Last weekend our family were on stage in The Magic Toyshop by Andrew Willment.
I was helping backstage and it got me thinking. Acting is a lot like language learning. Here is why I think so.
Actors learn lines and phrases. They use cues and context to learn their lines. Many polyglots start a new language by learning key phrases and build from there. When I started to learn Mandarin in January 2015, a phrase I picked up quickly was:
Wǒ xiǎng yào yībēi kāfēi xièxiè. – I’d like a cup of coffee thank you
It was not long before I figured out how to ask for a cup of tea.- Wǒ xiǎng yào yībēi chá xièxiè.
Actors learn a script
Benny Lewis in his book Fluent in 3 months talks of the value of writing a script in the target language, and learning it to start basic conversations. I’ve been learning Urdu with Eurotalk this month. I’ve learned to say good morning – Subah Bakhair, Thank you – Shukria, goodbye- Alwidah. With these simple greetings I’ve been able converse with Urdu speaking parents and build up more Urdu as the speakers helped me.
Good actors are able to improvise when dialogue goes off script.
Good language learners are not flummoxed when they do not know a word in another language, they simply explain using word they know and communicate their point. I use this a lot when talking to my mum in law in German! Acting is a lot of fun and allows to you be another person (or simply a more confident you!)
A Turkish proverb says
“One who speaks only one language is one person, but one who speaks two languages is two people.”
I’ve taught my first Chinese New Year class of 2016 this week. When I can communicate and sing in Mandarin it’s an amazing feeling; as I get into the swing of the class I feel I’m flying!
My favourite part of the Magic Toyshop play was these lines…
No look up there, he’s flying …. up… in the air!
Heavens above that’s impossible!
Yes, and someone needs to tell them that or they are going to carry on doing it!
So I tell you… go and do the impossible. Go out there and have a go at communicating in another language, and let me know where it takes you.
February 8th 2016 is the start of the Chinese New Year This year is the year of the Monkey. We’re taking part in Chinatown in Chesham in a few weeks. We’ve got three classes in local schools for early years and KS1.
So last year, I wrote a brilliant lesson using the great songs by Toni Wang at a little mandarin. It’s a lot of fun and children pick up some simple Mandarin words.
This is my lesson plan for the session lasting about 20 minutes. I hope it inspires you to use Mandarin in your classroom.
The lyrics for all the songs are available on http://alittlemandarin.com/lyrics/ I printed them out on A4 card, put a related picture on the other side and laminated it.
The story I used was the really simple one from Twinkl .
To hear, sing and speak a little Mandarin and hear about the cultural traditions for Chinese New Year.
By the end of session the children should be able to say hello “nĭ hăo” and good bye “zài jiàn” and have become familiar with the songs. They are likely to be able to sing the Two tigers song by repeating it. They will also have realised learning another language is a lot of fun.
The lesson outline is as follows.
Lingotastic Chinese New Year class
Blast off to China (with rockets) One two three blast off “yi er san diăn huŏ”
Meet the Dragon and say hello to him “nĭ hăo” If the children are feeling brave you I take the dragon to talk to individual children, a great way to repeat this phrase with them. The dragon is taking us on a New Year adventure with lots of friends to meet along the way.
Tell the Dragon’s story (Chinese zodiac story with lots of animal props) As the children hear their animal mentioned they need to wave it. Twinkl have a brilliant simple version.
After we’ve crossed the river in the story we meet the Jade Emperor. It’s his birthday so we can all sing Happy Birthday to the Jade Emperor in Mandarin shēng rì kuài lè
The dragon asks can we sing it again? please- “qĭng”
It’s time to find the two tigers together. Bring out the two tiger props and teach the song.
Sing two tigers with actions (in Mandarin) liǎng zhī láo hǔ
We need to say thank you to tigers for playing with us“xié xié”
Of we go again. We’ve got a friend to find. Time to find a friend
We can’t find them, they are cleaning the house ready for the new year.
On the songcard, notice the children are wearing red and gold lucky colours for the new year.
Find a friend (musical game) (in Mandarin) Play the song and pause after they sing “nǐ shì wǒ de hǎo péng yǒu” (You are my good friend.) The chidren need to find a friend and shake hands with them. Continue the song stopping at “nǐ shì wǒ de hǎo péng yǒu” and the childen find another friend to shake hands with.
So now we’re all ready for the New Year. It’s time to sing.
Happy new year song (in Mandarin) xīn nián hǎo
The Dragon needs to go now, to look after the water and bring rain.
All say good bye “zài jiàn” to dragon. If you have time the dragon (and you) can go round and say it to each child so repeating it many times.
Blast off back to England with the rockets. Another chance to count together.
We use rockets as we always do at Lingotastic. It is our way of travelling to the different countries. It’s a good way to introduce some numbers.
The songs here are familiar tunes or very simple. I learned these songs by singing along to a little mandarin CD mostly in the car. My children learned them too. In the same order I did. I figured if we could learn them by singing other people could too.
I’m really happy to chat with you about how you could use this in your classroom. Get in touch Sarah@Lingotastic.co.uk
Singing is a really powerful tool in language learning, research is now showing. In singing you pick up the sounds of a language and quickly join in yourself. By bypassing the analytical part of the brain, you quickly acquire a good accent. This works for grown ups as well as children. When singing, you are no longer limited by grammar tables and vocab lists, free to enjoy the language and learn along the way.
For little ones, it’s an amazing foundation in language learning and the start of a bright future. We’ve seen this time and time again in our classes and now you can enjoy it at home too, with the most popular songs from our German classes. Most of these songs have not been translated into English before. We’ve also included verses in French, Spanish, Mandarin and Esperanto. Contrary to popular belief this does not confuse language learners (big and small) but actually helps language acquisition.Though these songs may be children’s songs, adults will enjoy singing along too.
Get your own copy, and see how much fun language learning can be!
We’ve been enjoying it as a family in the car this weekend. Bopping along to “Grün Grün Grün / Green, green, green”, hopping with the bunnies with “Häschen in der Grube/ Bunny in the burrow” and riding our bus with “Die Räder am Bus”. My kids keep requesting it which is a seal of approval to me!
This has been our school run sound track for the past two weeks. It’s packed with catchy tunes in “mostly” German but there’s a bit of French, Spanish and even some Chinese too. We’re getting quite good! – Kate Eccles
The CD is only £10.
It’s a great present and a fantastic family language learning tool.
Postage within the UK is an extra £1.99, if you are further afield then please Contact Us. CD will be given to you at that class or before if you are already at weekly classes.
This week we’re lucky to have the second part of an interview with Teddy from Teddy Nee’s Language Blog. If you missed the first one you can read it here.
Teddy is a native of Medan city, Indonesia, who loves writing as much as language learning.
Great to interview you again Teddy.
What do you think is the importance of learning a foreign language?
How many people around you who know multiple languages? By the word “know”, I mean being able to hold conversation related to basic topics, such as self-introduction or expressing oneself. Have you ever asked them about their language learning story?
I used to question myself, “What motivates someone to learn foreign languages when many people already know English, which they might have learnt for years from school?”
Although English has been used in major international activities, not everyone speaks English. Many people know English, but not everyone speaks it well.
Let’s say a Korean meets a German, they might speak English with their accents, which could be difficult to be understood by each other. Moreover, things might be worse when they speak English with their own mindset. Imagine one is speaking indirectly meanwhile the other is the opposite, despite speaking the same language, they might not have common understanding.
Could you tell our readers which languages you have learned so far?
How do you start learning a new language?
Before learning a language, I usually begin by reading the country profile, including its language and the culture of the people. Afterwards, I would read travel phrases or play with words. I believe that when you learn a language, you don’t learn only about the grammatical structure or words, but you also learn about its culture. You learn about what makes the language alive and being used over centuries.
Many people learn foreign languages nowadays, making foreign languages part of our life. The Internet has abundant of learning resources, articles, or even free/ paid courses, but many people still cannot learn successfully. Imagine that you are still hungry despite having many plates of food served on your table. Something is wrong!
When a student don’t excel at school, parents cannot blame solely at teachers, or cannot even blame the teachers. It is always better to be an independent learner, as we know ourselves better than anyone else.
Which languages do you suggest to people to learn?
I once read that English, German, French, Spanish, and Chinese Mandarin are considered five important languages for business. Well, you might argue with me about the data accuracy, and I am totally fine with that since everyone might come up with their own conclusion about which language being the important.
However, I strongly agree that Western European languages, such as German, Spanish, Portuguese, or French, and East Asian languages, such as Korean, Japanese, or Chinese Mandarin, are favorited languages for many learners.
You can see from the mentioned set of languages that many of them come from the same language family. One advantage of learning one of them is that it enables you to understand to some degree other languages from the same family, even without learning them. For example, Portuguese speakers will understand Spanish easier than Dutch.
Thanks for sharing your ideas Teddy. Your love of languages is infectious.
This week we’re lucky to have an interview with Teddy Nee’s Language Blog
Teddy is a native of Medan city, Indonesia, who loves writing as much as language learning.
Hi Teddy, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for a while now. Could you tell us a little about your language learning journey?
My language learning journey began at a very early age, on my Sundays visit to my grandma, who speaks Cantonese natively apart from Indonesian and Hokkien. I speak only the latter two as native languages.
All students learn English as primary language subject at school, and luckily, the school I attended also offered Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, and German. The latter two are optional subjects, and I chose German over Japanese thinking that I could learn it faster because of its origin from the same language family with English.
I did not realize my interest in foreign language until I went to the university to study in an international program, where students come from many countries around the world. Since the beginning semester, I felt a stronger and stronger emotion with foreign languages, especially when I could speak it with international students.
Nelson Mandela once quoted “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language,that goes to his heart.” This quote also motivated me to learn foreign language in order to understand other culture from a different perspective.
What do you think is a good reason to learn a language?
Some language learners claimed that economic factor is the learning motivation, or heritage factor for some others. I always believe that one can be benefited by knowing foreign languages, no matter directly or indirectly. Language learning has become my hobby rather than school assignments or job requirements, and it will be what it is indefinitely because language learning is fun and easy. Everyone can learn languages successfully as they know themselves better than anyone else.
Thanks Teddy. I look forward to speaking to you again soon.
We’re very fortunate to have a guest post from Cassandra Lewis, a fellow language enthusiast, about her language learning journey and how she uses languages in her family and everyday life. Over to you, Cassandra…
Like most people in the UK I started French at school and immediately loved it. I really enjoyed the novelty factor of being able to say things in another language and this never wore off!
Those were the days of day trips on the ferry over the Chanel with my mum and dad to visit the French hyper markets, the likes of which we had not yet seen in the UK. It was so amazing to me that all the things we were being taught at school were actually things real French people said! To be able to recognise some words when we went on these trips and to try to communicate a little with people gave me such a buzz! This was just the start of my language learning journey.
I then started Spanish at school and found I loved that too! It was fabulous. I ended up doing 3 of my GCSEs in modern languages (French, Spanish and Italian) and two of my A Levels were also modern languages, French and Spanish.
I never really had any idea of what I wanted to do ‘when I grew up’ but I knew I loved languages and so it was a natural progression really that my degree ended up to be French and Spanish – I even tried a spot of Russian while I was at University!
Studying languages gave me the opportunity to live and work in Peru, Colombia and France and it’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life whilst living abroad in these places.
My work life after University took many turns from Primary School teaching to Banking to now running a Salesforce Consultancy with my husband. Although I don’t really use my languages on a day to day basis, it’s something that’s always with me. It’s like swimming, riding a bike or learning to drive, even if you don’t do it every day, you still know how to do these things. My languages are without doubt a little rusty now but I know it’s all still in there somewhere!
I’m finding now I’m a mum to a toddler I’m able to embrace my love of languages all over again by introducing her to this world. I’ve discovered Lingotastic classes where I live and both she and I really enjoy going along every week. She’s gaining something I never had which is being able to tune her ear and brain into different languages nice and early on in life – the very best time!
My daughter constantly amazes me with how much she’s picking up. She’s saying parts of the body, singing songs and counting in French, Spanish and German and the best part is she’s picking it all up without even trying and she’s having loads of fun doing it!
I’m even thinking about learning Mandarin with her which will be a real challenge for me coming from my romance languages roots! I love the fact that my language leaning journey is still continuing. It’s a great feeling opening yourself up to be able to communicate with others on this planet; a truly enriching experience.
I do smile to myself sometimes in my work life as even though we’re all speaking English, talking the language of Salesforce and translating that into the language of those who will ultimately be using the system is something that my husband and I need to always be aware of. It reminds me that clear communication in any language is a skill and so very important so everyone knows and understands we’re all on the same page. It feels good to be understood, no matter what the language.
If you’re interested in how Salesforce could help your organisation, contact us through www.rephrase.co.uk and we’ll be happy to have a chat!
As a bilingual German and English family we think language learning is very important. My husband has studied, English, French, Latin, Spanish and Polish. I’ve studied French, German and Spanish. We’ve passed on some of these languages to our children by simply playing with languages. As you might have guessed we LOVE languages. You may have read about our Mandarin learning journey at the start of this year.
Well, now we’re learning Portuguese! My girls are taking part in the Euro talk Junior Language Challenge. The Junior Language Challenge involves children up to age 10 playing simple games in order to learn Portuguese. They do this with minimal adult involvement (which I like!). I’m often cooking in the room next door as they play, so I’ve picked up bit of Portuguese. I found it very interesting to hear Portuguese and how different it is to Spanish, but I’ve understood quite a lot because of the other Latin based languages I know.
I did not start to learn a second language until I was twelve so I’m sure they’ll surpass me in their language abilities as they get older! They other languages they are picking up mostly from home, so it’s great they can do this learning independent of us.
My girls are much better at Portuguese than me and I’ve been amazed on the occasions I’ve watched them playing the junior language challenge. They really like the silly game where you learn body parts to make your own Frankenstein monster and the telling the time game, as the man’s arm grows! They’re having a lot of fun playing and moving up the scoreboard.
They’ve been learning more than just Portuguese.
I heard my six-year-old reading very quickly in English last week. I did not know she could do this.
They’ve been learning National flags alongside the Portuguese names for those countries.
I asked my girls what they would like to say about the junior language challenge. My seven year old said “It’s a lot of fun” and the youngest said “I’m going to win! ”
If we get through to the next round we’ll be learning another language and in the third round yet another language. I’ll let you know how we get on.
It’s not too late to join the Junior Language Challenge.
Why sign up to the JLC?
It makes languages fun
It introduces children to new languages
It raises money for charity
There are some great prizes
It’s not too late to join the Junior Language Challenge, simply contact Eurotalk
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
Listened to the first chapter of “Learn in Your Car – Chinese Level 1”
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.
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!
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.
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)
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.
On Saturday, the sound of drums thundered thoughout Chesham town
centre as people gathered to watch a traditional Chinese New Year
lion dance. However, not far up the road, in Chesham Library, you
could hear children singing in Mandarin Chinese as they took part in
a popular Lingotastic event run to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Enthusiastic children made their own Chinese Dragons and “blasted off”
to China with their rockets; they also learned how to say hello in
Mandarin (你好 nǐ hǎo)) and even had a close encounter with a dragon!
Attendees heard the story of the Chinese Zodiac and used puppets to
act it out themselves, as well as learning how to sing Happy Birthday
in Mandarin生日快乐 (shēng rì kuài lè). Two tigers joined in the fun, listening to a Mandarin song about themselves 两只老虎 (liǎng zhī láo hǔ) and the children then played a game to another
song called Find A Friend 找朋友 (zhǎo péng yǒu). The fun event rounded up with a hearty
chorus of Good New Year 新年好 (xīn nián hǎo ).
The families who came along ranged from those with a smattering of
mandarin to those who heard if for the first time that day. “The
children were all really enthusiastic and really quick to pick up the
songs and phrases in Mandarin; it was amazing to see,” said Sarah
Barrett, the founder of Lingotastic, who organised and ran the event
at the library. “Children are so keen to learn other languages and it
is magical to see their progress.” Lingotastic runs language classes
for children from birth to age 6 in Chesham, Chorleywood and Gerrards
Cross. For all classes and further details, visit their website at