A Bilingual Child: Music Is Our Religion Part II

Music and a Bilingual Child

Almost a year ago, I wrote about Mr T’s musical tastes.  As you might expect, they have since changed a little bit, with the biggest difference being that there are now a couple of Brazilian songs in his favourites list.  However, I am glad, and proud, to report that so far he still  broadly likes music with guitars.

Whenever he hears a new song on the radio in the car he asks me ‘Is this rock ‘n’ roll, daddy?’  If I tell him it isn’t then he is generally not happy about it at all.

If I tell him it is then he smiles and makes the universal symbol of rock music.

So here is the current Top 10 direct from Mr T’s Musical Taste.

Polícia by Titãs

This song is probably Mr T’s favourite song at the moment, and this is undoubtedly because of his growing obsession with the police.  He always wants to play cops and robbers with me, and you can probably guess who has the handcuffs and is constantly being thrown in prison.

This means there is a good chance that Mr T has missed the not so subtle message of the song which is a protest against the way police behave in Brazil.  The song was written shortly after two of the band members were falsely arrested for heroin trafficking.

Fortunately, Mr T hasn’t found this cover version of the song produced by one of Brazil’s most successful musical exports.

I Fought the Law by The Clash

Again, this song is one of Mr T’s favourites because of its associations with the police.  He loves shouting out at random times how he fought the law, but the law won, and he places a lot of emphasis on the words ‘the law won’.  Obviously I am happy that our son is starting to like the Clash, but I am doubly pleased because was the song that my wife and I walked into our reception to nearly 10 years ago.

Geração Coca Cola by Legião Urbana

The second Brazilian song ( The Coca Cola Generation), and this one is by one of my favourite Brazilian bands.  Whenever I hear Legiao Urbana (Urban Legion) I can hear The Clash, The Joy Division and The Violent Femmes, all of whom I love.  But they use these influences, and more, in a very urban Brazilian way so that they produce something that is unique.

Mr T likes to play with this song and change some of the lyrics.  My particular favourite is when he decided to sing Griassol Coca Cola (Sunflower Coca Cola)

I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by Joan Jett

If a song isn’t about the police then it normally has to be about rock for Mr T to like it, and this is the first of three songs that prove my point.  These three tracks usually come as a package, so when he sings one he soon moves onto one of the other two.

I must admit that I reckon this is a bit of a corny song, but when it is mangled by a three-year-old it takes on a charm of its own.

We Will Rock You by Queen

Mr T only knows the 4 words of the title from this song, but he takes great pleasure in beating out the rhythm on anything that comes to hand; the sofa, a table or my head all make very good drums.  As his pronunciation isn’t quite perfect yet, he sometimes substitutes the /r/ sound from ‘rock’ for a /f/ sound.  Every time I hear it I have to do a double take to see if he really knows what he is singing or not.

Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night by Kiss

Kiss are another band that I never really understood, too many painted faces, wild costumes a crap music for my liking.  However, they have a song about rocking and rolling all night, and even partying every day, so that is enough for a 3-year-old to think they are brilliant.

Bongo Bong by Manu Chao

This song came up on my i-Pod in the car and was an immediate success.  It is quite different to the songs he usually likes, but it got his attention and he asked for it to be played again.  I’m not allowed to sing along to this song, but his mamãe is, but only the line ‘I’m the king of bongo drums’, the rest of the time we have to be quiet and listen.  Being quiet is a rare thing in itself, and because it’s such a good song I am very happy to play it in the car for a few minutes of peace from the back seat.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? by The Clash 

This is the latest song to make it into Mr T’s favourites.  So far he has managed to learn two words: ‘go now’.  This means we have to sing the rest of the song and stop for those last two words of the title for them to be belted out toddler style.  But it’s another Clash song, so it will be played a lot over the next few months and so I have no doubt Mr T will pick up more of the words very soon.

One More Time by Daft Punk

It isn’t about the police, it doesn’t use guitars and there is no sign of the word ‘rock’ in the whole song.  By rights, this shouldn’t be on the list, however it is and, what’s more, it was also on the last list a year ago so it has stood the test of time.

Vapor Barato by O Rappa

This is a very late entry into the charts.  Last week Mr T was listening to music in the car with his mamãe when this song (I’d translate it as ‘Cheap Steam’) came on.  I like some songs by this group, but this isn’t one of them.  But when has that ever stopped a kid from liking a song?  Mr T particularly likes singing the chorus of ‘Baby, baby, baby’ over and over again, and in so doing only putting me off the song even more.

Images used in this post: Guitar by Alejandro C CC BY-NC 2.0Rock Hands by Ryan CC BY 2.0 and Turn it up to 11 by Kainet CC BY-SA 2.0

Living in Curitiba: Garden Plans

 

Living in Curitiba

Finally, after what seems an interminable wait, we are in our new house.  Despite living in Brazil, the house we have bought could have been transplanted from a typical British terrace in any city in the UK.  The first thing that practically everyone who has visited has said is that it feels like a very English house.  Some people think it was my idea to buy this place, but it wasn’t; when my wife first saw it she fell in love with the place and had to convince me to make an offer.

When looking for a new place to live we looked at a lot of places, both flats and houses.  We were siding towards a couple of apartments because most houses we saw used up all of the space with the house and left nothing for a garden.  It seems to be very common for houses in Curitiba to take up all the land with the building and leave nothing for nature.  We asked ourselves what would be the point of having a house if you couldn’t have a garden.  You would get all of the downsides of a house without many of the positives of having an apartment.

This house, though, has two gardens: one at the front and a slightly larger one at the back. I say gardens, but in Britain they would probably be called ‘yards’ as they are pretty small.

We have small gardens, but I have big plans.

Living in Curitiba

It’s only grass at the moment, but give me time

I want to grow some vegetables and herbs in the garden.  The herbs will probably be in their own plant pots and placed on window sills, the tops of walls and even bolted onto the sides of walls.  I am in negotiations with my wife to taking over a part of the front garden to plant some vegetables like lettuce, leeks, carrots and what not.

I want to do this because I like the idea of cooking food that I have grown nd knowing it is all 100% organic.  I also like the idea of getting Mr T to help me and show him where food comes from and engage him in how plants grow.  I am under no illusions as I know there is a fairly good chance he won’t be interested at all, but at least I will have given him the opportunity.

My wife wants the garden to look nice.  She wants flowers and colour and smells and all that stuff.  I have no problem with this, but as space is limited we are going to have to think very carefully about how we manage both objectives.

One possibility that we have found so far involves using old pallets for a vertical garden.

There are also videos on youtube about using old plastic bottles to create vertical gardens.

What my wife and I do agree on is finding plants that naturally repel certain insects, like mosquitoes and other things that bite.  I get nasty reactions to certain types of insect bite, and it looks like my son has inherited that particular trait from me as well.  We’ve been told that Marigolds are good and Citronella are good for this, as is Catnip but I am not sure how easy it is to find Catnip here in Curitiba.  I’d love to grow some Catnip just for the idea of growing drugs for cats, but we’ll have to see.

Living in Curitiba: Garden

No room for a swimming pool.

I mentioned earlier that one of the reasons to plant stuff is to teach my son about the birds and the bees, so to speak.  He, of course, gets a lot of input into what we will end up growing and so far the one thing he wants is sunflowers.  I am very happy to plant these, but we will have to wait a few months as winter is coming.

What he really wants is a swimming pool.  I think a paddling pool might have to suffice.

Anyway, those are our tentative plans at the moment.  We are all really looking forwards to getting our garden going and I suppose ony time will tell if our plans come to fruition or not.

If anybody has any tips, links or general advice for how to make the most of limited space I would really appreciate any comments you might want to leave below.

A Bilingual Child: Linguistic Coincidence

Linguistic Coincidence 3On a trip to see my parents a couple of years ago Mr T was just starting to use individual words.  He had aninclination to create his own names for certain things, the most memorable of which was ‘abudah’ for ‘car’.  Unfortunately, that word has now been replaced by the more conventional ‘car’ or ‘carro’, but there is one word from that time that has stuck around and, I daresay, is likely to be with us for a while yet.

We were in Ireland walking down a country lane from our hotel to the town of Athenry when Mr T started shouting what sounded like ‘dodo’.  The pronunciation was remarkable similar to the long extinct animal, except there was more stress on the second syllable.

It was quite obvious that Mr T wasn’t referring to a stupid bird that was a great meal for sailors in the 17th century, but we had no idea what he was actually talking about. After a few seconds, and an increase in decibels, it became clear that Mr T was actually trying to get his granddad’s attention.

Ever since that day everyone has referred to my dad as ‘dodo’.

There were lots of theories as to why Mr T should choose have chosen this name.  Among them included the fact that ‘dodo’ is similar to the Portuguese word for granddad: ‘vovô’.  Personally, I didn’t think this was true because I wasn’t sure Mr T had made the connection between his granddads in Brazil and the UK having the same relationship to him.

Portuguese also provides us with ‘doido’, which is a word similar in meaning to ‘fool’.  It’s possible that this was what Mr T had in mind, although it wouldn’t be very flattering to my dad.

It was a source of family discussion, with no answer being possible and so lots of theories could be floated.  We had almost decided to just let it go and live with the word when my brother and I stumbled upon another possible answer, or perhaps just a strange linguistic coincidence.

A “strange coincidence” to use a phrase

By which such things are settled nowadays

Lord Byron ‘Don Juan’ Canto vi. Stanza 78

A Curry and a Language Lesson

In the first week of our holiday in the UK before Christmas, we went for a great curry in a place called Kababish in Moseley, Birmingham.  After the great meal, my brother and I decided we fancied a few extra beers, and so went to a pub around the corner.  We happened to find my cousin and her husband propped up at the bar and so proceeded to have a great evening swapping stories with them.

One story was how Mr T was calling his granddad ‘dodo’.  To our surprise, my cousin’s husband thought this was the most natural thing in the world.  He was originally born on the Isles of Arran, just off the coast of Galway in the west of Ireland.  In that part of the world Gaelic is still used as much as, if not more than, English.  And it turns out that the word for ‘granddad’ in Gaelic is ‘daideo’ which sounds suspiciously like ‘dodo’.

Now, we were in Ireland when Mr T started using this word.  However, none of my family speaks any Gaelic so he wouldn’t have heard the word from them.  There is a slight possibility that he heard somebody else use the word, but would he have associated it with a name for his own granddad?  Unlikely.  Maybe it was just the Irish air or the Galtee sausages?

Linguistic Coincidence

A linguistic coincidence is occurs when two languages have the same word, or sound, for the same thing.  Of course, many languages are related, so often it isn’t a coincidence at all.  For example, the English word ‘excellent’ is similar to the Portuguese word ‘excelente‘, but this isn’t because of any coincidence, but because both words share a common Latin root.  By some estimates, there are over 3, 000 words which are remarkably similar in English and Portuguese, and you can find a list of some of them here.

Instead, a linguistic coincidence is when two languages have the same, or similar word but there is no connection between them.  There is an amazing list of linguistic coincidences on Johanna Hypatia’s blog.  Looking at this list I was firstly amazed at how many coincidences there are.  But thinking about it again, for al the words that exist in all the languages in the world, statistically speaking there has to be some overlap between languages.

And so that is where I think our ‘dodo’ or ‘daideo‘ comes from.  It is purely a linguistic coincidence that we will be marvelling over every time we get together as a family and can think of nothing else to talk about.  All I have to decide now is how to spell it.

Images used in this text are my own except The Shamrock by Ole Olson CC-BY-NC 2.0  and Language Diversity by Tobias Mikleson CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

 

A Bilingual Child: A Mouth Story Before Bedtime

Bilingual Child bedtime story

A long, long time ago…

We have had a slight change to our bedtime routine recently.  Ever since Mr. T was a few months old we would give him something to eat, then a bath and finally a bedtime story before it was lights out and hopefully quickly to sleep.

It didn’t take him long to cotton on to the fact that both his mamãe and I, and indeed, all of his grandparents, are suckers for reading bedtime stories.  This meant he would often ask for just one more story and, depending on how tired we were, or how desperate for a glass of wine, he usually got at least 3 stories a night.

Recently, though, this story routine has changed.  He now asks for only two stories, one of which is a ‘mouth story’ and the other being an ‘eye story’.

What do you mean you don’t know what a mouth story is?  And you’ve never heard of an eye story?

With the simple logic of a three-year-old it is obvious that a mouth story is one which you make up as you tell it, while an eye story is read from a book.  You see?  Blindingly clear, isn’t it?

If there is more than one person around then he usually wants the stories from two different people.  I am usually the one to give him a mouth story, and either his mamãe or vovó reads an eye story.  This has the added advantage of him hearing both English and Portuguese before going to sleep.

One more vital element of a mouth story, besides it being made up on the spot, is that it has to be about Mr. T.  We have a clearly developed structure now, so that I start off by saying something like

Tonight I am going to tell you the story of the time Mr. T went to the Fire Station.  A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, lived a little boy called Mr Tin Curitiba, Brazil…

Most of these mouth stories are based on real things that happened to Mr T at some point in the past.  I think this helps him to develop his memory as he recalls aspects of the stories.  However, we are firm believers in never letting the truth stand in the way of a good story, and so we are both happy to embellish certain parts of the stories as and when we see fit.

So our bedtime routine has evolved a bit, but we are all very happy about it and, so far at least, it hasn’t resulted in Mr T trying to stay up any later.

Images: Sleepy v Bedtime Bear by JD Hancock – CC BY 2.0 and Bedtime in Inverness by Gene Selkov – CC BY 2.0

 

Happy (Belated?) New Year

Bilibgual family in Curitiba, Brazil

Things I will write about. Soon. Honest.

Ok, so it might seem a bit late to wishing you everyone a happy new year.  But it feels exactly right to me because now that carnival is out of the way the year has really begun here in earnest here in Curitiba.  My teaching schedule is pretty much set for the next few months, Mr T is back at school and life is returning to some sort of normality after a hectic holiday period.

It’s been a while, but it is also time to resurrect my ramblings and memories of bringing up a bilingual child in Brazil.

Over the next few weeks I am going to be writing about our recent trip to the UK and the effect it had on our son’s English.  As well as his English changing, our son also had a depressing encounter with Father Christmas, a trip to see a first football match that hopefully won’t put him into therapy for the rest of his life and a not-so-successful fancy dress party.

It wasn’t all bad though, as we tried some wonderful curries, played in the snow and were visited by a much better Father Christmas 3 times!

I hope to tell you about the difference between mouth-stories and eye-stories, and why they are both equally important, how Mr. T’s musical tastes are developing and why his growing obsession with super heroes is turning him into a proper little consumerist.

And now that we are back in Brazil I’ll try to describe some of the not-so-obvious differences I noticed between life in Brazil and Britain, as well as trying to make some sense of the corruption scandals, demonstrations and plunging economy that we seem to be facing here.

So lots to look forward to, if I can just find the time to do it all some justice.

A Bilingual Child: The Big Bad Wolf

Big Bad Wolf, Bilingual child

Howlin’ Wolf by Ghetu Daniel (CC-BY-2.0)

We have a new obsession in our house at the moment: Wolves.  More precisely, The Big Bad Wolf.   Or at other times it’s the Lobo Malvado.

I think it started at school when he heard the story of Little Red Riding Hood, or Chapeuzinha Vermelha in Portuguese.  A little later we went to see what I thought was a very disappointing puppet play at the theatre, but Mr T just thought it was amazing.  I mean, it had a Big Bad Wolf in it.  What more could you want?

A week later he found out about The Three Little Pigs and I showed him the Disney version that was old when I was a kid with the famous song ‘Who’s Afraid Of the Big Bad Wolf?’

Now the interesting thing about both of these stories, from a bilingual child’s pont of view, is that they are almost exactly the same in both English and Portuguese.

There are details that are different, for example the in Portuguese The Little Red Riding Hood has some songs like ‘Eu sou o lobo mau’ (‘I am the big bad wolf’)  which is about how the wolf likes to eat children and pigs.

On the other hand, The English story of the Three Little Pigs has the delightful line from the pigs when they are asked to open their doors ‘Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin,’ to which the wold replies ‘I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow the house down’.

And as I assume any good bilingual/bicultural child will do, Mr. T has appropriated the best parts of the English and Portuguese versions to make his own unique one.  This means we can start off with Little Red Riding Hood in Portuguese, switch to Three Little Pigs in English, then continue the Three Little Pigs but now in Portuguese and finish off with Little red Riding Hood in English.

Who's afraid of the Big Mod Wolf? by Ginny (CC-BY-SA- 2.0)

Who’s afraid of the Big Mod Wolf? by Ginny (CC-BY-SA- 2.0)

Each time it is slightly different, which is a problem for me as I am usually the big bad wolf in these stories.  It took me ages to figure out at one point, when I thought we were enacting Red Riding Hood, that I had to come down the chimney and burn my bum, just as the wolf does in the Disney version of the Three Little Pigs.  Now I have to sit in some pretend water and then run off howling as I hold my bottom in both hands, no matter which story we are recreating.  At least it is guaranteed to get a laugh and it will only last a week or so before he becomes obsessed with something else.

I think this blending of language, cultures and stories shows his creativity and his willingness not to be held back by not knowing something in one particular language.  It also shows that he really is not afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, or the Lobo Malvado or his daddy landing in a pot of boiling water-butt first.

Further Reading

Due to a lot of work at the moment, I have been going through Lionel Shriver’s ‘The New Republic‘ rather slowly.  It isn’t the fault of the book, which though not the greatest read ever is more than good enough to keep my attention.  The problem is a lack of time and, when I do get some free time I’d rather go to sleep.

A Bilingual Child: Mythbusted

Robin Hood, Myth, Bilingual Children

He robbed from the rich and gave to the poor? Has to be a myth by Duncan Harris (CC-BY-2.0)

Before Mr.T was born I had the responsibility of researching how we were going to approach language in our family.  Both Mrs Head of the Heard and I wanted to him to speak both English and Portuguese, but we weren’t quite sure how to go about it.

Thankfully the internet was invented to answer such questions and my findings were surprising.  I was told things like it was hard, but worth it.  It was expensive, but worth it.  I would come up against resistance from other people, but ignore them because it was worth it.  Some kids are slow to pick up either language, but keep at it, because it’s worth it.

The main thing I took away from my research was that it was worth it.

Our experience, after 3 1/2 years, is that it most definitely is worth it.  However, most of the rest of problems haven’t presented themselves.

It can be hard

Obviously I have never had any experience bringing up a monolingual child, but I can’t see it being much easier than bringing up a bilingual one.  I speak English to my son, my wife speaks mainly Portuguese and everyone else uses whatever language they feel like, which is usually their first language.

I have had to go online to find/remember nursery songs and we have made a conscious decision to play TV programmes in the original language.  I have also actively sought out opportunities for my son to be exposed to English so that he doesn’t just think it is some weird thing only his dad does (there are lots of other weird things that only his dad does, but that is beside the point).

But hard?  Difficult?

If this is as difficult as raising a child gets then being a parent really is a piece of cake.

Stonehenge, Myths, Bilingual children

Built by Druids so they’d know what time the pubs opened by Qallnx (CC-BY-2.0)

It can be expensive

Again, this isn’t true.

We have an extensive library of children’s books, with about 75% being in English and the rest in Portuguese.  I guess that if we were only using one language at home we could have made a bit of a saving there.  All the DVDs we have in the house were bought in Brazil and are usually in both English and Portuguese, so we haven’t had much of an expense there.  We go back to the UK every 9 months or so, but that is primarily to keep Mr. T in contact with his UK family and learning English is just a happy bi-product.

Compared to some of my friends who are spending a fortune sending their kids to private language schools or to bilingual schools then we are actually saving money.

You can face resistance from family/friends/educators/doctors…

Not once have we come up against anybody who thinks it is a bad idea for our son to be raised speaking English and Portuguese.  His doctor thinks it is great and regularly practises his own English with our son.  The teachers at his school said they had difficulty understanding him at first, but they have worked extra hard to communicate with him, as they have done with other children who come from a bilingual background.  Friends are envious of him either because they know he is going to speak great English or because they know we won’t have to spend a packet teaching him English.

And when he calls me ‘Daddy’ at school all the mom’s and teachers think it is just the cutest thing ever.

Now, I understand that English is a prestige language and so this could have an impact on other people’s ideas.  However, I know quite a few people from language communities that have less prestige who are also bringing their kids up to be multilingual and not one of them has told me about friction with their friends, relatives or health/education professionals.

Zeus, Mths, Bilingua Children

One of many godly myths by Tilemahos Efthimiadis (CC-BY-2.0)

Some children are slow in picking up both languages

Ok, so there might be a grain of truth in this one, but merely a grain.  Our son is only 3 1/2 so it is still too early to say, but about a year ago we had a few minor worries that his language wasn’t progressing as well as other kids.  We have a good friend who has a son 3 weeks younger than ours, and we were shocked one day when we visited and he was coming out with fully formed sentences, whereas our son could mutter a few words, if that.

But then, all of a sudden, Mr. T’s language started to blossom.  He is still a little behind the average of his peers in Portuguese, but not by much.  He is catching up every day and we no longer have even the merest hint of a worry.  And he understands everything in English, which none of his peers can, so I am pretty confident he is going to end up knowing both languages perfectly.

Of course, there is a chance that he was slightly behind the other kids because this is a totally normal thing.  Children pick up languages at different rates whether they are monolingual or multilingual.  We’ll just never know the reason for our son.

Our Experience

The important thing to remember with this, though, is that it is just our experience.  If we were to try to do this in another country, or even another city in Brazil, we might have more problems.  If I wasn’t a language teaching professional it might have been more worrisome.  If we didn’t have access to Skype and the internet we might not have had so much free contact with grandparents.  If we had been teaching a language other than English we might have had more difficulty finding opportunities for exposure in the minority language.  However, for us, so far, it has been all good.

This post is part of the November edition of the Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival.  You can find more information about this excellent project, as well as finding past editions of the carnival, at Piri Piri Lexicon