24 April 2015

Learning to read in two languages simultaneously has benefits!

As my first grader and two Kindergartners are learning to read, write and spell in English at our local elementary school, I am simultaneously working with them at home to teach them how to read and write in German. I ordered a 1st grade German school curriculum, Piri by Klett, which I really like. At home, during our German "homeschool" sessions, we are learning the sounds of the German alphabet and also how to sound out words and how to write sentences. It's fun to see them making progress. We're also working on reading skills.
Some people might wonder if learning to read in two languages is difficult for a child. Does one language system interfere with the learning of the other system? Does learning both languages at the same time delay learning in both languages? Well, I have found the opposite to be true. I can't speak for all languages, but I have found that learning to read in both German and English simultaneously has only helped my kids. There are so many reading skills that transfer between and strengthen both languages. To learn to read means that a child needs to make a connection between symbols, sounds, and meaning. That very process is happening in both languages. I have been amazed at how seldom my kids mix the two languages. If they are reading in German, they pronounce things in their German accent and according to how that letter is pronounced in German. Now and then, they'll get a little confused, but very rarely. For instance, the letters W and V are a little tricky. The German W is pronounced like the English V and the German V is pronounced like the English F. This can be a little troublesome and confusing. But, these incongruities haven't been huge stumbling blocks in their reading development. Once they're immersed in reading a certain language, their mind switches into that language's syntax and phonological rules. If they come across a word that is spelled the same in both languages, like Baby or Computer, they will pronounce it correctly for the language that they are currently using. 
I love seeing how the reading skills that they are learning at school are helping them read (in German) at home. As they learn how to better blend sounds in English at school, I also see their ability to blend sounds in German improve. And as we work on dividing big German words into syllables, I see them applying some of these same strategies with English words. 
I love this quote that I found on the University of Calgary website:
According to Rahat Naqvi from the Faculty of Education, “Research also indicates that elementary school aged children can benefit from reading in two languages at the same time without hindering their ability to be effective readers in English. Multilingual literacy interventions in mainstream schools, such as dual language books, build on children’s first and second languages.” - See more at: http://arts.ucalgary.ca/news/research-shows-children-can-learn-multiple-languages-simultaneously#sthash.FmiuGNLE.dpuf

As long as the kids are eager to learn to read, I suggest taking advantage of this desire. Encourage them to read in both (or all) languages that they speak. There are so many overlapping skills that they are able to apply to both languages. It just makes sense for them to be practicing these skills in both languages. Although there may be a small amount confusion or mixing of languages at first, I have found that it is minor and that it works itself out quickly. In the meantime, the kids are able to get a much better grasp of both (or all) languages and will enjoy all the benefits of biliteracy at an early age. What a great gift!

02 April 2015

New Featured Non-Native Bilingual Family!

In an effort to try and connect the many families who are raising children in a language that is non-native to the parents, we are featuring some of these families on our new website:

This month's featured family consists of Tamara, Geoff and their daughter Kaya. They are very familiar to most non-native bilingual bloggers since Tamara has been blogging her non-native bilingual journey for many years now. Tamara and Geoff are both native English speakers residing in the United States. Tamara is successfully raising their daughter in her non-native German.

Tamara was kind enough to share some of her experiences and advice in an article that we recently posted. I loved her last piece of advice, which basically was to worry less and enjoy more. I think that is one of the best gems of wisdom that could be passed on to any parent who is
embarking on the journey of non-native bilingual parenting.

Read Tamara's article: Tamara and Geoff

Link to Tamara's Blog: Non-Native Bilingualism

It has been so enjoyable for me to learn about other families who are also raising their children in a foreign language. I love seeing the similarities. So many of us have worried, stressed and fretted about similar situations and have enjoyed the same feelings of success as our children have blossomed and have grown to love and understand another culture, language and people.

If you are raising your children in your non-native foreign language, PLEASE take the survey. Click on the top right tab. Thank you!!

Bilingual Baby Dream Team

Going on 20+ years of raising our bilingual babies...
I'm so grateful for a sweet husband who was willing to give this whole experiment a try and and that he was willing to speak German to our kids, even though his German exposure had been limited to a few semesters of college German. It's been one of the most fun and rewarding things we've done. The fact that our family speaks German has given us our own identity and helps the kids feel like they are a part of something special. And anything that helps your family feel special and connected is a good thing.