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.

pricken All Rights MultilingualParenting

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!

All Rights Reserved

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.

Speech Development: Keep Calm, Your Toddler Will Talk

Children learning to talk

Keep calm, you kid will talk.

I know it doesn’t feel that way. I know when faced with your kid’s precocious eighteen-month-old friend who is already stringing sentences together and using words with more syllables than you can manage after another-sleep deprived night, you will feel like you have failed.

This happens to all parents mono or multilingual, though those trying to raise multilingual kids are often actually subtly –or not so subtly– accused of bringing this on themselves. (Which, for the record, is supported by zero research. But who needs research these days?)

The nasty voices that never seem to go away will be haranguing you:

It’s your fault, you shouldn’t have gone back to work.

You should have spent more time describing every small detail like: watch mommy unscrew the cap on the tube of Preparation H – that’s hemorrhoid cream. Now squeeze the tube and apply a small amount to your index finger. See my index finger? And then gently rub…I’ll leave you wondering whether it’s for sagging eyes or sagging innards.

I shouldn’t have stuck her in front of Baby Einstein when I was showering, cooking, walking the dog –yes walking the dog but I assure you she was well strapped in.

You suck as a parent.

Did you really believe you could bring up a multilingual kid? It’s your fault, forget all the studies that say a kid will just develop speech when they are ready and listen to the uptight mother at the Pediatrician’s office who simply ‘knows’ your kid is still stuck on mama and bye-bye because you speak another language to her.

You should have read more, talked more, jumped up and down in a hoop while juggling pacifiers…

You are just innately stupid as you have long suspected and now that is manifesting itself in your offspring.

I am hoping your voices aren’t nearly as vitriolic as mine. I spent hours perusing websites, buying books on encouraging speech, learning sign language, and of course keeping a positive face in front of all of those wondering why my kid still barely uttered a few words.

And then it happened. She started talking. The floodgates opened and I sat, immersed in the tidal wave of words, elated –for about 48 hours before the  very awful thought crept into my mind”

My God, when is she ever going to stop? She is the Duracell bunny. She just keeps talking and talking and talking and talking and talking…

Careful what you wish for.

Keep calm, your kid will talk. And then they will never shut the f*%$ up.

This post was written for October’s Raising Multilingual Children Carnival, hosted by Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes. It will be going live Monday October 28th. Please check out all the wonderful submissions. Of course, had I been organized and realized this month had a specific topic, you’d also find my post there. Of course, you won’t.  Welcome to my world.

New research says “baby signing classes ‘fail to boost toddlers’ language skills”

From an interesting article in the Telegraph. Any thoughts?

Personally, I’d never read that baby signing would boost language skills, just aid in earlier communication since babies’ hand coördination develops earlier than physiology for word-formation.  For me, it was a great bridge as we didn’t know what language our little P or C would start using for their first words.

I’d love to hear about other people’s experience.


Comic Sans MS: Wrong in Any Language

This post is dedicated to my very fabulous friend and designer Fil Vocasek who helped me sashay through the world of fonts.

I’ve been thinking about fonts and no, I am not a designer. In fact, up until I worked with designers, I had never really noticed the existence of fonts on a conscious level. Now, I have yet to find my perfect match and often long for the days of my blissful unawareness.

So why was I thinking of fonts? Well it has everything to do with this crazy idea of mine to learn to read and write Thai. This little project is for the most part going rather poorly. Lack of sustained attention and other more pressing issues have been getting in the way and I’ve just taken a 3 week break from my class which is to say I’ll be back at square one when I resume classes next week.  That said, I have learned all the basic consonants and vowels — all 44 of them—  and in a bid to try to keep these fresh in my mind, I’ve been looking at signs and storefronts when my taxi sits idling in traffic. Given that I live in Bangkok, this happens a lot!

But I am getting ahead of myself. The way I was taught the letters at my  Thai School was 3 fold:

  1. We were introduced to small groups of consonants and vowels that shared certain characteristics like being high or low, short or long, and paired them together in both writing and pronunciation. There was a lot of repetition involved writing out the letters.
  2. We also spent  time reading them out  across, down and diagonally in table form to try to avoid learning the sounds by rote.
  3. Finally we would finish with dictation of the actual alphabet followed by groups of sounds like bapadosila. 

Another form of quizzing came in a flash card format:

My teacher would show me a card and I would have to respond with the name of the letter. Here is where the trouble began. Look at the picture above. This letter is a low-class consonant called Ho. And yes, even letters have classes here in Thailand.  The thing is, when I learned this letter, its bottom was curved like an O, not square. To make matters worse, there are other letters that I’ve been taught with square bottoms that I now come across in a font where they are curved or edgeless.  Having dutifully studied, I was none too pleased to find myself  failing the quiz by not recognizing letters due to font issues. “Foul play!” I cried,  having not gotten over needing the affirmation of good grades. Pathetic…I know.

This is how I got to thinking about fonts and the role they play. See, until now, fonts may have been, on occasion, a serious affront to my senses —honestly, how does anyone still use Comic Sans MS these days? <she types ignoring the fact that she once actually had her CV in that font>—  but apart from the pain to my delicate eyes, things were always legible.

Now when I’ve sat in my taxi in traffic, I think I might have understood…actually that is very ambitious so let me rephrase that…I might have deciphered the letters, but for whatever reason, like trying to stand out or a sale on really bad lettering, most of the signs and awnings are totally illegible to me. It simply takes too long to figure out what has been done to the letter for me to figure it out, even in Bangkok standstill traffic.

It will come as no surprise then that I was interested in learning that  Nokia has designed a new font that will work in any language, which must actually be more difficult than it initially sounds. I am also saddened by the fact that I’ve just written a post on fonts. Seriously, how boring is that? Kudos to anyone who actually made it through this post in its entirety.