New Year, New Bilingualism Projects!

To have another language is to possess a second soul.



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. Continue reading

Do your kids know their body parts?

The very first report card my 3.5-year old twins brought home from school was a bit of a shock. They got a “B-” in “knows body parts”. Really? My kids don’t know their body parts? I felt like such a failure as a mother – after all, my oldest daughter certainly knew *her* body parts at that age. Her report cards were all “A”s, from the beginning.
Happily, after a bit of pondering, I realised that it wasn’t my parenting at fault, it was the assessment techniques and standards. Yes, my children knew their body parts (believe me, I checked!). However, the languages they used most at home were English and Dutch. The language of school was French. So, the assessment should read “knows the words for body parts in French”. They knew the parts, they knew most of the words in English, a lot of them in Dutch, but not so many in French.
But this, of course, is the root of the problem. The majority of the schools our (bilingual/multilingual) children attend have monolingual standards of assessment. They don’t care if your kids know things in other languages, and they don’t care if the assessment techniques and standards are biased. In fact, many will argue that they are not biased, because they expect bilingual children to be “the same” as monolingual children in both/all of their languages.
So today I am back to Oxford, for the fifth session of our teacher-training program. And tomorrow we are going to be talking about assessment for bilingual learners; how to figure out what they know before they can express it, how to “evaluate” them fairly and with empathy and understanding of their differentiated language skills. This is one of my most important seminars, I think, because children who are “language learners” in schools so often underachieve in evaluations, which sets the teachers off on a road to blaming bilingualism, or trying to send kids for “special education” and in turn sends parents into a tailspin of questioning their decisions and not knowing how to help their children.

Wish me luck!

And for the record, my kids now know their body parts in French And in English. But they have forgotten a few in Dutch, I think. Such is life in a multilingual household.

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