At TEDxDubai, longtime English teacher Patricia Ryan asks a provocative question: Is the world’s focus on English preventing the spread of great ideas in other languages? (For instance: what if Einstein had to pass the TOEFL?) It’s a passionate defense of translating and sharing ideas.

It’s an interesting idea, I’m bi-lingual, and yes, sometimes my thinking is in Chinese, and sometimes in English, depending on what subject and whether I learnt that particular idea in what language, for example, all my maths counting is in Chinese, and interestingly, my fractions are in English, as it’s easier for me to comprehend.

I realised how hard a job could be trying to reinforce my home language in a western country, as I lack a Chinese community for my children to learn the language, and all their friends talks in English. I was naive to think that if I started talking my home language since my children’s birth, they’d have picked it up, but it was wrong. As they have more access to English, in school, TV…etc, they eventually drop the home language and use Englis as the main language. My husband and I discussed methods of keeping our home languages, one method was ‘one parent, one language’, we endeavoured to do it, however, both of us are not very good translators, sometimes when our children spoke to us in English, it’s just easier to reply in English, by the time I thought of the Chinese, they were gone.

Technology helps promote home language, especially if you have ipads (or ipod, iphone, smartphones), the following is a screenshot of an app where you can add your own vocabulary and make it as a game for multi-language learning. We could get parents or people from the community to record the correct pronunciation of the word.

Encourage the home language and helping children transition from home to the education setting could be as simple as learning a list of frequently used words, such as:

  • Greetings (good morning, hi, bye)
  • Manners (please, thank you, have a nice day)
  • Instructions (stop, stand up, sit down, share…)
  • Facts (colours, numbers)
  • Praise (well done, very good…etc)

For the bi-lingual or multi-lingual child, I found it quicker for them to comprehend by keeping the language simple, and use two languages to reinforce meanings.  For example, use ‘raining, come in’ instead of ‘It’s raining outside, come on in.’ or pointing to a red cup, ‘whero, red.’

A method suggested in the Advocacy Kit for Promoting Multilingual Education – Including the Excluded from UNESCO is to speak the home language first, once the child is confident and fluent in the first language, then add on the second.  It could be hard due to resources (employing another teacher who speaks the language), but as mentioned above, using technology and learning the basic of the language helps.

Useful Resources

Modern language Teacher – Association of Victoria
Chinese exercises – Oxford Press
小一工作紙
Kauyan School homework worksheet

Created with Inspirably.com

Here’s a list of apps that aid teaching in an early childhood or primary classroom:


The Museum of Modern Art Abstract Expressionist New York help children learn about the works of famous artists.


An easy and popular tool to compile learning stories.


This app gives the opportunities for children to hear a fluent reader read a story or you can record yourself as you read the story. Teachers can also record conversations around each page (children’s voice).


Teachers can save children’s birthday and have their ages handy when writing learning stories, it can also be a birthday reminder.


Drawing tool for ipad from age 1.


Best app for making video on the go with your iphone or ipad, a tool for digital story-telling.

Storybird
Storybird is a service that uses collaborative storytelling to connect kids and families. Two (or more) people author a Storybird—one with words, one with pictures—and then share it with their network. The final product can be printed, watched on screen, played with like a toy, or shared through a worldwide library.

Read Write Think’s Stapless Book
The Stapleless Book is designed to allow users to create with ease an eight-page book simply by folding and cutting. No tape or staples are required. Students and teachers alike can use the Stapleless Book for taking notes while reading, making picture books, collecting facts, or creating vocabulary booklets. Students can choose from seven different layouts for the pages of their books.

Creating Word Clouds:
Wordle
Tagxedo – Shaped word clouds

kerpoof – Creating art and movies or text with animation

WorldMapper – Interactive Maps

Odosketch – Sketching Tools

PhotoPeach – online slides show

Activity Idea:
1. Using photographs
– Ask children to take a photo of a thing/theme (e.g. daisy, buildings), let children show what photos they have taken and what they see.
– People see things in different ways. Perspectives and opinions are linked.
– Next, show a photograph and ask children what they see and think (topic could include: family images, self-portraits, images representing culture or other moral values)

Read ‘I can name 50 trees today’ by Bonnie Worth and some suggestions for activities after reading:

– Go to Botanical Garden identify different trees based on observation of the bark, trunk, leaf shapes.

– In your own garden, ask children to collect leaves of different shapes

– plant a tree activity, Auckland council website