Changing from Hungarian to English and vica cersa

Just a short post about how to sign that we are using one or the other language. At present I’m trying to use every time to talk in English to E. So for instance, when D. takes the dog out for 20-30 minutes in the morning or in the evening E. and I change into English.

Before I start speaking English I sing the ‘Hello’ song. It is taken from the BBC programme called Something Special. (Jump to 0:20 for the song)

Before we change into Hungarian, I sing the “Goodbye song” from the same programme. (You can find the video below – just jump to 13:20. This is where the “Goodbye song” starts. Otherwise it’s a great episode on birthdays. Worth watching the whole). I also use the MAKATON signs while I sing. E. takes pleasure in it and the songs make it clear when we use one language and the other.

I’m sure there are several other ways to give a signal for changing between the languages. I look forward to your comments on how YOU do it.

Helen Doron Early English – Baby’s Best Start (Booklets and CDs)

Today we have received our package. We were told to wait at least 6-8 weeks for the course material, but it has taken only 2 weeks.

I have just gone through it and I’m quite happy with it. Or I can say more than happy. I found the material nicely designed on quality paper. We got a big Helen Doron (HD) bag, which has 3 pockets:

Baby’s Best Start package
  • one for the CDs (4),
  • one for the Sunny the Cat booklets (4)
  • 4 bigger booklets with the lyrics of the songs, baby sign language, pictures of body parts, animals, flowers, birds etc.

Sunny the Cat series

I’ve read through the whole material and not only does it focus on the language (songs, rhymes, vocabulary, grammar patterns – of course not directly) but also on other fields of developing a baby (movement, senses – feeling, smelling, hearing, sight -, imagination). The baby sign language is more or less the same as the MAKATON signs, luckily. I was a little worried about confusing E. with other signs.

Few things I would change:

  1. the CDs should be in a proper case or two
  2. the paper of the Sunny booklets are quite strong, though they could be board books (I’m sure I won’t give them into E.’s hands, she’d fold or tear the pages – I’m not planning to buy the whole material again for our next child)
  3. if we are given a bag it should be little more useful (bigger pockets, suitable for being carried by the mom, not only the child, which is actually impossible at this age anyway)

    Singing and signing

    I promised a post on singing nursery rhymes together with MAKATON signing. So here it is.

    The MAKATON signs can be used while you sing the traditional nursery rhymes as the Signing Hands do. These two ladies sign while singing. Have a look at this song, which is the well-known ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’ with signs.

    Easy to learn, right? Their songs, which are available on the net, give us the opportunity to learn more signs.

    Some more common songs with MAKATON signs:
    The Wheels On The Bus
    Row row row your boat
    Old MacDonald Had a Farm
    We wish you a merry Christmas Little Peter Rabbit
    Something Special, the BBC series, also includes some songs like the Rainbow Song. On the link you can find Mr Tumble singing and signing it.

    After you have learnt a lot of signs, you can use them with other songs or rhymes.
    Within 1-2 months you can learn 50-70 signs without an effort. Of course, it doesn’t mean you HAVE TO use all of them. You’ll see what the two (three) of you really need.

    How we did it when E. was 6-8 months old:

    When she couldn’t sit properly, but could only crawl, she got tired easily and became grouchy. This was the time when I made her lie on her back looking at me. Then I sang the songs and a signed along. She smiled and even laughed out loudly. She could enjoy it even for 15-20 minutes. This was enough for her to be refreshed and we could play again, or have her food etc.

    Now, when she’s 11 months old it’s changed a little:

    E. can stand and cruise (tiptoe along some furniture) so it’s very difficult to keep her in one place. I don’t bother to make her lie down any more. When we play and she sits for a while I sing two or three songs followed with the signs. No more because she moves on quickly and doesn’t really care any longer. But she is screaming and/or flapping her hands with joy during the songs. We do the short singing/signing sessions twice or three times a day.

    (Have you noticed how easy to misspell or misread the two words singing and signing? 🙂

    MAKATON – sign language

    M., who I met on the facebook, in connection with MEC, advised me to have a look at the MAKATON signs that she uses with her daughter to connect the two languages. No matter which language you use, use the same sign for the same thing, so the child can learn to connect the meaning. You can find out your own signs as well, or do a signing course in Hungarian. I don’t want to recommend any courses as we didn’t take them. Just google it: baby sign language course Budapest.

    Here are some examples, signs we use on a daily basis:

    Though we sign the horse in a different way:
    You can find more signs here.

    You can also learn from a special BBC programme for kids with special needs. The programme itself is called Something Special.
    Each programme sees Justin and Mr Tumble (played by Justin) out and about applying signing in a variety of places. Topics covered include babies, pets, toys, weather, clothes, shops, food, all about me, where I live and colours. Mr Tumble always dresses up, wearing brightly-coloured clothes and even big shoes! He moves around clumsily and has lots of fun.

    The language used throughout each programme is supported by Makaton signs and symbols and is designed to be understood by children in the early stages of language development. (source: BBC – Something Special )
    Full episodes are 15-20 minutes long. What I did with this programme is that I watched them one by one on youtube and made a playlist of what I needed (20-25 videos). I learnt the signs (they are very straight forward and easy to learn) and started using them both in English and in Hungarian (same sign for the same thing). E. was 6-7 months old when I introduced signing to her. (4-5 signs at a time. When she was familiar with these I introduced new ones.) Sometimes I picked a short part of an episode (max. 5-6 minutes long) and we watched it together. This could have begun earlier as well. But never cry over split milk.

    Here is the first video I saw and really was fascinated by it:

    I don’t do the signing all the time only if E. is not paying attention or I really want to link a new expression in both languages. Most of the time signing draws her attention. In the next post I’ll write about some songs which can be followed with signing. It’s a hit with kids. They love it! You’ll love it too.

    Finding more inspiration – MEC

    When E. became 6 months old, I was on the net all the time when she was sleeping to find more inspiration on raising a child bilingual here in Hungary. I wanted to find other moms who were in the same shoes as me. And I found one on facebook: M. organised  the so-called Mums’ English Club (MEC) in her district in Budapest. It was totally free of charge. M. raises her daughter bilingual, too. MEC is and hour/hour and a half get-together where moms and their babies come together. Moms chat while the kids are playing. Baby rhymes and songs in English could be included but it’s not a must. The main point of the club is to create an English environment for the children, where they can hear that English is another, natural way of communicating with one another.

    I was over the moon to find M. who is working on the same, creating as many opportunities for her daughter to be in an English-speaking environment. We corresponded a lot, she supported me, and helped me in numerous ways:

    1. M. inspired me to organise a MEC in my district
    2. She introduced me to MAKATON sign language as a possible link between Hungarian and English (I’ll write about it in details in another post)
    3. M. recommended many books for babies – self-made, translated, or originals (see a later post)
    4. She encouraged me not to give up, or shilly-shally when facing difficulties or disappointment

    Thanks you, M.

    You can find this group of Hungarian and non-Hungarian moms here on facebook. And this community is growing, you can find some groups in the country-side, too. It might happen that one day it’ll be a Hungary-wide project.

    After all, I made a poster and advertised our MEC in the library nearby, and on the net.

    Soon the first MEC took place 22 January 2012. It was an hour long and only one mom and her 11-month-old baby came. Still, it was such a victory. Something I managed to make up in order to get closer to my aim.


    Later on, within a month, 2 other moms contacted me and by the end of February we were four moms and four kids chatting and playing and having fun in English. Now we meet on a weekly basis, if holidays, sickness do not chime in. If the above ad has drawn your attention and you feel like joining us, do not hesitate to contact me.

    Unfortunately, two of the moms are going to take their children to nursery as they’re going back to work, so I need to put out some more posters in the area again to find new moms, new playmates.