Wednesday, March 2, 2022



I might have mentioned that as Marc has got older, there has been little to comment on regards his language compared to the continuous and very noticeable changes when he was younger. 

As children become teenagers, you need to continue the journey and not slacken off and become lazy.

I'll talk about factors affecting teenagers here. Taking the rough with the smooth! 


This is  KEY STRATEGY 5  in my book, 


 Language is something that continues to develop constantly and as a parent you can help accompany your son or daughter as their language becomes richer and more complex. 


Marc often says that English is his strongest language despite being born and brought up in Catalonia. 

He has said that he wasn't comfortable speaking Spanish, which would make policy makers in Madrid happy. This is because he had little contact with Spanish speakers. The school had 3 subjects in Spanish, but his friends were Catalan speakers. His mother speaks to him in Catalan and the TV and social media watches in predominantly in English. However, since we changed him  to a local school this year, most of his classmates are Spanish speakers, and he's noticed an improvement. 

It shows that it's not easy to be a balanced bilingual or trilingual and you have to make an active effort to provide the exposure and opportunites to make it happen.

Let's look at how it's possible that he considers English his strongest language. It's all based on input/exposure (key strategy 3) and output/ practise (key strategy 4). 

Although teenagers want to spend less time with you, it's still possible to be part of their lives if you don't push yourself on them... all the time.


From me every day, at least a couple of hours either speaking about life or school, or watching the TV or YouTube video together. 

YouTube/ Videos

YouTube videos. They may seem like a waste of time, but, I've found non-native teenagers with incredible levels of English that has come from hours of watching age appropriate (and some not I imagine) videos. 


Marc also play a lot of videogames, which I don't like personally. So, I ask him to explain them to me in detail. A chat App called DISCORD is the one Gamers use, and this provides access to other gamers all over the world, where they can chat in the target language. Marc keeps in touch with a cousin and friend in England through this. 


Marc loves certain series that are both age and non-age appropriate such as Family Guy... We watch some of these together and comment on them. We've also recently started watching The Office and Extras by Ricky Gervais. The secret is finding things you can enjoy together. 


This will depend on each child. In our case, we have very long discussions when we are either going on long walks or drives in the car. You need to find your "speaking vehicle". 

Holidays and Family and Schools abroad

Marc spent 6 months at a boarding school till March 2020, when Covid broke out. Since then we've onbly spent a weekend in the UK. This is supplemented to Whatsapp calls to the UK.


I like to speak about a  Bilingual Native Level, which is different from a monolingual. When you "live" in two languages, there will always be some crossover. While filming some YouTube videos for a 4x4 car channel recently, when I watched them back I noticed a couple of Spanish words and fillers creeping in, possbily because I learned some of the technical words in Spanish first. 

The odd 'innacuracy' is perfectly alright when weighed up with the advantages of speaking 2 languages to a native bilingual level. One will always be stronger, but sometimes you will find balanced bilinguals. 

In Marc's case, I notice some less 'native' phrases in his English, like a latin word instead of a more germanic origin one, enter instead of go in.  However, the breadth and depth of native idiomas and expressions plus imitation of American, Australian and different English accents means that you can't compare him to any non-native speaker. He's indistinguishable from a south of English teenager of his age. 

There are new challenges on life's journey every day. It's up to us to believe we can do it, and to find creative solutions to overcome those bumps on the road; the rough with the smooth.  

What's you experience?

Sunday, November 22, 2020


 Marc is now a 'proper' teenager, and that means that he is beginning to be more and more independent. 

The biggest change and one that many parents with teenagers have probably noticed is the number of hours they spend using screens, whether mobiles, tablets or video games. 

Right now, Marc spends far too long watching youtubers and influencers as well as hours on the Play Station. Reducing time on these platforms causes frequent arguments and moments of tension. But this is all part of disciplining. 

Regarding language, I've found through my interviews that many teenagers and young adults have acquired a very high proficiency in English through playing video games and chatting with other gamers in that language. It's something I wouldn't have imagined and has caught me be surprise. 

As I work in the room next to Marc, I hear him chatting using the App Discord with friends in English in the UK as well as others in Portugal and Romania. He probably speaks more in English through this App currently than he does with me!  Another good thing is that he also speaks to some gamers in Spanish, which is his weakest language. 

Regarding my contact with him, I use my Language Planning Calendar to ensure I'm with him various times a day, chiefly the school run in the morning (4 days a week) and the school pick up (4 -5 days a week).  Remember this technique to ensure you reserve a certain amount of time for language contact every day. 

At school in the bilingual and native speakers' English  class,  he's reading a Daphne Du Maurier novel, Rebecca, which I don't think is very appropriate for him, although it will push him to understand more literary English.  Reading material should always be motivating for the reader whenever possible. 

His main challenge in English is to improve his spelling, which he is aware of. 

Tell me about your experience with teenagers!!

For more articles of language learning and Bilingual Families check out my new Website,

where you can also buy my new book: The 5 Key Strategies of Successful Bilingual Families.

Speak again soon!


Friday, September 11, 2020

FINAL UPDATE ON MARC´S PROGRESS - Mission "completed" 13 years - última actualización - Misión "cumplida" 13 años

 Review at 13 years old- Repaso a los 13 años

A continuación repaso los momentos destacados de los últimos 13 años y donde está ahora con su nivel de inglés, catalán e español. 

I thought this would be a good moment to review and give some highlights of Marc’s thirteen years. After this post I’m going to focus on bilingual families in general.

In the beginning I used to write down or record so many of his words and phrases, but as he’s got older it has been more difficult as he speaks so fast and he doesn’t make enough mistakes to point out.

However, it will wrap up this period leading up to the teenage years with a few points that parents can think about and briefly speak about the upcoming book AVAILABLE ON AMAZON KINDLE:  


1.       The important thing from the very beginning is to give as much exposure as possible. Even if you have to sacrifice some “me time”, if you are serious about your child speaking your language, you need to provide interactive input as much as possible.

2.       . Use the OPOL method, One Parent, One Language. Although some parents may ‘get lucky’, only speaking your language to your child is going to give you the biggest chance of success

3.       Make sure your child speaks back to you ONLY in ONE (your) language. 1L2U.  Don’t accept anything else!

4.       Accept that there will periods of resistance and language mixing in many cases. As long as you stay on track and keep up the exposure and OPOL – 1L2U, the chances of this happening are going to be reduced.

5.       Think of other sources of input apart from yourself. Schools, child-care, study trips abroad, and all media in your language in your home language world.


These are some of the key strategies. You can find out about these and much more in the book as well as strategies for non-native speakers who want to raise their children in a language that is not their first one.

Where is Marc right now with his language?

By employing the strategies above, he has always been at an average native level for his age, and now I feel that the first major stage is complete as he moves into adolescence. He is absolutely indistinguishable from a native English speaker of his age.

He spends a lot of time on YouTube (I mean hours and hours) watching gamer tutorials mostly, but all in English. I have noticed that even foreign children pick up a lot of English from this media as long as the content is comprehensible and age appropriate. He does read, but not enough, and trying to get him to do it turns into a real struggle. The important thing is to be as disciplined as possible. Firm but fair. He also needs to improve his English writing and spelling. Recently he started writing a Star Wars story in English, which will certainly help in this respect couple with the input he gets at school.


In September of last year, he began what was supposed to be full school year at a boarding school in England. In the end, due to the Corona Virus, he had to come back after the second term at Easter, and go back to his previous school.



Language forms

He started using ‘mate’ (tio) at the end of phrases to me, and he uses the adjective ‘decent’ all the time. “That game is pretty decent.”  He can create words like a native such as this morning when he came out with “shotgunning people in that game.”

He’ll use young people’s phrases from listening to Youtubers like “Let’s bounce” (let’s go), or “Did you know you are a ‘boomer’ Dad? (‘old person’ from Baby boomer generation ). I’ve heard many parents tell me about children using phrases they hadn’t taught them through social media and television exposure. 

Occasionally there is transference from Spanish / Catalan into English. I’ve heard him say ‘discussion’ instead of ‘argument’ for example. And sometimes he translates phrases from English into Catalan, “No es mi cosa.” “ It’s not my thing.”

Bilinguals will also have some transference, however well-balanced they are. Studies have shown that even second language learners get influenced by the language they are learning. This is a small sacrifice for being multilingual, don’t you think?

Recently, I heard him tell a Welsh PS4 gamer through the Discord app that gamers use that he thought English was his strongest language rather than Catalan.

He is becoming aware of his strengths and weaknesses in the languages he speaks. He feels that he needs to improve his Spanish since he gets little active practice. His mother, and friends all speak Catalan. He surprised me two weeks ago when he suggested I speak Spanish to him to help him improve. I reminded him that I am his only main English contact so that wouldn’t be a good idea and does not follow the One Parent One Language strategy.

  I suggested that his mother speak to him in Spanish from now on, as she is a bilingual Spanish-Catalan speaker, but she doesn’t want to. We will have to see how we help him in this respect. It may seem strange to some parents that a child living in Spain doesn’t speak Spanish up to a very high level, but this can happen in bilingual areas of countries in circumstances when there is a little contact with the ‘dominant’ language. I will speak about this further in a later Blog entry.

To sum up, these first thirteen years have been hard work! But seeing the results has made it all worth-while. This next stage during the teenage years is sure to bring up many challenges, but if you plan it well, you reduce some but not all the unpredictable moments.

Let me know how you are doing.  


Friday, August 16, 2019

Is it worth sending my child abroad for a year? Vale la pena enviar a mi hijo al extranjero por un año?

Muchos padres se preguntan si vale la pena el coste de un año académico en el extranjero para mejorar su inglés u otro idioma extranjero.
A continuación os explico las ventajas e inconvenientes justo en el momento cuando mi hijo va a pasar un año académico en Inglaterra.

Many parents wonder if it's worth the cost to send their children abroad for a year to improve their language level. In this posst, I'll explain the pros and cons to help you make up your mind.

For children who are already bilingual English speakers with a native-speaker parent. 
In Marc's case, he's already a bilingual native English- Catalan speaker, and the aim is three-fold:
1) Consolidate his English knowledge and push it even further by studying all the subjects in English in an English school.
2) Get a deeper knowledge of his father's culture and that of his relatives in England.
3) Get a feeling of independence and  experience living in another country and meeting people from different countries. He'll also get to spend time with his grandmother and his cousins' family.

There is often a difference in the level obtained by children being raised in English or other languages by a minority language parent. If the child hasn't obtained a mastery of the language, then point 1 above is going to be just as important as point 2, and could be a turning-point in  the child's language mastery.

For children of non-native parents

The main objective is going to be point 1 above, and there is no better substitute to living and studying abroad to greatly improve a child's language level.
It should be taken into account that a minimum level is required to avoid frustration, and that should be  First Certificate B2.2. Anything above this level is much better for the experience to be more enjoyable and satisfactory.

Getting the child to a C1 Advanced level before sending them abroad should be a motivator for both the child and the parents.

The other points will also apply. Experiencing a new culture first-hand and becoming independent for a year are priceless and will have a lasting effect on them.

I'd defintely recommend the full year so that the child can get the feeling of becoming part of the school community and the language development is obviously going to be greater.

 If you're not sure if your child would do a full year, a single term might be a change to try it out, and is better than nothing.

En resumen, un año fuera no tiene precio a la hora de mejorar su nivel de inglés, pero, es siempre mejor tener un nivel C1 Advanced ó más antes de irse para poder aprovechar de la experiencia y así evitar frustraciones. Sin recomendaría un año escolar por encima de un trimestre para que se note mejor la diferencia de nivel. Además, el niño tiene la oportunidad de sentirse parte de la comunidad de la escuela. Un trimestre podría ser como una prueba. Si va bien, pues, la próxima vez podría hacer todo el año. Aunque, si el niño realmente no quiere pasar tanto tiempo fuera, es mejor no obligarle.

So, the million dollar question is; is it worth the cost? We''re talking about a boarding school in the UK here. If you can afford it, it's really a no-brainer. Hopefully, the child will also agree!!

There are cheaper options, which I'll discuss in a future blog.

(12 years old) August 2019. Does your child use these phrases?

Marc was 12 back in May and his language becomes more adult-like all the time with extremely native phrases. Many of these sources are from youtubers and gamers, and Star Wars probably! I don't remember  using a lot of these. So, make sure their input is rich and varied.
There is a massive difference between the language of a native and a non-native speaker child.

There's no way I could've passed on these type of phrases to my son if I'd tried to do this in Spanish.

Has your bilingual child used any of these phrases?

he gets really cranky!   
What a conundrum, 
I'm in a bit of pickle .... bamboozled (he liked this new phrase)
 This chicken isn't as good, not by a long shot 
Gave her a run for her money. 
Stop rubbing it in my face 
Growley (our cat) is smelling the bag like there's no tomorrow.
Bet "U dude perfect" (a youtuber) has made a video with those ... 
I cant wait to sink my teeth into this chicken. 
heed my warning 
I'm over the moon  

touch wood this place won't go on fire.  
regarding your high heels,  you are too tall for your midget body 
I'm just double checking. 
ok, kill 2 birds with one stone 
I'm in a real pickle  
I gobbled up my sandwich  
He got screen captures of the wins 
I slept in till 10 
I had like a Red tinge in my eye.  
A piece of cake 
You are all old and cranky (talking about myself and his mum)

You can still get earth Vader and stuff 
Search up on Internet  (an American preposition in this case)
General Grievous is incredibly buggy 
Guess I'm pretty good at my job, huh? 
If you tikle me I'm going to shriek and probably break a window  
The rollercoasters really take it out of you 
Ouch. I stubbed my foot  
A wee bit (of food) 

Mum,  why did u buy me 2 left shoes? Because you've got 2 left feet 

What's the secret?
You can only start using these phrases if you're getting rich input. That means feeding in words and phrases yourself when they occur to you and then repeating them. Also, get them to watch English-language films and programmes as much as possible and youtubers in English as well. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Update / actualización March 2019 . 11y 10 months

11 years and 10 months.
This is an update that's long overdue!
I've been keeping a note of his Language,  especially native English expressions and the input sources.
Language and expressions. It used to be easy to keep track of his Language Use, but now there's so much I just jot down examples that are noteworthy.
The following are the ones that I managed to note down:
These brands come up with the wackiest ideas
Phoskitos . Tumbler . Barril. 
Bet you dude perfect has made a video with those those 
I can wait to sink my teeth into this chicken. 
This chicken isn't as good, not by a long shot
Gave her a run for her money.
Stop rubbing it in my face
Growley is smelling a bag like there's no tomorrow. 
How did you get on with your cousins? 
Messed up crazy baby things. 
A sights for sore eyes
Phone me, I don't keep track of time
It was sick! 
This trick is so old-school. July 
I unloaded everything single-handedly (in supermarket)
August.  I'm lolling at everything.  
What in the World was that?! ( In surprise at result in video game)
It's gonna be epic! 
I haven't got a bull's notion! (An Irish expression he remembered )
That old guy was going up and down the street like there was no tomorrow. 
I'm in quite a bit of a pickle
I'm shedding skin 
Gravity went haywire 
My Play Station is busted
Speak of the devil, I found my mobile
Language Use in general.
He speaks fluently at a bilingual native level on all topics with occasional pauses for some words.
Input has moved now to YouTube. Especially Australian gamer ones who give tips on improving skills on Fortnight or Battlefront for example.
Apart from films in general,  he watched American TV cartoon series for his age on Netflix. With me he watches Star Trek Discovery, The Orville and Elementary.  They all have scenes which are borderline appropriate . This is where we could enter into a discussion of Internet use and the appropriateness of the content.
As usual, it's important to plan as much time together in your schedule where you can have language rich interactions. This sounds very formal! Just talk as much as possible .
The one area needing work is writing and spelling still. And the school is trying to help in this respect.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Actualización Agosto 2018. UPDATE August 2018 11 years and 3 months

Hago un resumen de los progresos de Marc y algunas ideas basadas en mi experiencia sobre input y calendarios y el tema del internet.
Here's a summary of Marc's progress and some ideas based on my experience about input and use of calendars and internet.

Regarding language, I've focussed here more on some of the more idiomatic uses of English that seem to be more and more frequent and mark the difference between a child learning a foreign language, and one acquiring it as a bilingual native from a native parent. I find that if I don't write the words down immediately I forget them, so plenty of omissions.
Here are some of the (very few) examples I've written down since April:

"These brands come up with the wackiest ideas."
"Bet you "Dude Perfect" has made a video with those games." (a youtuber) "I can't wait to sink my teeth into this chicken."  
"This chicken isn't as good, not by a long shot .""It gave her a run for her money. "
"Daddy, stop rubbing it in my face."
"Growley (our cat) is smelling that bag like there's no tomorrow. "
"That old guy was going up and down the street like there was no tomorrow. "
"How did you get on with your cousins? "
"They're messed up crazy baby things."  
"A sight for sore eyes." 
"Phone me, I don't keep track of time."
It was sick! (meaning amazing) 
"This trick is so old school."  
"I unloaded everything single-handedly." (in supermarket) 
" I'm lolling at everything. " (using LOL as a verb) 
"What in the World was that?! ( In surprise at a result in a video game )
  "It's gonna be epic!"  
"I haven't got a bull's notion! " (an Irish phrase he remembered when playing with the words, 'notion', 'motion' and 'devotion' .
There is still 'cross contamination" between the different languages. It's normal amongst consecutive native bilinguals/trilinguals and nothing to get worried about!!!!!
I haven't written down many or remembered them, but they do come up. Sometimes he mixes language phrases because it sounds funny!

In Catalan: 
"Vas a arruinar la historia." (using 'arruinar' translated from English, "ruin the story", instead of 'estropear'). 
In English:
"I need to put it (the mobile) to charge. " I explicitly corrected this as lazy language.  Correct options are: "I need to charge my phone." I need to plug in my phone (to charge it). 

Between Spanish and Catalan there is the usual language mixing which most people don't seem to worry about overtly and is not my priority. 

This is the first summer since he was born that we haven't gone to the UK for the summer (for logistical reasons). That means I've had to organize my schedule to be with him when I've been working and he's been in our holiday village. 
Organizing your time
I've mentioned this before. Try and plan in specific times in your diary / calendar when you'll spend time with your child, and oblige yourself to do so. 

If I wasn't able to get back to the village, we spoke by phone or video call once or twice a day, and now we're started texting each other on whatsapp. 
Mobile phone
I've got him an old iphone 4 with a limited data package so we can keep in touch and when he's on his own or with other kids in the village.
This is a double edged sword. On the one hand it is a practically limitless resource for language. On the other, a lot of the content is age-inappropriate. 
This is what Marc has been doing. 
He's become addicted to watching mostly game youtubers explaining strategies to improve scores on the games. Some of them I've listened to use adult language ....  They are from a variety of countries: the UK, Ireland, the USA and Australia. 
Youtube videos. 
These are a mix of multi-interest videos: 
Animals, sports, some TV series, some science facts, some music videos. At least 90% in English. 
A lot of different ones in fact. My rule is that it's better to watch videos in their original language version, even if that's Spanish. Last week we changed from watching an American series about a "Cat trainer" in dubbed over Spanish to finding the original American English version. 
I've always had a rule about seeing original language version films, but decided to relax the rule for the sake of family harmony and avoiding stupidity! We went to see The Incredibles 2 in Catalan in a cinema in Vic. There's no original language cinema there. Earlier in the month we saw a film in English at the Icaria Yelmo cinema in Barcelona, which does have all the films in the original language version. 
Marc read his first adult book earlier this year on his own. A spin-off Star Wars story. 
Over the summer he reread another Stars Wars book, "The Jedi Academy", and right now we're reading two comic style books together: "The 6th June 1944" about the D Day landings,

and one about the Siths (more Star Wars!).

The secret is to be consistent and maintain a language rich high exposure environment.  
 Let me know how you're getting on in the comments. 
All the best.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

UPDATE : Januaray - Easter 2018 / Enero - Semana Santa 2018

Summary First quarter 2018 / Resumen  primer trimestre 2018

This is a review of Marc's language and learning for the first quarter of 2018.

A boy from England joined the class in January just for this term. His mother is Catalan and speaks to him in that language. The family have moved back and forth between Catalonia and England over the last 15 years, and are now settled in Bath. The idea of coming here for the term was to give the children extra experience in a Catalan school and get an immersion in Catalan and Spanish.
Agora also does 30% of the classes in English.
Marc became his buddy for this term and they spoke to each other in English.
The term in the country of origin is an excellent option. However, it can be very costly, especially if you do it through an organization. To cut costs, the cheapest way is to find low cost accommodation and go to a state school.  Obviously, if you have family in the country, that will save on accommodation and food  bills.
It works out more economical to do a full academic year. With an organization such as New Link, the 9 months can cost between 13-15,000 euros, and includes everything except flights and extra spending money. It's a big investment. Children generally do this year away when they are 14. 

This Easter, in the village where we stay most weekends, Marc met a boy who also lives in England and has a Catalan mother. He speaks fluent Catalan, but said that he can't really speak Spanish well.
Marc also complains that he finds Spanish "strange" despite doing classes at school, some programmes on TV, and hearing his mother speak to me.

At school, this boy learns French and Italian. The languages depend on the availability of teachers.   Again, with Marc he spoke in English as they'd met previously during the summer.
Marc is comfortable speaking in English with children who come from England even though they might speak Catalan due to speaking in a natural English and in an English accent.

I've found that spending time in the heritage language country is a key factor in the child mastering the language. Once again, if you have family in the country, it's worth taking advantage of this and  having the child spend extended periods of time there.

Language update
Errors and how to deal with them
Marc exhibits total mastery of  English for his age, taking into account that he's trilingual and in all the languages there is some 'contamination' or 'code switching' (the preferred term in linguistics).
He uses idioms all the time, and makes spontaneous plays on words. He uses all the tenses perfectly now, even "wish". "I wish you wouldn't tell me off all the time."  "I wish it were Sunday", etc.

Whenever a mistake comes up, I point it out. For example, 
Marc: "We ended out playing football. "
Me: "We say "ended up, but you know that don't you?
Marc: "Yeah, we ended up playing football."

Normally, these repetitive errors are erradicated. If the child doesn't get enough exposure the errors won't go away, so it's worth pointing them out in a 'matter of fact way'. There's no need to make a bg thing of it.

We've been focussing on Spelling, which is his weak point. We're working through Carol Vorderman's 10 minutes a Day Spelling Ages 7-11. The goal is to finish it before is birthday in May. And his birthday present will depend on it!! We're also be working on Vorderman's English Made Easy for 10-11 year olds, which isn't "easy" and includes malapropisms and Spoonerisms!

Regarding reading, I wanted him to start a Harry Potter novel, but he doesn't fancy it. Instead, he's started a Star War's novel called "Death Troopers", which is a gruesome tale about zombies aboard a spaceship that's adrift. It's the most advanced book he's read so far, and new words are coming up, for example "whack" or others that he didn't recognise in written form"throughout", which I'm sure we've used before.

Don't limit your child's English to just speaking the language. Being literate is also important to make the child's language richer.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

UPDATE for 2017. Connected again. Progress and Plans

Después de un año sin poder entrar en el Blog he encontrado la forma de hacerlo.

En esta actualización hablo de sus progresos como siempre, las fuentes del idioma, influencias americanas y ¡como planificar la semana para estar con tus niños!

After a year without being able to get into the Blog, I’ve finally found the way to do it.

This is a brief update of the last year with the usual tips and learnings for other parents, both native and non-native.


The biggest change I’ve noticed over this last year is Marc changing from child to older child both cognitively and behaviourally. There are many subtle clues in the maturing process, in the complexity of language and its use, social interaction and becoming more autonomous (finally).

Examples of languages

The difference between a monolingual native and a bilingual native is that there’s always going to be an influence from the two or three languages. It’s a trade-off that’s always worthwhile. There will nearly always be the main strongest language which will be the language of the place you live.

I hear cross over language in English and Catalan that’s often because of direct translation.

In Catalan “ una carta vermella” (a red card in English) instead of “targeta”, or in English “How is it like?” instead of What is it like?  

His English is complex and native like in both language use and pronunciation.

Language examples: a wobbly tooth, I scraped the back of my hand

Expressions: He’s is bloody tall; Don’t get me wrong… ; She’s gonna fricking gonna fall off her perch (American euphemism), I was like a sore thumb at a finger party (American expression and new for me!).  It won’t be OK, it’s Murphy’s law. It’s lashing it down in Terrassa (raining hard. An Irish phrase I use) The list goes on and on.

The higher the exposure from both the native speaker parent(s) and other media, the richer and more complex the output language will be.

At school this year I’ve asked the English department to push him further, especially his writing skills. He’s already completed a long essay in English and we checked it together. The main area to work on is spelling and that’s going to be our objective till Christmas.

Planning language exposure

Some parents might think that planning to be with your child to give exposure to a language is somehow too scientific. You can look at it as planning to be with your child(ren) and that will help them speak the language better! If you’re raising your child in a minority language where you live, it makes sense to keep in mind language learning opportunities and keep exposure as high as possible as this is the only way to increase language level.

Weekly Planner

As I’ve said before having a calendar where you plan times to be with your child is really useful and can make sure that you prioritise your child(ren) over work for example (when possible). Instead of sitting at your desk you are obliged to organise your time to see your child.

In my case I try to do half the school runs. Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. That means I spend an hour each morning with him and several hours after school. I can plan in activities to do together such as reading and games or looking at interesting things on the internet in a café after school or visiting shops or going 10-pin bowling for instance.

You can also plan in phone or SKYPE calls if you’re not going to arrive in time to see them.

Because there’s a huge difference between growing up in the 80s or 90s and now in the two thousand and teens. Access to technology and internet has revolutionised everything. The struggle for parents now it seems is managing time spent on devices (mobiles, tablets and computers) as well as video games. This has substituted to a large degree keeping kids away from hours of television (my case in the 70s and 80s). Further to this point, this year, Marc has started using a tablet in the classroom.

At the same time, and as I’ve repeated over the years on this blog, technology can play a crucial part in helping parents bring up their children speaking another language. The distant culture and language can be imported into the home via internet in a way that was impossible up to the end of the 90s. 

Regarding technology, here are a few things I’ve noticed:

1)      The Filmon TV app  no longer connects through Chromecast. Even the dedicated Chromecast app doesn’t work. This is a known problem and they are “working on it.” This is a nuisance as casting programmes onto the TV means we watch programmes in English together, even if it’s Match of the Day or X Factor.  There are also children’s programmes here, so I hope they get it fixed.

2)      Netflix. People have been talking about this but I only got it this summer 2017. There is a huge offer of films, documentaries and TV series. They can be seen in their original language with a choice of subtitles in different languages. There is a whole section of films for children and all programmes have an age appropriate warning.

Marc likes the American sitcom Jessie (very American), and we select films and documentaries to watch. Normally we watch an episode of a series per night or part of a film (not all of it). This means there’s input every evening. I would definitely recommend this.


Life at school and American influences

Last year (2016) there was a group of 6 American boys that went around with. Of these 6 only 2 are at the school this year. The result of being around them was that his English became influenced by the Americans.

This was noticed by his cousin and husband who visited this April.

 The influence was apparent in intonation patterns, such as questions without auxiliaries: “So, you are going out tonight?” And vocabulary “This sucks/stinks”. “We all met up at recess.”

 It has to be said that there’s a lot of exposure to American language and culture in Britain and Ireland in general and this does influence the English spoken there.

Although Agora International School is trilingual (Catalan, Spanish and English) rather than just an English-speaking monolingual school, many foreign parents send their children to the school even if their level of Spanish is low.

One of the American children had come from an American school near Barcelona, where Spanish is taught as a foreign language. At Agora, many subjects are taught in Catalan, but despite this, the kids seem to cope, and parents are happy for their children to get immersed in a foreign language before returning to their countries of origin. I haven’t noticed any traumatised children!

American Input

Marc gets a lot American English input from many sources. When children are younger the CBEEBIES on the BBC gives a lot of choices in British English. And later on, there are programmes for teens. But for Tweens, we haven’t seen anything we like so much.  TV series: having graduated from Sponge bob and similar he’s watching series such as Jessie. We’ve started watching the new Star Trek series Discovery on Netflix. So, we have a new episode plus the ‘After Trek’ programme that discusses the episode every week. Yep, a bit nerdy, isn’t it?!!   

Documentaries. It’s possible to find age appropriate documentaries on Netflix. We watched on about the projects to get humans to Mars.

British English input comes from watching Match of the Day that has highlights of the English football league and some talent shows such as Britain’s got Talent and the X Factor.

Internet. Youtube. A huge variety of videos in English ranging from tutorial ones for certain games, e.g. Minecraft, to funny ones, e.g. about animals to clips from series “American Dad,” and others that are age inappropriate. Access to the internet by children through so many sources is a massive challenge for any parent these days, and one we’re looking at right now.

Video Games. Minecraft (just weird music and noises!), Star Wars Battlefront, Moto GP. I’ve set all the games to English.

Films. Practically all the films or movies we watch are of American origin. And there’s a multitude of choices on Netflix.  

Books: Captain Underpants, The Wimpy Kid, Horrid Henry…

For 2018 the plan is to graduate to the very British Harry Potter and other more grown-up novels to bring his reading skills up a level.  

Now I'm back and connected I'll be updating this blog on a more regular basis. 

The best of luck. If you have any questions or need any suggestions let me know.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Up to 9 years old May 2016 - Hasta los 9 años mayo 2016

Summary . This is an update of activities and language till the end of May 2016, which includes a look at reading material, games, TV and a look at how to schedule language routines and input into your week and year.
En esta actualización hasta finales de mayo 2016, hablo de lectura, juegos. TV y como crear un calendario de rutinas e inputs linguísticos cada semana y año. 

As Marc is getting older his language is getting more complex. He's able to play with language more, including imitating voices and accents. He loves imitating Yoda's way of changing the word order of his sentences, known as Yoda Speak. So, "you can learn to speak like Yoda" is rendered : 
"learn to speak like Yoda you can. placing the subject and verb at the end of the sentence. 
As you would expect, use of conditionals and irregular verbs is getting nearer to perfection. 
His use of idioms is increasing, for example, "you look tired Daddy, why don't you have a snooze or get some shut-eye." or "It's a piece of cake."  
If he doesn't know a word, he asks. In Britain's Got Talent, he didn't know the word "overshadow". When teaching the words, try and give more examples. It's always funny when the children start using these new words and phrases; something which adults seem to do less frrequently. 
He still plays in English, and the only exception I've noticed is when he played in Spanish using a game he's played with a friend in Lleida. 
Any mistakes which are made are usually bilingual speaker errors, where a phrase or structure is translated literally. 
Regarding pronunciation, the only word that is resisting 'standardisation' is "worry", where he says the 'o' similar to the'o' in orange. It sounds a bit American.  I just thinks he likes saying it like that! 

In the video below he explains his dream house. He loves drawing, so I try to get him to label and / or talk about what he's drawn.    One of the buildings outside the house is labelled 'Strip'. He explained that this was a striptease place! I said, What's that? and he replied, 'a place with chicks dancing!!! And he didn't get that from me!! 

Marc gets most of his English input from me, but also from classes taught through English at school, and he now has an American classmate who joined the school in April. They get on well and he recently had a sleepover at the family's house. 

Understanding American English isn't much of a problem as most of the books he reads and the programmes and films he watches are in American English. This wasn't a conscious choice, there's just so much of it!    

He is mad into Star Wars, and he now has all 7 Star Wars videos and several books about the films. 
And we finally gave in and bought him a Play Station 4. One of the games is Battlefront based on Star Wars, of course!  I changed the settings to English so all games and instructions are automatically in English. This is all part of the strategy to maximise input in the heritage language. It's easy to get lazy. 

I made a first time ever exception to watching cinema films in Spanish for his 9th birthday as we were in Vic, and there are no original version cinemas there. Refusing to go would have been radical at this stage, and a two hour film in Spanish doesn't diminish his English! 

As mentioned previously, he likes Minecraft and is learning a lot of vocabulary about building materials. A bewildering amount in fact. Check it out!

Here are the book series he's reading. He's on his 6th Wimpy Kid novel. One of the main changes this year is that he reads on his own, and the latest book he's received from school doesn't have any pictures!!!! We're reading this one together. 

Wimpy Kid series

Star Wars Craze

More Activities for Spelling and Reading 
Spelling Game
Marc told me about a spelling game he likes and we've been playing it; e.g. in the car.
One person thinks of a word, and the other person has to think of one starting with the last letter of the previous word and then spell it. Example:
Black -
Knight - K-N-I-G-H-T
Telephone -T-E-L-E-P-H-O-N-E
These versions of songs are great as you can see the spelling -sound coincidence and comment on it. Marc was surprised by the way Charlie Puth in One Call Away sings the words " nothing on me, where 'me' rhymes with away. and "nothing" sounds like nuthang ! Very American and also a typical  way words are changed to fit a specific line in a song.

Spelling and Reading in general
Words are everywhere and if you provide enough material in English, whether books, songs or games, even PS4, you can focus on certain words and their spelling.

I think that if you want to take the language input seriously, it's a good idea to explicitly plan in the times you're going to  be with your child AND speak to them. This way, you can keep a check on how much input they're getting. 

I write the times I'm going to take or pick up Marc from school in my diary.  In my case this year, I've been able to stick to Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. I get to the school about 20 minutes early and we normally read a book together. We've been doing this since he was about 5 (I need to check back through this blog!) I pick him up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I try to make the times we are alone together from 5pm-7.30 or 8pm . We normally go to a cafe/ restaurant such as Viena, and have a snack and a chat and then either read, do some drawing, do some exercised from the Carol Vorderman series or even help him with his homework, even Spanish or Catalan!  We treat them like foreign languages and discuss the answers and explanations in English.  And sometimes we'll go bowling or windowshopping together. 

At the weekends, I try to do as many activities in common with him as possible, walking, riding a bicycle, playing football or othe sports, shopping, bowling, eating together, watching films and TV programmes together.  I also give myself time to myself, otherwise I'd go mad.   

The point is, by explicitly planning you make sure you spend enough quality time with your child. It's a win-win and you can then plan when you're going to spend time with your partner and children too. It's important to spend time alone with your child as they need that language input.  

If you have any comments or any questions, please feel free to write.