Our new schedule from September 2017

As we are lucky enough to have a new native nanny, N., from Brighton, we have a new schedule for, hopefully, a year.

Monday

Mostly a Hungarian day with some English in the evenings (bath-time, dinner time, bed-time story)

Tuesday

Mainly an English day.
Helen Doron session for Little L. in the morning, English daily routines and playtime in the afternoon
N, our nanny comes to play with E. for 90 mins in the afternoon

Wednesday

Mainly an English day.
Our native nanny comes to L. to play with her in English for an hour in the morning. English daily routines and playtime in the afternoon.
E. has got her Helen Doron lesson in the afternoon. At the beginning of October they start writing too.

Thursday

English day for Little L. For a while our nanny came to her in the morning but nowadays but we rescheduled it and she comes to her in the afternoon before E.’s playtime with her.

Friday

On the whole it’s a Hungarian day with a little English in the evening.

Weekend

Very chaotic. We have quite a lot of fixed programmes on Saturday, which is, for this reason, mostly in Hungarian, so I try to compensate it on Sunday but not with great success. At the weekend we just go with the flow.

What we do EVERY DAY is reading BOOKS in English. Both girls get one or two new books every week. We read at the dining table after meals, before nap time and before bed time. This reading routine eases my agitated mind.

Sorry about the lack of fancy timetable, but I haven’t had time to make one.

Timetable for 2017

In the last couple of years there hasn’t been a fixed timetable as for our English usage. There used to be a daily/weekly routine when E. was little but now life has become a little more spontaneous … or shall I say chaotic?

There are 3 fixed activities for the week and these are the following:

  • Helen Doron English class with L.
  • Mums’ English Club with both kids
  • E.’s nanny’s visit

daily-and-weekly-schedule-2017

What you see above is the plan, however, several times it is overwritten by illnesses, emergencies or simple laziness. I’m trying hard to include 1-2 hours of active playtime with Baby L., but if I want to be perfectly honest sometimes we go 2-3 days without any English. It makes me sad and worried about her English language development.

I was planning to take E. for a Saturday drama class that is in English but we’ve been ill quite a lot or we had to make up for the lost time at the weekend so I decided to postpone this activity for September.

My hope is to find another nanny for Baby L. as our Canadian nanny only comes to play with E.

20977-pict0067_
E. (15 months) in the zoo with our nanny, A.

I clearly remember the time when E. was as little as Baby L. now and A., our British nanny at that time came to play baby games with her. Such a vivid and lovely memory. I’d like L. to experience the same.

I was checking sitters.hu and also contacted 3 of them but I haven’t received any replies yet. Still hopeful.

So that’s all about our English activities for the year.

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!

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.

Weekly-daily schedule

Our daily schedule concerning English has developed slowly. E. is 11 months old and for a month now we’ve had a more or less fixed weekly agenda. Here it is:

60% is in Hungarian and 40% is in English – I wish we could keep this balance

We’ve just started Helen Doron English (in a later post I’ll write about our experience), but it definitely increases the time spent on English and we are not at home using the minor language at last. Tuesdays and Thursdays are clearly dedicated to English. Mondays and Wednesdays are the Hungarian days. Still, on these days we have 2 or 3 hours of English input. (What is not in the chart is the 20-30 minutes when D. takes the dog out for a walk in the evening. E. and I change into English and lay the table, put away the toys or watch some videos or books in English while they’re away.)

Fridays are changeable, but in general half of the day goes in Hungarian, the other half in English. Before our Hungarian playmate comes to visit us, we go out for a walk together or to the market and then we use Hungarian as English would be unnatural.

My only problem is the weekends. As the whole family is together, it’s really difficult to find time and natural situations when we can use English. At weekends 1 hour of English per day is “forced” into our programme (singing, video watching, reading out) but not real communicative interactions. I’ll try to find out something for the weekends. If you have any suggestions, just feel free to share it with me.

In the table above you can’t see food time (which is in the given language according to which day it is) and daily sleeping time, however the latter takes away 2-3 hours per day.

At the beginning of January we took up baby swimming on Saturday mornings. I found a course at Budapest Moms (you can find the group’s facebook page here), which was held in two languages. The tutor is Hungarian and in the water one of the moms do the interpreting. As the swimming pool echoes a lot it is hard to hear the Hungarian words, not to mention the English ones, however, we met a lot of non-Hungarian families (Russians, French, Dutch, Canadians etc). As for the English language, it doesn’t make a big difference whether we take part in this swimming course or another, but the trainer is really professional and the pool is clean, the water is warm. So all in all we, and most important of all, E. enjoy it. It’s a good family programme for the weekend. The course is finished in a week, now we are thinking of continuing it, but not sure. Good weather has arrived, we might want to spend time outside instead.

I’m a little worried about being able to keep this schedule. One thing is permanent in a baby’s life that nothing is permanent. As I’m planning to work part-time soon, probably in a month or two our agenda needs to be revised.