A final DRONGO call – Multilingualism in Amsterdam, this weekend!

DRONGO is for anyone who lives in, and wants to explore the modern multilingual world. Is my language a problem or a solution? Where can I find booklets, expertise, training, tests, schools, interpreters? At DRONGO you will find questions and answers, speakers and storytellers, and a lot of contact opportunities. For children and parents, students and teachers, language professionals, policy makers and language fans!

I’ve been talking about it, blogging about it, writing about it… and now it is here. The 3rd annual DRONGO Festival of Multilingualism is in Amsterdam, this Saturday, September 27, from 10:00-17:00.
What have we been working so hard on for the last year? We’ve been lining up a festival that promises something for everyone, whether you are a little multilingual, a lot multilingual, or would just like to become multilingual…

There are so many great events that I can not highlight them all, and the whole program can be found on the website DRONGO Festival 2014

A brief list of the things I am really looking forward to:

Abdelkader Benali’s “Search for the most beautiful word” – an amaxing journey through language and meaning
Dr. Antonella Sorace’s talk on “Investigating Multilingualism: benefits and challenges”
Speed Language Lessons – try out one of the many languages on offer yourself, or for your kids, with Speed Languages for Kids (European School Bergen) – what a great opportunity for your kids to try out another language in a “speedy” format

And of course, the highlight for me will be the two multilingual read-a-thon sessions of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (11:00-12:00, 15:30-16:30). Last year this event was immensely special, as parents and children sat entranced to 12 versions of the much-loved story. This year we are looking forward to making it even better than ever. Job Cohen, Former Mayor of Amsterdam and Chair of the Board of the OBA, will open the first session, followed by Emmy McCarthy from Amsterdam Mamas, and then readers in a variety of other languages. The second session will be opened by Abdelkader Benali, reading in Dutch and in… how many languages? Definitely an event not to miss, for young and old.
We still have room for more readers, so if you would like to share your language with us, or know someone who might like to, please email me at ecrisfield@drongofestival.nl

These are just my personal highlights, do check out the full program and find out what is on for you. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday (blog-readers, I will be in the Children’s Library all day, and would be delighted to meet you!).

New Workshop: Family Language Planning

A quick note to announce that the first edition of the new two-part parenting series will be held in The Hague on September 22 and October 2, 2014.
The first event is the popular “Raising Bilingual Children: Six building blocks for success” seminar, which is an evening packed with theoretical and practical knowledge on raising children with two (or more) languages. This seminar is the culmination of years of working with multilingual families, and after listening to their feedback, we are adding a second session, focused on Family Language Planning.
This new workshop is designed to help parents understand the elements of success in Family Language Planning, and how to build a plan that meets the needs of their children. Through the process parents will also gain the knowledge needed to tweak a plan as circumstances dictate, or to come up with a new plan if necessary. Raising successful bilinguals is not always easy or linear, but a good plan, and an understanding of the planning process, will help parents on their way to success.
Registration is open for both sessions, attendance at the Family Language Planning requires prior attendance at the “Raising Bilingual Children” seminar, or attendance at a prior session (please indicate on the registration when/where you attended the “Raising Bilingual Children” seminar).

More information and registration can be found at Passionate Parenting.

New Year, New Bilingualism Projects!

To have another language is to possess a second soul.


Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/charlemagn182029.html#trkFxkBroweWuwU0.99

As someone who has lived within the academic world since the age of five years old, I always feel like the beginning of September is the “New Year” for me. The last six months have been very busy for me, both personally and professionally (having three kids will do that for you!) and I’ve not been a very consistent blogger…
So here is a new start, with four projects I am working on – What’s happening with CEC (Crisfield Educational Consulting) this year.

1. Right now, I am in the UK, Coventry to be precise, to present the results of our pilot project “Beyond EAL: Supporting Language Learners in British Schools” at the annual conference of the British Association of Applied Linguistics. The project was in collaboration with Dr. Jane Spiro of Oxford Brookes University, and New Marston Primary School in Oxford. Over the academic year, we did eight training sessions on various aspects bilingualism in education with the school staff, and ran a research project alongside. We’ve been very happy with our initial results, and are looking for partner schools who may be interested in committing to a longitudinal project, starting in Sept. 2015. If you would like more information, for yourself or for your school, you can find it on my website Crisfield Educational Consulting or email me.

2. Also new this year, I’ve joined the teacher-training team at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. One of my first important moments was opening a brief discussion of “mother tongue” use in language classes with a group of trainee teachers who have always been taught with the “target language ONLY” method. I really enjoy working with pre-service teachers and am looking forward to many interesting and thought-provoking sessions this year!

3. In addition to the academic side of my work, I also spend time working with parents, in various circumstances. The beginning of the year is always busy, as I go into schools to do seminars for parents on “Raising Bilingual Children” and the parental role when you are achieving bilingualism through education. Although teacher-education is very important, it’s also important for parents to understand their own critical role in the process. For parents who do not have access to these seminars at school, I also do seminars through local community organisations. There are upcoming sessions in The Hague in partnership with Passionate Parenting and in Amsterdam in partnership with Jacaranda Tree Montessori. These sessions are theory-and-practice sessions, on raising children with two or more languages, at home, school, or in the community.

4. DRONGO! The DRONGO Fesitival of Multilingualism is an annual event, held at the main public library (OBA) in Amsterdam every September, this year, September 27. The festival is is for people of all ages who are multilingual, want to be multilingual or just love language. There are too many events to list (see the website of FB page) but my personal project is the Children’s Program. This year we have an outstanding program lined up for parents and children, from multilingual story time with Amsterdam Mamas to Speed Language Lessons for Children with The European School Bergen, and on through theatre, creative writing, Chinese calligraphy and many others. I’ll write a full post on this festival – it deserves its own page – in the next two weeks. For now, I am doing a “general call” for readers for our “A Very Multilingual Caterpillar” read-a-thon. Last year this event was an overwhelming success, with standing room only and people being turned away. So this year, we are moving it to a bigger space (in the main area of the children’s floor), and having two sessions (11:00-12:00 and 15:30-16:30). If you would like to share your language with us, or know someone else who would like to share theirs, please do get it touch. Each reading takes between 5-7 minutes, and last year we had a dozen languages represented, which we would love to double!

So, off to present research and hear other interesting presentations about a host of language-related topics, and I’ll be back here sooner than you might expect..

The Bilingual Zoo: New support forum for parents

I’ve written here before about Bilingual Monkeys, which is a great website full of information about raising bilingual children. There is a new spin-off from the website, The Bilingual Zoo, which is a proper forum for parents looking for support from other families on the same journey. I think this is a great initiative; parents need a place to post questions and get quick answers and share the trials, tribulations and triumphs of raising children with more than one language. A community like this only works with support from the members, so if you are interested in collaborating and sharing, head over to Bilingual Monkeys for more about the new forum, and links to registration. Looking forward to seeing you there, and thanks Adam for the great initiative!

Five ways your school can support multilingualism

photo (6)

As we come to the end of the school year I’ve been reflecting on how much the school impacts successful bilingual development. Most schools are not “bilingual” schools, or “immersion” schools, or indeed any kind of language-based school model. Many schools believe that their only job is to ensure that all their pupils master the language of the school, which therefore absolves them from any need to support multilingualism or the development of their pupils’ “other” languages. This, despite the fact that research clearly demonstrates that the pathway to success in a new language at school is best achieved through supporting the first/home language. After more than 20 years (yes, I am that old…) working in the field of education and language-education, I’ve seen many good models of bilingualism in education, and some poor models too. What I have seen this year, for the first time, is the immense impact that the school can have on “later bilinguals”. We all know that children who start school in a new language at a very young age (pre-school to school age) are generally very successful and seem to acquire the school language quickly. Older children, however, these “late bilinguals” are children who switch schools to a new language after about 7-8 years of age. The transition for these children is generally much more difficult, as the academic weight of schooling increases with age, therefore the language level necessary to learn well also increases.
The children pictured above are from my older daughter’s class. They all started Year 5 (final year of primary school) in September, in a new school, and most of them in a new language. The children in the class were almost exclusively monolingual – French, Italian, Spanish, German, Polish, Urdu, Portuguese, and Russian speaking. Some of them “had a little English” or “had a little Dutch”, but there were only two children in the class who were truly at ease in English and one other language. The photo was taken last week, at their end of year fair. I chose this photo to represent the growth of the class because it captures perfectly my message today. When children are encouraged to celebrate *all* their languages, they grow in ways we, as parents and teachers, can not begin to imagine.

Yesterday we attended the “leaving ceremony” for the Year 5 pupils, and it was another example of the power of positive/additive bilingualism. The children from the Dutch section performed a play in which they traveled through different countries and used Dutch, English, French, German and Spanish in their performance. I’m sure that many parents did not understand all of the play, but the kids did, and they all celebrated each other’s languages by integrating them all into the play. The English section performed a play in which they reflected on their process of starting as a group of diverse children who could not communicate and ending as a cohesive group of children who can all work and play together.

So what is their school (The European School The Hague) doing to facilitate this process? It may seem that their mandate as a “European School” with a multilingual mandate gives them an advantage, and that other schools can not hope to achieve the same kind of success. But really, any school can promote the growth – linguistic, cognitive and social – of their bi/multilingual pupils, in these simple ways:

1. Embrace all the languages spoken in the school, both in word and in deed. Use visual support around the school, verbal support in and out of class, and affective support to let all children know that their first/home language has value.
2. Encourage children to share together their different languages, and to understand how they are different and similar.
3. Show through positive modeling that all languages are of equal value in the school environment, even if one is more “useful” for school purposes. In particular, let children use their first/home languages together to help them learn content and ensure understanding when they are still learning the school language.
4. Involve parents. Children who have parents who speak another language often believe that this is something to be ashamed of – how many minority parents hear from their child “Mummy, please don’t speak to me in x-language at school – it’s embarrassing!”. Bring parents into the school to read in their language to whole classes, to demonstrate that other languages are also used for communication and literacy, and to help the monolingual children better understand the position of the children who are language learners.
5. Never make language a source of punishment. Languages – all languages – are important and useful and beautiful. Punishing a child for their language use is not only unfair, it is also cruel, and so very detrimental to their overall development in and out of school. There are many positive ways to encourage children to use the school language without being punitive about their own language.

If you have a bi/multilingual child in a mainly monolingual school, have a think about how your school thinks about bilingualism. Are they promoting “additive bilingualism” (we think it is great you speak another language and we want to *add* the school language to this) or “subtractive bilingualism” (it doesn’t matter that you speak another language, here only the school language is important”). And if you come to the conclusion that they are not as “additive” as they should be, I challenge you to make this your personal project for the next school year!

Let’s talk about Dutch Mother Tongue support (Hup! Hup! Holland!)

So as the rest of the country sits wide awake, glued to the Netherlands-Argentina game, I too am considering the position of Dutch in the world, but the language, not the football team. Don’t feel sorry for me; I’d really rather think about language than watch the World Cup semi-finals… (small confession: the game is on, but the sound is muted – I know the horns will alert me if there is a goal).

So why am I pondering support for Dutch as a mother tongue from my sofa in the Netherlands? Because all over the world there are children being raised with Dutch as one of, but not their only language, for a variety of reasons. Some of them may have a parent on a foreign posting (a footballer perhaps?) and others may have a Dutch-speaking parent (or Flemish speaking!) but are being raised outside the Netherlands. But for whatever reason, these children are in the process of being raised as bilinguals, in a place where schooling is not available in their “mother tongue” or L1. This weekend I have been invited to speak at a training conference for an organisation that trains and provides Dutch L1 teachers to schools and organisations around the world. I think this is a fantastic initiative. To be completely frank, Dutch is not a widely spoken language. It’s a small country, and even when you add the numbers of Flemish speakers from across the border (sorry Vlaams speakers – I am considering it “Dutch” for the purposes of this article, although I am very aware that it is not “just Dutch”!) there are still not that many people in the world who speak Dutch.
So if you are abroad with your Dutch-speaking children, either temporarily or permanently, you may not have a lot of resources available to help your child’s Dutch grow and thrive. Language One helps international schools and other private organisations provide “mother tongue” tuition for many of these children which would not otherwise be available. This is important on many levels. For children temporarily out of the country, it’s important that their Dutch language skills continue to grow at an age-appropriate rate, so that when they come “home” they can reintegrate back into Dutch schools and Dutch society. For Dutch-speaking children permanently abroad, language support gives them a chance to grow their Dutch skills in a school-based setting, so that they develop a level of Dutch that will allow them to access their own culture and connect with their “Dutchness”.
If I were a business person, I’d consider this a great model – there are so many expats and immigrants around the world that would be delighted to have an organisation provide qualified, trained L1 teachers to their schools or companies. It’s a valuable service that supports the growth and development of the growing “Third Culture Kid” population, and provides possibilities for positive in-school models of bilingualism. But I’m not a business person, so I’ll just say I think this is a great initiative, and I hope that it becomes available for other languages one day too. And I look forward to working with these “Language One” pioneers on Saturday!

If you only buy one book about bilingualism… (A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism)

I actually say that every time I do a seminar on raising bilingual children. I take my copy, and I show it around, and tell the parents that *this* is the book to buy. So what is so great about this book already (it’s been top of my recommended resources list since I started) and what makes the new edition even better?

The book is for parents and teachers who are bilinguals themselves, for parents and teachers who are monolingual, and for other professionals such as doctors, speech therapists, practicing psychologists, counsellors, and teachers who want to know more. xvii

Really, it is for *everyone* who is interested and needs to know about bilingualism. It isn’t a niche book. It doesn’t speak only to parents or to academics, like so many books. It is accessible enough for the lay-person to find it easy and enjoyable and thorough and research-based enough for the professional to treat the ideas within it with respect. Colin Baker not only knows about bilingualism, he also knows how to talk about it so others can understand it.

One of the great things about this book is the format. It’s a question-and-answer format, divided into themed sections. So if you have a question or concern, you can look it up in the index and be directed to a 1-2 page answer to that specific question. This also makes it easy to share a page or two with a friend, teacher, doctor… who may be giving you poor advice! However, if you want the whole picture, you can get this from reading the sections together as a “chapter”. For example, you can read the whole section on “Language Development Questions” to get a good overview of bilingual language development. Or, you can dip in to just one question, if, for example, you are concerned about whether one person should speak more than one language with your child (B15 – Should my child use two languages with the same person?).
So, whether you use it as a “textbook” or to answer the questions that inevitably crop up on the journey to bilingualism, this book will help you along the way.

The fourth edition has some interesting additions that reflect how the bilingual community is changing. New sections include questions about IT and the Internet, Translanguaging, International Education, Adoption and many others that further refine areas dealing with language input patterns, and areas of difficulty. These additional sections serve to widen the knowledge base presented in the book and respond to new developments in the bilingual child paradigm and new research in the field.

And so, A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism will remain in my top resources list, with the new 4th edition cementing its place as “Most Valuable Book”.

Below is a clickable link (cheer for my technical progress!) to the book on Amazon.

(NB: I was asked to review the book but do not profit in any way financially from either the review or the sales from this link.)

The One Book

Really? Can kids with Language Impairment or _____ Learn TWO Languages?


Another fantastic post that explains why children who have language delays or other learning issues can become bilingual. It’s a question that comes up often, and is usually accompanied by the advice to “drop a language”, which is nether necessary nor necessarily beneficial.

Originally posted on 2 Languages 2 Worlds:

Is the earth round, really? It seems flat to me. I’ve been in many places in the world and I haven’t heard about anyone falling off it and so from my own logic and experience it appears the earth is flat. This is how evidence goes it seems and I find myself getting frustrated but I do try to understand the logic of disbelief– even in light of evidence. Yes, the earth is round (a sphere actually) and children with language impairment and those with other disabilities that affect language learning CAN (and do) become bilingual. No, they do not become MORE delayed.

View original 479 more words

Most Teacher Preparation Falls Short on Strategies for ELLs, NCTQ Finds – Learning the Language – Education Week

Although US-based, this article points out the same issues that teacher-training programs in Europe present – a lack of training, either complete or adequate, for supporting the needs of language learners in mainstream classrooms. It’s such a wide-spread problem, and so little, institutionally speaking, is being done to address it in a consistent manner.
Our “Beyond EAL” research project in the UK which just finished the pilot phase is attempting to bridge the growing gap between numbers of language learners in schools, and numbers of teachers qualified to support them effectively throughout the curriculum. In my next post I’ll talk more about the pilot project and our preliminary results, and some early-buy-exciting outcomes. Watch this space!

Most Teacher Preparation Falls Short on Strategies for ELLs, NCTQ Finds – Learning the Language – Education Week.

It’s DRONGO time again! Join us for a day of multilingual delights (Sept. 27)

It may seem a bit precocious to be announcing a festival upcoming in September, but it is never too early to mark it on your calendar!
Last year’s DRONGO, the second edition, was a roaring success, with over 7,000 visitors over the day. This year’s promises to be bigger and better!

I am once again organising the Children’s Program, and here is what is new and old:

- Our “A Very Multilingual Caterpillar” was a standing-room only success last year. We are reprising our multilingual reading of this universal children’s classic, but changing the format somewhat. In order to accommodate larger audiences and little listeners who need to come and go, this event will be held twice, in the main area of the Children’s Library (rather than in the theatre)

- The Multilingual Children’s Lab will have a published schedule of events, so you can plan your visit around what you want to hear/see and what activities your children would like to participate in also. Some tidbits to tempt you…

- The European School Bergen will be hosting “speed language lessons” for children. In these short sessions your children can try out a variety of languages in a fun environment

- One Globe Kids will be bringing their fabulous interactive app that lets kids hear and see children from around the world, and experience their culture and languages

- Theater Luister will be bringing their “educatief voorleestheater” to the festival, with additional sessions on reading in other languages after the show (Theater Luister)

These are just some of the fantastic activities that will happen over the day. If you are involved with an organisation that supports bilingualism/multilingualism/language learning for children and you are interested in being involved, please email me (language schools, bilingual creche/nursery/schools/play groups, “Saturday” heritage language schools etc.).

Important information for your Calendar:

Event: DRONGO Festival of Multilingualism
Date: September 27, 2014
Time: 11:00-18:00
Place: Amsterdam Public Library (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam)
More information: DRONGO 2014



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