Flat Hunting: His Granddad’s Grandson

For sale signs

To let or buyby Boyce Duprey CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

We are looking for a new flat at the moment.  We did have plans to build our own house, but thanks to the interminable bureaucracy that is Brazilian government we have had to put these plans on hold for a while.

My dad, back in the UK, has a thing about houses and flats.  He finds it almost impossible to walk past an estate agent’s without looking in the window to see the prices of property in the area and to see if there are any bargains going.  He is quite happy to go and view houses and think about what he could do to them to improve them.

If he were with us in Brazil he would be like a pig in muck.  And so, it seems, is his grandson.

We showed our son a couple of properties online and he was enthralled.  He loved looking at all the pictures and we took the opportunity to describe some of the things we could see in the pictures, things like the names of the rooms and some of the furniture.

We then took him with us to see some of the flats and told him we were going the ‘apartamento’.  Mr. T was in his element.  It helped that the first couple of flats were empty so he could run around without us worrying he was going to break something.  He quickly learnt the Portuguese word ‘apartamento‘ but seems to have decided that it should be spoken with an English accent so that the final ‘o’ rhymes with ‘toe’.  Do I really sound like that when I speak Portuguese?

It has now developed into an obsession, though.  Yesterday we only saw one flat, but there were tears as we were leaving amid demands for another ‘apartamento’.  During the evening we were having some quiet time before going to bed and all of a sudden Mr. T started asking about more ‘apartamentos.

I think his grandfather, or doe doe as Mr. T calls him, will be very proud.  Despite living half way around the world, it is clear that he is his grandfather’s grandson.

Further Reading

Over my holiday I read ‘Dublin’ by Edward Rutherford.  It is a romantic history of the city and, while not the greatest book in the world, did provide some worthwhile insights into the home of my grandfather.


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Hello, It’s Good to Be Back

Oasis soup

Oasis Soup by atomicjeep CC BY 2.0

As you probably haven’t noticed, I haven’t written anything on here for about a month or so. I went to the IATEFL conference in the UK and decided to make a bit of a holiday out of it for both myself and my son.  As my wife couldn’t get time off from teaching at university it meant leaving Mr. T with my parents while I went off and developed myself at the foremost English teachers’ conference.  I was a bit worried about Mr. T not being comfortable with my parents, so we went back to Birmingham a couple of weeks early so he could get used to them again.

I needn’t have worried as he had a wonderful time with my folks, going to a safari park, visiting a fire station, going on a choo choo train and much, much more besides.  His English has improved far more than I could ever have expected.  Before we went, he seemed to be entering a phase of improving all of his language skills, but while in the UK it was unbelievable how much and how quickly his vocabulary increased.

I also learned a lot at the IATEFL conference, as well as meeting up with lots of old and new friends.  I really must try to get to more of those conferences.  I gave a talk about using linguistic landscapes to teach English that seemed to be well received.  I have this idea to write a book about it, if I can just find the time.

The one thing that I learned outside the conference was also a bit startling: it seems that it is now 2o years since Britpop was a thing in the UK.  The likes of Oasis, Blur, Suede and Pulp formed a large part of the soundtrack to my days at university,so to realise that it is now 20 YEARS since I was a carefree student just doesn’t bear thinking about.



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Carnival in Curitiba: Zombie Walk

Ready for the Zombie Walk, Curitiba

Ready for the Zombie Walk

We don’t do carnival in Curitiba.

We have a couple of pre-carnival days a couple of weeks before the big holiday, but from the Friday before carnival the vast majority of people in this city escape to the beach, another city in Brazil that celebrates carnival or anywhere else at all.

The city is left to people who have to work, have no way of getting out or who just don’t like the idea of carnival.

There are a surprising number of Brazilians who actively dislike carnival.  A lot of them live in Curitiba.

The city is empty.  There is no traffic.  The restaurants that are open don’t have queues.  It is relaxing walking around the parks without the normal hordes.  It is almost like a ghost town.

Except the ghosts are zombies.

Because, while we don’t have samba and blocos, we do have a very alternative crowd left in the city.  The sort of people into psychobilly music, the living dead and motorbikes.  So they get together and have their own parade through the city. A parade of zombies.

A lot of people put a lot of effort into their costumes.  There are references to various films, songs and video games.  The creativity is astounding.

There are also people who just slap a bit of red make-up on at the last-minute.

They all get together in one part of the city and walk to another part where there is live music of the pstchobilly/heavy metal variety.  There are Hells Angels and families, lots of young people and the odd pensioner.

Funnily enough, there is hardly any police presence and, to my eyes at least, not a bit of bother.

So next year if you are in Brazil but don’t fancy the same old carnival routine, come down to Curitiba for a bit of peace and quiet and a lot of zombies.

We don’t do carnival in Curitiba.  We do the walking dead.

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Another alternative carnival

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Reading Aloud

English: Interesting Story

An Interesting Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first started writing this blog, I posted a number of reviews of books that we were reading to our son.  I had envisaged this being a regular thing, perhaps every couple of weeks or so.

I soon stopped because, although we have a lot of books in both Portuguese and English, we accidentally developed a core of about 15 books or so that we would read again and again.  These were books that we as parents lie, but also that Mr. T, our son, also liked.

It is no secret how important reading aloud to your children is.  We have been reading to Mr. T ever since he was born and it is one of the best parts of the day.  Even without the educational benefits that come with reading to our son I would be loath to give up this exercise.  Recently, however, we have been seeing some of the fruits of our pleasurable labour in his language as well as just finding the time to bond.

Reading to himself

One of the joys of the last few weeks has been to see our son getting a book out from under the bed and reading it.  Obviously, at 2 and a half he can’t actually read, but he does do a good impression of it.  He sits up in bed with his legs crossed and opens the book at the first page.  He then babbles away to himself about what he can see in the picture before turning the page and doing the same thing again.

I love to see this.  Apart from it being funny to watch it also means, hopefully, that we are well on the way to encouraging Mr. T to see books as a natural thing to use in his free time, and not just something that has to be picked up because you are told to.


T for Mr. T (Scootie)

Reading letters

He has learnt to recognise the letter ‘T’ and he can even write it now thanks his vovô showing him how to do it on a blackboard.  Whenever he sees the letter ‘T’ he shouts it out with wild abandon and repeats it just to make sure that we saw it as well.  He has started to recognise some of the other letters in his name as well as the letter ‘A’.

We are not trying to push him to read letters as I know there are grave doubts about trying to do this at such a young age.  However, he is very interested in letters so we encourage him to do it so long as he wants to.

Learning language

One of the main reasons to read aloud to a child is to help their language learning, and this is perhaps especially important for a bilingual child as it is a great opportunity to provide further exposure in a minority language.  One of the most favorite books in our house is ‘The Gruffalo‘.  It is so beloved by all of us that we have been reading since day 1.

A couple of weeks ago, as my wife was reading it to him before bedtime, he started to say some of the words at the same time as my wife.  Over the next couple of days we encouraged him to do this more and now he can say practically all of the end rhyme words throughout the story.  He has also started to do this with other books that he has heard practically all his life.

At the moment he only really uses these words when the book is being read, not in his every day life.  But I am sure that this shows he is aware of more words than he is using and that pretty soon he is going to be ready to start producing even more vocabulary.

Children's books

Children’s books (zetson)

Future Reading

I am aware of some disagreements over how to teach bilingual children to read.  Some people say you should teach them to read one language at a time, others that you can teach both together.  I’d love to hear people’s experiences in the comments sections below.

Further Reading

There is of course some wonderful material out there on the internet about why parents should read to their kids and how to go about it.  3 blogs that I have read and found particularly motivating are:

Bilingual Children: Why reading is important from multilingualparenting.com

My Favorite Way to Get a Bilingual Child Reading More in the Minority Language from bilingualmonkeys.com

Teaching a Multilingual Child to Read and Write from expatchild.com

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A Bilingual Child: Not blue

Variations of blue

The future is bright, the future is blue (Wikipedia)

One of Mr. T’s first words wasblue‘.  This is hardly surprising as my football team back in the UK, Birmingham City, are nicknamed Blues.  I am certain that this is due to the fact that they play in blue rather than a near-lifetime of giving me the blues.  Whatever, the reason, I made sure he was exposed to the name for the colour very early on in his life with songs and chants that it was almost inevitable that it would be one of his earliest words.

Since then, other colour words have been very slow coming.  He will say ‘red’ and has something approaching ‘black’ but sounds more like ‘ba‘.  He has a word for ‘white’ that is similar to the English, and he knows the word ‘orange’, but only in the context of ‘The Gruffalo’.

The interesting thing is that all the colour words he uses are English ones.  Our theory for why this should be so is the mere fact that the English words are generally a lot shorter and easier to say; compare ‘red’ with its Portuguese equivalent of ‘vermelho‘.

He understands most other colour words, in both English or Portuguese, he just hasn’t got around to remembering how to say them.  To get around this he has devised a cunning strategy.

Yesterday evening I picked him up from school and the teacher had drawn an alligator on his hand, or a ‘jacaré‘ as it is known in Portuguese and to Mr. T.  The jacaré was green so I asked him what colour it was and he looked at it for a bit and then proudly declared ‘Not blue!’


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Daddy Mouse

Danger Mouse, as seen in the series' title seq...

The world’s greatest secret agent (Wikipedia)

We had a boys’ night in last week when it was just me and Mr. T.  As he was on his way to pre-school earlier in the day, I asked him what he wanted to do, and he loudly declared ‘Pizza’.  Who was I to argue with such a convincing argument.

So I picked him up and brought him home to a kitchen with his little table in the middle and everything ready to make our own pizza.  First, he had to spread the tomato sauce all over the base with the back of a spoon, then I asked what we needed next, which was cheese.  He ate some of the cheese that I had already grated while watching me spread the rest out.

Next were the mushrooms.  He put one mushroom in the middle and then went back to eating grated cheese as I put the rest of the mushrooms on.  The same thing happened with the red peppers.

There was a slight deviation for the tomatoes as he stopped eating the cheese and started to eat the tomatoes instead.

While the pizza was in the oven we got the drinks ready.  A Toddy (Brazilian chocolate milk, no whisky involved) and a beer for me.

We then had to sort out what we were going to watch while we ate and had our drinks.  There was a bit of a discussion over the merits of Galinha Pintadinha (it has no merit whatsoever) before I suggested ‘Danger Mouse’.

Penfold in "The Odd Ball Runaround"

Good grief Penfold (Wikipedia)

‘Danger Mouse’ is a classic of British children’s TV that anyone of a certain age with any taste will have loved.  I have lots of taste so obviously I adored it.  I bought the DVD (for my son, of course) but the first time I played it it didn’t go down well.  That was some months ago, so I hoped things had changed.

Once the pizza was sliced we sat back with our beer/milk and I pressed play on the DVD.  Not a word out of my son for the next 15 minutes as he watched enraptured with the sight before him.  A big smile crossed his face at various times, and I was almost in daddy heaven: there I was with my son, eating pizza, having a beer/milk and watching Danger Mouse.  Could life get any better than that?

Yes, it could.

During the final credits my son jumped to his feet to dance along and got me up to.  We were dancing and jumping and acting like silly little boys.

But it got even better than that.

I started to sing along to the lyrics, some of which I could remember, the rest I made up.  I shouted especially loudly when the singer sings ‘Danger Mouse’ on more than one occasion.  My son repeated it after me, except he got it wrong in the best possible way.  Instead of ‘Danger Mouse’ he sang ‘Daddy Mouse’.

‘He’s the ace, he’s amazing
He’s the strongest, he’s the quickest, he’s the best
Daddy Mouse!’

It was one of the best boys’ nights in I think I have ever had or am likely to have.

Further reading

I have almost finished ‘Rivers of London‘ by Ben Aaranovitch.  It’s a fast-paced tale of wizards, spirits, murder and the Metropolitan police.  Not a world-changing book, but a very good read.  It’s the first in a series of four (so far) and I reckon I’ll be getting the rest soon enough.

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A Bilingual Child: Count me in

Numbers 0-9

One, two threeUm dois três (mrsdkrebs)

As someone who learned Portuguese as an adult there are two things that I find it very difficult to do in my second language: maths and swearing.  When I swear in Portuguese it just doesn’t sound right.  It feels a bit childish, a bit too funny.  There is nothing like a proper, old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon swear word to express exactly what I am feeling.

When it comes to numbers, I can count perfectly well, but if I have to do any sums, my brain stops working.  I have to translate the numbers into English, do the maths in my head and then translate the number back into Portuguese.  My theory for this is that numbers are such an integral part of our lives, that because we learn them almost from day one, at the same time as learning to speak, that they are a part of us and represent something about ourselves.

This is probably nonsense, but it works for me.

Mr. T can now, more or less, count up to 10 in both languages.  He can go from 1-6 quite easily in either English or Portuguese, but he then struggles with 7 and 8 in both languages, before saying 9 and 10 very easily.  I have tried to figure out a theory as to why he struggles with 7 and 8 in both languages, but so far I have nothing.


Not a Captcha (runran)

He is also starting to be aware of other numbers.  The other night he was having difficulty getting to sleep so my wife suggested they count together in order to calm him down.  He started in English and so she kept going with him.  After 10 she said 11 and Mr. T repeated, so she 12 and he repeated it again.  This kept on going until they got to 34.  Apparently 34 is a very funny number because he giggled at it and got Headess of the Heard to say it again, at which point he giggled again.  Apparently this went on for a few minutes before she continued on up to 100.

By the time they got to 100 he was almost asleep.

The other aspect of counting is that it is one of the first areas that Mr. T has words in two languages and he doesn’t mix them up.  If he starts counting in English, he doesn’t suddenly switch to Portuguese, and vice versa.  I am sure that this is because he has only ever heard numbers in one language at a time but I am wondering if it is one of the first signs that his brain is compartmentalising the two languages for language production.

One of the hopes I have for my son is that, as he grows up to be bilingual he will be able to do maths in his head equally well in both English and Portuguese.  I realise that the fact that he will have formal maths instruction in Portuguese means there is a possibility he will favour that language over English, but we have got off to a good start.

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