Bilingual Children and Literacy

As a follow-up to the Multilingual Children post a while back, this is a question we’ve been pondering lately… How do you develop and maintain literacy in the home language without formal instruction? The obvious way as we are both teachers is to actively teach our son how to write and give him written tasks as he progresses… but that’s unrealistic. The last thing we want to do is have Leon resenting English when we’re in Korea (where English will be the home language). Sure, he’ll be exposed to English in the education system or should we choose, a private institute… but since his English level is likely to be higher than his peers, that’s also kind of unrealistic. We have no issues when it comes to taking care of the other skills – listening, speaking and reading – and their development as to take care of them is obvious. Read and talk, just like any parent does. Meta-linguistic transfer should take place to assist with reading skills across the board. The only concern is the writing as it’s a different alphabet, and a direct transfer cannot take place. So our dilemna is purely related to English writing skills that are going to be comparable to his development in the community language, or Korean. I’ll be interested to hear from others that have been raised bilingually (or are raising kids bilingually) and have successfully developed written literacy in their home...

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Accent Training for the Teacher?

Many that are involved in language – teachers and learners both – are hung up on the pronunciation aspects of things. Most of these people focus on the learner and how to improve their accent in their target language, and this is something that a lot of people are interested in. It’s the old ultimate attainment argument. Everyone dreams of sounding like a native! You can umm and arr all you want about this, but at the end of the day, it is what it is. And if asked candidly, many a learner (I focus on Asian Englishes remember) will tell you that they want to disguise their origins and sound like a native. No amount of persuasive debate can change their mind, even if we are to consider that English speakers from different countries are likely to have markers that identify them as being from there and not only that, but these markers are accepted in the English-speaking world… And shock-horror… even native speakers have these same markers… In any case, there’s been a long push in Communicative Language Teaching practice to move away from perfection to intelligibility… and this covers pronunciation as well as the other skills and components of language. But still, no matter how much we try to convince our students that sounding like a native isn’t needed nor is it necessarily the best thing, they’re just not interested. Anyway, this argument aside, what about the teacher and their pronunciation? If our students are still striving for the Standard English pronunciation, what are the odds of the teacher having this same Standard English pronunciation? Close to nil when you consider that less than 4% of the British population speak with RP… I’m unsure of the figures on General American English (GAE) speakers, but I would guess they’re also in the minority. A study I’m currently conducting looks at multiple Englishes from the perspective of the Korean learner of English, and the study is showing that the learners believe a BBC English speaker or an almost GAE speaker to be the “best”. This is the style they want to learn. The style they find easiest to understand. The style they want their teacher to have. But… these are people in the minority. So what of reality and their teacher with sub-standard English? Here’s a solution that will never take seed… perhaps the teacher should be the one working on their pronunciation and not the student. It’s a little wacky, yes… but we are teachers and we are here to facilitate our students, so why not? If we as teachers can standardise a little more and give our students something that they seem to want, then it’s kind...

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Study Materials: LingQ

First in the series of looking at study materials is going to be LingQ. LingQ is the brainchild of Steve Kaufmann. Steve speaks a number of languages very well and the site is very much a mirror of his own preferred learning style, by self-admission. In short, if you can’t be bothered reading what I say about LingQ… visit, sign-up (it’s free), and try it out. It’s not going to be a waste of time… so enjoy the offerings in English, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, German, Swedish, Russian, Chinese and Japanese… and soon to come it looks like Korean. In long, I’ll say a bit more but I should start with a disclaimer saying that I don’t use LingQ to it’s full potential. I only use a few features of the site as I have my own learning style that works for me, and if it ain’t broke as they say. Anyway, I’m happy to use LingQ as a supplement to my own methods. Let’s start with the bad… I find LingQ a little slow at times; probably due to the high user number. I find LingQ a little cumbersome to navigate and use at times, but that’s probably due to my familiarity with the system. It’s online, so website downtime can mean learning downtime (although many things are available offline if you download them). Plus I’ve never seen LingQ down. A server crash could kill your learning database….. so could a harddrive crash at home…. or a small fire 😉 Now, let’s get on with the serious stuff. What is at LingQ… umm, what is at LingQ that I use: Texts, lots of multi-levelled, good quality texts. Audio, lots of multi-levelled, good quality audio. Confidence building graphs that tell you how much you have read, listened, etc. There are also a few other things at LingQ that I don’t make use of, such as: A form of flashcard system (the cards are called LingQs I believe… I could be wrong) – I prefer Anki as I can take it anywhere and it’s what I’m used to using. Tutoring service where you can speak with natives of your target language and receive a report detailing corrections – I use Skype conversations and if I want my speaking corrected I record the conversation to go over with a tutor or language exchange later. Have your writing corrected with a report – I use other sites such as Lang-8 for this. I’ve probably missed a few things, but like I say, I only use LingQ for a few features; it’s a supplement to my learning, not my entire learning. And as an added note, I...

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