Let’s parler español!

Gregre Radcam2

Gregre se forme à la Radcliffe Camera.

Children learning two or more languages at the same time are really cute. Some of them mix the languages in one sentence, others reinvent a new language or give words different endings. As parents we always caught ourselves laughing, not in a mocking way, just because it sounds adorable.
Learning to speak two languages at the same time is quite challenging. As adults we feel irritated whilst learning a new language, everything seems to be different: the way the sentences are built, the use of the gender in some languages, choosing the right word in the context… it’s tricky and takes ages to internalise. Kids give us the impression that talking more than one language is just like being on a playground running between different games, everything looks easy to them and inventing new words is just natural for them. Communication about fun and play is central for them, not the grammar or the tenses.
That’s the reason why children can play together and laugh without perfectly speaking the same language as each other. It’s amazing!
During the interviews for my book, the parents shared some amusing anecdotes about their children learning and exploring different languages.

Hannah and Dirk are the parents of a four year old boy. He is growing up in England with the two mother tongues of his parents: Hebrew and Dutch.

Hannah
At 14 months, he was just starting to speak. We arrived in Israel for the holidays and the second evening his grandfather gave him chocolate. And our little boy ate the chocolate and asked his grandfather: “saba, more, noch meehr!” It was like he wanted to say: what ever language you speak I would like you to understand that I want more chocolate. It was the first time we realised that he was aware of the three languages. He was just shooting in all the three directions.
And when he was older (2-3 years) he invented double-words like “catool” (cat + chatool).

Dirk
If he doesn’t know a verb in Dutch, he uses English in a Dutch form. To pull becomes “pullen” (it should be “tracken”) The word order is also different in English and Dutch, he constructs sentences in Dutch but in the English form.

Hannah
There is another interesting confusion. Hebrew is the only gendered language he uses. I am the primary person talking to him in Hebrew, and so he copies the female voice that I speak in, and tends to confuse the genders in other languages as well.

Satsuko and Wolfgang have two children. They both are raised trilingual with English, Japanese and German.Gregre Biblio2

Wolfgang
I like when our son mixes English and German, for example “I am forgetting gemacht”, to relay that he forgot something. Or when he uses the Japanese way to ask where someone is, he says: “Papa, wo?” instead of “Papa, wo bist Du?”

Eva and Josh are a German-English couple. Their kids, 7 years old, are bilingual.

Eva
I am often joking with them and say we speak “Denglisch” at home, which is a mixture of English and German (Deutsch).
My favorite quotations are: “If du noch hier bist… spaeter…” and “Ich habe den Film gepaust…”

A time for Mums!

Choir for MumsBe honest, dear Mummies, we all love that: having a time only for us! Those precious moments where you can relax, be yourself, just enjoy yourself. “That was my original idea, acknowledged Emily with a smile, “I thought about a choir for mumsthat the babies love it too is fantastic, but really just a side effect!
Passionate about music, Emily is a mother of two adolescents who is warm and full of energy. Her voice is soft and yet powerful; she feels the rhythm as she sings and shares it with all the mums and babies who join in at her Rattle & Hum Choir.
It’s amazing what singing can do with you,” underlines Emily, “it makes you feel good, you dive into another world… and the babies love their mum’s voice, they don’t mind if you don’t sound exactly in tune!Continue Reading

What is the British upbringing style ?

Gregre Britain BlogWhat is your experience of a British upbringing?” is one of my final questions. All the interviewee-couples told me stories about themselves, their bilingual and bicultural day-to-day challenges but at the end I asked them to talk about their experience in the country they live in; things they like or dislike about the way the parents interact with kids and talk to them; the British style of education.
What surprised me was that they don’t necessary have an idea about that. Some of them seem not to want deeper interaction with locals, or simply don’t have them because they live surrounded by multicultural friends. Though this was only the case with a minority of interviewees, it was interesting to see how much distance there can be between “multicultural” and “monocultural” parents, whilst their kids play together at school or on the playground.

Let’s have a look at those couples who underlined some interesting aspects they didn’t know about British culture, or parts of the upbringing style they particularly like.

Ariane and William: she is French, he is English, they have two adolescent kids. She prefers the more relaxed English style compared to the French style.

Ariane
What I appreciated with the nurseries here is that they consider themselves as being helpful to you. As parents you can come at the time which is convenient for you and your work or family. They are flexible, which is just not possible in France, where the doors open and close at special times or you have to ring. And here you can stay with your kid, if you feel that it’s better, you can stay longer, play a bit and then go. I like this child-oriented atmosphere.

Magda is Polish and Stefan is Austrian, they have one child. The question about the British style of upbringing made them smile… Continue Reading

What’s your name?

Gregre crayon BLOGThe bilingual (or multilingual) story starts with this question, in a certain way. For parents the choice of their child’s name is full of meaning and often related to a story, a shared moment. It’s extremely carefully decided. As this name lasts for your whole life, it’s the first identification someone is granted with. And it’s probably one of the words you write and speak most in your life. Especially for multicultural families, who have relatives abroad, it’s an important space where they can pass on cultural values.
Whilst preparing my questionnaire for the book Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures I didn’t think of this question, it was one of my first interviewees-couples who gave me the idea to mention this point with the parents. And they were right, I had lots of colourful stories which underline how important this topic is for the parents.

Let’s have a close look at some of them and don’t hesitate to tell us your story in a comment below.

Hannah is Israeli and married to Dirk who is Dutch. They have one child and a second on it’s way.

Hannah
The choice of our child’s name was a very cultural negotiation between us. As it was really important for my husband that the child carries his surname.

Dirk:  The reason why is simple. Continue Reading

Polite in the mud ?

footprint-254795_640 Une des premières notions qui nous vient à l’esprit lorsqu’on évoque nos voisins britanniques c’est leur sacro-sainte politesse. On peut râler sur l’éducation libérale des petites têtes blondes d’outre-manche mais une chose est enseignée avec ardeur et ce dès leur plus jeune âge, dire yes, please et no, thank you. Ils ne vous diront probablement ni bonjour ou au revoir, mais merci c’est sacré. Tout comme pardon, à tire larigot, mais ça, c’est un autre sujet.

Qu’elle ne fut pas alors ma surprise, le week-end dernier pendant une excursion en famille lorsque nous nous trouvâmes pris au piège par de la boue vaseuse ayant par moment des aspects de sables mouvants. Le ciel d’un bleu éblouissant nous avait tiré du notre canapé pour nous offrir un air doux et à la fois revigorant. Mais catastrophe, au retour, les jeunes et téméraires parents que nous sommes s’aventurent sur un nouveau sentier.reflection-357065_640-1 Continue Reading

Keep it fun with the language tug-of-war!

Gregre rireI came home yesterday evening after an intense working day. One of those days you just want to enter into your warm and welcoming home sweet home, sit down on your sofa and chill a bit with the kids before cooking dinner. As I was leaving the kitchen with a cup of tea, I heard some unusual words in our household. Our four-year-old daughter decided all of a sudden to talk to her baby brother in English. And some sentences later, she begun to talk to me in English: “Mummy where shall I put this?” Continue Reading

Oxford’s Playgroups in every language – PART 1

sun-451441_640At the start of the bilingual (or even trilingual) trip of life with kids you often are looking for places where they can meet and play with other children. It’s also (which is not less important) a moment when you can reconnect with your home country, take time to chat in your mother-tongue around a cup of coffee!
Oxford is packed with lots of different playgroups and little language schools! All these places give you the opportunity to connect with other multilingual families and to share cultural events and customs. It’s a new way for your children to explore your and their home-culture in another environment than at home. We do certainly all agree that this is extremely useful. It is during these meetings that they realise that they are part of a cultural and linguistic community.
I discovered the importance of such places since we are expatriates and as part of my work on Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures. That’s why I was thrilled to discover all the different playgroups and schools for children with an international background. Continue Reading

Somewhere to feel at home : Donnington Doorstep

Donnington Doorstep 1  Donnington Doorstep 4The Family Centre is slightly hidden behind some trees and bushes. These also give the place a cosy garden-atmosphere when you are outside the centre. And in fact, it’s a special spot, once the gate and two doors passed, you discover a rather unexpected venue. A giant place, like an enormous tent decorated with windows to see the sky… I can barely describe this incredible construction.
Entering Donnington Doorstep Family Centre feels like a harbour where you simply want to sit down to a cup of coffee and let your children play. A baby-corner, messy-play area, some tables with toys or craft activities, a place with books and some role-play equipment… your kids will be spoiled for choice!

For whom? Mums, dads, grandparents and carers with kids! There is also a Youth Group (read more: Good to know!).

Where? Townsend Square, OX4 4BB, Oxford. Contact: 72 77 21

Opening times? The family drop-in sessions are every day except for Sunday. Mon-Tue-Thu-Fri 10am-3pm, Wed 10am-1pm, Sat 10.30am-3pm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat for? Lots of fun plays for Toddlers. The volunteers prepare every day tables with new activities. But the kids can also play outside, in a sandpit, cruise around with little cars or do some painting. Some days, the Centre offers special activities: Mondays Cooking in the afternoon, Tuesdays Singing with Lizzie (1.30pm-2pm), Wednesdays Bonfire in the garden, Saturdays Cooking session (11am). One of Donnington Doorsteps favourite activities is the messy-play (inside or outside). Be prepared and do not dress up your children in their best Sunday-clothes, in spite of some aprons to protect and some wellies to go out in the sand or if it’s raining in the mud :-) Continue Reading

Oxford Mommy explores the Pegasus Café

Pegasus Cafe interior BLOGIf you’re in East Oxford, you’ve got access to many family-friendly places, including parks, restaurants, and cultural gems. One of the best places to spend an hour or two with children is the Pegasus Café, located on the first floor of the Pegasus Theatre. It’s no secret that it’s great for families – in fact, every time I’ve been there, every table included children!
The main menu includes sandwiches, soup, salads (but no hot mains), and cakes/treats, as well as tea and coffee. The kids’ menu features easy favourites such as cheese on toast and ham sandwiches. The Pegasus Café has free WiFi if you would like to stay a while and get online. Staff are always friendly and helpful and will bring your order to your table if you need assistance. Continue Reading

Who am I? The everlasting multicultural question

Gregre miroir BLOGBringing up children is a fantastic journey but it’s also a challenging one. More than you might imagine you’re propelled into your own childhood and have to consider what you want (or don’t want!) to pass on to your kids. For my book project Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Bilingual Children between Cultures, I talked a lot with parents about their experiences in their own multi-cultural and multi-lingual lives. One unexpected thing that came up is how much the adventure of life changes when kids arrive on the scene.
Being bilingual is not the same as having a responsibility to transmit your mother tongue and culture to your child. Especially when you realize that the first person who has to learn is yourself! When you live abroad you find out that you are no longer used to speaking your mother tongue; you have lost a lot of vocabulary on the way if you don’t speak regularly with native speakers; you remember music from the time you were living there (let’s say 20 years ago…) and don’t even think about the culture of childhood which has changed a lot since you were living in your home country…
So first of all, dear parent who wants to raise (or indeed who already raises) bilingual children, take some time to consider how you relate to your mother-tongue and home country. This is and will remain an integral part of the adventure of raising children between cultures.

Here are some extracts from my interviews on the themes of identity, nationality and culture!

 Alice (French, married to a Welshman; she has lived in France, Africa and the US)

“I don’t feel as French as I perhaps should. When you leave home, you feel a stronger association with your home country. French is really my identity, but my culture is more a mixture of cultures. I travelled a lot, and I like some aspects of other cultures, British, French and some others…” Continue Reading