Tag Archives: reading

By Toutatis – what a ride! At Parc Astérix

The chief!

The chief!

I don’t really have a bucket list as such, but if I had, then right at the top would have been a trip to Parc Astérix, just outside Paris. Ever since its opening back in 1989, I’ve been wanting to go. No idea why it’s taken me this long, but in any case the 27-year wait was worth it.

I think my indomitable wife, Sarah, only told half the story when she said about our Family Trip to Paris on a budget that it was really all my idea. No, the actual idea for the trip was the brainchild of our little book addict daughter (yes, the serial book reviewer you may remember from a couple of blogs). But of course when she announced she wanted to go to Paris, Dad was all for it, in order to finally meet his childhood hero Astérix.

I have to confess, I’ve read every The Mansions of The Gods “>Astérix book (in various languages), and watched every film. In fact, I’m quite excited that there seems to be a concerted effort to re-launch Astérix in the UK, with big names like Jack Whitehall, Catherine Tate and Dick & Dom providing voices for the most recent Asterix: Asterix: The Mansions Of The Gods [DVD]“>”The Mansions Of The Gods” movie. Yes, went to see it in Germany over a year ago already, but I wouldn’t want to miss the UK release for anything … but more on that in a later blog.

Back to Parc Astérix. When I first heard about it, I had only just started secondary school. Now with children of my own, there were many more reasons for going. Kids love theme parks, and for a polyglot family like ours, Parc Astérix was certainly a more genuinely French experience than the (according to feedback from other parents) overhyped and overpriced Disneyland Paris. We spent remarkably little time queuing, even the most popular rides (including Discobélix, a brand new ride which had only just opened) had a maximum of 15 minutes waiting time! Prices in general didn’t seem excessive, compared to what we’re used to from other theme parks, and getting there with the shuttle bus from CDG Airport was nice and easy.

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The biggest surprise, and one of my favourite attractions, was the sea lion & dolphin show. Absolutely amazing! As far as the rides are concerned, I was really impressed that there seemed to be plenty of options for different age groups: From high speed rollercoasters for the older thrillseekers, like Oziris, to family friendly rides and attraction for the “Young Gauls”, there is plenty to choose from. Finally, the spectacular live action show “Romains – Gaulois: Le Match” was a fitting and entertaining conclusion to our day at Parc Astérix

I think I’ll have to find a new excuse to ensure I won’t have to wait for our next visit as long as I had to for the first one!

The hundred mile an hour dog -Master of disguise

 Jasmin and the hundred mile an hour dog

Jasmin and the hundred mile an hour dog

Hello, I’m Jasmin and I have been asked to write a review of The hundred mile an hour dog -Master of disguise by Jeremy Strong. I have already read The Problems with a Python so I was pleased to be asked to review this book.

My most favorite character is the dog named Streaker because he is fast and funny.

A brief outline of the story is that the dog was naughty and the dad tried to send it to boot camp so the boy disguised the dog and the dog gets dog-napped by accident.

I would recommend this book to boys and girls aged 6-10 who like books about mystery.
I like the whole book but my favorite bit was when they dyed Streaker’s fur white to disguise him.

There is an exciting competition running on the Jeremy Strong website. Print out a picture of Streaker the dog and create your own amazing disguise.

If this review of The hundred mile an hour dog -Master of disguise has made you want to read other books by the same author check these out.

How does it feel to speak a language?

We are really blessed to have a guest post from the inspirational bilingual author Delia Berlin. Prepare to be encouraged and provoked to think.A tall order, but she does it! Emotional Aspects of Language Learning

Delia on deck

I grew up in Argentina and my first language was Spanish. Then and there, any knowledge of a foreign language was universally valued. My school years in Argentina exposed me to German, English and French. Today, I’m only fluent in Spanish and English, but I still have rudimentary knowledge of a variety of languages.
Having spent my adult life in the US, when I had a daughter I had to decide what language to use with her. Since I always thought that speaking more than one language was beneficial, I wanted her to learn both English and Spanish. She was bound to learn English from her teachers and peers, so I chose Spanish. She grew up bilingual, and decades later she is now raising a bilingual child of her own.

So why is it that so many Americans with parents or grandparents who spoke another language never learned a word of it? A friend of mine pointed out that in her family, the first generation of immigrants was focused on fitting in. Learning English and leaving the old language behind was required for upward mobility and success. There was no practical value in teaching children a language for which they no longer saw use. For these immigrants who had left their countries forever, survival depended on growing new roots as Americans.

In the years between the world wars, immigrants arrived in waves. There was a hierarchy for these groups, with the latest one to arrive usually being the poorest and least socially connected, and therefore shunned. With language as the main identifier of one’s group, the quicker one learned English, the sooner this discrimination would diminish. Native languages were a liability. It was only natural for parents to want their children to sound “American” and to be spared these difficulties. As for children themselves, then just like now, their focus was to fit in with their peers.

The first time I noticed a child in the US who spoke Spanish but pretended he didn’t, I was baffled. But then, I understood. Here, if you are middle class and educated, travel and have global interactions, proficiency in Spanish is helpful. But if you are a Latino child in a poor community, speaking Spanish may have given you nothing but grief. And so ironically, emotional aspects come into play and those who are most disadvantaged become less likely to exploit the rich, low-hanging fruit of an additional language, that eventually may give them an edge.

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Although largely spared, I was not blind to the prevalent prejudice and discrimination against Latinos while raising my daughter. I understood that if she was going to speak and maintain Spanish, she had to “buy in” to its benefit. In those days, I didn’t have many bilingual support sources at hand, but a home-made combination of talks, travel, books and even a little Sesame Street, seemed enough to convince my child about the value of her Spanish.
These days, with easier travel, increased communication technology, more diverse populations and a global economy, the practical value of knowing multiple languages has skyrocketed for some. But for many they still remain a stigma.

During the last four decades in the US, inequality has increased resulting in more marked segregation in neighborhoods and schools. In my own town, for example, more than three quarters of the students are Latino, while more affluent adjacent towns have mostly white, non-Latino enrollment.
Our teachers and school administrators do their best to support bilingualism, but with segregation entrenched, prejudice and discrimination are hard to eradicate. Speaking Spanish is not perceived by many of these children as helpful, and this presents an emotional barrier to developing and maintaining bilingualism. How could we change this negative perception in every child who has the opportunity to learn Spanish from a young age?

kids' books

In my community, my contribution comes in the form of writing bilingual books for children and reading them at local schools. Bilingual books help children make linguistic connections between their languages. In their homes, these books allow every family member (a grandma who may not speak English, or a young uncle who doesn’t know Spanish) to share the same story. Children can discuss the story with everyone in the family, and even adults may benefit by improving their own language skills. By reading these books in local schools, I also demonstrate that bilingual skills are valuable. Many of these children have never met an author, let alone a bilingual one. For some of them, this single experience may tip the scale of motivation.

When I’m out with my young granddaughter, we speak Spanish. While rarely anyone says anything, gestures and actions speak louder than words. The wide range of responses from people around us spans from sheer delight to harsh judgment. At times, even I become self-conscious enough to switch languages, as if needing to prove that we can speak English, that we are home.

We all can find our own ways to recognize the value of languages to motivate children’s learning. Our help could come in the form of praise for a child’s language proficiency, or a request for help with a translation. And it could be as subtle as becoming aware of our own reactions to people speaking foreign languages. Worldwide there are different social dynamics at play for each foreign language. Some languages may even trigger public distrust, avoidance, or fear. Children may not be able to articulate these reactions, but they certainly notice and internalize them.

Bio Statement:
Delia Berlin was born in Argentina but has spent most of her life in Connecticut. With graduate degrees in both Physics and Family Studies, she worked in early intervention, education, and administration, and taught child development at the college level. She writes bilingual children’s books, as well as essay collections with her husband, artist David Corsini. For more information about Delia Berlin and her books, visit her website at deliaberlin.com.

If you’d like to buy some of Delia’s lovely books click on the links below.

Who is “the other Alice”?

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If you follow our blog regularly you’ll know we love books. My daughter Jasmin was sent “The Other Alice” by Michelle Harrison to review. So this is it.

We enjoy fantasy and magical stories in the genre of Terry Pratchett so we were really pleased to be asked to review this book. Mum read it to her nine year old. She thought it was a “bit scary” so mum read it on her own and will save it for when she is a bit older.

What did we think of “The Other Alice”?

It is a magical tale blurring reality and fiction with many surprises.

A rich and twisting tale of magic riddles and the power of imagination

The same day Alice disappears, her brother Midge thinks he has seen her walking down the street, so starts a story which brings into question what is real and what is imagined. The story feels like it could take place in any small town in the UK, with speckles of magic which appear at the most surprising points.

Alice is a writer. When she goes missing, a talking cat called Tabitha appears in her bedroom. Before long, Midge realises the only way to find out where Alice is is to ask for help from Tabitha,
the talking cat, Gypsy and Piper (who seem to be a lot like the characters from a story Alice had written) Soon Midge realises Alice’s stories contain the clues he needs to find his sister, before time runs out.

This is a very tense, dark, page turning adventure with plenty of twists and turns to keep a reader engaged in the story. It’s a spellbinding story for readers aged 12 plus.

We were sent this book proof (and a beautiful handmade paper cut cat) in exchange for our own honest review.

What did Katy do? Book review

Katy - book review

Katy – book review


We love to read. It’s great for expanding vocabulary and literacy. Jasmin has written another book review, here it is.

Hello my name is Jasmin and I’m 8 years old.I have been asked to write a review of “Katy” by Jacqueline Wilson.

The main characters are Katy, Izzie (Katy’s stepmum), Katy’s dad. One weekend they have a lady called Helen come to visit. Helen is in a wheelchair. They become good friends.

Could you tell us a little bit about the story?

A little bit about the story is that Katy broke her back and she was sad.

Where did the story take place?
The story took place in the town where Kate lives.

What did you think of the book?

The book was sad near the end.
I did not like it when Katy had an accident.
I would make the book better by having a happy ending.

What did you think of the cover?
I thought the cover was pretty because it is embossed and shiny.

Which character would you like to be and why?
I would like to be Katy because she is clever.

How long did it take you to read the book?
It took two nights to read this book.

Note from Mum: I think this book is written for older children (11+) as it needs a certain level of maturity to cope with the difficult themes in the story. Jacqueline Wilson writes at the end of the book, she wrote this book in response to the classic “What Katy Did” This classic book is now on our reading list.

We were sent this book to review by A Big Shot. These are our own views.

If you’d like to read this book you can get it here.

If you wish to read more of Jasmin’s book reviews have a look at these links Would you rent a Bridesmaid?
First book review of a seven year old reading monster. Review of The Person Controller by David Baddiel

Detecting with Dotty

Detecting with Dotty

Detecting with Dotty

Reading is a brilliant way to improve language skills. As a parent I love to encourage my children to read.  This is our Emily’s first ever book review. I’ve interviewed her to keep it simple.

What did you think of the book?
It was interesting. The part where Dotty has to guess the hidden code is very funny. (She was laughing out loud at this point!)

What do you think of the cover?
It was clever as she is called Dotty the detective and there are gold shiny dots. The cover matches her top in the picture.

What was your favourite bit and why?
The part where Dotty tries to guess the hidden code and gets it wrong and when McClusky joins in the singing on the stage.

Who is your favourite character and why?
I like McClusky (the dog), Dotty and Beans. McClusky is my very favourite as he saves the day and is very cute.

How would you persuade your friends to read this book?
I would say, “It’s good because there are some funny bits and some bits you’ll really enjoy”.
I think it is a book for boys and girls because McClusky is a boy and Dotty is a girl.

When I first showed Emily the book she was a bit intimidated by the length of it but, I suggested we could sit together and I would listen to her read a few chapters each evening. This worked really well and she really enjoyed the book.

Have we inspired you to read this book?

Get your copy here.

 

 

We were sent this book to review by  the Big Shot. The opinions given are entirely our own.

What does your family like to read? Let us know in the comments below.

Would you Rent a Bridesmaid ?

Jasmin_rent a BridesmaidIf you follow our blog regularly you’ll know we love to read. Reading is a great way of language acquisition as well as improving literacy and spelling, whatever the language. This week we have a book review by our Jasmin. So over to her…

Hi I’m Jasmin and I’m eight years old.
I have been asked to write a review of “Rent a Bridesmaid” by Jacqueline Wilson.

The main characters are Tilly, Matty (Tilly’s friend) and Tilly’s dad.

In the story Tilly wants to be a bridesmaid, so she puts an advert in Sid’s shop window. She gets three replies asking for her to be a bridesmaid. She is amazed at how many replies she gets.

The part which surprised me was when Tilly’s mum visited because I thought she would never come. This made me feel happy.

The most exciting part of the story was when Tilly got a reply asking for her to be a bridesmaid.

I would change the part when Tilly’s mum didn’t stay to her staying because then Tilly would be able to be a bridesmaid at her mum and dad’s wedding.

If I could write another ending, Tilly would go to lots more weddings and become famous.

Thank you Jasmin.

She read this 360 page book in just two evenings, a good sign she enjoyed it! I was really impressed by the extra activities at the end to design your own bridesmaid dress, finish a quiz about the book, make wedding favours and have fun with a wordsearch. As a mum there were lots of interesting relationships in the book to talk about together, which is great for pre teens.

Disclaimer: We were sent this book to review. The opinions expressed are entirely our own.

If you’d like to buy your own copy you can pick it up here

Do picture books help children learn another language?

This week we are really blessed to guest blog from the lovely Nathalie. We met on twitter and have a shared love for picture books and puppets. So over to Nathalie.Natalie 4

For as far back as I can remember, I have always loved books and been surrounded by them. When my children (now 12 and 15) were born and I decided to bring them up bilingual (English and French) I am convinced books played a major part in their success… thanks to my parents who always bought so many stories for them! I read to Leah and Max in French every day and they learnt naturally, without any lessons, to read French; Max read so much by himself he taught himself to write in French too. However I never actually thought of making it part of my business until I had so many children’s books that I started to wonder what I was going to do with them! Books in English and books for adults I never kept you see; I believe books are only alive if they are being read and shared and it was easy to give them away, but books in French… Well they were too heavy to take back to France and I didn’t know anyone in the UK who would appreciate them! My dream was to open a French library; then my best friend came up with the amazing idea of a mobile library!
Bibliobus

You can check out photos of the bus on my website: http://natta-lingo.gihem.info/
The books I travel around with on my Bibliobook are mostly picture books. Why, might you ask, should anyone want to pay me to go and tell a story to their children in French? If you attend any of Sarah’s classes I am sure you are not asking yourself this question as she is a fan of books (and puppets!) herself. We all accept that stories in their native language are good for our children and they are encouraged to be read to and to read from a very young age. Moreover research shows that sharing stories in a second language (even without being bilingual) helps to develop listening, speaking, reading and writing skills! (more about various research projects here http://natta-lingo.gihem.info/spip.php?article114) More than 2000 booksChildren still love books as real objects; they enjoy sitting on the carpet and listening to a story, even more so if they can act it out with props! This we do on le Bibliobook whilst surrounded by nearly 2000 French books!! It is great fun and we know our children will learn better and be more motivated when they have fun… Not just little ones either!

If you do not have access to authentic books in another language, please check out One Third Stories for virtual stories which start in English and end in another language. That’s another great fun way of learning with stories!
So if you get the chance to, please take your children to storytelling sessions (in any language!) and keep reading to them or with them (in any language you can too!). You and they will never wish you hadn’t done it!
Natalie writes weekly blogs about picture books that are great for language learning.

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.

Song translating fun.

Savez-vous-planter-les-chouxThe songs we use in our classes are a mix of those familiar English nursery rhymes and songs like Incy Wincy spider and traditional songs in the target language to help the families appreciate that culture. We have a few French songs I’d love to use but we’ve not yet got English translations that can be sung to the same tune to help introduce the song. We’re also starting working on our French CD so it all becomes a bit more urgent!

We were sat round the table having Sunday tea and I asked my family for ideas. This is how it went…

The first song was Mernier tu dors

Meunier, tu dors, (mime sleeping)
Ton moulin, va trop vite. (roll arms)
Meunier, tu dors, (mime sleeping)
Ton moulin, va trop fort
Ton moulin, ton moulin (roll arms faster)
Va trop vite
Ton moulin, ton moulin (roll arms backwards)
Va trop fort.
Ton moulin, ton moulin
Va trop vite
Ton moulin, ton moulin
Va trop fort.

My eight year old started and after five minutes we had this translation which can be sung and keeps the feel of the song.

Miller, wake up
The wind it is blowing
Miller, wake up.
The wind it is strong.

Your windmill, your windmill,
It is too fast.
Your windmill, your windmill,
is too strong.
Your windmill, your windmill,
It is too fast.
Your windmill your windmill,
is too strong.

It you don’t know the song here is a live version we recorded last year.

This second song, I’ve wanted to use for ages. It has a fun tune, is silly and is a great way to learn body parts. It must be fairly old as my mum learned it at school!

Savez-vous planter les choux
À la mode, à la mode
Savez-vous planter les choux
À la mode de chez nous

On les plante avec les pieds
À la mode, à la mode
On les plante avec les pieds
À la mode de chez nous

On les plante avec le genou
À la mode, à la mode
On les plante avec le genou
À la mode de chez nous

On les plante avec le nez
À la mode, à la mode
On les plante avec le nez
À la mode de chez nous

On les plante avec le coude
À la mode, à la mode
On les plante avec le coude
À la mode de chez nous

The google translate of this is hilarious !

“Do you plant cabbage
Fashionable, trendy
Do you plant cabbage
The way we do it at home”

After a few minutes we came up with.

Cabbage planting is such fun
Like we do it, like we do it.
Cabbage planting is such fun,
Like we do it, come along.

We can plant it with our feet,
Like we do it, like we do it.
We can plant it with our feet,
Like we do it, come along.

We can plant it with our knee,
Like we do it, like we do it.
We can plant it with our knee,
Like we do it, come along.

We can plant it with our nose,
Like we do it, like we do it.
We can plant it with our nose
Like we do it, come along.

We can plant it with our elbow,
Like we do it, like we do it.
We can plant it with our elbow
Like we do it, come along.

Next term’s French class we’ll be reading “la petit poule rousse” The little red hen. We’ll finally we using this song.

I need to find a cabbage prop! Any ideas where?

Do you use songs in your language learning? Do you have fun translating them. Let me know in the comments below.

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