A Bilingual Child: 20 days in Birmingham

A bilingual child learns more than just English during a holiday in Birmingham, UK

20 days back in the UK.  20 days with so much to see, do and learn.

20 days to go to Legoland, pretend to be Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest and Nottingham castle, play in the snow, eat a few good curries a drink lots of decent beer (at least I did, not my 4-year-old son) and maybe find some time to relax.

20 days isn’t enough for family and friends, but then it never is.

20 days, with at least 3 spent at the wonderful IATEFL conference to meet up with old friends, made some new ones and even see the odd presentation.

And in 20 days Mr T’s English went from mainly passive understanding to something approaching a more active and natural level.

Before we went, I was a bit worried because although Mr T understands pretty much everything I say in English, he rarely talks in English.  As my wife had to stay in Brazil, this meant he would only hear English for the duration of the stay.  Would this be too much for him?  Would he spend all of his time running to me to ask me how to say things in English?  Would he just refuse to speak in English at all?

I decided to arrive in the UK two weeks before the conference to give him time to adapt before I disappeared for the conference. I think this turned out to be a good move because for the first week or so he was quite shy about speaking English.  He complained when I had to do some work as this meant he had to speak English.  When I was around, he gloried in prattling away in Portuguese safe in the knowledge that I would understand everything he was saying.

We had a party on the first Sunday and it took me a while, and a lot of patience, to encourage Mr T to join the other kids.  He was worried about not knowing anyone and not being able to communicate.  15 minutes after he plucked up the courage to join in, he was running around and playing games just like any other 4-year-old.

I was told by my family and friends that when I wasn’t around he would speak quite happily in English.  Once again, it would seem it was all my fault.  It was also noticeable that while he was able to communicate he didn’t have the flair and the extended utterances that he would normally exhibit in Portuguese.  He wasn’t able to tell stories, be inventive or interact with adults the way he normally does in Brazil.

By the end of the trip, especially over the last few days when I was away at the conference, he seemed a lot more comfortable.  He was able to laugh with my family and play jokes.  He sayed at my brother’s house the one night and didn’t want to leave (I think this was more to do with the fact that the stay included an afternoon at Toys R Us followed by sitting in front of the TV than anything else) with no communication breakdowns.

While he still speaks to me in Portuguese, we both left the UK feeling very good about ourselves and the progress Mr T had made.  In fact, he learnt so much in just 20 days that I am sure that if we were able to stay there for a couple of months he would be able to speak English as if he were an average 4-year-old British kid.  I just need to find the time and money to be able to make that happen.

 

 

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.

Where I’m From

028-13 WMPTE 380Y CRW380C

I ‘drove’ one of these when I was a kid

Last week I went to João Pessoa in the north-east of Brazil for the Braz Tesol conference.  It is a conference that draws together English language teachers from all over Brazil, as well as attracting people from different parts of the world.

One of the best plenaries that I went to was given by J.J. Wilson on the subject of teacher development.  One of the activities we did was called ‘Where I’m from’ with the intention of showing that our origins can have a profound effect on our teaching, training and everything else we do in life.

I loved the activity so much because in such a short time I was able to articulate some of the major influences in my life.  And so, instead of leaving it gather dust in some forgotten notepad that I know I’ll never pick up again, I thought I’d share it here.

Where I’m From

I am from parks, mud and bi-polar trees

I am from cobs, bostin, and the outdoor

I am from paper rounds, dog walks and 3-hour bus rides

I am from the Bull Ring with its Rotunda, treks around the Lickeys and lost sporting causes

I am from Cadbury’s and Ansell’s and fading memories of Leyland.

I am from rain, mist, wind, radiators and ice inside windows.

I am from unliked tea, cottage pie, chips and vinegar and red sauce.

I am from the bog, a huge kitchen table, badly-understood locals, a range and even more rain.

I am from books, education, paper rounds, politics and strong women.

 

J.J. Wilson was inspired to create this class from an original poem by George Ella Lyon,  You can find the poem here or listen to her reading the poem below taken from youtube (from 45 seconds).  Also on youtube, there are countless variations on the theme as many other people have sought to write their own poems about where they are from.

This post is my part of the Multicultural Kids Blogging Carnival for the month of May.  It is my pleasure to host the blog this month and it will be live on this blog from Thursday, May 15th.  For more information on this carnival, all the other carnivals and lots more about raising multicultural kids click on the image below.

Multicultural Kids Blogs

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Hitting the RIght Note for Little Hearts that Matter

 

Little Hearts MatterMusic is very important in our family.  I can’t play an instrument to save my life, and my singing voice is even worse, but I have always been around music, including being a roadie for my friends’ band, The Sherbet, when I was a teenager.  I realise that the main reason I was a roadie was probably the fact that I was one of the only ones with access to a car, but still.

My wife learnt the piano as a kid and, although she doesn’t really have the time to play anymore, can still play the odd tune every now and again.  She has an old electric keyboard that was gathering dust in the attic until I decided to drag it down one day and see how Mr. T would take to it.  Once again, it was a decision that showed just what a great dad I am.

He enjoys nothing more than banging away at the keys and making an unholy racket.  He seems to think he is the next Beethoven, and even copies his other by looking at the sheet music before slamming down on as many notes as possible.

He expects others to appreciate his efforts.  If we are not paying attention to him, which is difficult now that he knows where the volume button is, he will shout at me ‘daddy, dance!’  And then I have to shuffle around the living room as if it were the Stone Roses themselves playing live just for me.

The best thing about it, though, is the pre-recorded tunes that are on the keyboard.  The first tune in the program is the theme from the Star Wars films.  I haven’t shown him the film yet, and I won’t for a few years yet, but I am hopeful that when he does get around to watching to them the tune will be so ingrained in his memory that he will instantly love the film.

Unpaid Promotion for a Very Good Cause

My friends from The Sherbet will be playing a reunion gig at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath, Birmingham on May 30th.  It will be a sort of collective 40th birthday celebration as well as a way to raise money for Little Hearts Matter, a charity that helps babies born with heart problems.  If you are in the area you could do a lot worse than get along and check them out. It is bound to be a good night and it is for a good cause (the charity, not the 40th birthdays).  I wish I were back in Brum for it, but maybe I’ll be there for the 50th birthday celebrations.

 

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