FAQ

In the last couple of weeks I have bumped into a lot of mums who asked me similar questions about raising our daughter bilingual in a totally monolingual environment. So I collected a bunch of questions and my answers to them with some links from earlier blog posts:

  1. Do you speak to her English only?

No, I don’t. I can’t do that. My mother tongue is my mother tongue, no matter how high my level of English is. (High level of language command is relative. I always feel my English is deteriorating.)

I assigned certain times to speak English. When E. was a baby we had a timetable which meant that we used a little bit more English than Hungarian as she spent loads of time with me. Then we needed to change our schedule, still we had 50-50 % balanced language usage. (When she was around 2). Nowadays, (she’s almost 3) we are in trouble with the balance between the two languages as we do not spend so much time together therefore there is less English in her life. BUT! Her English basis is so strong that she asks for changing languages when she feels she misses one of them (it’s usually English)

Even today, whenever there are just the two of us she says: – Uh-uh, Mommy. We need to change into English. We are just two.
or
– I’ve already changed into English, because there is only Mommy and I.

 

  • When do you speak English to her and when Hungarian?

    There are many methods you can follow. What I use is a special one: I call it the timetable method. By now we don’t have a timetable any more. Whenever we can, we speak English, as the Hungarian input of the environment is too influencing.

  • When did you start talking to her in English?

    When we took her home from the hospital. At first, I was just singing songs and chanting rhymes to her in English. I wasn’t sure about what I was doing and it felt strange. Then I got some inspirations after having read some books and contacted some other moms in the same shoes. From the age of 6 months I’ve been talking to her in English just like in Hungarian.

  • Wasn’t she late with speech development?

    Not at all, although it would have been perfectly normal. She was about 1 year old when she could say 6-8 English words (and Hungarian ones too). Actually, her first word (bib) was in English. Of course, these words were fuzzy and not distinct for the untrained ears. But by the time she turned 18 months these words had become clear and a LOT more had been added to them. Not to mention, she started to build up 2-3 word sentences at that time too.

    I have to admit that the period between the age of 12 and 18 months was filled with more English sessions than Hungarian.

  • Doesn’t she mix the languages?

    She does! At first she didn’t, however, nowadays more and more. I’m not worried about it… okay… I am a little bit concerned, but I know if we keep up the balance between the languages she’ll have all the language tools in both languages to express herself. Most of the time she mixes Hungarian into her English because she doesn’t know a word or she can’t express something due to lacking a structure.

    Though it happens the other way round, too. She makes her grandparents puzzled when she asks for some stories with the telescope in it (mind you, pronounced it with a perfect British accent) or when she says she wants to play on the see-saw at the playground. Sometimes she names some bugs (bumblebees, wasps, ants) or plants (pansies, daffodils, shepherd’s-purse etc) she sees in the park in English. They can sort out this teeny-weeny language problem… for the time being.

  • What do you do when she mixes the languages?

    I keep on talking in the given language. I don’t change. And I do NOT advise you to let your child take the lead (although it is also an option.) I go on talking, let’s say, in English when she says some Hungarian words or sentences here and there. If I know she could say it in English I ask back: – What did you say? or – What’s that in English?

    If I am aware of the fact that she can’t express herself, I simply repeat in English what she said in Hungarian. Some sources suggest not to make your child repeat a word or sentence, yet sometimes I ask her to repeat just to reinforce we use English and help her fix a structure she cannot use (at all, or properly). Nonetheless, I’m not forcing it. Normally, she repeats expressions after me by herself. If she doesn’t want to, we move on.

    Also, you can pretend you do not understand what your child says, but in our case (we do not follow the One Parent One Language -OPOL-strategy; she can hear me talk both Hungarian and English) it wouldn’t work as my daughter knows that I understand and speak both. The other problem with this could be that your child can get frustrated if he or she can’t put an idea or a wish across.

  • What English activities/programmes can you take part in?

    We used to have a native British nanny for almost 2 years. I’m really grateful for her as she meant that I could have some free time (cooking, washing, ironing, shopping, cleaning etc.) while I knew English was still in focus in my daughter’s life. Now we are looking for a new nanny. If you happen to know someone in Budapest who would be interested I would appreciate it.

    I’ve organised a Mums’ English Club (MEC) in the library nearby, where mums gather with their little ones and chat in English while the kids play away. At the end of our sessions we sing some English songs for the kids. An afternoon session of MEC is badly needed but I haven’t had time to find a place where we could go free of charge.

    We’ve been taking part in the well-known Helen Doron School’s programme since E. was 10 months old. We are planning to leave it, but I’ll write about that in a later post.

    For almost a year we took part in a swimming course which was instructed both in English and Hungarian. We met there some non-Hungarian families who communicated mainly in English, so E. could hear during the swimming sessions that English is not just Mommy’s crazy language.

    We also visited Rhyme Time sessions (singing and playing in English) for a few times, but we do not go regularly.

  • Does Daddy speak English to her?

    He does. Daddy speaks a lot of languages, it’s no problem for him at all. What’s more, practising English regularly helps him improve his spoken skills as well. I suppose he also enjoys our English session;

    Again, at the beginning we did it differently. When Daddy arrived home from work we changed into Hungarian, but the whole day was in English. Nowadays, as I’m starting to work, E. is spending more time with the grandparents or she is in the nursery (not to mention that our native nanny, A. has left) we have been trying to fit in as many English sessions as we can.

    We have plenty of dinners, weekend programmes, playground visits, craft activities and bath times in English with Daddy. I’m very lucky, because my husband is very supportive concerning our bilingual project.

  • Can she say sentences?

    Haha. This has been the funniest question so far I’ve received. Sure she can. 🙂 Sometimes very complicated ones. I was really amazed when she said a passive sentence in the playground (– Look, Mommy, the other swing is taken) or when she talks to her soft toy using present perfect (– What have I told you?). One day she was replaying a Berry and Dolly episode (Gingerbread) that we watch in English.

    The following left her mouth: – I’m making gingerbread with the cookie cutter and then I’ll put it out in the winter (sic) to cold (sic). Magpie, (that is me) come and take it away.
    Later in the story: – Don’t take away that belongs to somebody else.

    Here is the episode.

    Not only her sentences but her vocabulary is also outstanding. I’m often surprised at how eloquent words she knows. The other day she called a pan saucepan. I don’t think I have ever used this word with herOr she can name different kinds of onions: leek, garlic, spring onion as well as varied expressions for the eating process: munch, chew, stuff your face, digest, feed, bite

     

  • How do you “teach” her (sic)?

    This is exactly how this question is asked most of the time.

    And the answer is : I do not teach her.

    What I do is to play with her in English just like in Hungarian. We do the daily routines in both languages. I try to prepare everyday and special activities for her which give us a chance to meet a lot of new situations:

    – experimenting,
    – prepping for holidays of the English-speaking world,
    – doing fun craft activities,
    cooking and baking
    doing housework together
    exploring nature
    reading books and singing a lot as well as watching videos

    These are just a few examples. In short, we LIVE our lives in 2 languages.

    +1. How shall WE start?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started” – Mark Twain

So just start it.

If you want to get some ideas read through the blog… HAHA. Believe me, it’ll be much easier to find your own ways. But you can get some ideas here. (Feel free to search for keywords if you’re looking for something exact)

Start with some songs that you sing to your child while changing nappies or waking him/her up.

Search some videos online around a topic (cars, shapes, animals, numbers, planets etc.) that your child is interested in and watch them together. You can also explain what you see in the videos.

Learn some rhymes/songs with sign language and play with your munchkin.

Flashcards are almost always fascinating for children, but rather time-consuming to prepare your own home-made ones. On the other hand, our own flashcards are much more attractive to my daughter. You can find really good flashcards online, which you only need to print (and perhaps laminate).
If you don’t mind spending some money, you can buy some beautiful ones.

And I haven’t mentioned the endless opportunities that books offer to speak and practise a foreign language.

Again, these are some very basic ideas to start with your little one from an early age.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me either in the comments or via email. You can come and visit  my facebook page as well.

Enjoy!

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We do NOT celebrate Valentine’s Day anyway

February has arrived and Valentine’s Day is only 2 daysaway. In Hungary people didn’t celebrate it for a long time but nowadays it has become very popular. The only reason we deal with it at all is that E. can see a lot of shop windows where Valentine’s Day decorations are diplayed and she is asking questions.

I’ve found some fun and useful activities online which have the symbols of this special occasion (hearts, roses, candies etc.) but the main focus is on something more educational.

In the last couple of days we’ve been working on these:

Valentine Patterns (from mrspspecialities.blogspot.com)

I downloaded the Valentine Patterns (freebie) and we cut them out together. This was the first time E. had been cutting properly, holding the scissors in the right way and actually cutting. What a breakthrough! I drew a smiley on her right hand thumb and she kept telling herself:


– Smiley up and I can cut.

Then we sat down to finish the patterns.

Cracked heart and broken heart

 She had no problems with the ABABAB patterns

Sweets or poops?

 ABBABBABB was a little more difficult

Little and big hearts

 ABCABC patters were challenging

But she got the hang of it by the end

Zig-zag, stripy and spotty hearts

Number heart match (numbers)

I’m getting more and more fascinated by a blog I’ve found recently. At Welcome to Mommyhood you can read about healthy foods, recipes for kids and toddler activities like the Valentine’s Day number matching. This activity is more about numbers than about Valentine’s Day.

I downloaded the printable, laminated and cut the hearts out. E. liked it a lot, though she missed the zero.

I gave her all the numbers from 1 to 20 as she is an “expert” at numbers, but if you are just getting to know the numbers, first give your child the numbers from 1-9 and later the bigger numbers. 19 and 20 were on a separate sheet, but we solved this problem easily. We just put them next to 18 🙂

Look at her face 🙂

Heart colour gradients (from Welcome to Mommyhood)

E. knows her colours well but I haven’t done an activity like this before. I found the heart colour gradient printable (free!) at Welcome to Mommyhood and I thought we’ll give it a try. As this was the first time we’d done it I gave her only 3 shades then 4, but not all the six.

We also played a memory game. We turned up 2 cards at a time and we needed to name which one is dark or light (I used the darkest and the lightest colours.)

We really need to practise it more. It was a hard task, though she enjoyed it. (No photos of the memory game… sorry)

My Funny Valentine (art)

Super Simple Learning offers you a free printable Valentine’s Day craft. You can make your own funny Valentine out of eyes, noses and mouths. A great number of other Valentine’s Day activities are available there, like colouring, action songs, connect the dots activities etc.

I picked My Funny Valentine as we could talk about body parts and colours, and we could use the glue for sticking. E. loves them all.

Here is the activity step by step:

1. Paint/colour the hearts (so they’ll dry until you get to the sticking part)

2. Colour the body parts

3. Mommy (or bigger kids themselves) can cut out the body parts

4. Use glue to stick the body parts on you heart(s)

5. Display it somewhere you and your child can rejoice at the final result

Extras: You can draw ears or hats/tiaras/crowns or add some presents in the other hand. You can also add a speech bubble and write in what your message is for your loved one.We didn’t do any of them as the activity was long enough for E. and she wanted to stick them on the door as soon as she finished with her hearts.

Button heart (art)

We are in the gluing phase. No matter what we glue it’s fun. So I drew 3 hearts on a sheet of paper and put some colourful buttons (that I found in my treasure box) in a bowl, plus the glue and a fun could start.

As we were doing some patterns I started the big heart with blue and white buttons and E. finished it.

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough buttons of the same colours so we needed to change the patter in the case of the smaller hearts.

E. had no patience to make more hearts so we stopped the activity. But the next day she asked me to do something with the other 3 hearts. I just threw some confetti, beads and leftover craft stuff in a bowl and give it to her to stick. I had 10-12 minutes of freedom.

Although we signed Valentine’s Day in our calendar we won’t celebrate it (no presents, no flowers, no chocolate etc.). It’s not our holiday…

Anyways, happy Valentine’s Day!

Before – after: Our new calendar and weather station

I’ve already written a post about how I made our weather board which also includes some emotions too. I’ve made some changes to it and added some more details.

I wanted to include days, months and seasons as well. So I repainted the board (the old tray) like 6 times as the paint didn’t want to cover the black letters I’d written on it earlier. More or less I managed with the painting and on the top, I wrote DAY, MONTH and SEASON. I also made laminated cards. The days are hand-written both in English and in Hungarian, the months are printed but I decorated every month according to what’s typical in that month. I found 4 pictures depicting the four seasons. I printed some more varied weather pictures you can find on the link. In this way, the many sources and styles make it more eclectic and more eye-caching than one kind of template (although you can find several of them online – see links later). Of course, I laminated them all and also added sticky magnets on the back.

The weather display is in the middle and at the bottom of the board you can find the feelings.

On the side of our book case next to the weather board, I printed a monthly calendar where every day we can leave a dot with our much loved dot markers.

Before:

After:

As you can see our day turned bad (have a look at the feelings section -silly and sad… it was true for both of us… so sorry for the poor quality of the photos.
started as a fun day

making a mark
I don’t think I’ll change this calendar and weather station in the near future but here I collected some links of how others do it. There are some real professional ones among them:
Our classroom calendar – from Counting Coconuts
Alas, we do not have such a great wall to use.
Calendar Activities (Photo from Discovery Days and Montessori Moments)
Our calendar routine – from My Montessori Journey
100_2683

I really liked this one, but unfortunately the whole thing is on an A/4 sheet which would be too small for us. The design is beautiful.

Weather chart – by Rowdy in Room 300
Easy to use, colourful but it’s only weather
My weather station – by boys GERMS
It’s a showpieces, I love it! Though not for my little one. She would destroy it within seconds.
Wow!
The links above contain quite a lot of free printable materials.

Our calendar and weather display is rather modest compared to the others I linked in but it serves great fun and supports our bilingual learning process.

Pizza time

E. is quite excited every time she can spend some time in the kitchen with me. For me it’s rather a challenge and I need to be extra relaxed,  plus in a good mood to shoulder all the mess and fuss around it.

Whenever I pull myself together and dare to enter the kitchen with a 2,5 year old hurricane to do some cooking or baking projects, it’s always fun and the result is fantastic, though.

Cooking and baking together together with your child/children always gives you a great chance to learn and practice new things. Not only kitchen activities like whisking, stiring and pouring but also your second language.

This is what we did a few months ago when E. made her first pizza.

Today I wasn’t prepared for the kitchen mess so I only entered into the spirit of painting.

While doing it we practiced a lot of food names:

salami
fish
tomato slices
corn
olives
pineapple
mushroom
pizza dough
salt (shake)

As well as colours and how to get certain colours by mixing two:

red + blue = purple
yellow + red = orange
red + green = brown

The kitchen stayed clutter- and mess-free and we were all happy.

More fun with the ABC

E. has an unquenchable thirst for the letters and the alphabet. Here are 2 more activities we’ve done recently.  

1. Giant alphabet puzzle
2. Salt dough letters

– ABC giant puzzle

I was lucky enough to get hold of this giant alphabet puzzle in a secondhand toy shop. No piece is missing. There are one or two pieces that are a little stained but otherwise it is in great condition.

When E. is putting the puzzle pieces together she is singing the ABC song or we need to listen to it. (A money-saving trick: you do not need to buy a lot of English music CDs. Just turn the youtube videos into mp3 music files with a converter)

While we are putting the puzzle together we name the pictures like A is for apple (like in the picture) and add some more words starting with that letter: ant or angel or antler. (I usually come up with words that she knows but if not we always have paper and pencils around to draw the unknown thing, or if we have it at home we go and have a look at it)

We have some foam letters which are the same size as the capital letters written on our giant puzzle. In the picture below E. is placing the foam letters on the puzzle. It was her own idea.

I use this alphabet puzzle even with adult students; it helps a lot with spelling and pronunciation.

– Salt dough letters

When E. turned 2 and a half last November we made her the very first home-made salt dough (1 cup of salt, 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of boiling hot water). And it was a hit.

I found this  cheap set of ABC cookie cutters in a One-Dollar shop. It has just one problem: letter S is the other way round.

spooning the ingredients

Not only was she learning/pracising words like kneading, rolling pin, mix and stir, add, measure but also strengthened her arms and hand muscles.

my little helper
First, the letters need to be in the right order of the alphabet

Cutting
E. helped to put the letters on a baking paper that I’d place on a tray and we put them all in the oven to dry (at 50 °C).

Next day the painting started:

We used one colour at a time, but when we did this project this year colour mixing kicked in to make new colours like purple, brown or orange.
Ever since we have been playing with the letter as they are lying on E.’s shelf in the living room.