Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lost in translation

When I moved to Italy, my main concern was the language barrier.  I battled with my own insecurities in regards to communication, and I presumed that with my husband at work all day, it would be up to me to lead the family thru day to day life.  I was wrong.  I am being taught by my 3 year old. 

My daughter attends asilo in our building every morning, they only speak Italian to her, therefor I am learning something new everyday.  You don’t need to worry if you are not a native speaker, rather concentrate on what you learn with your child and incorporate the new words into everyday language. This can be as simple as replacing one word of an English sentence with the same word in the foreign language, such as a colour, a number or an animal. Replace English words with these words as often as possible. This will help build your memory and skill, and please your child with your efforts.

Cue cards attached to doors, furniture, food, appliances, clothing and other items around the home are also an effective tool to help your child learn the words even quicker. I have purchased many post it notes.  Check out videos and movies with a bilingual approach or try watching your child’s favourite DVD with a foreign language soundtrack substituted for English (most DVDs have Select A Language option). This was a particularly easy option for us with cable television as it was all in Italian, but we could mostly sub title to English.

After a few months you will start to see progress, with your child naturally substituting foreign words for English equivalents in sentences, counting or identifying objects in the foreign language. My child often chooses the Italian books over the english, and emjoys teaching her brother.  Most words are english but said with an italian accent and ending, finishing most words with "o" or "a", and of course hand gestures!

Remember that young children will stay engaged and respond to language instruction if you make it fun. Provide your child with a fun environment in which to practice the words and phrases that they have learned, incorporating these words into games and songs, you’ll be building a great base in the new language. And your child will be learning and not even realise it!

They say that children who learn another language seem to do much better at school and university, so I am figuring that by a bit of extra effort now, scolarships will be received and I am already looking into cruises. If you’re sighing and wishing you lived in Europe, don’t despair, it really isn't much easier here.  There are schools in every country to give your child the benefits of learning an extra language, but it must also stem from the parents efforts.

It doesn’t really matter what language a child learns or even if they don’t become fluent; what’s important is the different way of looking at the world, openness to diverse concepts and critical thinking that learning a foreign language provides.

Teach your kid yourself

You don’t need to be fluent in a foreign language to teach it effectively. All you need is a little preparation and lots of creativity.

Being in a relationship where my partner speaks other languages, I encourage him to use italian as often as possible with the children.  This also gives him a perfect opportunity to complain about me to the children without me getting angry as I can not nderstand a word he is saying!

Some language facts

Collectively, Australians speak over 200 languages.

A 2006 Australian Census report indicates that 17% of the Australian population speaks a language other than English at home.

The most common languages other than English are Italian, Greek, Cantonese and Arabic.

Collectively, Chinese languages (including Cantonese, Mandarin and others) have the greatest number of speakers after English.

The three most commonly spoken indigenous languages are Kriol (an Australian Creole) and two Central Australian languages – Pitjantjatjara and Warlpiri.

No comments:

Post a Comment