November 27, 2019

Book review: Growing Up with Two Languages. A Practical Guide for the Bilingual Family by Una Cunningham

What a fantastic compendium of practical knowledge for bilingual families! I found the publication interesting to read, as it implements stories from the author’s own experience and quotations from bilingual families, and these make the whole reading experience much more alive and real.

As we read on the back cover, the author Una Cunningham is an Associate Professor in Modern Languages at Stockholm University in Sweden, and she raised her 4 children to speak English and Swedish.

Growing Up with Two Languages is mostly a practical read, but it also has a short chapter devoted to research and further reading. We read there that most of the world’s population speak more than one language, this may well mean that we should question monolingualism in our society and see it as a (curable!) problem. (vide Li Wei, p. 165)

The book refers to many topics that new or well-established bilingual parents may find interesting to learn about, such as balancing two languages, dealing with public/family reactions to bilingual upbringing, the one parent-one language method, cultural competence, active and passive languages, practical advice from the author and from other bilingual parents (e.g. feed your child with bilingual and bicultural knowledge but do not force-feed), motivation, etc.

Another piece of advice which I found really useful to follow when reading this book is that Una Cunningham emphasises that as a reader and a bilingual parent, we know best what works in our current family setting, so we should only take the advice that will work for our children’s bilingual upbringing. “According to their circumstances, a family will develop a system regulating the use of two languages with which they live.” (p. 31) Interestingly, the language chosen by siblings to talk between themselves is usually the majority language (if it’s their dominant language). And the key ingredients to have a successful bilingual family are determination, consistency and perseverance.

Finally, of all the interviewees mentioned in the book, none of them regrets being exposed to more than one language in their childhood. Quite the opposite, those who weren’t raised bilingually (but for example only biculturally), regret that their parent/s didn’t speak to them in their native language.

What’s your recent reading on bilingualism? Please let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

November 20, 2019

Travelling corner: Camping with baby

Is it easy? Is it worth doing? Is it manageable? Yes, you ask yourself all those questions before barking upon a family holiday under a tent. It wasn’t easy for me to decide when to go camping for the very first time, so today I’d like to share with you some advice/tips if you plan your first camping trip with the little one.

When: You’ll know when you’re ready and you’ll feel the same about your baby. Just wait and see. I think our baby was around 9 months when we went away camping.

Packing: Start packing early, to make sure you have all the necessary items with you which you can then easily find in the tent.

Time: I would suggest going for a shorter period, e.g. a weekend. We went for 4 days and it was absolutely enough.

Destination: We chose an off-track campsite within a 2-hour drive, but I think I would have preferred to have chosen a more commercial campsite. We didn’t complain, but I think we’d have had a better camping experience if the campsite was more baby-friendly.

Sleep: As I was still breast-feeding at night, I didn’t sleep so comfortably, because I was woken up every couple of hours. I knew the quality of my sleep would be compromised; out of 3 nights, I had one really good night’s sleep (not too bad, huh?).

Activities: Plan as little as possible, as you don’t know how much energy you’ll have left, after cooking, taking care of the children, cleaning up, etc.

Would I repeat it? Oh yes!!! Organisation-wise was a bit challenging, but overall, we had a great time together. And I love sleeping outside, so even with no uninterrupted sleep, I wouldn’t change it for anything!

Kinga Macalla

November 13, 2019

Book review: Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year: A little book of festive joy by Beth Kempton

“A calm Christmas does not have to be a small Christmas or even a quiet Christmas.” [p. 121]

It’s a beautiful read which attempts to prepare readers for Christmas; calm Christmas. I read it in October which may seem to be too early, but actually no, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about the Christmas one wishes to have this year. The book mindfully guides us through the pre-, during- and post-Christmas times and through questions, stories and quotations coming from the author’s own experiences or those of her friends’ or the community’s. The reader may reflect/question/re-invent their own way of celebrating the festive season. The book is simply published, yet the magic is felt on every page.

And if you’re wondering whether there are any language-related digressions, I can only point out that the author has a Masters degree in Japanese.

What inspirational read on Christmas would you recommend? Let me know down in the comments.

Kinga Macalla

November 6, 2019

Learning a language: Learn Dutch with BLS online & FREE!

As you remember, we introduced a new series of blog posts (see Spanish, French, German, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic & Polish) where we teach you some useful phrases in different languages. Sounds amazing? And it’s DUTCH today!

Do you travel frequently to Brussels or Amsterdam? Are you planning to learn more about the Flemish painters? Do you dream of going for a weekend-away in the Netherlands? If so, we would like you to taste & learn some essential Dutch first. Below you’ll find a list of useful phrases in Dutch (greetings, polite phrases, closed question words, numerals and simple questions & sentences). We also video recorded Victoria, our Dutch tutor, to help you with reading, pronunciation and accent (also available on YouTube). We hope you enjoy this series and that you’ll come and learn Dutch with us! Good luck!

Which language would like you like to learn next? Let us know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla