Language Learning Barriers: This Month’s Multilingual Blogging Carnival!

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Summer time and living is easy… or is it the lovin? I am not sure, I can say that the bloggin’ definitely hasn’t been easy, in fact it’s been non-existent.

Why’s that you wonder? Well for starters, I have been the equivalent of a single mum in Mexico for two months. That’s right, so desperate am I to get my kids to speak Spanish –and to finally master it myself– the girls and I took an epic* trip from Thailand to Mexico.

Once again, I plonk many eggs in the travel/immersion basket. Spanish has been my trilingual family’s Achilles heal. And this trip was meant to be our orthopedic surgery.

I’ll leave the analogy for just a bit. This post is my favorite yearly post when I get to host the multilingual carnival. It’s a small one this month – too many Pims or micheladas in my case – may be keeping bloggers occupied. But as I tell my girls, quality not quantity and the handful of posts we have are stellar. So sit back, get your specs on and enjoy the wealth of language learning advice below!

This month’s multilingual blogging carnival was inspired by the steep pyramid-like hill that is my Spanish journey; I asked contributors to share their biggest multilingual challenge and how they resolved it.

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First off, one of my favorite experts Rita Rosenbeck from Multilingual Parenting. She shares her novel approach to breaking down her five-year-old’s resistance to Rita’s attempts at switching languages.

 

Ute from Expats Since Birth sent in a wonderful 2 part-post on how sometimes we need to change our path when faced with linguistic barriers. It’s short and sweet and gives me hope. Part 1 & Part 2 of Which Language to Choose.

Next up we have Leanna from Frenglish Learning. Leanna has a kid who thinks too much on her hands. I remember hearing about these before I was a parent. I couldn’t help but think that would be a great problem to have. Never tempt fate! I too was blessed with a perfectionist over thinker and it is tough! So how do you help a child who doesn’t want to say a word or sentence unless it is perfect? Leanna shares some wonderful ideas here

I am so grateful Sarah from Bilingual Baby for sharing a post about her own language learning. It’s a real gem from her first experience abroad studying French for a year in France. This post had me laughing out loud.

Our final post isn’t about linguistic hurdle but more a top tip on how to minimize future hurdles. Galina from  Trilingual Children shares a post on the importance of speaking to your baby in the languages you want them to acquire. This isn’t to say kids can’t learn languages later but you have an incredible and helpful foundation if you’ve started from day one.

I’ve included it because it really supports the experience we had during this trip. So back to my Spanish Mountain…or steep pyramid. I am now sitting in a LAX airport hotel waiting for my delayed plane to take us back to Thailand and have a bit of time to reflect on our two months in Mexico.

Even though we knew the importance of early exposure, we didn’t manage to sustain it for both kids. J and I were really good about only speaking Spanish and French respectively with sweet P our first daughter. When Little C came along, we were living abroad and J was working much longer hours and French was spoken much less and Spanish nearly non-existent.

Both girls had similar apparent levels of Spanish when we arrived but P started speaking Spanish in a couple of days while C continued to resist, struggle to understand, and essentially revolt every time we dropped her off at school.

I’ll write a post with more details later, but I just wanted to share that even taking into account age and personalities that could affect language learning, it was clear the strong foundations Sweet P received as a baby were a huge advantage and catapulted her to a level of fluency far beyond her sister.

In any event, the trip was an incredible gift. Not only did it permit us deep immersion in a Spanish-speaking environment, it really allowed the girls to know, understand, and connect with their Mexican heritage and their Abuelita!

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All Rights Reserved

Thank you again for joining me on this summer time light Carnival. Please don’t forget to put it in your calendar and check out next month’s carnival hosted by Head of the Heard!

For more information on the carnival to host or subscribe please check out The Piri-Piri Lexicon’s carnival page.

*Unless you are Kiwi/Ozzi or from some far-fetched Pacifique isles, in which case my trip was just another day in the park.

What American English Sounds Like & a Good Boogie Too!

Prisecolinensinenciousol, a parody by Adriano Celentano for the Italian TV programme Mileluci is sung entirely in gibberish designed to sound like American English.

Confession: having not read the description when I first watched this, I spent ages trying to figure out what he was saying. D’oh.

Guest Post: Online Resources Get the World Talking

Today’s guest post takes a look at online education’s contribution to the world of language learning and the possibility of turning kids into hyperpolyglots capable of speaking an enormous number of languages. Despite the hyperbole, the access to instruction does have huge potential to teach kids languages, something often discussed on MultilingualMama, while they are young, the best time to learn them. The author, Jennifer Jenkins, is a freelance writer and researcher at http://www.onlineuniversity.net/, a resource for any student considering taking online classes.

 Online Resources Get the World Talking

Despite the benefits that come from speaking multiple languages, fewer than 1 in 4 Americans make the effort to become bilingual. Recently, however, a number of businesses have made language acquisition easy and inexpensive. As these new tools become common knowledge, Americans may start to feel some peer pressure to learn how to speak an additional language – maybe more.

Some people even learn dozens.

These people are referred to as hyperpolygots, or people who knows how to speak many languages. To break down the latin, it means literally more than (hyper) – multiple (poly) – tongue (glot). Until recently, hyperpolyglots, especially those outside of Europe and parts of Asia, were extremely rare, due to the sheer number of resources required to acquire such a vast number of languages.

Think about it.

The average price per class at a state university is $900 and most schools require two or three classes before students can graduate; however, this is far from learning a language. For the most part and most people, learning a language requires some degree of immersion and constant practice over an extended period of time. This means that learning a language through a university program, the way many in the United States attempt the endeavor today, can cost families thousands of dollars.

One reason few Americans to do it.

That said, something that cannot be overlooked when trying to understand why so few Americans are bi or multilingual, is the cultural and idiomatic dominance the United States and their native language English has had over the world for six decades. Americans simply haven’t needed to learn another language because the world uses their language, essentially, as the common tongue. However, as the Internet makes the world a much smaller place and emerging economies rise to power, the arrogance of English speakers is starting to diminish. Learning a second language is now a powerful asset in a sluggish economy and in some parts of the country, native English speakers are quickly becoming a minority.

However, technology has also presented North Americans a number of solutions to the problem it has caused.

The most formal of these is in the form of virtual education technology. There are now a number of teaching tools that can cut that cost down to an eighth of traditional brick and mortar classes. Rosetta Stone, for example, charges $1,000 to bring its students to full fluency. While many might think that learning a language from a computer program is impossible, these advanced teaching tactics actually seem to cut down on learning time. Apparently, knowing more about the brain and how it makes connections makes it easier to teach it things, like language.

Beginner lessons typically show pictures, write vocabulary words, and play a recording of a native speaker voicing the words simultaneously. Lessons introduce grammatical concepts, such as prepositions, by featuring pictures depicting the physical relationships between objects. For instance, the learner will see a picture of a plane with a boy standing underneath it. The phrase contains both objects and the relation between them. Although the lesson will not explicitly state what each individual word means, the student can recognize the objects and by process of elimination, can figure out what the abstract relation word/phrase is. Thus, language learners acquire grammar and other abstract concepts almost subliminally. This program also includes an opportunity to speak with native speakers.

Rosetta Stone is not the only low-cost tool out there, either. A competitor, Tellmemore, brings a similarly advanced product but focuses on accents. The company’s software includes advanced voice recognition tools that provide feedback on the learner’s speech patterns. This piece of software functions as an advanced-level speech instructor, but the website charges $390 per year for total access to its six-language database. Babbel is another inexpensive tool. It charges a low monthly rate for access to everything from beginner’s courses to a 10,000 word set of flashcards, which can be downloaded to mobile devices. For Spanish aficionados, the Instituto Cervantes has an online learning platform supported by a number of  offices in major cities around the world.

Short of immersion, natural conversion is the best tool someone can use when using a language and technology is making this much easier as well. Low cost options for face to face chatting like Google Chats and Skype make it possible for language learners to have actual conversations.There are also more free-form and community generated tools. Sites like italki and livemocha give you a chance to connect with learners around the globe keen on practicing their languages. As English speakers, North-Americans have a huge advantage as it is easy to find someone to barter conversational time in English for any language that catches your fancy. You can also ‘hire’ a formal teacher through the sites at very affordable rates. Additionally, people have begun to join language learning groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, another way in which learning a language has been facilitated on the Internet.

And if you are still not persuaded, remember that Alzheimer’s is rarer in people who have learned to speak another language, particularly during their mid-life. Researchers believe that learning a language at this point prevents brain decay and increases the ability for learners to multitask in all areas of their lives.

With so much value in language acquisition and such small cost to receive the benefits, Americans should start to see how learning another language is a cheap investment in the brain.