Category Archives: Multilingualism
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.
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.
With genuine interest and amazing conduct that even left their own mother speechless.
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.
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!
How can I not be proud?
Allow me to be happy and proud!
(It is my birthday on Tuesday, 11 November and this is my way to celebrate it!)
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.
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.
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
when I was teaching single-handedly
with my sisters, Vicky and Christine
or with a beautifully powerful team of educators,
and in Switzerland,
before my children were born,
while carrying them
and later on in collaboration with them,
as well as for them,
with simple Christmas trees
or theme-based ones
using paper-based activities and crafts
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!
Feat 20: Nicholas the German Language Fan… without actually knowing German
Multilingual Nicholas, from scratch, is now four years old.
– 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
* 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Feat No 18: Our events
One of the best parts of being a teacher has been the events we organize for our young learners – for our children. Ever since I started teaching English, I have always tried to find a way to incorporate these educational and entertaining events in our school year.
When I was a freelance teacher and, among several other projects, taught English as a second language to Greek children at a private preschool, we would organize beautiful celebrations for Christmas and the end of the school year. I was responsible for creating a segment in English. It would usually be a short play full of English songs, jumbo flash cards, words and phrases we had learnt throughout the year. What was special about these mini English celebrations, was the result! The children loved them, the parents were thrilled and I was so fulfilled. At the end of the events, the parents would come up to me and express themselves so enthusiastically that they felt their children had performed better in English than in their native language.
Later on at our Language School in Greece, The Loras English Academy, we continued hosting such events with the aid of technology: our interactive white board, videos, DVDs, CD-ROMs, audio storybooks, printable worksheets and electronic board games.
As I mentioned in my talk, on 22 September 2013, what I also love about our profession is that we have the great benefit of being able to mix business and pleasure. In such a productive and pleasant way. To this day we still have an event for children, at least once a month. Every month, a theme is chosen and played with in written, spoken, game and creative form, providing our students with extra practice in English, maybe additional encyclopedic knowledge on a topic and with a wonderful dose of fun. For one hour, we make the best of every theme.
The pleasure, however, is not only in the entertaining aspect of the events. As a mother, I can invite my own children into this world of knowledge and happiness. What a combination!
Even when on holidays, we try to find such combinations at the places we visit. My personal favourite has been our trips to Ravensburger Spieleland in Germany. An absolutely excellent environment of very fun education. Even when choosing hotels, we make sure their is a playroom or kids club for them.
Finally, we felt very proud when we had an article published about one of our events during the previous school year. It was “Clifford, the Big Red Dog” Day at The Loras Network and we all had a great time.
Feat No 17: Oops! There is always room for improvement.
That was the title of one of my slides for my talk on Bilingualism and Multilingualism in Language Learning and Families.
While preparing my talk for our 1st Workshop, I felt I should mainly use material from this blog. I tried to create a summary of all the things I have learnt, used, taught, studied, dealt with and felt while raising my children bilingually and multilingually.
As I had paused the blog for a while in order to prepare for this event, I thought I should remember if I had added something to our daily routine now that Maggie and Nicholas are older. Or notice something in our home that had been changed or added to facilitate us educationally.
I actually did come across two things:
* I remembered that just as we follow a pattern with our daily audiovisual moments, we started off using the same pattern for bedtime books. Before the children go to sleep, depending on which language day it is, I give them a stack of books in that language, either to flip through, or one of us reads to them; or Maggie even reads to Nicholas.
This helps them in all sorts of ways, whether they actually read or are read the book, or neither. If they are read a book, they gather all the pronunciation and vocabulary, phrases and expressions, illustrations and concepts the book (and its language) have to offer! If they flip through the book, even the direct or indirect encounter with the letters of the book and the pictures, offers a lot. In the case that Maggie reads the book to Nicholas, well then what more can you ask for! It’s the full package. And all that in a very pleasant and calm atmosphere. Relaxing before bedtime in one of the best ways!
* The second thing I realized was a mistake! A slip-up! And I mentioned it during my talk. We love having things organized in the house! Especially I do. I personally wish I could have every single detail organized and labelled. Of course, a touch of messiness here and there has its special effect, too – or at least, I have persuaded myself so, in order not to get too obsessed with the issue.
In Maggie’s room, we have several small wooden boxes that hold different items, mainly for crafts or collections. I labelled them, as you probably would expect, but…did so ONLY in English. So I took a photo of this error of mine and brought it up towards the end of my talk. All participants not only realized the mistake immediately but also understood the significance of writing the labels in our family’s other two languages as well.
And that is what I shall do tomorrow. No, no, I am not delaying something that I can do today… I just forgot the labelling machine at the office. It’s on my To-Do list!
Feat No 16: The magical harp
Every summer, we visit Greece. Even though on holidays, our language project is at its best. The participants of this project are there waiting for us to express their love and spend their time in the language they each use with Maggie and Nicholas.
Before reaching our hometown, we have been visiting the same beach hotel for the past three years. We like it very much there and most of all we love the live harp music in the evening. Especially Maggie.
For three years now, she has been asking to begin harp lessons. Patiently and persistently. She registered at our local Music school and this August the lessons began! She is enchanted!
We even rented a harp at the right height so that she can practise at home. She loves it so much that already from the first lesson she learnt the chords and their exact positioning. In the second lesson she had created a song of her own.
When Maggie practises, Nicholas sits down in front of her. Enchanted!
We are all enchanted by the magical harp! The harp she fell in love with in GREECE, is being learnt here in GERMAN and she can play songs in ENGLISH!
The Loras Network interviews Claudia Buzzoni (ELT Consultant for Macmillan Education)- Speaker at the 1st International Loras Network Workshop
Loras Network (L.N.): Claudia, thank you so much for giving us this interview. We are so excited that you will have a presentation at our 1st Loras Network Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism!
Claudia Buzzoni (C. B.): Thank you! I’m really looking forward to speaking at your workshop next month. It’s a topic that’s close to my heart as my oldest daughter is just starting to put together her first sentences in both Swiss German and English.
L.N.: Claudia, we met you as the representative for Macmillan Publications. Can you tell us a few things about yourself and your work?
C. B.: I’ve been with Macmillan Education for the past three and a half years. I work closely with a wide range of private and public school teachers throughout the country, helping them to select and implement different teaching materials. Outside of work, I’m studying linguistics and German and am also a mum to two small girls.
L.N.: You have also taught extensively. What do you enjoy the most about teaching, and what about working in publications?
C. B.: I loved working with students and watching as they absorbed new information and developed their skills. Working with teachers, I still get a huge amount of satisfaction of helping someone find materials that will make their classes easier to teach and a more effective place for learners to learn.
L.N.: Macmillan has a great variety of readers, which in our opinion are an important means of learning in every home and school. How can teachers and parents best exploit your readers?
C. B.: That’s a big question! Giving children access to any kind of reading material has so many knock-on benefits. Modelling is a great way to encourage reading. Offering loads of opportunities to read and exploring different ways to use texts also helps. Sourcing materials that are enjoyable to the children and making sure that activities are suitable for their skills also helps motivate them to read more.
L.N.: We are extremely enthused with your six-series Macmillan English books for our international young learners. This is a series you specifically recommended we use and we thank you. What are the strongest points of your referral?
C. B.: This course makes use of research into how English is learnt as a native language, and how it is taught in English curriculum classrooms. As a result, it combines the best-practice of both learning English as a mother tongue and as a second/foreign language. It’s ideal for international children who come to your classes with varying degrees of English language experience. It also offers early exposure to rich and genuine language – a great basis for studying other subjects in English as well as leading towards native-like fluency in both spoken and written English.
L.N.: What would you advise all the educators out there reading your interview?
C. B.: There is no single ‘right’ way to teach, or to learn, and teachers should also participate in the ‘learning’!
L.N.: Thank you so much, Claudia! We look forward to seeing you in September and attending your presentation.
For more information on Macmillan Education, our 2013 event as well as the interviews of our other distinguished speakers, please feel free to explore the following links:
The Loras Network interviews Dr Muhammad Aslam Sipra – Speaker at the 1st International Loras Network Workshop
Loras Network (L.N.): Dr. Sipra, we really appreciate this interview you are giving us. We are delighted that you will present at our 1st Loras Network Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism.
Dr. Sipra: Thank you very much for inviting me to this interview. I feel very honoured to be one of the speakers of the Loras Network Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism.
L.N.: Initially, we would like to ask you what drew you into the field of education.
Dr. Sipra: Frankly speaking, I never thought of joining the field of education or teaching. I joined the teaching profession with the intention that I would quit this job as soon as I get any managerial or administrative position. As the time went by, I worked hard in this profession and gradually started enjoying university teaching. Presently, I can’t think of any other job and teaching is my passion now.
L.N.: One of your main interests is bilingualism. How did you select it as such,and why do you think it is important for language learning?
Dr. Sipra: In my country, we are all not only bilinguals but multilinguals. We have two medium of instruction i.e. Urdu and English. Majority is the product of Grammar Translation Method (GTM). I myself started learning English after primary education I mean I started learning English from Y-6 during school time. We are taught English through GTM in Urdu medium schools. When the same students come to learn English language in language institutions, they expect from their language instructors to explain some difficult concepts in their own language where bilingualism occurs. In fact, the bilingual system in our education and such circumstances faced by the students compelled me to conduct research on this topic.
Now I would like to answer the second part of your question why bilingualism is important in language learning. Bilingualism has a small but very important role in communicating meaning and content especially while teaching integrated skills at beginners’ level. It is used as a teaching technique. It has been endorsed by many teachers during my research on bilingualism that the translation of many words, complex ideas or even the whole passages is a good way to learn a foreign language. Pedagogically speaking, bilingualism in which two languages are at work, are complementary rather than mutually exclusive. Moreover, there is no empirical support for the view that bilingualism detracts from development of a foreign language.
L.N.: What are some of the most fascinating aspects of bilingualism for you?
Dr. Sipra: The interesting and fascinating aspect of bilingualism is that it is a teaching aid and a facility for both teachers and students. Simultaneously, it is surprising that some of our colleagues deny the contribution of bilingualism despite the fact that they benefit from it in their classes. The reason behind this is, some misconceptions about bilingualism. I have observed and experienced that it develops association between the teacher and the students. It is less time-consuming while teaching and learning a foreign language.
L.N.: We would like to know more about the program you teach at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. What is the background of your students? What do the courses include?
Dr. Sipra: The English Language Course labelled as Intensive English I & II has been designed to put more emphasis on the basics of English language. The New Interchange Series by Cambridge is used to motivate our students to improve their ability to communicate in English fluently. Additionally, Rosetta Stone Software for English Language Learning is also used in our Language Labs to expedite and consolidate learning process. The students are made to improve their understanding of written texts as well as spoken language. Integration of skills has been made the target to achieve the goals. So, all the skills like Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking and, of course, Grammar have been made the focal point of teaching & learning. In my Department, the students join the university for undergraduate courses after completing 12 years of schooling. Since the level of our students is so low, we have to work very hard with them as far as English language is concerned. They don’t study English intensively or extensively at school so they have to face a lot of difficulty in a university. Consequently, we have to start from the scratch and after spending 32 weeks with us, our students may interact in English comfortably to some extent.
L.N.: Your talk for our workshop is under the title of: Contribution of Bilingualism in Language Teaching at Beginners’ Level. Could you give us a brief introduction, and why you chose this topic?
Dr. Sipra: Well, I am going to talk about what bilingualism is and some misconceptions about it. Briefly speaking, my main focus will be on the applied side of bilingualism. I would like to share some data collected from the EFL teachers and the learners of English Language and will explain at what occasions, bilingualism assists teaching and learning.
L.N.: You have also written extensively in the subject, be it articles or books. Is there a topic you have not yet explored through your writing, that you would like to write on?
Dr. Sipra: Bilingualism is a very fast field. There are many aspects of bilingualism which need to be researched and explored. However, I would like to continue with the comparative analysis of Monolingualism and Bilingualism in future.
L.N.: And one more question about your writing. You have written many articles for the Canadian Center of Science and Education. How did that collaboration initiate?
Dr. Sipra: Well, I not only contributed but I am also part of the editorial board of one of their renowned journals in English language teaching which has been indexed and archived in world’s famous databases and libraries. I found this group very committed and well organized. They have maintained quality instead of quantity. Their contribution in the field of applied linguistics and research is highly appreciated. When I sent them my first research article for publication, I came to know that they have zero tolerance for plagiarism. So there I decided to contribute and work with them and our collaboration and mutual cooperation still continues.
L.N.: To close this interview, what advice would you like to give language teachers around the world for their careers?
Dr. Sipra: “To be great is to be a teacher”.
Education is truly an important field. It requires lots of hard-work and commitment from us as teachers. Continuous teacher development is the need of the hour. One has to manage such development oneself. A teacher has to be up-to-date in the present scenario and s/he should be able to understand the psychology of the students. To me, teaching is one of the most beautiful professions of the world.
L.N.: Thank you so much for your insights and time, Dr. Sipra!
Please feel free to explore the following links concerning Dr Aslam Sipra, his work, King Abdulaziz University and our 2013 Loras Network Workshop:
The Loras Network interviews Alex Rawlings – Speaker at the 1st International Loras Network Workshop
Loras Network (L.N.): Alex, we would like to thank you very much for this interview. We are also very happy that you will be presenting at our 1st Loras Network Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism.
L.N. : Alex, we first saw you in a BBC video, being presented as the UK’s most multilingual student, with a total of eleven languages. Can you give us some background as to how and why you learned so many languages?
Alex Rawlings (A.R.): Languages started off as a hobby for me and quickly turned into a passion. I speak Greek from childhood and studied French and German at school, but that never felt like enough! There were so many people out there in the world that I wanted to talk to, and I didn’t want to restrict them to those I had a common language with. I picked up some language courses from my local bookshop and library and decided to have a go. Then I caught the bug – I wanted to learn more and more, picking a new one each summer and trying to find out as much about the country and culture as I could, hoping one day to visit them!
L.N. : What one tip would you give a child- language learner? How about a teenage-language learner and then an adult-language learner, as you have experienced all these stages now?
A.R. : Don’t let your limits be set by other people – set them yourself. Actually, I don’t think anyone really has limits, if you want something and you put your mind to it, you’ll always succeed. I think that advice applies to everyone!
I’m skeptical about there being an “ideal age” to learn languages. The way I’ve learnt languages has constantly changed and developed with the different ages I’m at. I used to hate flashcards and vocabulary lists when I was younger, but now I can appreciate their efficiency and I use them myself. Equally, I used to not have to spend much time on pronunciation, but now I have to concentrate on it a bit more. Not that any of these things become impossible as you get older (or younger!), it’s just that you have to change the way you go about them.
L.N. : What one tip would you give the parents of a child language learner? And then the parents of a teenage language learner?
A.R. : Encourage them! Like with everything, there’s nothing a child wants more than supportive parents who think they’re great no matter what, even if they don’t always say so! But don’t be pushy with them – nobody can develop a passion for something when their parents are just forcing them to do it. We’re all individuals with our own interests, and for some languages aren’t that exciting. Don’t despair though, it’s very likely that they’ll go back to it in later life when they realise just how valuable languages are!
L.N. :We are sure many people are wondering, as we are as well – which is going to be your next language and why?
A.R. : The problem is there are so many languages I’d like to learn! It really depends on where I am when I finish my degree. If I’m still involved with Eastern Europe I think I have to learn Polish to find out more about the region. Otherwise I like the challenge of Arabic, and Turkish has always seemed interesting. But at the same time, I’d like to get better in the languages I do have!
L.N. : Do you know all languages you have acquired both in written and spoken form? Would you ever learn a language in only one form?
A.R. : Yes of course, and no never!
L. N. : Thank you so much, Alex! We are truly looking forward to meeting you in person.
Please feel free to explore the links to the 1st International Loras Network Workshop and Alex Rawlings’ blog:
Feat No 15: The Loras English Network …with a touch of Greek School!
Our school year is coming to an end and so is the case for Maggie’s Swiss Public School, Nicholas’ Swiss Playgroup and last but not least Maggie’s Greek School.
A full, productive and of course, hard-working year. One that is entitled to a well-deserved summer break.
When we decided to change Greek school after the Christmas break, as described in Feat No 4, we chose a private Greek school. Both, however, in Zurich. Twenty-five minutes away from Zug by train and one tram-ride away from the center of Zurich. And we did it. To be precise, Maggie did it. We were just the escorts. The cheerleaders that kept encouraging Maggie and her progress. For two whole years, every Saturday, Maggie woke up to a school day.
And when the going got tough, literally, the homework got heavy and the cheering was not working anymore, we discussed the issue with Maggie and decided that we should try the second option. The private Greek school. An extra expense for the family budget, but a very good way to maintain and progress our Greek. And it worked! Maggie had fewer hours of lessons, fewer classmates and less homework. She had regained confidence especially in her Greek speech and is now very advanced for a child that does not attend a daily Greek school.
We are very proud of her and also relieved that this school year has come to an end. She can relax and practise during our holidays in Greece with our relatives and friends.
But you do not know the best part yet…
Although The Loras Network is, in fact, The Loras ENGLISH Network, we have decided to go a bit further than that and create a Greek Language Workshop for the families of Greek origin living in Zug:
Dear Parents and Students,
As of the new school year, August 2013 we shall begin a Greek Language group for an hour and a half, once a week. This will be a group for children aged 6 years old and up. The lessons will take place at our facilities and we shall maintain and develop the children’s Greek Language skills in a pleasant and creative way close to their homes.
As we noticed with our own child, Maggie, it has been extremely difficult, exhausting, time-consuming and expensive travelling to another Canton weekly. We have been doing so for the past two years while trying to facilitate her Greek language skills at the Greek schools that exist in Zurich. Through our own personal experience, we came up with the idea of creating this Greek Language group here in Zug. For your children and ours.
And many families in Zug were relieved to receive that letter. So were we. So was Maggie who has already paved the way for Nicholas’ well-being while learning Greek.
At the same time, this will be a test for our professionalism as teachers due to Maggie’s presence in the group. Both Vicky and I are my children’s English-speaking contributors. From now on, every Wednesday for an hour and a half, we will be her Greek language teachers.
A Special Feat: Professional Development While Being a Parent
For two and a half years, I was not in the classroom; not once did I think of deducting those years from my teaching career. And that, thanks to my two full-time students, in Life Sciences and English Language Learning; my daughter, Maggie and my son, Nicholas.
- We have turned our home into a school and our school into our second home.
- I have been extensively studying the specialized topics of Bilingualism and Multilingualism and have been applying all I am learning both to my children and my students.
- Through this effort, several other colleagues-parents have become motivated and began studying and asking for advice on these issues – issues that are firmly bonded with teaching languages.
- Some of us may not be able to frequently visit workshops and conferences. That’s alright! That’s what webinars, online conferences and workshops, educational blogs, social media and books are for.
- And some of us may be able to bring our own children into the groups we teach. This is my personal favourite. As if I have been living and working for this.
Congratulations to all teachers and parents on their feats. Thank you.
This post was originally published on the BELTA (Belgian English Language Teachers Association) blog.
Feel free to explore BELTA Belgium: http://www.beltabelgium.com
(The Loras Network is an institutional member of BELTA Belgium)
Feat No 14: Our 1st Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism in Language Learning and Families
As a parent, I have been in doubt and under pressure when raising my children initially bilingually and later on multilingually. And there have been times that I have had to:
– study hard on the topic,
– invest in resources,
– be loyal to a plan or method,
– commit to a schedule,
– exchange feedback with other parents with similar experiences,
– accommodate ideas to our family life and all that… while trying to make it as pleasant as possible for everyone involved.
As a teacher, I have been encouraging language learning and teaching an additional language to a monolingual speaker or to an already bilingual one for almost eighteen years. And there have been times during that role that I have had to:
– study hard on the topic,
– learn through numerous experiences of teaching all ages and all levels,
– invest in resources,
– build up a methodology according to the feedback from students and/or their parents,
– pass on this information and experience to all colleagues working with us,
– ultimately contribute to bilingualism and/or mutlilingualism and all that… while trying to make it as pleasant as possible for everyone involved.
Whether a parent, a teacher or both, it is amazing how many things we have in common. Just look above. And that is how the idea of our 1st International Loras Network Workshop was born. Bilingually; multilingually; while raising our children and teaching our students.
In an attempt to cover as many aspects of this topic as possible:
Dr Muhammad Aslam Sipra will cover the topic of the contribution of bilingualism in language teaching at beginners’ level. (As a teacher, I cannot wait to learn more on this issue and as a mother, it will help me figure out how teachers handle it).
Ms Claudia Buzzoni will guide us in the world of resources, motivation and alternatives. (As a teacher and a parent, I need to invest in the appropriate direction).
Mr Alex Rawlings is our live example of how a child, a teenager and then an adult can learn languages – yes, in the plural. (As a teacher, I wish he were my student and as a mother, how relieved I feel with his results).
Vicky Loras will touch that international point of view of languages and countries, people and their cultures, our world. (As a teacher and a parent, I love the idea of our students and children learning in depth).
As a mother and a teacher, I, Eugenia Loras, would love to share the story of my personal and professional life, with all its mistakes and joy!
I will be honored to experience all this with you.
Feat No…13?: Not that unlucky after all – We have the Sunshine Award!
Thank you very much Stephen Greene, www.headoftheheard.wordpress.com, for awarding the www.eugenialoras.wordpress.com blog with the Sunshine Award!
The Sunshine Award is given to those who write positive and inspiring articles and bringing some sunshine into the life of others. The Sunshine blogging award has its own rules and requirements:
– Link back the blog who nominated you.
– Post the award images in your blog.
– Tell seven facts about yourself.
– Nominate 5 to 10 blogs and let them know about it.
I dedicate this award to my children and my family for all their achievements and support! Congratulations to them all!
As a Sunshine Award winner, I am supposed to say seven facts about myself:
1. I am a Thank You person so I would like here to thank you all!
2. I have been preparing and working for my children, Maggie and Nicholas even before they were born. As if I already knew them.
3. Words cannot describe how much I love my work.
4. My favourite colour is purple.
5. My favourite book is “Someday” by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds, Scholastic.
6. I really love autumn and my birthday!
7. Whenever I send my wishes to someone, I truly hope they come true!
And now I am honored with the privilege of awarding the following blogs with the Sunshine Award:
1. www.swissirja.wordpress.com : Sirja Bessero deserves the Sunshine Award because she is the super mother of three children and an excellent English language teacher in Switzerland
2. www.beltabelgiumblog.blogspot.ch: The Belta Blog Team deserves the Sunshine Award because they provide excellent guidance and support not just to teachers in Belgium but all around the world.
3. www.rosebardeltdiary.wordpress.com: Rose Bard deserves the Sunshine Award because she has been wonderfully raising three children and loves teaching English in Santa Catarina.
4. www.ariascarm.wordpress.com : Carmen Arias deserves the Sunshine Award because she teaches English in Spain, while beautifully raising her family.
5. www.rawlangs.com : Alex Rawlings deserves the Sunshine Award because he is an extraordinarily valuable role model for children, parents and teachers.
6. www.vickyloras.wordpress.com : Vicky Loras deserves the Sunshine Award exactly because she is my sister. Vicky is a very special English Language teacher in Switzerland, she is the Godmother of our children and the best professional partner I could ever ask for.
Thanking you very much,
Feat No 12: The language of happiness
We decided to literally take the day off today and have an all-day family pyjama party.
So we woke up and enjoyed some Sunday morning children’s cartoons while having breakfast. And while I enjoy having fun, I apologize for craving to follow some sort of schedule or pattern even on carefree days so, it being German day on our calendar, we watched the cartoons in German. (Those of you who have read our previous blog posts probably predicted that).
Even though Mom and Dad did not even understand half of what was being said, all four of us laughed.
Then Maggie and Nicholas decided to play imagination games (in their sibling code, which is English so far) while we prepared our morning coffees. When their laughter was just about ready to turn into tension over some serious sharing issues, Mom remembered some forgotten games and all three of us played (in English) and laughed.
Then Mom got a bit tired and her laughter was no longer real or realistic, so Dad was called upon to join in the fun. Ball games were up next for the three of them (in Greek, apparently). And again they laughed a lot.
Lunch time was on its way so Maggie and Nicholas switched back to English until our meals were ready. After lunch, some quiet time was appropriate for digestion and as already mentioned, a nice break with a German children’s programme was just right for that.
The children’s energy was back, Mom and Dad’s was not, so we all agreed to do our own thing. This led to Maggie and Nicholas playing numerous games, making up stories, dancing and singing (in English) but always laughing. I chose to do some work with Vicky over the phone and on the computer and Dad chose to do some work of his own as well.
A final burst of really loud laughing, a slight dose of hyperactivity, an extra revival of remaining energy leading to harmeless micro-accidents (including minor head collisions, gentle pushing, unexpected stumbling) brought our evening to an end. However, during this final chapter of the day, English, Greek and German were not used at all. Body language was the dominant language and again loads of laughter.
Last but not least, story time from Mom to Maggie and Nicholas was presented in non-other than English until both children were fast asleep – in all languages.
The truth is that all the above happen automatically as far as the language-switching is concerned.
But the language we all stuck to today, understood perfectly and loved using no matter who we were with was the language of happiness. My favourite of them all!
Feat No 11: Have you read Feat No 9? Then you have been waiting for this.
And then I had to make a decision. A life-changing and devastatingly difficult decision. How do you lock that door behind you…for good this time. Not like you have been doing for about a decade of your life. With the untamable desire to skip night time and open up the doors again the next day.
My husband’s employers for whom he was working as an external associate had offered him a position in Switzerland. And I had my position in Greece as mother of Maggie, expecting Nicholas and businesswoman and teacher. To this day, I am still in love with all these roles. This was too heavy for me, as Eugenia, to handle. So I had to exit from my roles and become a logical stranger. A person who could objectively choose the most possible positive points between each case.
From a neutral point of view, with no major biased feelings, the choice was almost clear. Having been born and raised in Canada, the vast majority of Switzerland’s attributes coincided with those that I admired in Canada. But the neutrality could not remain in the forefront for too long. I would manage to make my appearance in this logical picture and ache for my family, our school and co-workers and friends. This went on and on for several nights…while being pregnant to Nicholas. I really trained myself then to limit my anguish to a minimum. I was sleepless for three whole months. Performing beautifully at home with Maggie and at work with my colleagues and clients. But I had to make a responsible statement to myself first and then to everyone else involved.
Since the objectivity was constantly beaten by the appearance of Eugenia, I had to eliminate those two complicated players and make the decision as a mother first and then as a human being.
The decision was then easily reached.
The best conditions for both my children to grow up in were in Switzerland.
And the best solution for both my colleagues/friends and clients was to continue their cooperation on an independent level. Unfortunately, managing a business in Greece from a distance was clearly not a feasible option from a business and financial point of view.
We all had our own lockers at the reception area of our school. I would leave notes for our English teachers there for them to find and they looked forward to checking those lockers. We worked together in such harmony that everything was very pleasant and productive. Even those notes.
That day, I wrote down an individual note for each one of our beautiful and professional teachers. Beautiful in every way and I mean it. It was like a short love note that had a hint of what was going to happen. Upon arrival, they found their notes, one by one and looked at me. We could not say much and I could not allow myself to mourn or feel sorrow. For the well-being of Nicholas. I forbid myself to feel it. The same rumbling sound that was heard when we were in full swing at the school, could be felt again now. It had a different meaning this time, though. And you could not hear it.
A rough month went by until the end of the school year as the clients were having a hard time accepting this news flash. And I am forever in debt to them. Even for the new school we have today. It all started with them.
The days of June 2009 were coming to an end but I felt I would not be able to cope with the last day. I had physically started to pack our things in boxes with the help of my family and teachers. I remember our school secretary and dear friend, Lambrini trying to stop me from doing things because of my pregnancy. How lucky I have been to have all these precious people in my life.
June would end on a Tuesday…but I could not turn that key for a last time. So I left on Friday. Two days before the end. With my briefcase I walked back home and remember the whole way back. Looking at my shadow in the sunset.
I had to delete the pain from my body and my soul so as not to harm unborn Nicholas. So as to support Maggie in this huge new step. So as to help my sister Vicky, any way I could possibly think of in her new beginning with us.
So Feats No 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 took their course. And it all went along smoothly. But the time had come for me to mourn. At last. At long last.
And now this: http://www.lorasnetwork.com. And I am happy again. Thank you.
Feat No 10: Maggie’s first bilingual school: The Loras English Academy
Today was Clifford Day at our English School. And Maggie was there, too. Just like she always has been these past eight years when she arrived and saved me from myself.
And that is why I love my job:
* Maggie would visit The Loras English Academy. Every day. How happy she was at “Mama’s school”, as she called it.
* And it belonged to her family. Her mom was working there. So were her aunts. Her grandparents brought her there every afternoon.
* The best part was that I also felt happy working in an environment that my child could visit and remained until I would leave. In the evening.
* We were not just together at the same place and at the same time, but I had arranged for Maggie to have short and fun English and Greek lessons there regularly while I was working. Just next door. Perfect. (Many global companies today, have childcare facilities within the companies themselves. The advantages are invaluable for everyone involved.)
* We had even created a playroom for our very young students when we renovated. Thanks to Maggie, many children and there parents became keen on learning English. They wanted to speak and understand English just like Maggie. Our daughter had accidentally become our walking and talking advertisement for these English Playgroups. As we had adopted the One person, One Language method concerning Maggie’s bilingualism, we had managed to draw attention by being among the minority of daily English-speakers in our former city, Ioannina.
* At the end of the day, we were both very tired but we always left the school happy and proud.
Too bad Nicholas missed out on all those incredible experiences. …Or did he?
Have no fear, The Loras English Network is here!
Feat No 9: The Loras English Academy…the ground-breaker ……and…the heart-breaker
At the age of 17 I had obtained the necessary certificate and license to teach English as a Foreign Language. So I started doing exactly that.
I was mature enough to realize the financial situation of my family and felt the responsibility and duty to help them. To support them. To bravely tell them and show them they can count on me. Completely.
“How many hours are there in a day, Eugenia? Well then, you must work as many as you can handle. As many as you dare.” I dared myself and that was that:
* Private lessons at students homes all over our former residence, Ioannina, in Greece.
* I did not have a car and the means of transportation were not reliable enough to keep a tight schedule in order. So I went to all on foot. Carrying kilos of books in bags in both hands. And sometimes extra equipment like posters and board games on my back. In all weather conditions.
* Teaching at two private English Language Institutes.
* Teaching English at a private Nursery/Kindergarten.
* Doing translations at the end of the teaching day, meaning from 10.00 pm till 2.00 or 3.00am.
* But on which computer? I did not have one. So I provided volunteer work as a secretary at my uncle’s legal office who also happened to be a politician. Very busy. And he had a computer. So I would use that and his printer in return for my services.
And this went on every day – literally – Monday through Sunday. And all day – literally – from 7.00 am to about 2.00 am.
…for better or for worse,
for richer or for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish;
from this day forward,
until death do us part. I was married to my profession.
I was so ambitious, so powerful, so energetic, so passionate with what I was doing and how it was growing that I just could not stop. And I did not.
And I was helping my family. And I was helping my future family. And then I thought of a ground-breaking idea at the age of 23.
“I love private lessons because of their size. They are so productive. But I love the practicality of the Language Schools I teach at as you have all your books, resources, files, printers there…readily available. So why don’t I create a Language School but for private lessons, from one to three people?”
I said that exact phrase to my then fiancé, now husband, while having a rare coffee at one of the several, several though, coffee shops, Ioannina had and still has. Why rare? Because I never ever left a gap in my schedule. I would manage to fill it in with another student. But that day was one of the few that I hadn’t managed to do so. So while I was taking the second sip of that rare coffee, I released my idea loudly in the spring air and Thomas, believing in the potential, grabbed me by the hand and we immediately started searching for a small office. There went my coffee… Me and my big mouth… Me and my wild ideas… (Coffee Time for me had been transformed into something like a curse…while I was working even during the weekends, almost everybody else was enjoying their coffee…right in my face… While I was going back and forth, up and down, here and there. And I managed not to get distracted. At that age. In that lifestyle. I was working for Maggie and Nicholas and I hadn’t even met them. And I was even mocked for this gruesomely hard-working lifestyle. I was deaf and blind to it all).
In the heart of Ioannina, on a very popular and desired street, we found a 40 square-meter office. And I signed. While I was signing I started crying. Like a baby. In front of the owner of the office and the real estate agent. First time for a Scorpio like me to do that in public. “Why are you crying, what is wrong?” said one of the gentlemen. “She is happy and moved”, said Thomas. The truth? The first rent and the deposit was all the money I had in the world.
But I signed.
And innovated. The English Language School with a private tutoring concept did not exist in the books of the Ministries involved. So they made a combination of rules and that was our guideline. That was our innovation.
First year I was alone, pretending not to be sick, or tired. I couldn’t afford to be. Second year, Vicky had completed her studies and joined me. By the way, due to the same financial pressure, Vicky had managed to complete her studies in a record time. Making her own line of sacrifices. We divided the office into two smaller offices and followed the same successful recipe. Work. Hard work. No diversions. No regrets.
We were so busy at some point that new clients would not even come to ask if we had free time. This would become a problem if we had not acted fast. We had to find somebody, beyond our family union, that we could entrust with our clients. Our treasures.
And we signed for the next door office and found our first teacher. And then the next teachers and then the next offices.
And it boomed! Truly Boomed! I can still remember the beautiful rumbling sound our school was making while booming.
More and more students, more and more teachers, more and more ideas, more and more smiles. Boom!
Students were on waiting lists for the next school year. They all wanted to be a part of this. Parents and children. What a pleasure I took with planning the new school year schedule. No matter how stressful it was. For me it meant success.
Teachers were being interviewed; native speakers or Greek English teachers who had studied and lived abroad. Some came, some left, all of whom worked WITH us instead of FOR us. And that, for me, meant success, too. We were a team. A fun one and a professional one. And after all the coming and going we had reached a point where we had formed the perfect team. Lambrini, Helen and Lisa, Chrissie and Melanie, Alexandra and Rea, Jahnavi, Melina and Anastassia…oh, how I thank you all for being a part of my life, a part of my family’s life. Such a special part. Such a huge support.
And of course, the Loras Trio. With Christine, our younger sister starting off as secretary and moving on to teacher, making her own line of sacrifices, as our story goes, we were all head over heels in love with The Loras English Academy. Our lessons would come to an end in the evening and we just would not want to. None of us.
And then there is my family. My precious parents. What efforts they have put into all this cannot be written. What self-sacrificing participation they have made in all this story and history cannot be described. A true family business. My husband with all his support and financial knowledge. His younger sister, Carolina, for being our reliable secretary in times of need. And his elder sister, Sandy for hiring me at her own English Language School at the beginning of my career.
The methodology, the innovation, the teamwork, the sensational atmosphere, the safety and security, the sense of family and love towards everyone involved. It was all there.
So it was time for Maggie. And it was time for Eugenia to become a bit more human and allow time to herself to rest. To breathe. To eat while sitting down. Maggie came to the rescue when she was born.
And her new bilingual school was in the making. Feat No 10.
Next step was to renovate the facilities with even more self-sacrifice but even more passion. We were close to perfect. How smoothly we all worked. Our beautifully the lessons were conducted. Like an excellent choreography. And Maggie’s new bilingual school was ready. Awarded and admired. Loved and enjoyed. Renowned and highly recommended. Our name was our guarantee.
And all this in a handicapped country. Unfortunately, the country that has given so much to this world, is the country that could not contain us.
Our ground-breaking Academy was about to come a heart-breaking finale in Greece. Feat No 11.
Feat No 8: Once upon a time…there were treasures on shelves!
If you have a bookcase at home full of books, then you ultimately have a treasure!
If you place the children’s books on the lower shelves, then they have immediate treasures, too.
Just like they learn how to play with toys, that is how they can learn to read books.
I have been placing books in close access of my children since they were born.
– But they cannot read, Eugenia. What were you thinking?
– They cannot speak when they are babies either, yet we give them toy telephones. They cannot play, catch or kick, yet we buy them soft colourful balls. In the same manner, I strongly felt that easy access to books – soft books initially, then board books and then gradually to paper books – can turn reading into something as natural as playing. And so far with Maggie the results are more than evident. And Nicholas is following. Moreover, having Maggie as his guide he too spends some time flipping through books, looking at pictures, some pages more intensely than others. His eyes see words that he cannot read but it all becomes a familiar sight to him. Just like with Maggie.
It might start off with a thirty-second glance, then become a three-minute action. Further on it becomes a twenty-minute activity and before you know it, books are as loved as toys.
We did exactly the same at our wonderful former English school in Ioannina, Greece; The Loras English Academy. Our vast bookcase was our main attraction and ultimate joy for teachers, parents and students.
(The Loras English Academy is a Feat of its own. Sooner or later I will have to write about it… I think I am better now; I am almost ready to do so.)
Some children seemed like they were picking out candies in a candy shop when choosing books. And some others were not as interested but at least once borrowed a book from us. A start must be made somehow.
“Wow, how many books you have!”, said a mother of two children who were our students. “Yes, we are very lucky to have so many and we try to expose the children to them as much as we can. I do the same at home with Maggie. Just place the books close to them and they will come to love them”, I went on enthusiastically as usual. “No, no, it depends on the child. It would be a waste of time and money if I did that with my children”.
And all of sudden… disappointment “fell kerplunk on Eugenia’s head”. And I so wanted to tell her, “Well if you have not tried it, why do you make guesses, to their disadvantage?” But I didn’t. So, I just decided to do my best through the books in our school and at some point, hopefully, the children themselves would ask their parents to also quench their thirst for books.
Encyclopedias – for children and adults, dictionaries – simple, specialized and picture-based, thesauruses, course books, grammar books, readers – fictional and factual, story books, audio and not…we have invested in. Slowly, progressively, we almost had it all.
The more we bought, the happier we got!
My absolute favourites, though, are audio story books. And we have noticed at home but throughout our career that they are the most popular with children. They are so educationally fun that I actually teach a five-year-old boy this year, who wants to go through the full two-hour session we have, sometimes, only with these storybooks.
Both my children are very fond of them too and we have the whole series of some at home. Readily available for them. Tapes, CDs and books. All at hand.
“Come on Nicholas! Let’s listen to storybooks!” says Maggie to her brother just as if doing another playful activity.
My Top 5 Super Recommendations (in order of personal and professional preference):
- Express Publishing – Audio Storytime Readers (Stages 1 – 3)
- Scholastic – Readers (several series)
- Scholastic – Audio Storybooks
- Random House – Step into Reading Series (Steps 1 – 5)
- Oxford – Start with English Readers (Grades 1 – 6)
And I cannot wait to do something like this again!
I just cannot wait!
Feat No 7: “I’ m singing in the “… home, morning, classroom, bath, entrance or exit of your school, celebrations, and anywhere else you can teach while having fun!!!
I have always considered myself a “Show Woman” type of teacher, meaning that I am very, correction, extremely enthusiastic and expressive when teaching. I enjoy making the lesson fun along with educative and also encouraging. I like turning something small into a big deal for our students; a huge achievement!
I am like that as a mother, too. I sometimes tend to overdo it, like Ms Frizzle from Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus, literally even dressing up according to the event or activity, but I love doing so.
What has been an essential tool for these in-house and school events are songs: Rhymes, traditional children’s songs, course book songs, songs from educational DVDs, songs from several audio storybooks, even songs from our own childhood.
Both my children and students are proof that songs have helped our lessons grandly throughout the eight years of being a mother and seventeen years of being an English language teacher:
* Our students, who are non-native speakers, have learnt words and phrases unbelievably fast and easily just by singing to these educationally fun rhythms
* Our students, who are native speakers, have realized the exact meaning or articulation of a word while singing
* My children have not just experienced everything above mentioned, but have also expressed an opinion on a song. I will never forget when I was singing the lullaby:
Hush-a-bye baby, on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall….
And all of a sudden, four years after listening to this exact lullaby from beginning to end, Maggie, shocked, gets up from her bedtime pose and asks me to change the ending of the song on the spot. That it is not proper to sing the lullaby as it is. So from then on, to this day, …
… In mommy’s arms,
Maggie & Nicholas shall sleep …
is the new ending to that all-time classic. And Nicholas, being three-and-a-half today, has yet to hear Maggie’s forbidden version of the lullaby!
* Our students and my children practised and improved their skills in colours, numbers, letters, pronunciation and so many other topics.
* Under our family roof, this does not just apply to English, but to all three languages the children speak. And yet again, we have invested in providing them with equal language opportunities even in the audio sector.
* Children’ s interest and love in learning a language increases vertically through songs and the younger they are the more frequently you can use them during a lesson. I learnt this very well in my early years of teaching when I was responsible for the English Language at a private Nursery / Kindergarten in Greece for 7 years. They were aged three and a half to five and a half, were learning English as a Second language and were among the most productive projects I have ever done. Educational children’s songs were among my basic and best tools. We had even managed to put on plays including English songs. Some parents had even congratulated us as they felt their children spoke and sang the English performance better than their native language Greek play.
* In order for the songs to produce results, the teachers must have fun too while performing them! While enjoying them. While teaching them. While reenacting them and even reinventing them!
* There is another aspect to songs. Music itself. Being a former dancer (ballet – jazz – tap) I know the majestic essence of classical music. In our former school, The Loras English Academy, we tried something. In the hallways of the school, we would play classical music at a very low volume during lesson time. Teachers, students and parents gave us nothing but excellent feedback. During the breaks we would pause it.
* This is also applied at our home just before bedtime. After having studied two books on young children and pleasant sleep solutions (New Toddler Taming, by Dr Christopher Green and The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley) and doing my best to adjust all this information to our family’s schedule and personality, we listen to classical music before the children fall asleep; at a very low volume. This even helps us parents calm down so as not to transmit any of our hyperactivity or stress on to our children.
* Music and songs have been used by us as English teachers with older students as well. Productivity in the classroom at its best, as excellently described by Vicky Loras through her blog post Born in The USA. Carefully selected lyrics from popular contemporary adult songs offer several teaching and learning opportunities.
I am very happy that I even remember songs I learned at school in Canada when I was a child. I sing them to both Maggie and Nicholas and they love them a lot. Not just as songs but also because they find it amazing that Mom used to be a child, too!
And while we listen to classical music, bedtime would not be complete without a story book!
Feat No 8 will take you to Story Land, books and all their wonders… in – house and at school!
Green, C. (2006). New Toddler Taming. London, UK: Vermilion.
Pantley, E. (2005). The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers. USA: McGraw-Hill.
Feat No 6: From the Past to the Present and a step into the Future; Sibling Language Code
As our family is today, German is the language that has strong allies on its side: the German-speaking environment and the professional consistency of school. To add to that, Maggie’s friends are mainly German-speaking. And the cherry on top is the fact that Maggie is not only enjoying and prospering in this educational system but has also obtained great confidence with her German language development. So she uses it. Proudly. Daily.
And as Nicholas grows older they might even change their preferred language of communication, from English to German.
This is something that we noticed had happened to us, the Loras sisters.
Growing up in Canada we communicated with each other in English. Then moving to Greece, we preferred Greek as teenagers. Becoming adults and working in our own English school all day with other English teachers, we returned to our initial English-speaking family code. Now, in Switzerland, English is used as strongly as if we were in Canada by Vicky and myself. But we communicate in Greek with our younger sister, Christine who still lives in Greece. She, too, being an English teacher, though!
What I have noticed is that:
* Maggie has always used English when playing alone; recently, at a lower percentage but it has made its bold occurrence, sometimes plays alone in German, as well.
* Nicholas plays alone in English only for the time being.
* Together they play only in English.
* They have never played together in Greek.
* Maggie has never played alone in Greek.
* However, both she and Nicholas have no problem playing in Greek if a Greek speaking person is involved like their father, their giagia, my younger sister or anyone else when we visit Greece.
* While speaking in Greek or German specifically, Maggie may encounter unknown words. I have noticed that English is her main language foundation and based on that she learns the Greek or German equivalent.
* They can both sing songs in all three languages but also in unknown to them languages with great ease… A few days ago, Maggie taught Nicholas the chorus of a song and then they both sang it to me and for me:
” Mamacita mamacita buena…” . I am still laughing!
Speaking of songs, for children though, Feat No 7 will disclose why I consider them miracle makers when teaching the English language, or any language for that matter. Both to our children and our students.
Thank you and feel free to enjoy the song.
Feat No 5: So far English is at a winning distance from Greek and German…but will it endure?
Maggie and Nicholas communicate with each other in English. This alone is a victory for this language compared to Greek and German as it is the preferred language of our children.
It is literally their mother tongue. And I have been trying to spend as much time with them as possible since they were each born. We also have a whole school of resources for them and they are being used by their mother and their aunt who are actually real English language teachers.
So the English language has been strongly active in our home both naturally and professionally.
While Nicholas is still at preschool age, this method is working as beautifully for him as it has for Maggie. However, Maggie is growing…physically and mentally. How do we maintain such a successful development of the English language from now on when her questions, activities and dialogues are becoming more mature?
This is most probably the right time to actually place Maggie in a group at our own language school. Along with other children of the same age whose native language is English, following a structured curriculum throughout the school year will be exactly the right way to stabilize, build and then excellently materialize the development of her English language.
Even if The Loras English Network did not exist, we would have to find a solution similar to this.
Being an English teacher in our own home has been successful so far but if I attempt to raise the standards of our in-house education, we both sometimes end up behaving…as if we were at home; because that is where we exactly are.
Put the mother in a classroom and the child in a group and the behavioural pattern changes quite a bit. As Maggie and I have been in this situation several times in the past, we are confident it will work. In this new picture, Eugenia is concentrating on the actual lesson and not emptying the dishwasher while spelling out a word to Maggie, who in turn is concentrating on the lesson and not trying to keep her sock on her foot while Nicholas is under the table trying to pull it off. Fun moments, but they cannot last forever.
And while Maggie and Nicholas are arguing over the sock in English, a Feat from our own past will make us wonder if they will continue using this language as their Sibling Code. To be continued in Feat No 6.
Feta…sorry, Feat No 4: Maggie’s Greek School Project; The end? Or a new beginning?
Year One went by very well for Maggie and her first year in Greek School. Here I must mention that according to the Greek educational system, children attend the 1st class of primary school at the age of six. That is why Maggie was in the 1st class of Greek school while she was in Kindergarten of Swiss school.
Maggie could handle the workload and had a wonderful and experienced Greek teacher. She had even managed to create a very nice friendship with two girls in her class, even though they met just once a week.
However, Saturdays were like weekdays for Maggie:
She had to wake up very early so as to catch the train from Zug to Zurich. She continued to like Greek School.
We would then have to take two short tram rides before eventually reaching a Swiss Public school that is being used by the Greek community of Zurich for these lessons. She still liked it.
The lessons started at 9.00 am and ended at 12.30 pm, with two breaks for snacks and playtime.
After the lessons it was really time for lunch; Maggie was so hungry when it was pick-up time that we would always have lunch in Zurich and then catch the train back to Zug. No complaints.
She was tired and admitted to being so, but was still a fan of Greek School.
In other words, Maggie’s weekends were always short. They included just Sunday and that day was mainly used by her body and brain to recover from the exhausting full week she had had.
We had also found a very pleasant way of doing her Greek homework. She would do it – and still does it – with the great help of my younger sister, Christine, in Greece via Skype. This took a big burden off of her as she would finish her homework effortlessly.
This school year, however, is a different story.
Last year started catching up on Maggie …and along with it, all the exhaustion, too.
She is in the 2nd Class, year-wise but still in the 1st Class, book-wise. It is not possible to complete the curricula of a full school year only through Saturday lessons. Of course, this was never an issue for us. What is important and we have discussed this with Maggie as well, is to maintain and learn the Greek language as best she can. No deadlines, no pressure.
The homework at Greek school became much more. At the same time, Swiss school required homework on behalf of Maggie this year, too.
The problem was not only the quantity but also the quality of the homework in each school. Maggie realized this difference early enough to start expressing dissatisfaction with Greek School. The Swiss educational system, in some ways reminding us of the Canadian educational system does not involve heavy copying of letters, words and phrases. It does not involve learning off by heart. It does not involve doing light work at school and the heavy work at home. It is actually the opposite.
So two factors alone led Maggie to start crying before the first lesson of Greek School right after Christmas. Exhaustion from the whole Greek School excursion and Disagreement with the learning techniques. And she was absolutely right. We had to listen to her.
The Christmas holidays were almost over. Maggie had already successfully completed her homework for the upcoming lesson; again with the invaluable help and accompaniment of her dear aunt Christine. She loved her Greek School teacher and she loved her two friends there. She even got a surprise every Saturday for all her efforts and achievement. She was an excellent student at Greek School. And she was proud of that …but she started crying. A lot! Just two days before we started again.
We had to find a solution for her. One that she agreed with, that she was happy with, that would allow her to maintain this beautiful language she had already acquired.
And we tried out a private Greek School, again in Zurich. So far, that is the closest available city with such provisions. But this School has lessons for just one and a half hours every Saturday and the homework is much more interesting and lighter. We do not have to wake up so early either. Maggie can enjoy her Saturday morning sleep that is so important and go to Greek school after lunch … Just for a while this time. Additionally, the format of the lesson and the homework are more like that of her German and English lessons which she so much enjoys.
English Lessons? Feat No 5 will fill you in on that!
Maggie loves her new Greek School so much now that she not only goes – and leaves – happily but she also does extra Greek activity books that we have a whole shelf of here at home. With her own initiative! With great pleasure!
She now enjoys her longer weekend and we are happy to see her do so while still learning the Greek language. She is actually learning more this way.
Maggie’s sigh of relief was a sigh of relief for us as well. And at the same time, another deep breath, as this new private school involves extra monthly financing on our family’s behalf. We have explained this, too, to Maggie and she voluntarily asked to give up her Saturday surprises. Just for proposing that … we maintained her Saturday surprises.
2015 addition to this blog post: Please feel free to read Feat No 15 on how we have now set up our very own Greek Language Workshops here is Zug, for our own children and anyone else interested!