Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Where does my passion for bilingualism come from?

multilingual parents raising children speaking nonnative English
The love, passion or interest for languages comes to each one of us in a different way. In my case, it was something that didn't come from me at the beginning. It came from my environment. It wasn't me the one who started to have the need of speaking other languages or the one who wanted to learn a new language for fun and pleasure. It was the people around me and the places where I lived the ones that took me towards this knowledge of second languages. And it was later on, when I grew up, when I started to make an effort to improve them. This time, of my own accord.

-When I was eight years old, I started to have English lessons in my school, two hours per week.  I still remember the characters in the textbook and the videos about a witch that our English teacher would let us watch if we behaved properly in class.
-In summer, it was time to go to a summer camp where we learnt English. All the monitors were native speakers. The friends I made, lifelong friends. Besides, the camp made me realize that English was useful to communicate with others.
-When I was fourteen years old, I started the Official School of Languages, the place where my English had exponential growth and the place of which I have very good memories.
-After leaving aside the English for a while, I started my degree in teaching where I started to improve my command of this language. It was the moment when I felt the need to get better because I knew that the better I would speak it, the sooner I would find a job.
-Since then, for four summers, I was the monitor in charge of some group of teenagers that traveled to Ireland or England to learn English. It was a great job. I could enjoy being abroad with a group of fun youngsters and earn some money. I could improve my vocabulary and pronunciation as I was also staying with a native family and there were problems with the accommodation of the students or with their English lessons that needed to be sorted out. Those summers helped me to have the level of English that I have nowadays. I did also mature a lot as there were some pretty complicated situations and important issues that required a high level of maturity, a good  management of different things and at the same time having a good relationship with the teenagers.
-I also got two grants to take English lessons abroad for two months. This time I was the student.
-Thanks to an agreement between my university and an American one, I started to have some exchanges of languages with people from the States. We used to meet in the evenings during the week and chat in English for an hour and then in Spanish for another hour. We were all young and it was lots of fun because we sometimes met on the weekends with our friends. I had four 'exchanges'. And two of them were very good friends: my dear Paula and my dear Tim.
-The last year of university I did my teaching practices for six intensive months in a British School. I learnt very interesting methodologies and discovered songs, stories, books, games and other good resources that helped me a lot to start being a teacher. Being a language teacher started to be my passion.
-After that I started to work as a Primary, Infant or English teacher (whatever the school needed). I realized that I enjoyed very much seeing the process of learning languages and that I liked being part of it and doing my bit.
-And to do my bit in the best possible way, I took some courses of different Training Centres for Teachers. I have taken many, some were good and some were not. The ones that I have liked the most are those that have helped me to discover the ways to apply the different technologies that exist nowadays in the classroom and the opening of the school to the world through projects that don't need a lot of money or a big infrastructure, such as Etwinning.
-I also discovered the CLIL Methodology (Content and Language Integrated Learning) and I got a fantastic European grant to attend to a course in Finland, in the North Pole, with Peeter Mehisto. The weather was freezing cold!
-The day-to-day  used to be listening to music, reading the lyrics and watching films and series in the original version. Whenever I couldn't understand something because the accent was too difficult, I would take it as a challenge and I would put on the headphones to ear it louder without disturbing my family.
-With my boyfriend (now husband) I traveled quite a lot and English was always there to help us find a place to stay, to eat or whenever we were lost and needed to find a certain place.
-In one of the state schools where I worked for three years, the main language was English. Almost everything they would learn was in this language. My students were 3, 4, and 5 years old. I taught them Literacy, Numeracy, Arts, Physical Education... everything in English. The fact of seeing the progress of my students' command on English was the trigger to decide that I would want to talk in English to my future children. I could see how a language learned since we are kids and in an intensive way, made the process very natural.
-As a result of the knowledge that I got on teaching children how to read and write in English, I started teaching other teachers methodologies and resources to teach this language. Professionally, this has been what I have enjoyed the most so far.
-To this development of my knowledge and love for the English language, I should add that I also learnt Spanish because it is my mother tongue and due to some changes of residence around Spain and abroad since I was a child, I learnt Valencian and French. Both of them attending to school and university. Knowing different languages and the fact that I like all of them very much has been a headache. I knew that I wanted to raise my children bilingually: Bilingual? Yes. But in which languages? I will write soon a post to talk about how I came up to the decision of doing it in English and Spanish and not in Valencian or French.

What conclusions do I draw from my multilingual experience? Without any doubt: The learning of languages has to be linked to entertainment, fun, games and the usefulness of this knowledge.

I want for my son something similar. Not repeating my life, as this wouldn't have any sense and it would be unfair for my son. He has to have and develop his own interests. But in the linguistic field, initially, I want to give him the knowledge to speak English since he is young through immersion. In the future, it will be our daily routines, our environment, and the different experiences that we will have which will lead my son to speak other languages or to have certain passions or abilities. I think that the knowledge of English is so important that I don't want to leave in the hands of the future (the future school, the future place where we may live, if he is a good student or not...) the command of English that he will have. Today I can do something to help him learn it and use it. Besides, I fancy doing it. I am enjoying the process and so does he because we play, sing, and have fun as any mum and child would do. The future holds many things, some of them will happen whether we like it or not, we can't do anything to avoid or change them. But there are others that we can create from scratch or give them a new approach. My son speaking English in a natural way without being native is one of them. My way of doing it? Talking to him all the time in English since he was two months old.

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