Tag Archives: second language learning

First book review of a seven year old reading monster

This week’s blog is a bit different. It’s a Review of Terry Pratchett’s “Dragons at Crumbling Castle”. Reading is key to language development, whichever language you are learning. We have a guest blog from my husband and awesome linguist Maik, and we finish with Jasmin’s first book review.

Terry Pratchett’s novels have been around for over four decades, which is why I have to confess with a certain amount of shame, that we only discovered the joys of Terry Pratchett’s fine literary skills in the last decade or so. Even his magnum opus, the Discworld series of forty novels, has been around for over thirty years, so we’re certainly what you might call late starters.

The first time our family came across this particular book was at a book fair, which was held at our daughter Jasmin’s school.

Dragons at Crumbling Castle

Dragons at Crumbling Castle

Of course many of the late Mr. Pratchett’s books were aimed at adult readers, but there are also several for children or “Young Adults” (the posh name for teens I guess). Within Discworld, there are the four (soon to be five) Tiffany Aching novels as well as the “Amazing Maurice”, all of which we thoroughly enjoyed. Outside of Discworld, we have recent publications such as “Dodger” and “Nation” alongside older entries from the early 90s (the Johnny Maxwell trilogy and the late 80s (the Bromeliad trilogy).

“Dragons at Crumbling Castle” is a time machine which takes you back even further than that, the mid-sixties in fact, when young Terry was still a junior reporter for our local paper: The Bucks Free Press. This was when he started writing stories for the paper’s young readers, and those are the stories compiled in “Dragons at Crumbling Castle”. Well, a selection of them in any case, which the older Terry admits he tinkered with a little “because the younger me wasn’t as clever back then”.

Still, for a young reader, like the self-confessed reading-monster which is my daughter Jasmin, there is plenty of fun involving dragons, wizards, monsters, magic spells and a very adventurous tortoise. For the grown-up Pratchett fans, it’s a great look into the mind of the young Terry, with plenty of his inimitable humour and of course the seed of what later developed into his first ever novel: “The Carpet People”. Accompanying the stories are plenty of illustrations which are slightly reminiscent of those found in the works of another local author … Roald Dahl. And like Dahl, Pratchett – both at 17 and at 66 – knows how to tell a good children’s story without being childish, taking the plot in unexpected directions, playing with language and throwing in a good dose of humour along the way.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what my seven year old Jasmin thought of “Dragons at Crumbling Castle”:

Book review of Terry Prachett’s “Dragons” by Jasmin Barrett age 7 and three quarters.

What did you think of the book?

It is good and funny.

What did you think of the cover?

It looked funny because there was a dragon in the bath.

What was your favourite story and why?

I liked the two stories about the carpet people best because they went exploring.


Who was your favourite character and why?

I like Glurk because he is a hunter.

How long did it take you to read the book?

It took a whole evening. (Dad’s comment: not bad for 340 pages at age 7!)

How would you persuade your friends to read this book?

I would say the carpet people is a good book.

Thank you Jasmin! You obviously enjoyed the “Dragons” as you’re already halfway through the “Carpet People” novel a couple of days after finishing this one. There’s plenty more where this came from, thankfully we have a well-stocked Pratchett shelf.

So to all you grown-up Pratchett fans out there, there’s probably no better way to get your younglings into all things Terry than the “Dragons”.

If you want your own copy head to Dragons at Crumbling Castle Another we like is Truckers

We were sent this book to review by the publishers but we were already Pratchett fans prior to that!

Children are NOT confused by early second language learning

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

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

Il fait comment le caméléon?

Il fait comment le caméléon?

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

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

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

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

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