Tag Archives: languages

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.

We are failing as multilingual parents.

OK a major revelation from me…
We may be bringing up our children multilingually, but the aspirations and reality are often very different.
My children all hit an age time for where they refused to speak German unless it really suited them (when they wanted sweets or chocolate for instance). As a bilingual parent this is a nightmare. We did a lot of soul searching as to where we had gone wrong, but just had to let it ride. My middle daughter Jasmin is almost ten and now starting to answer our German by speaking German herself. She made a friend whose parents speak German and who has a German Au-Pair which helped her confidence a lot. Jasmin has even started to ask “How do you say … in German?”

The highlight of my week was when we saw some Apple Strudel on a stall in town. Jasmin said “Apfelstrudel!” and the Hungarian lady on the stall continued the conversation in German. We ordered and bought what we wanted in German and Jasmin followed our conversation and said Danke and Bitte in the correct places.

She finally wants to speak German! We were in the Polish shop recently and she said goodbye in Polish: Dziękuję

The whole exposure to other languages and cultures we have been doing since she was tiny, is finally paying off.

My eldest son is 17 now and I will finally admit he dropped GCSE languages (huge shame for me to admit this). However, if he hears French he continues in French, he learnt some Dutch with Duolingo, he has an awesome accent and knows more Dutch than me and his dad. He learnt some Polish with UTalk and joins us in Polish conversations. Languages are such a part of his life he actually forgot to put them on his CV!

As a multilingual parent, there are no failures, just learning experiences for you all. No parent does a perfect job, our personal parenting goal is not to make too much of a mess of parenting.

So, I’ve finally admitted I’m not a perfect parent or a perfect multilingual parent either and it’s not going too badly. How is your family language learning journey going?

Polyglot Gathering – my awards

So, you may have heard me shouting about how awesome the Polyglot Gathering was. I could give a simple, boring, chronological account but I’m thinking it may be a bit of a snooze fest so….

 

Welcome to the Lingotastic Polyglot Gathering Awards.

Many of the talks deserve an award so here are mine:

 

The award for One Who Talks the Most Common Sense goes to…

Gareth Popkins “Fluent in Three Decades”.

Forget your sparkly language “get rich quick schemes”, your languages are more sustainable if you invest for the long haul. There was a very funny section on thinking about relationships with other languages.

“Negotiate that relationship”
True love and a life long commitment?
Monogamy -till death do us part?
Serial monogamy – It’s ok to walk out.
Two – timing?
Polygamy? Don’t confuse it with promiscuity.

I may have wet myself laughing at this point… I know a great number of promiscuous polyglots!

 

The award for Most Random Talk goes to…

“Introduction to Klingon” by Kelvin Jackson and Philip Newton.

I was inordinately excited at having the chance to learn Klingon. I’m by no stretch of the imagination a Star Trek geek but I love the sound of Klingon, and studying another new language makes me go weak at the knees..

 

The award for Most Interactive Talk goes to…

”Learning Some Slovak Folk Songs” by Betka Dorrerova.

She has such a passion for Slovak music and life in general. She quickly recruited other attendees to teach songs, too. I was singing the songs for the rest of the week!

 

The award for Most Baffling Talk goes to…

“Using Deep Learning to Accelerate Grammar Acquisition” Bartosz Czekala.

If I am totally honest, I only went along as I had met Bartosz the night before, and he seemed like a fun bloke. Grammar is usually a real snooze fest for me but what on earth is Deep Learning? Confusing to start with but it did become clearer as the talk went on and it was a really interesting and informative presentation.

 

The talk with Best Long Term Applications For Me goes to…

“Yes, You Can Be The Person Who Talks To Anyone” by Kirsten Cable.

After all, what is the point of learning a language if you never speak it?

Brilliant applied psychology on getting over yourself, and getting out there and using your languages.

 

The award for Silliest Talk goes to…

“Don’t Say Quite!” and “The Joy of Phrasal Verbs” Tim Morley.

Obviously the title was not at all funny but the game show format and silly examples made for a very, very silly talk. I even learned some things, too.

The talk I connected most to was…

“Learning by Eye vs Learning by Ear: Which is better?” Idahosa Ness.

The talk totally confirmed the way I teach. Hearing and mimicking and, in time, seeing text. The way we learned our first language.

The talk which surprised me most was…

“How to learn other languages through Esperanto: Russian and French.”

Charlotte Scherping Larsson, Alexey G

I’m a novice Esperanto speaker yet I managed to follow the majority of this talk.

 

 

My award for Funniest Talk goes to…

“Being Funny in a Foreign Language” Dimitrios Polychronopoulos.
As he talked about humour in a particular language, he switched to that language, which was awesome to see. It was great how he threw the floor open for us to bring our own jokes, which was a lot of fun.

 

My award for Most Fun Talk goes to…

Charlotte Scheping Larrson for “Singing in Swedish (dialects edition)”.
We learned two Swedish songs including a silly song about jumping in the river if I can’t have a sausage. Prior to this I only knew 3 words of Swedish, so I was so happy to learn the songs and hear Charlotte’s family stories behind them.

 

The award for the talk that most tested my language skills goes to
“De skandinaviska/ skandinaviske språkende/ språkene/ sprog” with Kristoffer Broholm, Karl-Eric Wångstedt and Irena Dahl
With my German I understood about a third of the Danish and Norwegian, Swedish remains a mystery. I still only know three words! It was really fun talk, especially laughing as they tried to read in each others languages.

The award for Most Inspiring Talk goes to…

“Life in Multiple Languages” by Richard Simcott.
I loved how he shared about his day-to-day life and that of his family, and how languages are woven through it all.

 

The award for Most Innovative Talk goes to…

Florian Heller with his five languages talk.
The way he seamlessly switched languages and just continued the talk was awesome.

 

The internationally culinary event on the first evening was a brilliant way to meet new friends, experience other cultures and sample some lovely regional food and alcohol.

There were so many more amazing, inspirational people there, that there are too many to mention here. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and I really was sad to leave.

 

All that remains is to thank the amazing team who organised the conference and created a space for us all to get together.

 

Hope to see you there next year.

Polyglot Gathering Silly Selfies

I’ve just come back from an awesome time at The Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The weather was gorgeous, but the highlight for me was meeting the inspirational language learners there.

I had met a few of them before, both online and at Language Show Live, and I was excited to spend time with them again.

As soon as I arrived at The Polyglot Gathering, I bumped into Gareth from https://howtogetfluent.com/

Soon after, I found the inspirational Kerstin from http://fluentlanguage.co.uk/ It was a joy to chat about bilingual marriages together.

I met Dimitrios via LinkedIn and was honoured to be allowed to interview him for our blog http://lingotastic.co.uk/2017/how-do-you-become-a-polyglot/
The number of languages he can easily switch between is phenomenal.

Find out more about what he does on http://yozzi.com/

I’ve known Lindsay of http://www.lindsaydoeslanguages.com/ for a while. I was really happy to bump into her at the International food evening. Thanks, Lyns, for replying when I kept speaking to you in German.

My friend Teddy Nee http://www.neeslanguageblog.com/ from Taiwan asked me to look out for a few of his friends for him.

First up, Alexander Ferguson from http://www.echonotation.com/ The first time I met him, he spoke in a strong Scottish accent. The next time I heard him speaking English it was with a US accent. Waaah?

Secondly, Teddy asked me to look for Fiel Sahir from Polyglot Indonesia, http://www.between3worlds.com He is such a nice guy!

(Yes, I did spend the majority of the conference approaching people I had not met before, and asking to take selfies with them)

I met Bartosz from http://www.universeofmemory.com/ on the first evening, at dinner. He is a fun(NY) guy and I was excited to hear he was speaking the next day.

I started chatting to Kris of http://actualfluency.com/ at the Polyglot Conference in October, and was over the moon to be asked to feature on his Podcast. He is such a nice guy and so modest about his awesome skills.

Florian is also known as the Mentalist https://www.florian-heller.com/ He does an amazing Multilingual Illusion show in French, German, Spanish, Italian and English. I’m in awe of his ability to switch between languages.

I’d been hearing about Richard of http://speakingfluently.com/ for a long time, but had never met him before. He is so welcoming and friendly. His modelling of a polyglot life makes it seem accessible to everyone. I was as excited as I look in the picture!

This was the first time I’d met Benny Lewis. https://www.fluentin3months.com/ I’ve worked through his Language Hacking books and was keen to finally meet him for myself.

In finishing, I need to apologise to Gareth for photobombing his awesome videos 😉

The Polyglot Gathering was an awesome event. I’ll be back with a more in-depth review soon.

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.

A very German Easter

As a German-English family we like to include traditions from both cultures in our Easter celebrations so we celebrate both a German Easter and English Easter.

The first Easter I spent in Germany, I was astounded by all the beautiful Basteln (crafts) and Osterschmuck (Easter decorations). Walking around the neighbourhood, I saw many Osterbäume (Easter trees) festooned with Ostereier (Easter eggs). Many of the houses also had beautiful Fensterbilder (homemade window decorations).

I love crafts and decorating so I brought home many materials, magazines and templates to make our own Easter crafts.

In the week leading up to Easter we go up into the loft to bring down our decorations, which grow in number each year. Last year we were in Germany for Easter, so we brought home some beautiful decorations. My favourite is the Osterkranz (Easter wreath): I love the pastel colours and it is something not often seen in the UK. It was also an absolute Schnäppchen (bargain)!

 

We love to decorate a branch with brightly coloured eggs. We decorated our own plastic ones with pens the first few years. We’ve bought more plastic ones to add to our collection in following years. As we decorated it this year, my older daughter started to talk about the Osterbaum. I was surprised she still remembered the word.pic

In our home we know it is almost Easter as Oma’s Osterpaket arrives from Germany. It is brimming with lots of yummy German food and chocolate, ready for Easter.

Pic

Before Easter my girls often make Easter bonnets to wear to school.

On Karfreitag (Good Friday) we go to church as a family to think about Jesus’ death on the cross, and what that means to us personally.

My husband has described Karsamstag in Germany to us, with the lighting of the Paschal candle to mark the period from Easter to Pentecost. Many churches also have an Osterfeuer, which dates back to pagan times: a time for the young people of the church to have fun together.

On Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) our children get up to find their baskets filled with Chocolate (Osterhasen) Easter Bunnies (must be Milka) and lots of delicious things zum Naschen. We also buy them an English Easter egg in a box. Maik, my husband, always had a few small gifts for Easter so we’ve continued this tradition with our own children – usually a book, stationery, or something they have asked for in the run up to Easter.

We all head to church together to celebrate Easter with our church family. It is a very special service with music, dance, and readings where the whole family is involved.

At some point in the weekend we have an Easter egg hunt in the garden.
As spend time playing games together.

As Monday is a Bank holiday in the UK, we take time to have a roast dinner together and head out for a walk in the afternoon.

Some years at Easter, we have visited my family in the Yorkshire Dales. My parents have friends who are sheep farmers, so we have been lucky enough to watch a lambing and help bottle feed the orphan lambs.

To me, Easter is a time of hope, of celebrating that the dark days of winter are over and the days are getting lighter and longer.

As we have two cultures and languages in our family, I think we are so much richer for embracing them both.

How does your family celebrate Easter?

Language learning is THE best way to make friends.

I originally wrote this blog two years ago as a guest post for FlashSticks. I’ve brought it up to date now. It’s exciting to see how my language learning has progressed in that time…

I’m starting to realise I may be a bit of language nerd. I’ve been thinking recently as to why people learn a language. I think for me the greatest reason is that it gives me the chance to make friends. I’m a really relational person and language learning is great for this. As Nelson Mandela said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language it goes to his heart”

As I walk my children in to school I often say good morning in about four languages to the other parents and children. dzień dobry, bună dimineața, jó reggelt, As- Salàmu ’Alaykum, доброе утро, dobrý deň, Guten Morgen, zăo sháng hăo !

At my children’s school, there are parents and children whose main languages are Polish, Hungarian, Mandarin, Russian, German, Romanian, Slovak, Urdu, Arabic, Ukrainian or French.

In September, my daughter returned to school, after the summer holidays. She had three children in her class who’d just arrived in the country and spoke no English. The children taught each other to say “good morning” in their own languages. I was really impressed by this mutual language teaching at age 7 and also the way the new children were welcomed into the class. I decided I could do this too, and learn to say at least good morning or simple greetings in these languages.

I started to chat to the new families and learned how to say good morning. I thought language learning would be a great way to get to know other families in the school. It’s been a fun journey. I’ve spoken the wrong language to people a few times and sometime pronounced so badly they did not know what I was saying! The Urdu and Arabic speaking mums automatically respond to me with “Wa ’Alaykum us Salam,” then realise it’s me speaking and look a bit confused or giggle! In time they’ve got used to it though!

On the whole people have been really pleased to teach me a few words of their language and laughed with me as I stumbled over the new expressions. It empowers them and builds their confidence as they are the experts in this area. Some of the mums are new to the country, learning English, and they like the fact that I take the time to talk with them and try to understand what they are saying. I, myself have struggled with communication in other languages, so I’m patient!

Cup of tea anyone?

I’ve discovered our local Big Issue seller is Romanian and she has taught me:

Hello Buna dimineata

Goodbye La revedere

I’ve been practicing and improving my Polish with the help of the staff at the local Polish Deli. Through spending time with them I’m getting to know them better especially those who only speak a little English. Other customers in the shop are noticing, too, and will speak to me in Polish if they see me on the High Street, which I love.

I’ve a few Thai girl friends so I always greet them with Sawatdee-kah.

We have Greek friends in church so I greet them with Καλημέρα Τι κάνεις: I’ve also discovered a few of my friends speak Afrikaans so I try my Dutch on them, which often works. In my daughter’s new school we have Spanish, Hungarian and Portuguese speakers, so I try to use these languages whenever I can.

I’ve met Russian, Swedish and Tagalog speaking parents at my local mums and toddlers group and am slowly learning words from them.

I’m enjoying building my own language skills and making friends, too. Do you have anyone you can get to know better by learning their language? I’d love to know how it goes!

How do children acquire language?

This week I have the pleasure of introducing you to Shirley Cheung. She is currently researching how children acquire language for her Phd at Lancaster University. My sister took part in one of Shirley’s research sessions and we met shortly afterwards. So without further ado, on with the interview.


Could you tell us a little about your early language learning

My first (native) language is Cantonese. My mother is from Hong Kong and my father was from mainland China, but I was raised in the United States. I started to learn English as a second language in preschool, but I only transitioned to using English as my dominant language when I was around 10 years of age. As I started using more English at school and with my friends over time, I slowly lost my fluency in Cantonese.


Why are you interested in languages?

I am fascinated with languages and how we learn them from a very young age, because language acts as a gateway to communicate our thoughts and intentions with others. The ability to use language at the level that we do is what distinguishes us from primates and animals. Language is so complex, yet it seems like we acquire it with remarkable ease. Languages are also very different from each other (for example, Sign Language vs. French) yet they accomplish the same goal??? to communicate!

Why did you decide to do the research you now do?
My PhD investigates how language background (i.e. monolingualism vs. bilingualism) affects speech perception in young infants. More importantly, whether learning two languages promotes a greater advantage for infants to pick up sounds from languages they have never been exposed to before (that is, non-native languages). My main research question asks whether bilingualism aids in perceptual flexibility in the speech signal at the time where infants’ native-language perceptual systems start to become focused on only the sounds of the language(s) they are exposed to.


How can we help you with your research?

Currently I am seeking Mandarin-English bilingual families to participate in my research. Below is a PDF copy of my recruitment flyer. I’d also like to mention that I anticipate bringing my research down to London for a few months, so if any parents around the area are interested in taking part, please keep in touch. My email address is s.cheung@lancaster.ac.uk

Polishing your Polish whilst shopping

This month I’ve been learning Polish with uTalk. We’ve a brilliant Polish deli on our high street called Bierdronka. So my aim was to learn enough to manage a shopping trip. My hubby is German, so we were so pleased so find a local shop which sold fresh Brötchen, Aufschnitt, Kuchen, Sauerkraut and Kohlrabi. Since Poland joined the EU in 2004 there are lots of Polish people in the UK so a great chance practice Polish on your doorstep, before visiting this beautiful country for yourself.

I already had a few Polish friends so I already knew

dzień dobry – Good morning
cześć – Hi / goodbye
dziękuję – thank you

Simply though going into the shop for the last few months, I’d picked up

proszę – you’re welcome/ please
do widzenia – goodbye

So with these phrases already under my belt, in January I started learning Polish with uTalk to pick up a few more shopping phrases.

tak – yes
nie – no
Dziękuje bardzo – thank you very much
Nie rozumiem – I don’t understand
Poproszę kawę – I’d like a coffee please

Now I knew the phrase for „I’d like” phrase I could now say

Poproszę trzy plastry mortadela Three slices of mortadella please

This is my daughter’s favourite!

We had the staff in fits of giggles as we tried our Polish with them.

I now need a few more numbers!!!

jeden one
dwa two
trzy three
cztery four
pięć five
sześć six
siedem seven
osiem eight
dziewięć nine
dziesięć ten

Now I had these, I could try a few more phrases.

And finally some useful food vocab

chleb bread
mlecko milk
piwo beer
słodycze sweets
kawałek ciast piece of cake

I hope this is helpful to you. Are there any more Polish shopping phrases you would add?

So my challenge you is, find someone who speaks another language, learn a little and you’ll have some new friends!

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

« Older Entries