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: 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

Language Play: Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival

Language play - Scrabble

Scrabble by jcolman – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Hello and welcome to this month’s Blogging Carnival for Raising Multilingual Children.  I asked people to submit things they have written on the theme of Language Play and it has been an honour to be able to read everything, get some inspiration and realise once again how important play is to learning anything, but especially language.

The first post is from Rabble Raiser and looks at how he created flashcards for English, Latin and American Sign Language.  There are a lot of possibilities with these flashcards, including memory games and team games.

Next up is Raising a Trilingual Child who reminds us that it is never too early to play with your language.

Soul Travelers sent in a vlog of her daughter who is living proof that play is important as she uses Mandarin

And we don’t have to use modern technology to play with our language and Mommy Plays English proves with her twist on the classic game of Hangman.

Where is My Mind reports on a number of different games she plays with her kids as she seeks to help them learn Gaelic.

Anti-playing for Language Play

Anti-playing by The Advocacy Project – (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In The Playroom use plasticine to incorporate kinaesthetic activities into learning the Arabic alphabet.  if you have active kids, then you could get some great ideas here.

Of course, no blogging carnival on language is complete without Expat Since Birth, and she has risen to the occasion once again with a blog packed full of resources for using poetry.  It also has two great videos from Benjamin Zephaniah, one of my favourite poets who also comes from my home city of Birmingham in the UK.

Another regular contributor to blogging carnivals is Multilingual Parenting who has also provided a piece with 14 different fun activities for word play.

And last but not least, we all know how powerful songs can be when learning any language, and so All Done Monkey has provided us with a way to teach everything about the letter E in Spanish.

 

If you would like more information about what this carnival is all about, please go to The Piri-Piri Lexicon who organises it all.

 

 

Language Play

English: The game Bananagrams, showing pieces ...

English: The game Bananagrams, showing pieces and banana-shaped carrying container. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do we learn language?  Why do we learn language?  Once we have learnt language, what do we use it for?

These are all questions I have had to try to answer as a language teacher, and even more so now that I am trying to bring up a bilingual son.  In order to be a language teacher you need to know a t least a bit about the nature of what you are teaching.  In order to be parent who speaks the minority language at home you are obviously going to encounter many language situations on a daily basis.

I became an English teacher about 20 years ago and so I was heavily influenced by the Communicative Approach.  Basically, this approach seeks to answer the above questions by saying it is through the struggle to communicate our needs and wants that we learn language.  Yes, we could just continue to cry at our parents when we want to be fed, but it is far more efficient just to say ‘I want to have my bottle.’

Of course, if that doesn’t work the first time, you can also revert to crying to get what you want.

For a long time this seemed to make a lot of sense.  W edo use language to communicate with others in order to manipulate our surroundings to get what we want.  And if we didn’t have to do this then we might not bother to learn how to use language in the first place.

Then I read a book that totally changed my beliefs about language.  We use language for far more than just communicating our needs.  We also play with language.  In fact, if we take ‘play’ to mean creating something unreal with language, then we might ‘play’ more often than we don’t.

The book was called ‘Language Play, Language Learning‘ by Guy Cook.

Word games, songs, poems are all examples ot language play.  But so are fiction and prayers, crosswords and skipping songs, verbal jousting and punning.

So, for the upcoming blogging carnival for Raising Multilingual Children I would like to hear about the language play activities that you use in a bilingual context.  It can be anything at all, not necessarily with an aim to learn language, but to have fun using and manipulating language.  It could be something you enjoy doing yourself, something your kids like doing or an activity that you do as a family.

Just send me a link with a blog post you have written about playing with your language before midnight GMT of Sunday 24th August and I’ll include it in the carnival.  It could be something you have written especially for the carnival, or something you wrote ages ago.

If you would like more information about what this carnival is all about, please go to The Piri-Piri Lexicon who organises it all.

Where Do You Come From?

Multicultural Kids Blogs

It is with great pleasure that I am the host of this month’s Multicultural Kids Blogs Carnival.  The theme this month is ‘Where do you come from?’ which can be a tricky question for lots of people to answer in this modern world.  But as many brighter people than me have said, how can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been?

When I decided on this topic, I had no idea what sort of replies I would get, but I was sure there would be a wide variety.  My own contribution comes at the end, along with two others, in a poem.  I also had posts that are primarily photographic, posts that identify a particular place and others that are far more vague about a geographical home.  Then there are others that see home in the languages they speak, or the mix of races and cultures that they come from.

But the first post, ‘Is “Where Are You From” A Relevant Question?‘ comes from Kampuchea Crossings and questions the who validity of the question in the first place, and some of the loaded assumptions that come with it.

Photos

In ‘Where Are You From?  A Loaded Question‘ we hear about why it is so hard for Pragmatic Mom to give an easy answer.  Her post is worth checking out if only for some of the great photos.

Trilingual Mama provides a vivid description of her childhood in a Latin American family living in the USA.  She then goes on to look out how the addition of a husband from yet another culture has affected her children.  ‘Watered Down Hispanics‘ is a wonderful post with some brilliant family photos.

Family in Finland has a post from the eyes of her 4-year-old daughter about how she feels calling Finland her home for the last 4 months in ‘My Name Is Malika Afif-Watt.  Where Am I From?‘  There are some great photos in this collection, often involving lots of snow!

Mater Cars 2

Ain’t no need to watch where I’m going, just need to know where I’ve been.’

(All around) The Americas

Rio de Janeiro is the home of the upcoming World Cup final and Olympics and has a reputation for being a wonderful and happy city.  Although, as A Path of Light points out, in Happiness as Priority, being happy isn’t necessarily a good thing.

The Tiger Tales hails from another country famous for its happiness and music, but there is a lot more to Trinidad and Tobago than just ‘calypso, the steel pan and limbo’ as we find out in ‘#Sweet TnT: the country of my birth.’

Another story about a bewildering family tree comes from Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes.  She embraces the questions, and the random guesses, from various people as a way to take in pride in who she is and pass this on to her son in ‘Are You Native American, Mexican or Indian?

(More or less) Europe

The European Mama has two answers to the question: a short one and a long one.  The long answer is complicated, but much more interesting and offers insights into her identity and that or her family in ‘I’m From Europe.  Where Are You From?

A post from Multilingual Parenting goes right to the heart of the matter by asking, and answering the question ‘Bilingual! Bicultural! Do You Know Where I Am Coming From?‘  In seeking to answer the question for herself, she shows how the answer can change quite dramatically over time.

The Piri-Piri Lexicon wonders aloud about her own sense of belonging, and also about how her kids are going to answer the question ‘Where Are You From?

Happy Muslim Mama has obviously done a lot of thinking on this very subject with three posts all dealing with her ideas: ‘Five Brothers from the Land of Five Rivers‘, ‘Identity, Language and Going Back Home‘ and finally ‘Roots and Branches – a British Punjabi Genealogy‘.

Homeschool Ways is very proud of her country of birth and in her post ‘Where Am I From? Romania‘ she gives us a a quick run down on language, technology and a burning desire to be in the news.

Where are you from?None of the Above

Ay yo, Be a Father still has a while to go before directly addressing the question of where his son comes from, but has already found that, with the help of reading, they are on the right lines in his post ‘Which Box Will He Check?

Instead of being from one particular place, one answer to the question might be that you come from every place, or in other words, you are a global citizen.  All Done Monkey considers this possible answer and what implications it might have for children in ‘What Is a Global Citizen?

Expat Since Birth finds it impossible to say where, geographically, she is from.  Instead, she finds it much easier to think about the languages she speaks and she wrote in her very first post called ‘My Home Are My Languages.’

Poetry

An Irish Eco Dude In Brazil doesn’t give us any definite answers, but his evocative poem seems to suggest that is the ‘Journeys‘ we are on to find the answers that are as important as the answers themselves.

To almost finish we have two great minds which think alike because they have written poems inspired by George Ella Lyon.  First of all is Mother Tongues Blog with ‘I Am From‘ and then my own version called ‘Where I’m From.

And finally, La Cité des Vents offers us a round-up, if not a conclusion, to our quest to find out ‘Where Are You From?

 

You can find much more information about Multicultural Kid Blogs, including past and present blogging carnivals by going to their site and having a mooch around.  There are great articles on a variety of subjects, as well as what promises to be an excellent series of posts on the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil and its effects on children.

 

And I leave you with a bit of  Elvis Presley singing ‘Where Do You Come From?’

 

A Bilingual Child: Looking for some advice

Mechanical Painting

I couldn’t find an appropriate image, but I really like this painting by Mark ChadwickCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I recently saw a video of a friend who is bringing her son up to speak English and some Portuguese.  I have a lot in common with them due to the age of the child (about 3), the fact that they come from the same city as me and we have similar backgrounds.

They are also different because they both speak English as a first language and, instead of bringing their child up to be bilingual by speaking two languages at home, or some variety on that, they are making sure he knows certain words in Portuguese.  There are many advantages to doing this, for example, they avoid bad Portuguese while at the same time make their child aware of other languages/cultures early on and also prepare him for learning a language later in life, for example.

One thing that I was struck by was how the parents ask their son ‘What’s X in Portuguese?’ and their son was easily able to tell them.  They ran through about 15 different vocabulary items and their son was able to tell them very quickly what the translation was.  I was impressed.

This is something that we have never done.  To simplify our arrangement, I speak in English and everybody else speaks in Portuguese, but I have never checked if he knows there are two languages or if he is aware that monkey is the English for ‘macaco’.  I have mentioned before in other blog posts, and to anyone who will listen, that I have a sneaky suspicion that he doesn’t even realise that he is being exposed to two different languages

So I have a few questions for those who have more experience of bringing up multilingual children.

1. Did you explicitly ask your child what the word was in a different language or did you just speak the different languages at home assuming that the child would sort it out in his own sweet time?

2. If you did make it explicit that there were two or more languages at what age did you start doing this?

3. If you didn’t highlight the two languages do you feel it made a difference in their language acquisition?

4. Am I being just being a relatively normal parent and finding something to worry about where there isn’t really an issue at all?

If you have any answers, please leave a comment below, write your own blog and link back to this or find some other way of letting me know.  I am genuinely interested in what other people have done as I have found it hard to find any mention of this from my research.

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100 Not Out

English: Jacques Rudolph cover drive

Jacques Rudolph cover drive (Wikipedia)

“And Head of the Heard plays a glorious cover drive to reach his maiden century.  Surely there are many more ahead of him in what promises to be a glittering career…”

I am a cricket fan and, in my dreams, I often score centuries in a Brian Lara or Ian Bell style.

Unfortunately, they are only in my dreams and so the closest I will ever get to scoring 100 is in my blogging.  While it isn’t exactly cricket, I am ever so proud to write this, my 100th blog post about raising a bilingual family in Curitiba, Brazil.

Highlights

Unfortunately, now that I am a dad, it is practically impossible for me to watch a whole day’s play of cricket match, never mind the whole 5 days of a test match.  And then there’s the fact that any decent match will be one of a series of 5.  This means that I have to make do with the highlights, which in all honesty can be better that watching live when England are involved.

The same is no doubt true of you, dear reader.  I am sure you don’t have the time to go trawling through all of the last 100 posts I have written, so I decided to package what I consider to be the best of them in my own edited highlights.

1. The Most Important Word – I describe how Mr. T learned a word to describe a colour, a mood, a style of music and probably the best football team in the entire history of the world.

...and 100!

…and 100! (MarcelGermain)

2. Another Reason to Speak English – There are many reasons to try to bring up a bilingual child, but I hadn’t thought about this one until I read about it somewhere else.

3. 2 Words Are Better than 1 – Mr. T shows the first signs of developing his language skills.

4. Question Time? – Talking to babies/toddlers is basically just asking a series of unanswered questions.

5. What Are Books For?  – Not just for reading.

6. Free the Feet – Now that the weather is starting to get warmer again we might just be able to free them more often.

7. Grudge Cabinet – We all have one.  Unfortunately I think Mr. T’s might have grown somewhat since I wrote this.

100 Reais

100 Reais (markhillary)

8. I Hate Scuffers – I had a lot of fun writing this one.  It merges together aspects of my own childhood as well as my son’s.

9. Should you Come to the World Cup? – Did you realise we are having the world cup next year in Brazil?  Are you coming?

10. The Oncoming Storm – This is probably my favourite single piece because it involves Dr. Who and Mr. T.  What’s not to like?

Of course having a celebration all on your own is pretty boring so I thought I would also invite some of the bloggers who have been important in teaching me how to blog, or those that I just enjoy reading.  I think my blog falls into 3 different categories; dad blogger, multilingual parent blogger, blogging about Brazil.

Brazil Bloggers

A Brazilian Operating in this Area – a great blog by a Brazilian journalist who lives and studies in London.  He always has a refreshing viewpoint on Brazilian current affairs.

Andrew Downie’s Brazil Blog – this is written by a foreign correspondent who lives in Brazil and writes about everything to do with the country.  He is sometimes called a Brazil hater, but I reckon he is just the friend that Brazil needs.

Born Again Brazilian – an American woman who went to Brazil and was born all over again, not necessarily religiously but as a person.

A Taste of Brazil – some wonderful writing all about Brazilian food.

Rachel’s Rantings – great writing about the day-to-day life on an American woman living in Rio.

100

100 (Ryan Christopher VanWilliams – NYC)

Dad Bloggers

Ask Your Dad – funny and warm writing about being a dad who doesn’t know the answers.

Dork Daddy – anything and everything nerdy or dorky and daddy.

Snoozing on the Sofa – some of my favourite dadtime stories are on this blog.

Modern Father Online – He is an Aussie but still claims to be modern.  Who’d have thunk it?

Lunar Baboon – Always funny.

Multilingual Parents Bloggers

Expat Since Birth – How many languages can one family speak and still stay sane?  Go to this brilliant blog to find out.

European Mama – A great Polish writer living with her German husband in Holland with their three kids.

Dads the Way I Like It – What do you get if you call a French/English/Welsh speaking Scots/Irishman living in Wales?

Bilingual Monkeys – One of the first blogs I read about raising bilingual kids and still gives me great inspiration.

Multicultural Kid Blogs – A place where parents of kids from all over the world can come together to try to build a better future.

100

100 (funadium)