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Thread poster: Chris Lovelace
How should I teach my child to read in multiple languages?

Chris Lovelace  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 21:15
Russian to English
+ ...
Aug 28, 2012

Greetings, Colleagues!

We would like to begin teaching our three-year-old daughter to read the three languages we speak in her environment.

My question is, how should we go about this? Should we focus on one language at a time, or do all three at once?

HERE'S SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Our daughter is 3 and a half. She speaks English with mom, Russian with dad, and Spanish in the community.

She already knows the alphabet very well in English and Russian (ie, she can identify letters and their sounds at random in both languages). Our daughter can distinguish the alphabets well most of the time, generally depending on whether she's speaking to me (dad) or her mom.

We both read to her in all three languages regularly, and she enjoys looking at all her books.

We are working on getting videos like "My Baby Can Read" in English, Spanish, and Russian.

My questions are:

1.) Should we work on teaching her to read in all the languages at once, or one at a time?

2.) What success or problems have you found with using videos that teach reading, versus more traditional methods?

3.) What other advice would you give on teaching a multilingual child to read?

4.) What resources do you suggest we use?


Thanks in advance for any assistance.

Sincerely,

Chris


PS - I would also like to teach her Hebrew and Greek eventually, since these languages are important to us liturgically, and I read texts in these languages daily. Any advice or resources on that front would also be welcome.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 08:15
Chinese to English
All three at once Aug 29, 2012

Definitely don't wait. If you teach one language before the others, the later reading languages will be "taught" rather than "acquired" in the same organic way.

I didn't really consciously teach our oldest to read. While reading his story books, he would learn them off by heart through repetition, then I would pause in the story to let him fill in words, then he would point to the words on the page as he said them. From there it just seemed to come naturally to him.

I didn't do any phonics at all with Mikey, and I slightly regret it because now (age 5) he has trouble sounding new words out. But he watched a BBC show called "Alphablocks" (available on torrent if you're into that sort of thing) obsessively a couple of months ago, and that pretty much taught him phonics.

With Chinese , there's no alphabet, so no phonics. Just lots of reading and writing - don't forget that production and understanding are very linked, so don't be shy about getting them to write.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 02:15
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Read everything, everywhere! Aug 29, 2012

Our son gleefully read signs like 'in' and 'out' over the doors of the supermarket, spelt his way through yoghurt and milk at the breakfast table, and if course ICE CREAM wherever that was sold. (It only has two letters in Danish ) He could read the destinations on buses at a very early age too.

We did not worry about which language - we had lots of things he could read in both, but living in Denmark, English was more written than spoken a lot of the time. We only had one alphabet, though.

We read books at two levels: the excellent Ladybird books 30 years ago, and simple reading books, but also story books where the emphasis was on the story, not on learning to read, because it was too complicated for his reading stage.

A two-year-old nephew (monolingual, but he is the young generation at present) is already recognising products on car journeys - milk and bread for instance - by the names written on them, so he will be 'reading' the words wherever he sees them before long.
______________

Even further back, I grew up with at least two alphabets, and eagerly tried to learn the Marathi letters. I picked up some, but was not actively helped. Later on, I deeply regretted not learning it properly.

Children are very receptive from about two onwards, especially if they see grownups reading and obviously enjoying it, so just plunge in and keep going. Stop each session when your daughter has had enough, but come back later.

Our son worked out the phonics for himself at around four - although we did 'sound-and-say' words for him sometimes. However, Danish is nearly as unreliable as English when it comes to associating letters with sounds! Spanish might be more consistent, and I don't know about Russian of course.

Enjoy it - it's a lovely phase in a child's life!


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:15
Member (2011)
Hebrew to English
Liturgical languages Aug 29, 2012


Chris Lovelace wrote:
PS - I would also like to teach her Hebrew and Greek eventually, since these languages are important to us liturgically, and I read texts in these languages daily. Any advice or resources on that front would also be welcome.


I presume we're talking about Biblical Hebrew and Ancient Greek?, if they're for liturgical purposes....in which case I think you might find resources for young children a bit thin on the ground.


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Chris Lovelace  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 21:15
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Surprisingly, there ARE resources for teaching kids biblical langauges Aug 29, 2012


Ty Kendall wrote:


Chris Lovelace wrote:
PS - I would also like to teach her Hebrew and Greek eventually, since these languages are important to us liturgically, and I read texts in these languages daily. Any advice or resources on that front would also be welcome.


I presume we're talking about Biblical Hebrew and Ancient Greek?, if they're for liturgical purposes....in which case I think you might find resources for young children a bit thin on the ground.



Yes, you'd certainly think that resources for teaching children biblical Hebrew and Greek would be "thin on the ground," as you say. However, there are a surprising number of resources out there.

At least, I have found a lot of children's books in Hebrew and Classical Latin.
The Latin ones are fun. There's "Winnie the Pooh" ("Winnie ille Pu"), "The Cat in the Hat," "Harry Potter," you name it. And Latin seems to be well-represented for teaching kids of all ages to read it.

Biblical Hebrew is pretty well represented, also. For READING purposes, the vocalization points used in the Hebrew Scriptures are the same as what Modern Hebrew uses to teach reading.
So, if I can get my daughter to read "The Cat in the Hat" in Hebrew (which has the same vowel points that Biblical Hebrew uses), then she can also decipher the phonetics of Biblical Hebrew.

The GRAMMAR of Modern Hebrew differs from the Biblical version, but I don't think that makes a difference in the phonetics at this stage.

And of course, the pronunciation of Modern Hebrew is different from the way it would have been spoken in 1000 BC. However, the readings I have heard in synagogues and such follow Modern Hebrew phonetics.

However, I think there is value to reading the ancient texts with modern pronunciation, since this makes it that much easier to engage with the modern expressions of the language.

The same is true of Biblical Greek: For reading purposes, a lot of scholars use the phonetic values of Modern Greek. Vocabulary and grammar are different, but the distance between Modern Greek and Biblical [Koine] Greek is much less than it is between, for instance, Modern and Anglo-Saxon English. Case in point: It's not at all difficult to read Modern Greek texts if one has a command of Biblical Greek and keeps a few grammatical differences in mind (eg, the use of dative differs significantly between the two).


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Chris Lovelace  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 21:15
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Alphablocks Aug 29, 2012

Hi, Phil. Good to talk to you again. Your help with my last post (a year ago?) was quite useful.



Phil Hand wrote:

Definitely don't wait. If you teach one language before the others, the later reading languages will be "taught" rather than "acquired" in the same organic way.




That makes a lot of sense. Thanks. I think we'll proceed that way, then.




Phil Hand wrote:
I didn't do any phonics at all with Mikey, and I slightly regret it because now (age 5) he has trouble sounding new words out. But he watched a BBC show called "Alphablocks" (available on torrent if you're into that sort of thing) obsessively a couple of months ago, and that pretty much taught him phonics.



I found "Alpablocks" online. We'll check it out



Phil Hand wrote:
[D]on't forget that production and understanding are very linked, so don't be shy about getting them to write.



I had forgotten about the writing/productive aspect of reading at this stage, since we were focused so much on recognition. Thanks for the reminder.


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kaytrad
France
French to English
Take it easy! Aug 29, 2012

Hi Chris,

We have a similar setup at home. English with me, French in the community, Persian with Dad.
Persian slipped by the wayside because their father didn't spend enough time with them in the formative years.

I taught both my children to read and write in English as from age five. They both learned the alphabet, their names and other little bits as described by Phil before that.

I didn't bother teaching them in French, I considered that it was the school's job. Although I did obviously help them as needed for their homework.

I decided to teach them "properly" using the Ladybird Read with me books when they were five because formal learning started at the age of six in France. I wanted a head start in English, since the community language is very much the one which prevails. I reasoned that since kids in England start formal learning at five there was no reason why mine couldn't.

Another reason was because of the logic of French compared to the chaos of English. French spelling is very logical (when you see a word you know how to pronounce it, even if you can't necessarily spell a word you hear). I taught English to quite a few children and they always had great English pronunciation until they saw how the words were written, then they inescapably applied French pronunciation rules. Given the total chaos of English pronunciation (especially the most common words, i.e. those you have to learn in the beginning) it was very hard to get my pupils to accept English pronunciation. Spanish could well interfere with in English in a similar way given the logic of its spelling and pronunciation (I don't know any Russian).

There's just one point that strikes me reading your post. At three, your daughter is still very young and while she may be amenable to a gentle introduction to reading, especially having parents who she sees reading, writing will probably be difficult to master. She only learnt to grab objects a short while ago, and writing requires a good deal of precision.

In my experience the best results are obtained when the parent takes their cue from their child. I only taught my son the alphabet (at the age of three, as it happens) because he showed an interest in the shapes obtained using a set of stencils. I didn't actually intend to use the alphabet stencil, but he insisted on me showing him what the letters were. He then learnt to identify the entire alphabet within a couple of days and delighted in pointing out the first letter of his name any time he saw it in the name of a shop or whatever.
The stencils were also an easy way for him to produce the letters (he needed help holding them still though)

My daughter adopted a more osmotic way of learning, asking me to point the words out as I read stories to her. (I learned to read this way too, and my father was upset when I announced at the age of five that I didn't need him to read me stories any more)


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 08:15
Chinese to English
I did typing with mine Aug 30, 2012


kaytrad wrote:

There's just one point that strikes me reading your post. At three, your daughter is still very young and while she may be amenable to a gentle introduction to reading, especially having parents who she sees reading, writing will probably be difficult to master. She only learnt to grab objects a short while ago, and writing requires a good deal of precision.



That's absolutely right. I wrote my post a bit too quickly - writing with a pen is really hard, but I did typing with Mikey from age 3 onwards. If you do it regularly, they can get quite competent. Around the time of his 4th birthday, he typed out 90% of "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly", with some help from me, finding pictures on Google to illustrate each verse. Then we printed it out and stuck it on his wall.

Plus you can play spelling games, do wordsearches, that kind of thing to reinforce spelling.


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How should I teach my child to read in multiple languages?






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