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Life is a bowlful of cerises
2012.04.12 20:15:32

I haven't spoken French in the car for weeks.  I can't get them to listen to their lovely new French audiobooks that came through the post today.  Big long faces at the thought of going back to French school next Saturday.

Then Scott & James were thinking up silly yoghurt pot names before bed.  "Bagsy Banana," said James.  "Perfect Peach," replied Scott.  "Curly carrot," giggled James.

And Scott said quietly:  "Chubby cerises."  And he looked at Dad, and smiled, and thought about it.  "That means chubby cherries, Daddy."  And then off he toddled to bed, very self-satisfied indeed.

And so were Daddy and I.

:-)

 



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Give me a kloo
2012.04.10 20:58:01

Yesterday's story game reminded me of a new game out called Kloo, where you pull out cards and have to make sentences from them.

I need inspiration like that to keep me going on this more difficult 8 year-old plus time of life.  Games, puzzles and books to keep them laughing and interested.  Instead of obstinate and silent.  I think I ought to invent a few, namely:

KLOO - but for creating funny stories

MAD LIBS - where you supply a word in the language instead of a particular part of speech.

BINGO with kids' funny toilet-humor items (in the language).

Word jigsaw puzzles, where you have to put together the pieces of a story (with both words and pictures).

Knock knock jokes about French words.

Any of these out there?  That would make my day!

 

 

 



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Silver linings
2012.04.09 21:24:00

Yesterday we went on a roadtrip.  In order to earn the right to watch a DVD (in English) in the car, we asked the boys to play a simple French game:  to create a story together, just saying one line each.

Sadly, they refused to play!  When finally Scott realised we were serious, and that he would be without DVD for the entire journey, he gave in but James was obstinate.  Finally I convinced Trev to start without James.  "Il y a deux vaches... " Trev started, (the only French he knows well is a joke about mad cow disease).  I continued "elles parlent ensemble."  Scotty added something silly and giggled, and so did Trev and I, and before long Scotty was giggling away and we were well and truly into the story.  James noticed how much fun we were having and began to participate!  In the end we probably spoke for five minutes straight in French, with everyone contributing.

Then the story ended, the DVD went on, and Trev and I looked at each other with dismay at the initial reaction from the boys.

At least we found a good game to play, even if it takes nerves of steel to force them to play it....



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Home schooling
2012.04.06 20:19:27

I just read that the UK's 2011 census documentation had to be translated into over 50 languages.  That means that there are at least 50 languages spoken in the UK on a regular basis.  This includes Chinese, Polish, Sinhala, Pashto, Amharic, Yoruba, and Tigrinya.

I can only make the assumption that if you want to study a language here in the UK, and you don't live in the Outer Hebrides, then you have a smorgasbord of choice.  You could probably even learn Swedish from a genuine-y Swede, and eat lots of smorgas from a real bord.  How fun!



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A true test of vocabulary
2012.03.31 20:50:38

On the way to France last year, at the Eurotunnel shops, we picked up a few essentials, like the required car kit/triangle/yellow safety vest as well as a cute book called "French for Kids." Well, today, over a year later, I pulled it out and carefully placed it nonchalantly on the boys' bookshelf and James immediately found it and pulled it out.

So I put them to the test.  One year later, do they really know French?

And the answer is:  a resounding yes.  They remember how to say all the crucial phrases, including:

"That's nuts!"

"Shove over."

"Bog off."

"Can I borrow your video game?"

"I'm dying of thirst."

And of course:  "Cheater!"

Total success.

:-)



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Do it and do it now!
2012.03.28 20:43:18

As ever I'm always pleased to see articles to the general public about the importance of learning a language early.  Parents magazine online have struck again, with this article on raising a bilingual kid.  It emphasises again how easy it is for young children to pick up a second or third language.

Knowing what I know now, these articles are spot on, except for one important exception: they never talk about the parent.  Yes, young children love to pick up new words in any language, yes it gives their intelligence more avenues and more flexibility (lateral thinking and creativity are often mentioned), yes it is a time when they find it fun.  What they don't say is that at ages 8, 9, 10, the parents' motivations change.  All of a sudden children's capabilities in all areas grow rapidly.  Schoolwork increases, extracurriculars increase, tests and competitions loom.  As a parent, helping your child decide what is most important at that stage is something that at times feels like agony rather than excitement and enthusiasm.

So in sum, read the article, and remember:  it ain't gonna get easier later on, so do it and do it now, start a new language when they are young.   You will regret it if you don't (if you have the time for regrets, that is!).



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Frustration with the school language programme
2012.03.27 21:19:47

One of my friends and I were commiserating today at the difficulty at getting appropriate level support in primary level language classes.  My boys are obviously so way ahead in French after a year abroad that it would stretch most teachers, but there are some other children who are already bilingual (in another language) and thus are picking up the French quite quickly.  In mathematics and English a big effort is made to tailor the work to the different ability levels, but I think there is much less emphasis on this in language classes.

To be fair, one or two of the language teachers are making an effort by sending home word searches and games in French, or asking my children to help others with words and pronunciation, but this is only one small aspect of learning a language.

I'd love to hear from other people who know more about how language teachers deal with this issue...

 



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Sense of humour failure
2012.03.25 20:13:30

I just read an article about the misunderstandings between the Francophones and Anglophones in Montreal, Quebec.  Apparently 80% of the "Anglos" are bilingual, and the language spoken in the area is slowly melding into a real Franglais.  Yet there is still significant barriers between the two communities.

I wonder then whether the misunderstandings come down not to your basic interactions on the street -which apparently both communities can do in both languages equally well - but rather to the difficulties in translating humour.

Humour is so important in our daily lives, dare I say especially in England.  We mock ourselves and everyone around us, unsparingly, and that give and take builds trust.  We trust that we understand that we're all joking.

Having just lived abroad, I think that the ability to joke in another language - to be able to time things in another language, and twist words subtly in another language - must be one of the last skills you pick up.  Without being able to joke, how can you build trust?

We obviously need to spend a lot more time joking in the language classroom, to build that skill more quickly.... for all of our sakes.



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THE essential holiday wardrobe item
2012.03.22 21:21:16

in a recent trip to Thailand, Trev came across a great new concept:  the translator T-shirt.  It had all the key phrases on it "where's the loo?" - "Thai green curry - not too hot!"  - "how much?"  written in both English and Thai.  All you had to do for conversation was point to the relevant phrase.

Trev almost bought one except for the slight problem with the concept - there wasn't any translation for the answers you'd get, e.g. "second door on the left" "chicken or beef?" "100 bahts for 2".  Might make for some funny conversations though....

 



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Fete des meres
2012.03.18 19:21:34

I'm celebrating Mother's Day back in the Alps, sans enfants.  Though I miss them, I get such an amazing buzz being back here.  No one warned me that a family gap year could end with such an emotional tie to a new foreign place.  Gap year guides definitely need a big warning strip over the front cover:  HIGHLY ADDICTIVE.

The nice thing was running into some French friends, I managed to strike up a conversation with them comfortably, and one of them complimented me on not losing my French!  I hope I can keep that up, even if I can't live here full time....

 



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Interesting new survey
2012.03.16 21:56:31


The Parents magazine website just sent me their daily tip, which is about how to raise a bilingual child.  In it they quote:

"In a recent Parents poll, 57 percent of readers thought that speaking a foreign language was the most critical skill for their child to develop for the future, more than double the number who said that learning a sport (23 percent) or playing an instrument (20 percent) were key."

I love hearing how language learning is being recognised as more and more important.  If we as parents actually planned as much foreign language time into our children's lives as we did sport or music, then the world would be a much friendlier place!



 



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Government madness
2012.03.13 21:56:21

Today's news was that the Government is desperately short of Modern Language teachers.  Want to know why?

A few years ago they dropped the requirement for all children to study a foreign language to the age of 16.  As a result, children unsurprisingly stopped taking foreign languages.

Then they introduced the possibility of doing the English Baccalaureate for 17 and 18 year olds.  This has proved popular.  The Bac, however, requires the study of foreign languages.

All of a sudden, then, children under 16 want to study foreign languages again.

The problem is that, as a result of policy change no. 1, there are no foreign language teachers, because no one has studied foreign languages for years.

An obvious solution to this problem, you might think, is just to recruit foreign language teachers from abroad.  After all, if it is their native tongue, you'd think they'd be darn good at it.

The only problem is that the Government also wants to restrict immigration, and is proposing that all foreigners earning less than £35k (yes, a teacher's wage) be kicked out of the country within a maximum of 6 years.

Madness, all of it!  Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhh is all I can say.  Oh, and grump...




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Embarrassing mispronunciations & more
2012.03.09 20:55:53

There is a lovely thread on Mumsnet at the moment about how poor pronunciation can cause rather embarrassing situations.

It reminded me of a time when as a teenager travelling in Hungary, I ran out of sanitary pads.  To my horror, I couldn't just to go a supermarket and buy some.  I had to go to a pharmacy and ask for them over the counter.  In the busy shop, I managed to ask for the right thing, and they understood fine. But then they asked:  how many?  And I thought about it and said "7".  They gave me seven PACKS.  I was so mortified at having seven huge packs of these very personal items placed in front of me that I just paid and ran out!

There are some similar stories on Mumsnet:  do check it out for a laugh.  :-)



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Seeing chocolate is believing
2012.03.08 23:17:39

The next instalment of the French school's cultural fun is here:  Easter.

Luckily, I get this one.  I'm in charge of buying chocolate eggs, bunnies and chickadees.  They have given up on trying to find chocolate bells here in England, which are the ones that deliver the chocolate in France.

You gotta love some of the traditions we foist on our children.  Here in England, a bunny that delivers eggs, of all things.  In France, magic flying bells.  Here, it is a fairy that pays for loose teeth.  There, a little mouse.

And our innocent children love it.  Hey, anything is worth believing in if it means money, chocolate and presents, right?  I bet our respective religions would get thousands more followers if chocolate were part of the deal....

:-)

 



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Language and survival of the fittest
2012.03.04 21:29:01

I just read a review of the book "Wired for Culture" by Mark Pagel, which makes a startling suggestion:  that the human propensity to unite into allegiances is significantly aided by the differentiation of language.

In other words, we develop a particular way of speaking to tell the difference between "us" and "them".

It is a scary thought - that we unconsciously but still purposefully try to create divisions within society through use of language.

In this scheme of things, it is strangely comforting that learning a second language is an attempt to do the opposite - to bridge the gap between different groups of peoples.

That, or it is an even more powerful desire to belong to more than one group, and thus a move towards safety in numbers!

For those interested, here is a link to the article.

 



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A French promenade
2012.03.02 20:49:21

Yesterday I went out for a walk in the park with a French friend.  I was a bit nervous that my French wouldn't be up for it but took the plunge nonetheless.

I was pleasantly surprised that I managed to (a) understand reasonably well her rapid fire talk of bookshops, education, travel and house renovation and (b) even more pleasantly surprised by the ease in which I replied.

Thinking back now I am wondering whether the act of talking while walking might have helped.  First, there is the immediate relaxation of tension that comes from the distraction of the walk.  Secondly, there must be some increased bloodflow to the brain.

Perhaps it is time to introduce walking French conversation classes.  I bet they would be a hit!

Not for children though - if it were my two, they would be out of earshot and up some tree before you could count to trois...

 



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The delight of a good children's book
2012.02.28 17:34:22

James and Scott's dedicated French Saturday school team has pooled together all the parents to order some French children's books online, at a discount.  James came home with the first four weeks ago and they have been sitting on a windowsill, rather lonely and dejected.

Yesterday I dug one out finally to read to them in bed.  It was about a girl who rode atop a magic pig, who made everyone's wishes come true.  The charm of the story was that you never were sure whether the pig was really magic or not, but just believing he was magic made everyone believe their wishes could come true, so they did.

It was a fabulous story, one that we wouldn't have come across if we'd not been reading in French.

Just one more of the benefits....



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The frustration of past success
2012.02.25 18:53:04

Today we invited a little French girl to travel with us to French school and back (see previous post).  This encouraged the boys to speak French, and it was nice to hear them make the effort again.  But also frustrating.

At the end of our French adventure, the boys were both speaking fluently.  Not always correctly, but fluently nonetheless.  Today, they were hesitant, confused, trying to translate from English in their heads.

We spent all that time climbing the mountain that is the French language, and having gotten up so far, we seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time just to halt them sliding back down again.

Reminds me of why I don't play tennis anymore.  When I was younger, I used to play 6 or 7 days a week, 2-3 hours a day.  I achieved a certain level of proficiency.  Now, I can only afford to play 2-3 times a week.  As a result, I cannot play to the level I once could.  Do I continue to play?  No, I have given up.  Time to try something new.

So should I let the boys give up too?  Move onto another language, where they can start from the bottom. Or battle on in French, at best treading water?

Hmmmmm



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I can be a treasurer but can I be a Tresoriere?
2012.02.22 23:42:15

The French school the boys attend has just announced they are looking for a treasurer to join the team.  No treasurer experience required, however.

It is tempting, and I would love to be able to contribute more to the school, which is run by a passionate group of French parents.

But that is the problem, isn't it?  They are all French.  And I'm not.  All the information will be in French.  All the meetings will be in French.

The funny thing is that, if it were me advising my children, I'd say go for it!  It'd be a great learning environment!  So much to gain, nothing to lose!

But it is me, and I'm afraid of not coping.

What a wimp!

 



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The return of Miss Piggy. Pretentious? Moi?
2012.02.16 21:29:51

The boys and I went to see the latest Muppet Movie today.  It was nostalgically hilarious, and the boys seemed to like it too.  Miss Piggy lands herself a job working for Vogue in Paris, "Mademoiselle Cochonne" or something to that effect, and we get a glimpse at the Eiffel Tower.  Mercifully, her gratuitous French is no longer gratuitous!

Still, it gave the movie a little je ne sais quoi, n'est-ce pas?

Not to be missed, honest....

 



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