Tag Archives: encouragement

Can preschoolers learn coding?

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

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

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

Why did you decide to launch your business?

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

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How are you finding it fits in with your family?

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

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

Anything else you wish to tell our readers?

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

 

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

What are you waiting for?

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

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

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.

Children are NOT confused by early second language learning

French market Today I went along to the French market in Chorleywood. The weather was good so a lot of other people went along too. We held hourly French taster classes and had a lot of people coming to join in. I was able to chat to a few families about their language learning journeys. A few were encouraged to start language learning at a young age which was a great result in my mind, whether their language learning includes Lingotastic or not.

We had a lot of fun making fish, singing and finding out what noise a Chamelion makes. A lot of parents were amazed at how quickly their little ones picked up some French.

Il fait comment le caméléon?

Il fait comment le caméléon?

I came across a few parents who were concerned that exposing their little ones to second language at a young age would confuse them. Here is my answer to this…
The best time to learn a second language is the same time as you learn the first. Bilingual families start two languages from birth. Even pre-verbal babies are able to recognise different languages, a recent Canadian study found.
In our family experience, when my son was still in my tummy, my hubby spoke to him only in German,
this meant when he was born, he only recognised his dad’s voice when he spoke in German.

A baby’s babbles sound the same, independent of the language spoken around them. From six months, the babble starts to become like the language sounds they hear regularly. So if babies are exposed to more than one language, the baby soon picks up both languages.

As far as language learning goes, the motto is, the younger the better. Birth to three years is the optimum time for introducing a second language. It is much easier for younger children to acquire languages. Bilingual families usually start at birth or before. In fact, if a child is learning two languages at a time, they will learn both at the same rate, without one language inhibiting the other.
Younger is also better with regards to children acquiring a native sounding accent; they are much more able to pick up an authentic accent if they hear a second language from a young age.

I’ve seen even the NHS, and so health visitors are promoting the value of early second language learning so I’m flabbergasted that these myths live on! The research about the best time to start second language learning is clear. Don’t let this myth make your child miss out!
What do you think?

Can you learn enough Mandarin to teach it in five weeks? and #GIVEAWAY

Over the last five weeks I’ve learned enough Mandarin to teach a beginners class to 1- 8 year olds with their parents and teachers. Just in time for Chinese New Year. It may sound a crazy idea but I had a few theories to test out!

I attended the Language Show Live in October 2013 I want to a seminar which really inspired me. It was called Discovering Language – multilingual language awareness They are working with Manchester Metropolitan University and advocate teachers enjoy learning and learn with their pupils. They say it is possible to teach a language and be just ahead of your learners.

At my Lingotastic classes I advocate to the families I work with that the best way to learn a second language is the way you learn your first. Hearing, responding and using that language. In a playful environment rather than a classroom setting.

With this in mind … I decided to learn Mandarin in time to teach a class for Chinese New year, just 5 weeks away. No pressure then!

Toni Wang from “ A Little Mandarin “, back in October, had sent me a CD of some funky traditional Chinese Children’s song. However, I’d been too busy to do more than have quick listen – until now. The countdown had begun …

Tuesday – day 1 (14th January)
I listened to “Little Mandarin” music CD, whilst driving to and from the German class I was teaching. In 40 minutes I’d learned “Happy Birthday” in Mandarin 生日快乐 (shēng rì kuài lè) and the other songs had started to sound familiar.
I also saw a Chinese mum on playground today and said my one word of Mandarin 你好 nǐ hǎo. She replied so it can’t have been too bad!
I chatted a little and found out she spoke Mandarin, so asked the Mandarin for good bye. Used it twice then forgot it!
I found out my local library has a free link to a resource called “transparent languages”. I must check that out!

Wednesday – day 2
I listened to more of the Little Mandarin CD in the car. I met up with another mum with two little ones who speaks Mandarin to talk about the class I’m planning. I scheduled the meeting between her toddlers’ nap time and my school pick up. She loves the Little Mandarin CD and heard many of the songs in China. She teaches me how to say “sing nyen kuài lè ” I recognise the words kuài lè from the CD. It means happy. She teaches me about rising and falling tones. She tells me how to say goodbye again: 再见 zài jiàn

Thursday
I printed out words to songs from http://www.alittlemandarin.com/lyrics
I listen to the CD between classes. My hubby is listening to a “Learn Mandarin in the car” CD so shared what he’d learned.

Friday
My seven year old daughter listened to Happy Birthday 生日快乐 (shēng rì kuài lè) on the CD; she was singing along in Mandarin by the end of the song! I had a look at the free Transparent Languages course through my local library. I like it but it’s a shame it is only available on desktop.
I found a blog
about counting to hundred by Transparent Language
I can count to three now!

I have offered to lead a few songs for Chinese New Year in my Children’s school. That’ll help me focus, if the looming library class didn’t already!

Saturday
Hubby showed me the audio course he had found by Hank N. Raymond, Henry N. Raymond for Penton Overseas, Inc.in Deezer. I can now listen whilst walking.

Monday (19th January)
I listened to A Little Mandarin CD whilst traveling to my classes. We watched Peppa Pig and Little Einsteins in Mandarin.

Tuesday
Singing along to A Little Mandarin whilst travelling to work. I can sing two songs now: Two tigers 两只老虎 (liǎng zhī láo hǔ) as well as Happy Birthday which I learmed earlier! Picked out part of a song understanding the words for “we are.” Listened to a few chapters of “Learn in Your Car – Chinese Level 1” whilst walking to get children from school.

Wednesday
Listened to the first chapter of “Learn in Your Car – Chinese Level 1”

Thursday
Lots of traffic on way to work meant plenty of time for “Learn in Your Car -Chinese Level 1”: three Chapters today! Slowly picking up phrases. I met Chinese lady and enthusiastically used my now expanding vocabulary. 你好 nǐ hǎo, nǐ hǎo ma and 再见 zài jiàn (3 phrases now)

Week 3 -26th January
Continuing with A Litle Mandarin CD in car. I can sing and understand another song now Find A Friend 找朋友 (zhǎo péng yǒu). That’s three songs now. This is sung really quickly so I’m really pleased with myself. So much so I’m singing it most of the time. This explains why my chidren can sing it too.
I find out about an app by Eurotalk
which means I can learn Mandarin by playing on my phone when I have a few spare minutes. It sounds perfect to fit into my busy schedule.

hello

Week 4 (2nd February)
Continuing with A Little Mandarin CD in the car. Starting to learn the Good New Year song 新年好 (xīn nián hǎo ). Playing the Eurotalk app for 10 minutes a day. I like the way it links a picture word and says the word, too. A few phrases are starting to stick in my brain! I like that I can play the app when I have a few minutes to spare.

Week 5 (9th February)
Listening to the A Little Mandarin CD in the car. Playing the Eurotalk app for 15 minutes a day. I like the fact that it’s just playing games and as you can see the mandarin script as well as hear it. It’s sticking!

hard game

I’m finding I understand more of the songs I’m singing. I’m singing a lot around the house too and the rest of the family are picking them up (grudgingly in the case of my husband!) We decided to record our family singing the 新年好 xīn nián hǎo song to help market the Chinese New Year special we’re doing next week.

Our You Tube video has been seen by a few native Chinese speakers who think we sound native –result!!
Both me and my Children picked up the songs in the same order so I’ll teach the simplest song first Happy Birthday 生日快乐 (shēng rì kuài lè).” then two tigers 两只老虎 (liǎng zhī láo hǔ). I’ve been lent two big and I mean BIG tigers especially for the class!!

I’m spending about 15 minutes a day playing the uTalk app and gradually learning more.

goodbye

14th February Saturday
Chinese New Year Blast Off Class at The Library. It was AWESOME! We had 25 children singing in Mandarin with even their parents joining in at some points! Really exciting to see. The write up is an earlier blog post. (http://lingotastic.co.uk/?p=307)

Sunday
We took the family out to Rickmansworth Aquadrome. Whilst we were there we recorded the two tigers 两只老虎 (liǎng zhī láo hǔ) song to send out for Chinese new year

My daughter has asked if we can stop recording us singing Mandarin songs now please!

25th February I taught the Mandarin Class to 30 children from Reception and Nursery of a local school. The children were amazing! All could say hello , good bye and thank you. I had rave reviews from the teachers, who plan to continue using the few words they have learned in class. “Both the staff and children immensely enjoyed having Sarah to visit and we would love to learn more Mandarin in the future, with her”

Not bad for five weeks of playing and singing Mandarin!!

Which language do you think I should attempt next?

Enter our completion below to win an access code for full access to the UTalk app. (Basic access is free) I’d love to know how you get on.

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I was sent the A Little Mandarin CD and uTalk app to review and this is my honest opinion of them.

Raising Bilingual Children

This blog post first appeared at Flashsticks – Raising Bilingual Children easier than you think.

Caroline Sarll and her husband are teachers, but Mum had lived and worked in Germany for a while and had made the decision she was going to raising bilingual children years before her daughter was born.

The only regular German input her daughter had was from her mum and, though many thought them crazy, their dedication paid off and her daughters now speak a good level of German. Mum made it a priority for them and it worked.

A German adventure

A few weeks ago, during the summer holidays, my family and I were in Germany, visiting some relatives, and I was amazed that my children were speaking and understanding so much German.

And it really got me thinking about the importance of languages.

I’ve read so much recently about the benefits of early language learning and we are currently in the process of making it a much higher priority in our family.

My children can communicate better with Oma, their Grandma for non-German speakers, and, as a result, were far more independent than I could ever possibly have imagined.

Reflections

I was taken aback by the whole experience. And it just goes to show what happens when you make language learning a priority. I wish I’d done it sooner.
Not only am I really pleased with children’s progress, Oma is really pleased too; it’s really helped to bring them closer together.

My daughter even attempted to talk to other children in the Playground in German too, which was fantastic to watch. My 14 year old, meanwhile, is beginning to correct my German, which is great, especially as for so long he had showed absolutely no interest whatsoever in learning the language. I really think any language input is better than none.

Making the decision to start… somewhere

Many parents I’ve spoken to do not have the confidence to pass on their language skills to their little ones. And that’s why much of what I do in my classes is geared around empowering parents to use the skills they have, working with them to help build them together.

There are many useful tools out there to help with language learning at home and raising bilingual children really isn’t as daunting as you may think.

Have a look at my blog on 5 surprising places for language learning with your little one for some ideas, if you’re struggling to find a starting point.

No matter where you start, however, the important part is to make the decision to start. Once you begin, the momentum builds and I really think you’ll be amazed by what can be achieved.

Are you learning a language with your little ones? I’d love to hear all about your experiences of raising bilingual children in the comments below.