Category Archives: Bilingualism

The Loras Workshops

The Loras Workshops.

Feat No 25: Allow me to be proud…

Please allow me to be proud:

When Maggie who is now almost ten and Nicholas who is five have been growing up with smiles on their faces while successfully progressing in their language learning. All twenty four previous feats have helped us and now in a more experienced and natural mode, we continue on those familiar to us paths. We still stick to each of us using their own language as introduced in Feat No 1 and we maintain and fully use our investments as explained in Feat No 2. Maggie and Nicholas’ relationship has proven to be one of the strongest factors of development (in every way) as noticed in Feat No 3. We are constantly providing them both with more and more Greek language support just like we promised in Feats No 4 and No 15. They are still speaking to each other in English as predicted in Feat No 6 but with the addition of German language interaction with each other when playing games they have learnt here in Switzerland either at school or through everyday experiences (like when they play supermarket with the stands and products of this country’s brands – very special).

Allow me to be proud:

When both Maggie and Nicholas play a vital role in The Loras Network. When I was supposed to have a solo presentation during the 2nd Loras Workshop this year and they inspired me the evening before to do that presentation as a trio! Naturally, without any pressure or rehearsals. “Would you two like to help mama tomorrow with something more than just setting up the room for the workshop? Would you like to tell the people how we use our mobiles and i pads at home and what we enjoy doing on the computer? How we use our calendar for the languages of our DVDs and all those things we do every day?” “Sure!” replied Maggie with a nodding Nicholas next to her. That Saturday, the 22nd of September 2014, they both accompanied us to our facilities and helped us set up the venue with all the passion and joy that we had.

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They responsibly and maturely participated in the presentation and sat back in their seats at the end of their contribution to observe the other speakers.

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With genuine interest and amazing conduct that even left their own mother speechless.

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Allow me to be proud:

When the Young Learners’ events that you witness through our website or our social media pages are thought up by Maggie and Nicholas. Since August 2014 and on we have been using their ideas for our theme-based days of learning and joy. They have become so experienced now that this Wednesday’s BIRDS DAY was set up entirely by them.

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The rumbling noise this time was not from The Loras Academy but from Maggie and Nicholas’ passionate footsteps. Back and forth, back and forth.

When we go on holidays and at some point mama has to do some business, we all sit down together and do the best business!

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How can I not be proud?

Allow me to be happy and proud!

Thank you.

(It is my birthday on Tuesday, 11 November and this is my way to celebrate it!)

Feat No 24: Our favourite activity; Usborne First Reading Books with audio CD and worksheets

For the past two weeks our children Maggie and Nicholas have been enjoying their Winter Sports Break. Besides relaxing, helping out with our new facilities and playing, they cannot stop enjoying the readers we bought for them and our students from Usborne Books at Home.

The series, English Learner’s Edition from Level 1 to 5 along with a CD and free downloadable worksheets have become one of our best investments both at home for our own children but also for our English language school, The Loras Network and our young students.

At home, we use them mainly as our bedtime story. It helps us all unwind and enjoy a creative and educational ending chapter to our long day. Even parents can benefit from the CD as there are evenings when we are too tired to read a bedtime book ourselves. And then there are times when we would love to read a story book to our children before bedtime and then do the brief fun activities that are at the end of the book, like spotting the differences between pictures or sequence activities based on the story.

At our English Language School, this series has become an excellent way to promote book reports with our young learners. And they love their new project. They read the books to us after having borrowed them at home to read and to listen to the CDs as many times as they like. Then we print the worksheets for them and again with the help of their books, they can complete the activities. Even in the cases that they find the spelling of some words difficult and choose to copy the word from the story book, they are enhancing their spelling skills. They are enriching their vocabulary and they are fluently becoming great readers. We even use the plot of some stories to discuss further and encourage kindness, team work, gratitude and other qualities that will help develop healthy personalities.

Thank you to all parents and teachers for investing in more books for their children’s and student’s libraries.

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Feat No 22: Playing Snap Card Games with your students and children

I have always considered myself very lucky to have had the experience of teaching all ages and levels. And I make sure that both our young learners and I have fun together, while having English or Greek lessons.

We recently endeavored in a new business – The Loras Bookshop. We love books, we have been teaching with and through books, and we have raised our children with and through books. Books are a part of our personal and professional life.

Our resources already included flashcards and card games from various companies that we have very much enjoyed, but through Usborne, the Snap Cards series was the one that stole our teaching hearts.

We sometimes start off the lesson with a game of Snap Cards for a change, or in the middle of a lesson as a short productive break and many times at the end of our lesson to bring our lesson to a smooth end. They include a large variety of vocabulary and can also be used in theme-based lessons and events.

Christmas Event at The Loras Network. One of our activities included the Christmas Snap card game.

Christmas Event at The Loras Network. One of our activities included the Christmas Snap card game.

Through Snap Cards, we do not just learn new vocabulary that might occur on the cards themselves. Many are the times that we learn even more through the interaction of the game. Phrases like: It’s your turn; Let’s shuffle the cards; a pile of cards; and so many more words, phrases, and even manners can be learnt through these games. Reading and spelling are also enhanced as the words of the pictures are written on the cards. As they play, even very young learners might pick up on the spelling of words and recognize them when encountering them without the pictures.

I strongly recommend these card games and know just the place to find them: The Loras Bookshop

Whether this small new business of ours grows or not, we are very happy that we have access to this educational material for our students and my children. It also helps us maintain the momentum of our multilingual journey as a family. I take a pack of Snap Cards home every day in rotation and my children’s anticipation is overwhelming day after day. I play with them at home as frequently as I can because I love sharing everything I share at our school with our students.

This is also a way I have found to make my children love my job and share my happiness, so that they do not resent the fact that I am away from home – so that they are fully aware why I am away and what I offer through my work.

Thank you.

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Feat No 21: Christmas Events with our students and colleagues throughout the years

Since my first year of teaching English as an additional language, Christmas educational events have always been an important part of our school year and curriculum.

Whether in large groups

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or privately,

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when I was teaching single-handedly

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with my sisters, Vicky and Christine

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or with a beautifully powerful team of educators,

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for toddlers

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or teenagers,

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in Greece

LOGO LORAS ACADEMY

and in Switzerland,

Providers of English Studies, Services and Events

before my children were born,

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while carrying them

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and later on in collaboration with them,

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as well as for them,

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with simple Christmas trees

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or theme-based ones

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using paper-based activities and crafts

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or technology

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nineteen personal and professional years have passed by, nineteen teachable Christmas Events have been created… and we are still having fun while we are far from done!

Thank you!

Feat 20: Nicholas the German Language Fan… without actually knowing German

Multilingual Nicholas, from scratch, is now four years old.

While:

    Understanding and speaking English wonderfully well,

    understanding Greek surprisingly well and speaking it less fluently than English and

    obviously understanding German (both High and Swiss) but not speaking more than a few words,

Nicholas just loves German! And it is not that he does not like the other two languages, but whenever it is German Day on our audiovisual calendar, he cheers and expresses himself with such joy that one would not expect him to be the least fluent of all in this specific language.

He has been attending a Swiss playgroup for almost two years now for three hours a day, four days a week. He feels very comfortable there since Day One. Since the day, that is, that he did not understand or speak a word of German. A big part of this adjustment is due to Nicholas’ fantastic and experienced teacher, Prisca. The whole setup of her playschool and the activities she shares with the children are just beautiful and just right.

Nicholas, just like Maggie, has been exposed to all those media and experiences, methods and consistency, encouragement and efforts that we have been using all these years both at home and at our language schools.

He is at an age that he can productively and smoothly participate in our educational fun events at The Loras Network. He has a constantly growing interest in books and lately audio books. And he just loves German. His reaction towards a language that is new to our family, is such great news to us. Maybe even greater than actually hearing a new German word being pronounced by him. This attitude to his multilingual upbringing is so healthy that I am even more encouraged and consistent in the steps and decisions I make as a parent and teacher than ever before.

Nicholas’ spoken German words may still be very few but there is no doubt in my mind that, just like Maggie (and the comparison is in an encouraging and not mimicking way) he will maintain a progressive language journey. His own language journey.

Last week, I went to pick him up from his playgroup and one of his classmates asked him something in Swiss German. Nicholas seemed to immediately understand and gave a short response with a Swiss accent. Then turned back to me and in a Canadian accent (with a heavy R) went on in English about all he could remember concerning his day.

And even though I have been through all this before, as a mother and a teacher, it is still such a pleasant surprise to me. I am still astonished by the progress. I am still stunned by witnessing these gifts of my life and my profession unravel before me.

It’s like Christmas to me … So often!

Thank you very much.

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A factual account of bilingualism and multilingualism in our personal and professional lives

This post is a summary of my talk on ‘A factual account of bilingualism and multilingualism in our personal and professional lives’ during our 1st International Loras Workshop in Zug, Switzerland.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We would like to thank all those who were present at our 1st International Workshop on Sunday, 22 September 2013. We would also like to thank all those who were not able to attend but supported us online, offline or any other way possible, sending a wish or a kind word. We greatly appreciated the presence and support of our exceptional speakers, Dr MA Sipra, Mr Alex Rawlings and Ms Claudia Buzzoni. Our friends and family deserve a huge thank you for all their support throughout our personal and professional lives.

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The theme of the year at this workshop was ‘Bilingualism and Multilingualism in Families and Language Learning’.  We decided to start off our series of workshops with this specific theme for a very good reason.

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I have been an English Language teacher for eighteen years and a mother for eight years. Whether at our school in Greece or in Switzerland, the questions that parents/clients ask us have been constantly the same.

* At what age should a child start an additional language?

* How frequently should the child be exposed to the additional language?

* Will the child get confused?

* Should a parent speak to the child in the additional language?

* Should the new language start when they start learning it at school or should they get a headstart?

* Is there something more we must do as parents and / or teachers?

I too had the same questions when I started off my career as a language teacher and even more so when I became a parent. I needed answers for my students and my children, so I specifically started studying bibliography on this topic. As much as I possibly could. And the questions started receiving answers; one by one… consistently.

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These are the conclusions I reached personally and professionally:

* At what age should a child start an additional language?

  It does not really matter as long as there is CONSISTENCY.

* How often should the child be exposed to the additional language?

  As often as possible or feasible, as long as we are CONSISTENT.

* Will the child get confused?

   Not if we are CONSISTENT.

 * Should a parent speak to the child in the additional language?

    If it is his/her (almost) native language and they feel confident in using it, yes, but

CONSISTENTLY.

* Should we start the additional language when it begins at school or earlier?

  It does not really play that big a role as long as it is done CONSISTENTLY.

* Should we do something more as parents and / or teachers?

  Be CONSISTENT with your children and / or students and keep learning more on the topic of languages CONSISTENTLY.

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One of the aspects of our profession that I really love is the fact that you can actually mix business with pleasure. Everything I applied at our school, I did at home and what I experienced at home, I added to the methodology of our school. The basis for our efforts and progress was given mainly by two books.

The first one that I started studying was Growing up with two languages by Una Cunningham-Andersson and Staffan Andersson. Two educators and parents of four children that were raised bilingually. That combination alone was a guarantee for me that the specific book was a good choice to start off with. When I was pregnant to our first child, we were living in Greece and bilingualism was our concern and focus. I studied, selected, adjusted, skipped, repeated and applied whatever I understood was relevant to our family and business situation.

Before we moved to Switzerland, I was pregnant to our second child and a third language was to be introduced into our lives. A language none of us knew. A language that would be added to our first child’s bilingual foundation and a language that would be simultaneously introduced to our second child along with two other languages. The second book that I turned to for this special guidance was ‘Raising Multilingual Children’ again written by an educator and mother, Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa. This was even more challenging and at the same time, I had to properly revise all I had learnt from the first book. We had to stick to the successful recipe we started off with while transforming our language acquisition to the new circumstances, without pressure on the children just as we had never applied pressure on our students. We have always been trying to make our language lessons and experiences pleasantly productive.

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A summary of our language journey would include our decision to follow the ‘One Person, One Language’ method. This was the best choice based on our family’s personality, our professional schedules and the languages we were confident in.

We were all very devoted to this project; all members of my husband’s and my own family and the consistency we maintained was another winning factor.

We really had to show patience, especially in the case of our second child who was brought up multilingually from scratch. Our patience has paid off. Without pressure, without stress, patience helps children elegantly learn languages.

Progress is the gift you keep on receiving when being consistent and patient. This is one of the things that makes us love being teachers and / or parents.

And my personal favourite: encouragement. What better motivation than the kind proud words of a teacher or a parent.

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While walking around our home to see what other ideas and tips I may had forgotten to include in my talk, I stumbled upon a slip-up. Everyone in the room immediately spotted it! And we have now added the labels of our nicely organized boxes in the languages of Greek and German, too.

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I ended my talk with some recommendations of sites concerning the topic of bilingualism and multilingualism hoping any piece of information would encourage the teachers and / or parents to go ahead and apply. Consistently and confidently. Pleasantly and productively.

Thank you all for your support!