Raising Bilingual Children: Six building blocks for success

Back by popular demand, the “Raising Bilingual Children: Six building blocks for success” seminar is being offered in The Hague, March 10, 2014. This seminar offers an overview of the theory of bilingualism/multilingualism, in an accessible and interesting lecture. We then move into the practicalities of raising children with more than one language: ways and means, and potential pitfalls along the way. The seminar closes with a brief introduction into the science and art of family language planning, as well as answering some common questions and misconceptions.
Come along for the evening, and bring your other half if you can!
Registration and more information at: Passionate Parenting Seminars

International Mother Language Day

February 21 is International Mother Language Day. Recognised by the United Nations as a day

“to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world

It is a day when all involved in multilingualism, whether personally or professionally, should stop and consider where they can make a difference.

February 21 is not a random date choice for this observance. On this date in 1952, student protesters in Pakistan were killed during a demonstration supporting the inclusion of Bengali as the second official language of Pakistan. Yes, they were shot at by police, for daring to insist on their right to use their “mother language”. Throughout history, minorities have been oppressed and discriminated against through the vehicle of language. All over Europe, regional languages died out due to policies disallowing the use and teaching of languages other than the majority, policies that endure, both overtly and covertly, today (France, I’m looking at you!). And all over the world minority languages are dying out due to lack of support: financial, moral and political. Outright violence in the name of language policy may be rare, but people suffer every day from the effects of government attempts to control and proscribe language use.

We don’t always notice it happening, because it isn’t always “newsworthy”. People are more careful about how they phrase things now – instead of saying “Your language is not as good as ours.” they say “Maybe you should speak more of *our* language to your child, so they can learn it better.” Or they say “Only *our* language is allowed in this school, because it is the only necessary language.”. Or they say “Maybe you should only speak one language to your child, so you don’t confuse them.”.

But no matter how they phrase it, the intention is the same – to proscribe to someone what language is acceptable, and which language they should use. And that is why we still need International Mother Language Day (although I’d argue for a more inclusive name). Because linguistic hegemony is still happening, everywhere, and many people still find it acceptable to infringe on the language rights of minority speakers.

I’m trying to make a difference this year by championing the right of every child to have their “mother language” respected and supported at school, and to bring about better attitudes towards multilingualism within schools.

Where can you make a difference this year?

Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

—from the United Nations International Mother Language Day microsite

Mother Tongue reading: A “Beyond EAL” project update

As I have mentioned previously, I am working with Dr. Jane Spiro from Oxford Brookes university on a teacher-training based research project this year. We are halfway through the training year, and it’s been both exciting and moving to see how the school and teachers are taking on-board the ideals behind the program of being an “EAL- empowered school” and the practical implications of this.
One of the most important initiatives to come out of the program so far is the introduction of “Mother tongue story telling” at the school. This is a part of the “Parents as Language Partners” program we are setting up during the training year.
I would like to share with you this fantastic article from the Oxford Brookes website, detailing some of activities and the impact on the school and children. I hope you are as impressed as I am with the quick uptake of new methods and ideas at the school, and how well these are being received by the community.
I’d love to hear your feedback, or hear from you if you work at or know a school that may be interested in the program.
MA TESOL students help local schools embrace EAL training

Welcome Mongolia!

Okay, not the usual kind of title for me… but there is a good reason. Normally, I do a little “year in review” at the beginning of a new blogging year. This year, I forgot to do it. Which was really a good thing, because in January something big happened on my blog. And that has to do with Mongolia…
When I began blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. People kept asking me if I had a blog, my husband kept telling me I needed a blog, and all I could think of was “Why in the world would I want to blog?”. I still think that every once in a while. The truth is, I am not a natural blogger. I am not dedicated enough to make sure I schedule posts for regular intervals, or to pursue all the social media options available to “boost my this” or “increase my that”. I’ve not taken to Twitter (the horror!) to try and be trending, or to follow other people who do what I do. I am not a natural social media animal. And I don’t make money from my blog, and I’m not trying to make money from it – it’s a sideline, a public soap box, if you will, to my “real” job, which is working with and educating parents and teachers, and teacher-trainers. Sometimes I feel like I need to do a lot more, to comb the web for followers, and try to get sponsored posts, and do “blog hops” to increase my readership. Sometimes it feels like if you aren’t the most dedicated blogger on the block (on the host platform?) then there is just no point to blogging at all.
Which leads me back to Mongolia… One of the things I do really like about blogging is “seeing” the visitors from all over the world – some come and go without ever leaving a footprint, apart from in my “stats” page. Some join in, sign up, and comment away. Either way, while I can’t see exactly *who* has visited, I can see where they have come from. From the very beginning of my blog days, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the world map stats page. It shows a map of all the countries in the world, with colour codes. If a country is in white, it means that nobody from that country has ever clicked on my blog. In my first year, I watched with interest (and yes, pride) as more and more countries turned from white to orange. And at the end of my first year, I had over 100 countries on my map! But what I saw, when I looked at my map, was a big white space in the shape of Mongolia… I don’t know why Mongolia stood out to me – maybe because it is so big, or because it, alone, remained steadfastly white, as I conquered the former USSR countries and Asia… Maybe because Mongolia seems so far away and remote and unobtainable. For whatever reason, I became fixated on Mongolia.
So here I am, two years on. People from 154 countries have visited my blog – including countries I did not even know existed! I am so delighted that people all over the world are thinking about bilingualism, and Googling about bilingualism, and visiting my blog to share in my world. And yes, in January 2014, I finally got Mongolia! I don’t know who you are, or anything about you, but whoever you are in Mongolia, who clicked on my blog four times (!!!) – thank you for making a very happy blogger of me!
No, I’ll never be a blogging powerhouse. I’ll never make a list of “10 most popular blogs”. Frankly, I’m too lazy! But if my blog has helped a few people along the way – made somebody feel better about their choices, or more confident, then that’s enough for me. Well, that, and Mongolia.