Bosley, the Language Bear

3 Reasons and Tips for Raising a Bilingual Child

In today’s increasingly diverse society – where cultures and languages are constantly shifting and changing – raising a bilingual or multilingual child has become less of a want and more of a need. There’s no question that there are multiple benefits to getting your little one started on conquering more than one language, especially when the early exposure to language – preferably before the age of thirteen –is essential in order for fluency to be possible. However, if you’re still on the fence regarding whether or not to pursue more than one language for your child, check out these three benefits and tips for raising a bilingual kid.

  1. Intellectual development.

Studies have shown that intellectual development is generally greater in bilingual children and that dual language speakers usually perform better on analytic tests than monolinguals. Being able to speak more than one language automatically increases your ability to analyze and grasp difficult concepts. Much like early musical training helps to develop the portion of your brain involved in reasoning; language learning has much the same effect, helping kids to be able to use their minds in a greater capacity.

Teaching tip: Consistency is key. If you plan on embarking on the language learning journey with your child, you will need to be incredibly consistent to ensure fluency happens. Divide your time between languages and make sure you’re practicing with your little one on a daily basis.

  1. Multilingual learning.

One of the greatest benefits of having a child grow up bilingual is that even once they reach adulthood learning other languages becomes exponentially easier. Sister tongues will be easier to pick up in tandem: a child who knows how to speak French can link their knowledge to Spanish studies, as an individual fluent in Japanese will have an easier time understanding the basics of Mandarin. By raising a bilingual child you are in effect setting them up for the possibility of becoming a successful polyglot.

Teaching tip: Exposure is key. Studies show that your child will need to be exposed to a language for at least 30% of their day in order to effortlessly become bilingual. Make foreign language books and computer games available to them at home and see to it that their classroom is stocked with some basic learning supplies as well.

  1. Bicultural advantage.

Knowing how to speak more than one language has been shown to boost flexibility and adaptability in children. Due to the variances in languages, bilingual children are better able to manage and understand different cultures and many times blend in much easier than monolinguals. Speaking foreign languages also creates a wider cultural perspective, causing bilingual children to be sensitive to different points of views and ways of life.

Teaching tip: Tenacity is key. There may be a period in which your child will refuse to interact with you in the desired language. Perhaps your child doesn’t see the point in it or is simply succumbing to the majority language they hear most of the time  –either way you must stick with it. Regardless of the bumps in the road, know that the payback will be huge later on.

Katie Collom writes on behalf of Language Trainers, a foreign language tutoring service specializing in group and one-on-one classes via Skype. Check out their language level tests and other free, online resources on their website or send them a quick inquiry for more information about their personalized course packages.

 

 

Why Language Learning at a High School Level Doesn’t Work

high-school language learning

Learning a second language can have a lot of advantages, especially when using it for business purposes, sharing ideas and opinions or simply in making new friends.  Unfortunately, learning a new language can also be very challenging.  Early language learning while we are young children is generally most beneficial and has been proven to be the best way to obtain and retain proper grammar and pronunciation skills as early learners’ minds are impressionable enough to easily accept this new language as a part of their core developmental skill set.  As adults, we recognize the value in learning a language and can accomplish the task of becoming fluent through hard work and dedication, knowing what impact our efforts will have on our daily lives, and how this skill will eventually enrich our jobs and relationships and increase the number of opportunities that present themselves.

Just as it is hard to imagine what it feels like to go swimming if you have never been, at the age of a high school student it can be difficult to see the benefit and impact a second language will have to improving your life.  And equally difficult is it to actually utilize the amount of cognitive capacity it takes to commit an entire new language to memory, and on top of that, to actually implement that linguistic knowledge in an environment where it can be applied, challenged, and, most importantly, practiced regularly.

The amount of barriers to entry for a high school student to learn a second language pile up faster than you can imagine!  And yet this is when the majority of second languages are taught in public schools.  Also, they are generally offered as a required course thereby eliminating any sort of self-motivated factor that is essential to retaining this magnitude of information.  Without specific job prospects, relationships or travel plans in mind, it would be difficult for anyone to muster the self-motivation required for learning a second language.  At the high school level, kids are simply saturated with so many new opportunities and potential paths that language learning is easy to overlook, especially given the above barriers to entry.

If you want your child to learn a second language, unless you want them to wait until they are grown to realize and implement the self-motivating factors for themselves, it is important to be that motivating factor as a parent.  Give them reasons to learn, reasons to be curious, give them insight into foreign cultures, foreign sights and sounds and let their insatiable childhood curiosity be the relentless engine driving their language learning vessel.

Alternatively, however, just to reassure you that your high school student is not a lost cause, if your child is in high school and just beginning a language learning course for the first time, it is important to encourage them and help them identify the self-motivating factors for themselves.  The important thing to note here is that your motivating factors may wildly differ from their motivating factors.  If you can help them realize their own motivation for learning a language and they will undoubtedly have the capacity to learn and and retain their second language as they transition to adulthood, given that they have the appropriate practical outlets for practicing and nurturing their new skill.

Vocal Dexterity and the Baby Babble

Doggie

“Dawwww-DEE!”

Silly, silly toddlers.  Yes, the twins are now old enough (15 months) to be considered toddlers!  Their favorite word by far is “doggy”, pronounced “daawww-DEE!” With a strong accent on the second syllable, and usually followed by the same word again and again.  They’re definitely catching on to the fact that they are on to something and they’re having fun making sounds that they get recognition for.  We read to them every night and and talk to the constantly.  Our nanny is a Spanish teacher so they’re getting a good amount of exposure to Spanish, and I do my best to speak to them in Japanese and associate new words with objects they already know.

One of the things that feels the most important at this stage is getting their little vocal chords making new and different sounds.  It’s amazing to listen to the sounds they come up with and they are very proud when they discover a new vowel or consonant sound.  You can see the wheels turning as they explore their capabilities and try to match what you say.  Oliver came out with his version of the word for “cheese” the other day, pronounced “Ghi!” (with an exclamation point).  Nope, it’s not even close but he’s proud as punch that he can say it and he takes a few seconds before he says it to form his mouth into the right shape.

Since they are trying so hard right now to replicate what we say, I think it’s important to make strange noises that challenge them in that way.  Not just English sounds, and not just foreign words, but also completely ridiculous sounds and babbles that make them really wonder about all the sounds they can make.  Not only is it fun (and ridiculously cute) but it’s a great way for them to exercise their little vocal chords in a way that will hopefully make speaking many different languages much easier as they continue to develop.

Repeating their babbles back to them can be construed as “baby talk” and I don’t think that that is always constructive.  Rather, I think that providing the opportunity for them to hear real words and sounds is probably best for their vocabulary.  However, I do think it teaches them that there is value in repeating what others say.  If they hear me repeating their noises, they will be more likely to try to repeat my noises (words).  Additionally, the vocal dexterity that they will gain by making silly noises and experimenting with their capabilities will serve as a constant reminder to them of the variety of sounds they are capable of.  It’s my hope that second languages with different vowel sounds, different consonants and different intonation will not be quite as foreign if we maintain this level of vocal dexterity practice.

Interview: How is Language Learning Encouraged in Bosley’s New Friends?

Interview: How is language taught in Bosley Sees the World?

Parent-Child Bonding with Secret Code Words in a Second Language

HelloIn order to encourage your child’s interest in a second language, and at the same time maintaining a strong friendship with your child, try creating teaching them a few words in a second language that you can use as “secret code words”.  Here’s what I mean…

If you teach your child the phrase “Do you want ice cream?” (in German this would be:  “willst du Eis?”) this would give you a good opportunity to suggest a special parent-child outing without anyone else knowing what you’re up to.  Or “Let’s go shopping” (Spanish: “Vamos de compras”)

Your children will feel proud that they understand these words especially if they are around friends or other students who don’t know what the two of you are talking about.  Even simple phrases like “please” and “thank you” can be empowering for a child to be able to usefully implement in the appropriate scenario.

Help Toddlers Develop Event Sequencing with Simplified Reading

Bosley’s series of books are designed to teach foreign language, including English as a second language. And they do so by means ofa variety of interesting techniques. If you’ve read any of the books you will notice that they all contain a couple key words, on every page, that are highlighted in both languages. This is a tool that can add a fun element for kids and can be used strategically by parents and teachers.

Toddlers

The words chosen to be highlighted are two or three of the words that embody the theme of the story on that page. To read the story in a very minimalistic way, you could easily just recite these specific words to summarize the entire story. I always encourage reading to even very young children but I realize that the attention span of a toddler may not be that of an older child.

Simply flipping through the book and reading these words will allow you to open to a page, point to the picture or an element of the picture and say the words in one or both languages. Doing this will help your toddler learn word associations and eventually it will allow them to follow along with a simplified version of the sequence of events in the book and ultimately, the plot.

Building event sequences in young children is an excellent way to help their brains develop. It is thought that humans first develop memories by recognizing event sequences and being able to recollect mini story lines.

I would encourage you to try this with other picture books your child enjoys as well. Instead of reading the story word for word to your toddler, give them a change of pace every now and then and summarize each page of a picture book with one word or a short phase. Their attention span may be long enough to realize the order of events more easily than while reading the whole book.

Language Learning Teacher’s Guide Coming Soon!

I’m so excited that I get to share Bosley’s stories with children all over the world and I have had lots of people use the books in their classes for both children and adults!  I’m happy to announce that coming in January I will be offering an AWESOME teachers guide for kids that will encourage language learning in a fun, creative way, presenting lesson plans that encompass all types of learning methods.  There will be audible, visual, and hands on lessons that help children learn new words and phrases in a multitude of different ways.

I have hired an expert in curriculum development to help me with the guidebook and I’m really excited about it.  I will be releasing it sometime in January and I will keep you posted on the progress.  It will utilize the story context of the book and really focus on new creative ways to put the vocabulary into practice.

In the meantime, enjoy the wonderful holiday season!

Toddler Brain Scan Suggests Early Life is Best Time to Learn Language

Regions of the brain that show leftward asymmetry of myelin (credit: Baby Imaging Lab/Brown University)

Regions of the brain that show leftward asymmetry of myelin (credit: Baby Imaging Lab/Brown University)

Researchers at the King’s College London has just published an article summarizing a recent brain scan done on normally developing children ages 1 to 6 to identify the distribution of myelin in developing brains.  Myelin is a substance that allows communication between neurons to occur very efficiently and is developed as neuronal activity increases during development.

What they found is that the level of myelin had a direct correlation to language learning and that it changed with age.

The study reveals a particular window, from 2 years to the age of 4, during which environmental influence on language development may be greatest.

The findings help explain why, in a bilingual environment, very young  typically developing children are better capable of becoming fluent in both languages; and why interventions for neurodevelopmental disorders where language is impaired, such as autism, may be much more successful if implemented at a very young age.

The type of correlation that the research suggests is that, even if at age 4 our myelin stabilizes, it is still primarily environmental influences and not anatomy that allow optimal language learning.

To read more about the study and the research done, visit: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/iop/news/records/2013/October/Toddlers-brain-wiring-develops-to-accommodate-new-words.aspx

Early Language Exposure for the Twins

Bosley's First Words and Twins

We’ve been having a great time since the twins were born in February, playing and watching them grow and I would love to share with you some of the bilingual activities that we’re undertaking as we go.

It’s said that the younger we are the better we are at learning languages.  We have to be, really.  We’re tossed into a foreign land when we are born and expected to learn not only how to move our mouths, but to make coherent noises come out of them that the people around us will understand.  These sounds would need to be completely different simply based on the geographic location where we pop out.  There is no DNA coding for speech patterns, accent, or vocabulary, the only way we can all initially communicate is through crying.  (And we’ve been having plenty of that with the twins, trust me.  In stereo!)

Over those first few months, babies are already building their paradigms; they are becoming familiar with the sound patterns that they will hear for the vast majority of their lives.  I’ve been doing as much as I can to expose them to other unfamiliar sounds that are outside of what they hear most of the day.  Just a bit of exposure to help their brains recognize and become familiar with many of the sounds that exist in Japanese but not in English.  I’ve been showing them words in the books we read; most of which are English books but some are Japanese, some French, some Italian.  Undoubtedly, the Japanese characters will look the most different to them, but at this point it’s all about exposure and new experiences.

We haven’t really exposed the boys to any television yet.  I’m sure this would be a good topic for discussion, because there is certainly plenty of exposure to be had by watching some Japanese cartoons on YouTube that would be both engaging visually and full of new sounds and great exposure, but we’ve decided, at least for now to keep the exposure to the physical realm.  When the boys do see a TV or computer screen somewhere they are instantly mesmerized and seemingly get lost in some subconscious nether-world.

I do enjoy playing music for them, they love the guitar and they love songs, and I try to expose them to different music genres the same way that I do different languages.  I have also been using TuneIn Radio on my smartphone to pick up radio stations in Japan so that they have the opportunity to listen to fluent native speakers (the DJs) and Japanese lyrics in the songs.  I’ll be continuing to expose them to as much as possible and will keep you posted on anything that I learn that might be of interest.

My Journey into Bilingual Parenting

Tim and the boysI started the series of Bosley books before we had children.  Knowing that we would be starting a family in the coming years I wanted to be ready and I used that dream of a family as inspiration to write the first book.  I have always been an advocate for language learning and have always tried to do my diligence to speak the native language when visiting another country.   (Even worked on my Scottish accent when my wife and I went there, but probably just sounded like a buffoon!)

I knew that second language learning would be very important to me as we took our first steps into parenthood.  I loved learning French from my mother as a child, it always made me feel proud that I knew something the other kids didn’t, like secret code words.  And martial arts has always fostered my interest in Asian culture and language, so when the opportunity arose to take a trip to Japan during high school I did everything I could to make that happen (with a little help from my parents).  I made some life-long friends that I still communicate with there today and have worked very hard to keep up a good working knowledge of Japanese.  I’m not fluent by any means, but I can “get by”.  Japanese resonates with the workings of my own engineering brain in that it is very structured, and rule based.  There is virtually no ambiguity in the language as compared to others (including English) that have silent letters, and rules seemingly made up on the fly.  So I like the language and am excited to have my children learn it with me.  (Selfishly, I really just want more people to practice Japanese with!)

I’ve been publishing articles on this website for years that have to do with early childhood development, second language learning for children, and tips for bilingual parenting, etc.  But with the new website upgrade, and the new additions to my family, I think it is time to get a bit more personal and start dispelling some of my own experiences as I raise these two wonderful children.  I will be teaching them as much as possible, but undoubtedly learning just as much from them as they learn from me.

I hope you will join me on this journey and I hope you can enjoy the articles and get something out of them.  I would love to have some discussions spark up in the comment section, so please leave your thoughts, comments and suggestions below this article.  I would love to hear about the linguistic goals you have for your family.

The Top 5 Best Choices for Second Language in Children

worldDeciding to raise your child speaking a first and a second language is a major parenting decision, but choosing which second language to teach him or her is another important one. Aside from cultural heritage, the personal preference of the parent, and popularity of the second language, which will have economic and social benefits in the future, there are many other factors that influence this choice. Thanks to books like The Adventures of Bosley Bear series that make language options available, parents can have an idea where to begin.

According to Ethnologue 17th edition, the top five most popular languages in the globe are Mandarin (Chinese), Spanish, English, Arabic and Hindi. There are approximately 1.92 Billion people in the world who speak Mandarin while there are only 406 Million for Spanish and 335 Million for English.

Mandarin (Chinese)

Imagine being conversational in Mandarin alone, you have the opportunity to exchange ideas with 882 Million people in the world! Although quite challenging to learn, much more to teach, this language does have the upside of having no grammatical rules on subject-verb agreements and tenses. Mandarin also has an exceptionally easy numbering system. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his book Outliers, this is the reason Chinese children are usually exceptional in Math. Besides being able to soak in the rich culture of China, learning Mandarin is a secret weapon to building business relations. Chinese entrepreneurs are more comfortable and more willing to discuss business, especially when it comes to discounts and long-term relationships, when the other party is fluent in their mother tongue.

Spanish

Perhaps because Dora the Explorer has become a household name, but Spanish is another language worth looking into. Back in 2007, The Pew Hispanic Center said that 22% of minors in the United States were Latin Americans. It undoubtedly has continued to grow. There are several career fields such as Healthcare and Education that are highly influenced by English-Spanish speakers. Several businesses in the US specifically target the needs of Spanish-speaking consumers as well as employ Spanish-speaking staff. In school, being an exploradora of the Spanish language can help children build deeper and more meaningful connections with their Spanish-speaking peers.

English

Of course, English is a major global language and the ESL industry is continuously booming. It is the most common language used to communicate cross-culturally. Foreigners who take English as a second language tend to experience an obvious and immediate career boost. It is the language of the Film Industry, and most of the important scientific or literary texts are in English or are translated into English for wider distribution. The system of the language has similarities with several other foreign languages as well, making it easier to acquire.

Arabic

According to Forbes.com, there was a 127% increase in the college enrollment for Arabic between 2002 and 2006 due to the very high demand. On their side of the world, Arabs are opening up countless lines of potential international business opportunities. Choosing to educate your child in Arabic is a very diplomatic decision as well. It gives your child the opportunity to build positive relations with the Arab community whether it would for trade purposes or cultural exchange purposes.

Hindi

There are is an endless list of wonderful things you can learn from Hindi culture from religion, architecture, old civilizations, Bollywood films and many others. Learning Hindi will help you find your way to the Taj Mahal if you ever decide to travel to the splendid country of India. The economic growth of the country is unstoppable and predictably, several of the future people of influence, within the generation of today’s children, will be Hindu-speaking.

The languages listed above are only the Top 5 most commonly spoken languages as of today. The 6th down to the 10th most commonly spoken ones are Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese and lastly Javanese. Other languages worth looking into are French and Italian.

Whichever language a parent chooses for their child, what is most important is to teach it with discipline and to impart to the child to respect and in some ways integrate the culture where that language is from. This may be a monumental task, but if we kept in mind what the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my universe”, then we can also keep in mind that the challenges of teaching will be far outweighed by the wonderful experiences the child will have in the entirety of his lifetime.

Take Advantage of Your Child’s Questions as Optimal Learning Opportunities

questionBeing bilingual is definitely an asset in this modern age, what with all the different cultures of the world coming together and the world continuing to shrink because of the ever-growing improvement of communication between cultures.  While being able to speak two or more languages is definitely an advantage, it is not an advantage that is widely shared by everyone and is one of the reasons that language barriers continue to exist between many different races and cultures. So having your child learn another language can prove to be advantageous in the long run.

The reason bilingualism is not more common than it is, is because of the high barrier to entry.  Learning a language at the beginning of our life when our minds are most absorbent still takes years.  Also, children may not always fully comprehend the importance of learning another language and some of them might find it difficult to learn it as quickly as other children. This stems from the fact that some children simply don’t want to learn a new language.

bicycleThe first time children hear a new word, they immediately make a connection between the experience of the object, and the corresponding word.  If a child knows that the funny looking thing made of a triangle and two big wheels is called a “bicycle” then they’ve already made an initial connection between the word and object.  Generally children will make this connection in their first language, but from time to time, it is a powerful learning opportunity to have them make this initial connection with a word in the second language.  If that object was connected to the word “jitensha”, there is a greater likelihood that they will hang on to that vocabulary word long into their life.

It’s also a good idea to take advantage of the first time they see an object without a name; when they are looking for something to call it.  Many babies say “dat” and point to an object to ask what it is called.  The best time to teach a child anything, in my opinion, is when they are initiating the learning by asking a direct question like this.  That is when they are truly engaged and self-motivated to learn.

With no lack of questions coming from small children, these opportunities are abundant, however sometimes parents get lost in a barrage of seemingly endless questions missing out on a myriad of learning opportunities.

Avoiding Second-Language Confusion with a Talking Monkey

As my kids get older and ready for more active language learning, I’m going to start writing about my plans and strategies here.

Here’s an idea to get your child learning a second language while respecting the boundaries of the first language.  Some people are of the opinion that teaching two separate languages within one household can lead to confusion and cause the child to mix languages.  Some people solve this problem by having one parent speak one language and the other parent speak another.  Another way to solve this would be to speak one language at school and another language at home.  These strategies create a separation between the two languages that clearly differentiate two different methods of communication.sarusan

A method I will be trying to encourage linguistic boundaries is the use of a stuffed animal.  At these young ages, babies can watch and listen to a stuffed animal talk in a funny voice for quite some time and maintain interest (relatively speaking..)  I’m not sure why but I’ve chosen a little stuffed monkey to be the one to speak Japanese.  He doesn’t know English so will only use Japanese words with the kids and will only respond to Japanese commands.  I (as the parent) will have the opportunity to explain to the boys how to communicate with “Sarusan” (the monkey) and hopefully it will make for some interesting and engaging language lessons.

How Bilingual Books for Kids are Effective ESL Learning Tools

bilingual_reading_0

With countless career and life opportunities being offered in native English-speaking countries like America, the UK, Canada and Australia, it is no wonder that the English as Second Language or ESL industry is booming. Foreigners who take the time to learn English as their secondary language can be seen advancing in their career more drastically compared with native English speakers learning another foreign language. Despite being a major avenue for foreigners to gain a competitive edge, there are still chinks in the ESL program that should be improved in order to facilitate a more effective way of educating.

Instructors normally use lesson plans, articles and handouts as resources to teach. One very underrated but very promising ESL teaching tool, however, are bilingual books especially those intended for children.

Bilingual books for kids are basic and friendly, but a different approach.

What could be more basic than a children’s book? They are simple and visual, and the flowing storyline makes for a more concrete thought pattern. The colorful and playful nature of a children’s book also facilitate a more cheerful exchange between the instructor and student, breaking down possible walls of apprehension and indifference to learning.

ESL students become frustrated because of the segregation from native English speakers. There are low chances of accelerating into the “more advanced” group and this cuts their chances of competing with and possibly excelling academically in that group and further deprives them of higher education.

It isn’t that they are any less capable. The frustration boils from the fact that they cannot articulate and relay their ideas and thoughts as vividly as they would in their mother tongue. Their poor performance in English is not an indication of a limitation in capability; it simply means they are a different kind of learner that requires a different approach to learning.

Use of children’s bilingual books is an important stepping stone.

One of the major limits of ESL is that the instructor is not required to know the first language of the student. Understandably so, since sometimes he or she would be teaching a room filled with students from varied cultures and languages.

There comes an unavoidable point where both a bilingual dictionary and a picture dictionary can save both the student and the instructor from a lot of frustration and tension. It is ideal to use bilingual books for children as a stepping stone in these very early and crucial stages of learning English prior to using bilingual and picture dictionaries.

A bilingual book makes the student feel comfortable and involved.

Using bilingual books is a wonderful way for ESL students to feel more comfortable learning English, knowing that the instructor is invested in guiding his learning pace. The student can see a genuine intention on the part of the instructor to teach English by going beyond the structured ESL curriculum and incorporating a contrastive approach in favor of the ESL student.

With a more familiar technique in learning, the student feels more accepting, open-minded and involved in the lesson, which initially seemed quite ‘foreign’ to him.

Sadly, there is a higher drop-out rate in schools for ESL students compared to native students. They have to adjust to the mainstream classes and to the environmental changes from their old school to the new one. More importantly, because of the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers tend to give ESL students a heated focus for “falling behind”. Seen as a liability that must be trimmed, they tend to passively allow ESL pupils to simply flunk out.

As educators, it is important to adjust the teaching style to suit what is effective to the student’s learning style. With the use of picture dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, children’s bilingual books, and a lot of patience, the learning process can kick off smoothly. Of course, it must serve as caveat that the language subject being taught is English, and that going back to the student’s first language is only a temporary tool in the learning process. It is not the permanent mode of learning.