Power of The Pen

Two postcards arrived recently from abroad. One from my mother and one from a friend of this blog Chris Drew, based in France. Chris and I agreed at his suggestion to start sending the occasional postcard to each other. They are a useful talking point with your child, opening up conversations about location and offering an opportunity to read genuine communicative language. Mine has not progressed enough to write, or to read the beautifully written cards, but Chris had his daughters write the one he sent. Here are some extracts from some of the mails Chris sent me. They are interesting, informative and motivational.

” I’m raising two daughters (9 and 7) here in France to be bilingual. My wife is French, and we worked on the ‘one parent, one language’ principle, which has worked very well. I also followed (my own) thought which I resumed as the 3B’s: binational, bilingual and bicultural. Binational – at least for us – was easy, just involving lots of paperwork; the bilingualism came through one parent one language’ and loads and loads of books (incl. The Gruffalo! You should buy more Julia Donaldson – excellent!). The hardest I’ve found has been biculturalism. This I think is so important to provide ‘context’ to the language.”

“…we follow all the big events in the UK: Jubilee, the Olympics, but also stuff like Last Night of the Proms and the last UK elections. I even wrote to the Parliament education services, and they sent me a pack of kids resources explaining the electoral system in the UK, and we then compared and contrasted it to the French system.”

“It’s difficult to find another Dad in the same position – thank goodness for the internet!”  (My thoughts exactly!)

“The girls are in mainstream French schools – nothing for bilingual kids…We’ve had to fight like crazy so that in the primary school they get German instead of English as a second language. We’ve also got them doing Mandarin Chinese at home once a week…”

Not every parent is aiming for the level of linguistic competence that Chris seems to be with his children. Chris is also a linguist with two additional languages to his mother tongue. This seems to have provided him with a world of experience, the ability to have similar experiences is something that he seems to want to pass on to his children. He also asks friends from abroad to send him postcards for the reasons stated above. Both of his children read and write in English, and I was astounded with the beautiful cursive script that his eldest used  for our postcard.

One’s lack of prowess in other languages need not be a barrier to you helping your children to become proficient in your own, but becoming at least fairly competent in your adopted country’s tongue can’t hurt. Just don’t use it to talk to your kids! Lead by example…

Chris introduced me to the Jolly Phonics series. My workbooks arrived yesterday. It’s a great looking series, and with it I can see my daughter progressing to the level of confidence with the English language that I hoped for from the beginning. More reports on progress in the future.

For the time being, postcards! Pen to paper communication with other living beings elsewhere in the world may broaden your child’s interest in language and also in the chances that mastering it might offer them.

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5 responses to “Power of The Pen”

  1. Chris Drew says :

    Hello everyone! Chris Drew here. If there is anyone else out there with similar experiences, please let us know. The world might be getting digitally smaller, but there are still not many of us trying to do what Nick and I are doing, and we’re all geographically separated. So it would be lovely to be able to share ideas with others – and to know what works and what doesn’t. But the most important thing is to keep at it. Don’t give up if other people say it won’t work, or can’t work. It can, and it will. But you must be determined, and want to give time and effort to make it happen. Our youngest daughter (7 a week ago), has just written her first theatre play a couple of nights ago. And if I’m honest, there were veryfew mistakes in English. So go on, you can do it as well. Best wishes to all Chris

    • Jenny says :

      Hi Chris
      I discovered this blog a few days ago and am working my way through all the posts; I realise that you wrote this a while ago, so may not get this reply, but I too am in a similar situation. My French partner and I are raising our daughter to be as bilingual and bi-cultural as possible, I’ve been documenting our journey at http://www.culturefrog.blogspot.com. Our daughter was born in France and lived there for 4 years before we had an opportunity to move to Scotland, where I’m from. We’ve been here a couple of years now, it’s been great to give our daughter an immersion in English, and for both of them to understand more about where I’m from. It’s also meant switching the battle over to preserving the French language. We’re finding it much harder to find French resources compared to English, but we’re not giving up! We may yet move back to France, so I’m keeping up to date with all tips and info on English-learning resources. Thanks for your inspiring words, it does sometimes feel a bit like we’re the only ones, so it’s great to hear from others!

  2. Chris Drew says :

    Hello again. If anyone else is interested in the UK Parliament, this is the link to the education services http://www.parliament.uk/education/

    best wishes

    Chris

  3. Pascale says :

    Hi Chris, Pascale Waschnig here….just to encourage you to continue…

    My children are much older now (15/17), they have been bought up in 3 languages, my ex-husband being Austrian, me French and leaving in the UK since pre-school.
    They speak fluent French, English (they are going to a UK school), very good German.. The only ‘mistake’ we made is for my ex to speak English to them when we arrived in the UK so they could better integrate the system, as the kids learned very quickly English, they took the easiest route, to carry on speaking English to him, but have learned German through listening/speaking to my family in law and as my ex and I always spoke German together…

    On the positive side, A+ in German and in French makes life at school very easy, they also have very good grades in English (not my contribution! 🙂 )….on the negative side, they are a bit lazy as far as grammar and spelling is concerned, relying too much on their phonetic/spoken knowledge of the French and German language…..

    My daughter has already decided that she will study in France and try to live in France, my son has chosen to stay and study in the UK (the GF playing an important role in that!!!)…

    Carry on, it is sometimes harder, but so rewarding for them and for the family back home!

    Pascale

  4. teachthesprog says :

    “You must be determined” Isn’t that the truth. Thanks Chris and Pascale. For those of us with younger kids it’s great to hear how the older ones are actually progressing.

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