Several developers in our network make apps that focus on learning new languages. Our guest post this week highlights strategies from two families that cover storytelling as an important component of bilingual education in the home. The first portion is written by Franck Koestel at Early Languages (Princesses Learn Chinese), and the second is written by Survi Gopal at Niyaa (Monkey and the Crocodile).
Four Pillars of Storytelling
Written by Franck Koestel | Early Languages
Reading and telling many stories, usually several stories a day, is the common element to parents who raise their children with a second language. Not only it is the common element, it is the #1 on the priority list.
Parents that raise their kids with a second language are “story addicts”. They find every possible opportunity to tell or listen to stories with their children. Here are the 4 pillars of how parents expose their children to stories:
1. Creating a story routine
Stories are an excellent way to get the attention of children, especially when the story is a familiar one. Children love their routines. Creating a story-telling routine in a second language makes kids look forward to a story on a regular basis.
- “Reading the same story, night after night. My son does not want to listen to another story. He knows the story in Russian by heart. I think I read it over 50 times.”
- “Coming home after work, I read a 5-minute story on the couch”
- “During breakfast on weekends I read 2 or 3 stories, usually a fairy tale or hero story. Not sure if it gives them the best manners at the table, but it helps them listen to French.”
2. Making children actors in the story
- Creating stories where children are the heroes makes them engaged and helps them practice the second language.
- “At bedtime, we make up a story where our children are the heroes. It gets them very engaged, as they want to hear what will happen.”
- “I like playing with puppets: creating a 1 minute story that I tell, then having my daughter act out also a 1 minute story.”
3. Everywhere story-telling
Talking, having frequent conversations, finding opportunities everywhere to tell stories or listen to them is used by parents to expose the children as much as possible to the second language.
- “Going to the park, and telling a story about what we see there, in Hindi.”
- “While driving, I put on children stories on CDs in Spanish.”
4. Using technology as a story telling complement
Technology will never replace what parents or teachers do directly with the children to learn a second language. However, it can help reinforce what parents or educators do.
- “Having grandma read a story via skype, showing the pictures of the book to the camera.”
- “Listen to podcasts on the internet (ex: Cody’s Cuentos). Every week is another story in Spanish, we listen to it together.”
- “Screen time on week-ends: we listen to French stories on the iPad for 15 min.”
If you have your own habit of telling or listening to stories with your child in a second language, I would love to hear about it. –Franck
Raising Bilingual Kids, A Mom’s Journey
Written by Survi Gopal | Niyaa
As a mom of two little daughters Niya 9 months and Anika 3 years old, I am passionate about teaching them new languages. As a native Hindi speaker and a husband who speaks in Gujarati (another Indian language) we wanted our kids to be able to join us in the conversation at the dinner table. We started speaking to them in both languages since they were born. Our preschooler today is fluent in both these languages and speaks some English too as she just started preschool. I would like to share with you some of my challenges and experiences as I embarked on this journey of bilingual learning with my kids.
We started speaking to them in their infancy and continued speaking to them, even when at times it seemed that they did not understand us completely.They listen and it’s amazing how they can even pick up more than one language, at the same time, with such ease.
Reading to them regularly is a great way to expose them to myriad languages out there. Stories seem to work wonders with kids when it comes to languages and vocabulary. When Anika turned 2 our bedtime ritual included 3 books. She would pick her favorites, Cinderella would be one, and the other is Monkey And The Crocodile. This one is part of the popular Panchatantra series – classic folk tales from India. All of her book choices would be written in English, but I would make it a point to read to her in Hindi. She loved the animals in the book and her eyes would light up every time we read about them. We continued this ritual.
Later Niya was born and I left my job at BabyCenter to spend more time with the kids. I decided to bring Anika’s favorite book to life as a bilingual storybook app on the iPhone and iPad. Monkey And The Crocodile – by Niyaa – A Panchatantra Classic app is available in both English and Hindi narration and is shared with kids in 43 different countries across the globe.
Another important factor is to be consistent. If you speak to your child in English and your husband speaks to her in German try and stick to that. I noticed that if I spoke to her in a different language she would give me a confused look. She expected mom to speak to her in a given language and dad in another. No interchange allowed.
What’s in it for you and your kids?
- Research has shown that exposing kids to more than one language can have a positive effect on their cognitive skills.
- It also seems to help with their reading abilities
- As the world gets smaller what a great way to expose your kids to all the different cultures out there.
- Bonds between generations grow stronger. Kids can now speak to their grandparents in their own languages!
We hope that our story and our app will inspire you to join us in our bilingual journey. Our other storybook app is Little Blue Jackal. Please connect with us on our Facebook page Niyaa and let us know if you would like to see Monkey And The Crocodile in your favorite language. Thanks for reading our story!