Friday, October 21, 2011

Encourage Exploration and Creativity

For parents who speak the foreign language they are teaching to their children, it is important to remember that in the early years we do not want to critique a child's language skills.

If he or she makes a grammatical error, for example, or leaves something out, you can focus on using the words properly yourself, but do not stop and make a lesson out of what your child just said.

The reason we say this is that we want to foster exploration and creativity with the second language, and stopping to criticize a young child just slows their use of the language because they begin to stop and think. This is not how young children absorb language! They need to hear it many times, interact freely in the language, and then they will absorb it.

If you do not speak the language that your child is learning, a great way to help is to start studying it yourself!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bilingual Babies & Their Brains

An excellent article by Perri Klass, MD, in the New York Times online edition, Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Tell Languages Apart, discusses useful recent research on early exposure to languages.

Some key points:

"...researchers found that at 6 months, the monolingual infants could discriminate between phonetic sounds, whether they were uttered in the language they were used to hearing or in another language not spoken in their homes. By 10 to 12 months, however, monolingual babies were no longer detecting sounds in the second language, only in the language they usually heard.

The researchers suggested that this represents a process of “neural commitment,” in which the infant brain wires itself to understand one language and its sounds.

In contrast, the bilingual infants followed a different developmental trajectory. At 6 to 9 months, they did not detect differences in phonetic sounds in either language, but when they were older — 10 to 12 months — they were able to discriminate sounds in both.

“What the study demonstrates is that the variability in bilingual babies’ experience keeps them open,” said Dr. Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington and one of the authors of the study. “They do not show the perceptual narrowing as soon as monolingual babies do. It’s another piece of evidence that what you experience shapes the brain.”

The learning of language — and the effects on the brain of the language we hear — may begin even earlier than 6 months of age."

The article also discusses and debunks the older notion that growing up bilingual confuses infants and children when it comes to language use. Well-worth a peek at this article!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chinese Character Practice: Typing in Chinese

From time to time, we suggest this, but it's so useful that I am posting it again. If you want your child to learn Chinese characters, let him or her type them! Sure, writing them by hand is lovely, but typing them allows a different type of memorization. Plus it is faster, so you can run through them more quickly and actually get somewhere in terms of writing things.

The goal is to get your child using and enjoying the characters as soon and as much as possible!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bilingual Parents, Bilingual Households: Using Foreign Language at Home

If one parent speaks Chinese (or any other foreign language), this is an amazing opportunity for your child!

The easiest way to start is for the native speaker of the foreign language to use only that language with the child. The other parent will use English (or whatever the local or first language might be).

Many parent hesitate because they are not confident about "teaching" their native language to their child. We encourage you to start at the beginning! Or at least as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the stranger it will be for your child.

Use the foreign language the same way you would English. Use proper words and phrases (see our Montessori for Infants and Toddlers blog) for language-use tips and ideas.

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Peter Rabbit in Mandarin Chinese and English in iTunes

As much as I hate to provide free product promotion for iTunes, I have to say that I love the bilingual Peter Rabbit in Mandarin Chinese and English. It has audio, pinyin (in the mouseover with characters), and simplified or traditional characters that you can choose.

I bought this as a gift for an adult, so it's pretty funny to hear him saying "flopsy, mopsy..." in Chinese!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bikes in Hangzhou -- Cool short video

This is a nice video of bikes and people talking in Hangzhou. Their Mandarin is easy to understand, so beginners can listen to see what words they can catch.

The Biggest, Baddest Bike-Share in the World: Hangzhou China from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Elmo Speaks Mandarin Chinese

We just found lots of new Elmo DVDs in Mandarin Chinese (they have bilingual audio and subtitle options). These shows are superb because your child can watch them in either language, making them accesible and interesting for both beginners as well as near-native Chinese speaking children.

Visit our site Popping Pandas to see the Elmo selection -- we have a brand-new sale for Elmo, too, a set of 4 Elmo DVDs for $54.99!