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With Russian friends, celebrating Pancake Day

Language Learning Resources – For Those With A Love of Foreign Languages

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I miss learning foreign languages. Just ten years ago I was in Russia, studying for three months as a part of my degree. I had only recently returned from three months working in Germany. And I’d taken a trip to Italy the summer before, with another trip to Switzerland the summer before that. And yet now, I barely speak a word in another language.

With Russian friends, celebrating Pancake Day

Celebrating Pancake Day with some new friends… to this day I still have no idea what the big puppet was about! Note my Lokomotiv supporters’ hat, I still have that.

My love of languages developed pretty much as soon as I was introduced to them. I was lucky in the respect that my secondary school was big on languages. In my first year I learnt Latin and French, and then from my second year I added German into the mix (with Latin being something I took voluntarily in my lunch breaks for a couple of years). I decided to drop French after GCSE to focus on German, but always regretted that decision as I forgot it so quickly. Whilst studying for my A Levels I had the odd class in Italian and Chinese (the latter being the most complicated language I have ever tried to learn!) and then ended up taking Russian, from scratch, at University. I think it’s safe to say that I love languages!

But I never really developed the confidence to just go out and speak the language. Despite developing a really keen ear for languages, meaning that I could understand the vague gist of other languages spoken around me (Spanish, Swedish, Polish etc) based on languages I had studied with similar roots, I just never had the confidence to make much of this skill. And over time what little confidence I once had has dwindled spectacularly.

But I really want that to change. I always promised myself that I would introduce languages from a young age to any children I had, and I feel like I am not really making the most of this opportunity with Little Man. We read some books in German, and we sing some foreign songs, but other than that we don’t really use the language in our everyday lives. And if there is one thing I have learnt about languages is that the key is most definitely in using them regularly and within and everyday context.

Thankfully, with the explosion of resources available online, it is far easier to reach foreign language resources now than it ever was when I was studying. Almost every day I hear some foreign language being played by Little Man, who is a dab hand at finding new things to watch on YouTube – and he never bats an eyelid when the video he chooses is in another language, which makes me even more determined to follow his lead and just start having a go!

So with that in mind, I thought I would share with you some of the foreign language learning resources I have discovered online so far, in case you wish to have a go yourselves.

Books, Games and DVDs

The Bilingual Bookshop is an excellent UK based retailer of foreign language resources in multiple different languages. They currently have a massive sale on with 35% off using the code FB35 at the checkout.

Amazon have international sites where you can easily find books in a range of languages, direct from the country of origin. We’ve personally used the German site for books and resources. You can find a list of the different sites here.

Resources

I’ve heard about Flashsticks through various posts on social media, but have yet to give them a try myself. They are language learning post-it notes, using different colours to denote gender of words. I love the idea behind them (having cut out my own vocabularly words to stick around my house on many occasions!) because we are very visual creatures, and so these are bound to make language learning fun and easy.

YouTube is a goldmine for hearing languages spoken by natives. Let’s just think for a moment about all the bloggers and reviewers that we see on there, and then think about how many others are doing similar in their own native tongue! Little Man has stumbled upon some great kids’ reviewers in other languages and I love suddenly hearing Russian coming from the tab! But one of the things we have most loved about YouTube has been the channels made especially for children – one of our favourites is this Kinderlieder (German kids’ songs) channel.

 

I’m sure there are many more resources I have yet to find, but I hope that sharing these may have given you a few hints on where to begin if, like me, you want to include foreign languages into your everyday lives.

Foreign Language Reading with Children

World Book Day – Reading Books in a Foreign Language

Today is World Book Day and my social media feeds have been full of photos of children dressed up as characters from their favourite books. Little Man doesn’t go to nursery on a Thursday, so we haven’t taken part in this particular bit of fun this year. So I thought I would write about one of his favourite books right now…

Foreign Language Reading with Children

This is “Die kleine Maus und der Mond“. It is the German translation of the British book “Mouse and the Moon” by Christina Butler and illustrated by Tina MacNaughton. I cannot tell you how much I love this book for its beautiful story of friendship and most magical illustrations. However the fact that it is also a German translation makes me very happy, because it is a fantastic way of introducing a foreign language to Little Man.

The book itself was a gift from Little Man’s Godmother at his blessing. We had a very small and intimate blessing for Little Man, just us three and his Godmother, in the gardens at Chalice Well in Glastonbury. We do not see Little Man’s Godmother very often as she lives in Switzerland, but she shares my heart on so many things, and so she is the most perfect person to help us guide Little Man through his life.

She regularly sends him gifts for his birthday and Christmas, and often these are German books or DVDs, because she knows how much I wish to share my love of foreign languages with him. And we do enjoy looking through other German books too, however “die kleine Maus und der Mond” is his absolute favourite at the moment.Foreign Language Reading with Children

It isn’t even something we specifically promote at bedtime, Little Man has just fallen in love with the book and asks for it almost every night. He has been quite put out in the past when daddy or Grandma have been doing bedtime stories and have had to say he needs to choose another book. I think he finds it confusing that only mummy speaks another language – he knows some German words already and so I think he expects everyone else to know them too!

We’re working on this… I have printed out and laminated everyday words which we have stuck around the house so that daddy can learn some key words too. And daddy is more than happy to try and learn. But really what we need is for mummy to stop worrying about getting things “wrong” and just start talking more in German throughout the day, so that it becomes a normal part of our day.

Until then, however, I will enjoy reading this book every night and teaching Little Man what all the different words used in it mean.

Tell me, do you use another language in your home? Are you a bilingual family, or are you simply learning a new language yourself? How do you integrate it into family life?

Teaching Kids Foreign Languages

Do you remember me mentioning the German books and CDs Little Man and I were enjoying in the run up to Christmas? You might even remember I have mentioned wanting to create a "German For Families" series here on the blog. But I haven't managed to get around to much of that yet.

That isn't to say that we aren't using certain words and phrases with Little Man, as we are. It's just that I had wanted to create the series for the blog based around what worked well for us, and so I have yet to figure that one out. Let's say it's still an experiment in the very early stages right now!

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But as Ruth, over at Mixed Bag of Allsorts, recently wrote a brilliant post about her trilingual adventures with her own son I thought it might be good to link up and share with you what we have been doing in case you want to start having a go yourself and don't quite know where to start.

Incidentally, if you have never visited Ruth's blog, I do suggest you pop over and have a look. 

As you'll see, Ruth is using both French and German with Andrew, and as she has studied both languages to a high level, she has a certain level of fluency that may be difficult for some people. But you don't need to be fluent to enjoy sharing a foreign language with your child.

Think about it, a child can communicate quite effectively even when they do not have the same vocabulary and grammar skills that we as adults do. I honestly believe that giving a child an early start even with the most basic language skills you will give them a much better headstart in life. They will grow up knowing that other language exist, they will have a basis from which to work from, and in some ways although mistakes can be hard to correct, an inaccurate but working knowledge of a language will help your child communicate with a far greater number of people than no knowledge at all.

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Which is why we are trying to use German (and French) words and phrases with Little Man right from this very early age. I have a fairly fluent level of German, and the majority of our resources focus on this language. However TJ and I both studied French to GCSE level and although this is basic stuff, we want to try and pass that knowledge on to Little Man too. 

I have asked a friend to look into creating a "French For Families" series to accompany my "German For Families" series once we get going. So I do hope you'll keep this in mind and join with us once we get started. But for now, I thought you might like to see some of the books we have been collecting to help with this. Several of these have been bought in charity shops (you'd be surprised how many foreign language books turn up in these!) and some have been gifts. But with the ease of ordering books from all over the world with sites like Amazon these days, you can easily build up your own library very quickly!

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I think my favourite book has to be Schau mal, so viele Tiere . It has five double page spreads with beautifully drawn animals in themes such as "home and farm" and "insects". And some of these even have what the animals say in German (because it's not always the same as in English, you know!)

But you don't need to have specific books like this to use a foreign language with your child. We use a variety of books in both German and English, using words in both languages with each book. 

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The books shown are (top left) First Animals , (top right) Teddy auf dem Bauernhof, and (bottom centre) Bauernhof.

Most of the books we use right now are very basic, not only because they are easier for Little Man to follow at this age, but also because books with just a single word or short sentence on each page is easier to use for focussing on one or two items and learning the same word(s) in multiple languages.

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I think my absolute favourite book of this type is Kipper's Book of Colours. This page, for example, allows us to use the words for "white", "flour", and "eggs" which will all come in useful when Little Man is a little bit older and I introduce him to the fun of baking (I just hope he makes a little bit less of a flour-cloud than Kipper does!)

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We also have one of the Usborne Touchy Feely Books that Ruth mentioned in her post. We have the That's Not My Tractor…  one. Can you spot the mouse?

But again there are no hard and fast rules as to what could work for you. For instance, you could keep an eye out for flipcharts and postcards with images of the words you have been learning, just like this one which we found in a local discount store!

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Don't forget that kids love to sing! It doesn't matter if you sing in tune or not, they don't care. I'm sure you know plenty of songs in your own language, but what about those in another language? I was lucky enough to learn a few folk and children's songs and rhymes during my time in Germany, but even so I have found CDs like Bi-Ba-Butzemann: Lieder aus frühen Kindertagen incredibly helpful in learning even more. 

An added bonus of CDs and DVDs is that your child will get to hear true native speakers and pick up on accents and intonations that you may be unable to accurately copy yourself.

I hope that this has given you some ideas for introducing a foreign language to your own child. Maybe you're already doing this anyway. If so, do leave me a comment and let me know what you do in your house to use other languages, as it's always good to compare notes!

Disclaimer: In keeping with the ethos of this blog, it seems appropriate to explain the use of links and resources in this post.

All of the books and the CD have been used by us and I share them as a recommendation for ways to start introducing languages to your child.

I have NOT been contacted, sponsored or paid by any of the authors, publishers or agents of the resources.

However, the links provided go through my Amazon Associates account, meaning that if you click on them and then go on to purchase any of the items mentioned using these links, I will receive a little bit extra cash to go into my own "book fund".