Cross-cultural happiness on your Birthday

Gregre anniv BLOGI can’t sleep, I am sooo excited, tomorrow is my friend’s birthday” giggled my daughter last Friday evening. Since she got her invitation in her pigeonhole at her preschool she has been counting the days, the hours, to go to this young man’s forth birthday. “He told me that there will be a bouncy castle, and cake, and crisps and juice and sweets… hey, maman, when can I go?” pleaded my daughter the next morning three hours before leaving the house, already dressed in her festive clothes and jumping around like a jack-in-the-box. I love watching this excitement and, how lovely it is to observe this pure childhood happiness about birthdays. We are in May and she is also already preparing for her birthday in September…
Is the birthday celebration also touched by culture and different expectations? I am afraid so, yes! Talking with parents about their style of upbringing between cultures makes me realise how variable the meaning of this day can be. The French, for example, don’t mind if you congratulate them two days later or even one week before your actual birthday. This behaviour is unthinkable in Germany. Continue Reading

Nick Copes latest trick! The Pirate’s Breakfast

Gregre pirate2It was one of those uncreative moments in the middle of the afternoon when you just feel you need a break. Luckily, I found Nick Copes last CD in my bag , hidden from my daughters eyes. She grabs everything which is pink, her favourite color.

His voice sort of like a big brother, if you don’t have you would love to have: Clear, hilarious yet sincere.

His guitar is dynamic, engaging, it really gets off your feet and dancing!

His music is a fantastic mood booster!

Whilst discovering his new songs, I remember my first session with Nick Cope as a young mother with an eight month old active little girl. A friend tempted me with the comment, “you will love it”. And indeed, he is the first musician I have ever encountered who makes fab music not only for kids but for parents as well. Continue Reading

Let’s parler español!

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…”

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

Open doors in Oxford: SPECIAL FAMILIES

Dear OGregre St Marysxfrognews-followers !
Six months ago I launched this blog with my dear chap Gregre. Together we went to different events, playgrounds as far as Russia! We met as well Oxfordian stars like Nick Cope and Mini Grey! Thank you so much for sharing these explorations with us.
For this week, a very quick reminder about the Oxford Preservation Trust and the Open Doors which is a unique opportunity to explore Oxford’s heritage and sneak into some Colleges. It takes place this weekend 13-14.09.2014.
Don’t be misled and think this event revolving around old stones and famous architecture is only for grown ups. A lot of venues offer activities for kids and the whole family! Have a lovely weekend (all the activities can be found here)!

Here is my personal selection of the top 5

Fire Station
Bring the children to see fire engines and find out what happens at the station and appliance bay, demos & displays of equipment and fire safety and wider work.
Saturday: 9am-5pm
Sunday: 9am-5pm

Oxford Bus Museum
Take a trip back in time celebrating 100 years of motor buses in the city, free vintage bus rides. For timetable and bus stops see website.
Saturday 10-4pm.

Story Museum
Free child-friendly activities. Drop in handprinting demonstrations…
Saturday 11am-1pm, 2-4pm.

St Micheal at the North Gate Church
Visit Oxford’s ancient City Church and climb its Saxon tower for wonderful views on the ‘dreaming spire’. See inside the working clockmechanism and the cell door of Cranmer.
Saturday: 10.30-5.30pm
Sunday: 2-5.30pm

Magdalen College School
Stroll through the beautiful school gardens crossing over the white Chinese bridges.
Sunday : 12-4pm

 

 

Bilingual Siblings: Gibberish or Exploring New Languages?

gregre&soeur (2)After a great and sunny break, here news from the book project, Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures (learn more here). I have already interviewed 18 couples and single parents about their experiences of multilingual parenting. I’m glad I got to spend such happy times listening to everyday life stories involving two or more languages. One interesting point some parents emphasise is the relationship that develops between siblings while they are in the process of picking up new languages.

Here are some interesting extracts from my latest interviews…

Céline from France is married to Ridvan from Albania. In the interview they talked about their experience with both their kids, age 1,5 and six.

Céline Since going to nursery and then school she is more and more reluctant to speak French. I keep speaking to her in French and she keeps answering in English most of the time. Socially she wants to speak the same language as her friends. Understanding is not an issue, it’s the speaking. Continue Reading

Hinksey – not just splash, but also play!

  Hinksey 1You can’t miss the playground between Abingdon Road and the famous Hinksey Splash Park! We discovered it on a somewhat “catastrophic” day in the summer of 2013, while the water games didn’t work. The neat recreational park looked like a rescue area back then! We had a memorable time – mothers sitting with their babies in the shade of the trees and children discovering the different games offered by the park.

Some months laterHinksey water (1), there was a flood at the playground and a part of it went underwater, however this didn’t stop the children from playing… It’s a good option when you think to yourself  “gosh, where can we go to change a bit from the usual playground down the street?”

What?  The Hinksey Park Playground

Where? Lake Street, off Abingdon Road, Oxford, OX1 4RP

How can I go there? Several busses coming from Oxford’s City Centre stop close to the park. You can also cycle there from the City Centre (Abingdon Road) or from East Oxford via Donnington Bridge (take the fabulous walk close to the Isis and then left [before the University College Boathouse], pass by the Four Pillars Hotel and here you are in front of the Hinksey Park Playground.) Continue Reading