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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Autumn leaves are falling down

My favourite season has arrived and it seems E. is enjoying it a lot, too. On the way home from the nursery we always collect some things (leaves, berries, conkers, bark pieces, stones etc.) to play or to do some craft projects with.

I put some contact paper on the window (sticky side out) and on a tray I prepared all the leaves we’d collected. And the sticking started.

Daddy assisted the little artist.

Art critic: Doggie. He sniffed the leaves then moved away.

Final art piece: Autumn leaves are falling down (and some petals)

Another project of ours with the autumn leaves was making a hedgehog. I saw this ideas here.
I drew three hedgehogs (as this was also a family project) and we glued the leaves on their backs.

Serious gluing in process

Final pieces of art

Another leaf craft we’ve made:
(they are not with real leaves but crepe paper)

More gluing and more sticking

 End result 🙂

More autumn crafts are on their way. Stay tuned!

Our new timeable for 2014

New year – new timetable. First I though we have been spending less time with English in 2014, but I was mistaken. We are spending more time with the second language than according to the previous year’s timetable.

Here is the new chart:

49 % English time, 51 % Hungarian time 

Of course we are flexible, this is just the plan. An illness, some unexpected visitors or a change in our helpers’ schedule can alter the timetable but this is more or less the main framework.

You can see two areas in the timetable (Friday late afternoons, and dinner-/bath time) which are neither clearly dedicated to English nor Hungarian, or, I can put it, they are the most uncertain periods of the week. The reason for this is D. has been working a lot and because of his long hours we never know if he is at home at these times or not. So when he can’t make it we use English. This is how we compensate for missing daddy.

Our native nanny, A., comes twice a week, a total of 6 hours per week.

A. and E. are reading Berry and Dolly

The timing of the Helen Doron sessions has been moved from the mornings to the afternoons and on a different day (Wednesday) but we still have one occasion per week. To be honest, we are not listening to the CDs as often as we used to. It is mainly because E. is a little bored of them (me too…) and she knows them all by heart, so what for? Still, she enjoys the lessons, especially painting (I’ll write more about it in another post) and moving water from a teapot or a dish to a cup. Playing with scrunchy balls -crumpled newspaper sheets with cello-tape around them- and pots are also among her favourite activities. We sometimes play with them here at home as well.

Fascinated by the baby paint

Even if it is a Grandma day (using Hungarian) at the end of the day I always try to fit in some English playtime, cooking time, shopping time or playground visit etc.

whisking egg yolk

The weekends are the trickiest. As I really want father and daughter to build a strong and warm relationship we (the three of us together or just the two of them) have quite a great number of programmes  in Hungarian environments. I find this more important than the language development.

Daddy time

However, at weekends I always try to spend some hours with English. These are not long, and not so interactive or highly communicative activities, like watching videos in English, or reading a story in English.

I’m looking into our bilingual future with confidence and great hope. 2014 will be even more successful than 2013 was.

Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite

Our days are finished with E.’s evening routine:

  1. watching a little bit of videos
  2. taking a bath
  3. putting on the jammies
  4. drinking milk + reading out a fairy tale (or two)
  5. talking to the angels
  6. falling asleep

 

Most of the evening routine is done in Hungarian. This is Daddy’s favourite time spent with E. that I would not like to take away from them. On the other hand I don’t want E. to miss the English vocabulary of the evening routine. Not to mention the fact that reading bedtime stories only in Hungarian is a heartbreak for me. So every now and then (like 2-3 times a week) I try to convince my husband to turn into English. And it works brilliantly.

Let’s see the programme step by step (the ideal version):

18:45 – watching videos: D. sits down in front of the computer to watch some English videos with E: (the usual collection of E.’s youtube videos, or this idiotic Meow, Meow song in the Tamil language:

Don’t ask me why they watch it. One guess is E. LOVES it, the other is this is the way my husband rebels against the English evening routine – just kidding 😉

In the meantime I do some things around the house, preparation for the feeding, E.’s room, jammies etc.

If I happen to sit down in front of the computer with E., I prefer to watch a Peppa pig episode or The Going To Bed Book by Sandra Boynton or one of E.’s favourite song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with the owl:


19:00 – taking the bath:
E. sits in the bath and the sea creatures are jumping in one by one – the crocodile, the starfish, the octopus, the whale, the turtle, and then an extra duck, some measuring spoons of different colours, sometimes a filter and more bottle caps. So she can hardly move in the water.

We usually name the animals, sometimes we attack her with the animals, and spay her with water, of course, while we comment the happenings in English. But mostly we follow what she wants to do.

Sometime she asks for her plastic book – one is a biblical story of the lost lamb, the other is Vizipók and his friends. I tell her the Lost Lamb story in English, we talk about the pictures, and at the end I ask her to show me the shepherd, the lamb or other things in the pictures. But I’m in trouble with Vizipók as I don’t know the names in English or they sound really silly (Ormányosbogár = Snout Beetle, Keresztespók= Garden Spider) so I rather hide this booklet when we have a bath in English.

Another favourite is Mommy Duck and her ducklings. Mommy Duck can carry 3 little ducklings on her back. When we play with the ducks Mommy Duck is swimming around E. and when the ducks are behind her one of the ducklings is taken off Mommy Duck’s back (by D.). In the meantime we sing 5 Little Ducks (well, three in this version). E. is so cute as she is trying to turn back to see how the ducklings disappear, but usually she is not quick enough.

Another activity is toothbrushing. E. asks for her toothbrush, then she brushes the crocodiles teeth while we are singing This is the way we brush our teeth. She also wishes to brush Daddy’s teeth or mine. Every now and then she brushes her own teeth as well. If she is not in the mood, I do it for her, which she doesn’t really like.

When we are finished in the bath we say good bye to the toys. E. hands me the toys one by one and we say good night to them. If I tell her to look behind because there is one more toy, she understands it perfectly and turns around the grab the object. While we are putting the toys away she is waving good-bye.

19:30 – getting dressed into pyjamas:

We usually play the changing table games I have already posted about. D. puts on E.’s jammies and sleeping bag. He usually sings some songs. I prepare her milk. E. turns off her light, only a bedside lamp is on. Then E. and I sit down in the rocking chair to drink her milk, and D. reads a story or two. If we read in English at the moment we are reading the book: How Mama Brought the Spring by Fran Manushkin. It’s for kids around the age of 5, but E. adores the pictures in the book. Before E. finishes her milk, D. says good night to her and leaves the room. Then we turn off the light and talks to the angels. I say thank you for the nice day and recall the lovely happenings of our day. E. often repeats the words she can also say like, baby, happy, her name or grandparents’ name, Daddy, Mommy etc. SO actually she thanks for everything that happens to her. Then I put her down into her bed (she says ‘bed’) and I give her dummy (she says ‘dummy’) and I give her a textile nappy and her doggy she always sleeps with. I kiss her goodnight and leave the room. Most of the time she falls asleep within 5-10 minutes. Sometimes she chats to herself a little. If it’s an English evening she talks to herself in English.

So here are some expressions how to say good night:

  • Sleep well
  • Sweet dreams
  • Nighty-night
  • Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite (you can find the origin of this phrase here – quite interesting, worth reading the theories. The one I like the most is the rope idea.)

Have a good night!

Potty training

Potty training gives us another chance to widen our vocabulary and we can make it fun (in English) for E. to sit on it.
Potty place

For her 1st birthday E. got a potty from I. Granny. I thought it was a little early to start, but as soon as she got hold of the potty, she sat on it swaying her legs with a wide smile on her face. So this was a sign she is open to sit on it at least. I assigned an area for the potty and made it into a fun place as you can see below.




I was lucky as after a few goes she peed and after a week she also pooped into the potty. But it takes time to sit and wait for the outcome, so while she is sitting on the potty I’m next to her and entertain her both in English and Hungarian, depending on which day or which time period we are in.
These toys and books can be played with when E. is sitting on the potty, so when she goes there to play, I put her on the potty. Then comes the potty song. The tune is the same as Twinkle, twinkle little star and the lyrics:

Tinkle, tinkle little tot,
Now you sit
upon the pot
Any second you will see
Sprinkle, splash as you go pee
Tinkle, tinkle little tot,
Now you sit upon the pot
(I found it on baba-angol.hu, but I couldn’t link it properly for some reasons)

While E. is sitting on the potty we are looking at the books. Sometimes she points at a picture and I say the name, but nowadays if I ask: “Where’s the teddy?” or “What’s this?” She can point or tell me the thing I’m pointing at.

The following words she can say from the books:

 
English:                                       
apple
pear
nana (banana)
tick-tock (clock)
teddy (plus showing the sign)
ant
baby
ye (yellow)
blue
teeth
head
bread
red
ack (black)
book (plus showing the sign)
duck
neigh (horse)
mun (monkey)
bib
tree
meow (cat)
coocoo (pigeon)
baa-baa (sheep)
dod (dog)
eat (plus showing the sign)
 
Hungarian:
eper

inni

még (shows her self-created sign)
ebből (picking which bottle she wants to drink from)
dinnye
apa
anya (said first on Father’s Day – ironically)
Mana (our dog)
éni (én is – me too)
i-á (for the donkey)
légy (fly- her favourite animal)
hinta (and she starts swinging)
kicsi (said only once)
pá-pá (waving goodbye when we finish with the book)
bé (béka – frog)
She can point at several other pictures if I say their names. What we often play is that she chooses two or three pictures and she points at them one after the other and I say their names (or if it’s an animal I give the sound they make). She enjoys it a lot and points at the different pics faster and faster, then laughs out loud.
 
Other activities:
 
When we have finished with the books, we can look at flash cards (I change the flash cards – 5 at a time – every third or fourth day). We have a lot of animal cards, as E. is crazy about them, but I also made some fruit, vegetable and flower cards too. I’m in the process of making body parts, musical instruments and colour cards since she is starting to be more and more interested in them.

Another great activity she loves playing is counting the clothes pegs. Actually, I saw the Helen Doron teacher using pegs during the lessons and E. liked it a lot. So I put five pegs of different colours in a plastic cup and we count them or I name the colours then E. repeats them. The same goes with the plastic bottle caps – in the name of recycling. Yellow is her favourite colour. It’s hard to take it away from her when we have finished. When D. is playing with E. on the potty, he shakes all the five caps in his big hands, then spread them on his palms and E. has to point at the colour D. is saying. It’s also quite enjoyable.
 
Potty toys
As you can see in the picture above, we have some musical instruments and a toy mobile phone, a FisherPrice Frog  which sings English songs if you push the flashing shape on his tummy and a peek-a-boo doggy. (The mobile and the frog are from a secondhand shop for half the price of the original) Well, I won’t go into details in connection with them. Use your imagination. 🙂
 
You can put ANYTHING next to the potty to play with. These are just a few ideas. Our only rule is that she can play with these things when she is sitting on the potty (both in English and Hungarian). But, to be perfectly honest, she sits there happily even for 10-15 minutes if she is in the mood to play with these potty toys. Sometimes I can hardly make her leave the place.
 
And a little extra: I believe in rewards. So if we find something in the potty after getting up, E. gets a sticker (you can see the plastic box in the top right corner with a lot of stickers on). In fact, she gets one sticker for pee-pee and two for poopy. Now she can (or at least tries to) stick them on by herself.
 
The box is almost full of stickers 😀 I need to make another one from a 5-litre plastic bottle.