….Our materials are designed to motivate and excite children to learn new words and phrases in different languages, with the added bonus of making simple and scrummy recipes at the same time.

Get your discounted materials: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/cooking-with-languages

In addition to using food and cooking for learning languages, you can use them to help with:

– Improving motor skills in younger children: start with soft foods that they can add/mix/grate/cut with plastic scissors or child-friendly knives …
– Mathematical skills: from number recognition, basic sums, to learning weights and measures,
– Reading and comprehension: encourage your child to read the recipe to you, ask them questions that spark their imagination eg. How do they think the food will look? Taste? smell?
– Telling the time and measuring time
– Boosting vocabulary: ingredients, using descriptive words to describe how food looks, smells and sounds while it’s cooking,

This is a brilliant idea to bring language learning into everyday life. Go help the crowdfunder here and bag yourself a brilliant resource in the process.

Here is the link to view our LIVE CROWDFUNDER Campaign:

http://bit.ly/makingsuperheroes

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.

Our German English Christmas decorations

As a German and English family we celebrate both English and German traditions at Christmas. Our decorations are also a mish mash of English and German.

You may have noticed from the photo we don’t have a Tannenbaum but an artificial tree. On our tree we have Strohsterne straw stars, we bought these from Tchibo in the UK. (I don’t think there are any more Tchibo shops in the UK now). This year we’ve decided to use the typically German blue pointy tree topper /Christbaum Spitze. We also have some Engeln/ angels made from folded German hymnbook pages and a bead. The hand-knitted decorations are made by my English Grandma. The pretty cross stitched decorations were a gift on my daughter’s birthday. The lights were from Aldi in the UK.

The wooden Weinachtspyramide/ Christmas pyramid and Weihnachtsmann/ Santa are from the Weinachtsmarkt/ Christmas market in Osnabrück. The Weihnachtspyramide works with candles. As the candles are lit the warm air rises and causes the figures to turn. On the bottom layer is Mary, Joseph and baby with the wise men circling around them. The second layer is the Shepherds and sheep. the top layer are the angels blowing their trumpets. it’s a really lovely way to think about the Christmas story together. The Weihnachtsmann smokes, from his mouth if you light a scented cone inside him and gives a Christmassy smell to the whole room.

It is the first time we’ve had these decorations out in many years. I think our youngest is safe around candles now so we can have them out.

What are your Christmas decorations like?

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