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.