Speaking in Tongues documentary on public television

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“Speaking in Tongues” is a documentary about raising multilingual children. I just saw it on public television in the US and it’s excellent. It shows the controversy over bilingual education and how and why families raise kids with various languages. Here’s information about the movie from the Speaking in Tongues website: “At a time when 31 states have passed “English Only” laws, four pioneering families put their children in public schools where, from the first day of kindergarten, their teachers speak mostly Chinese or Spanish. Speaking in Tongues follows four diverse kids on a journey to become bilingual. This charming story will challenge you to rethink the skills that Americans need in the 21st century.” It is airing on the Public Broadcasting System in the US and is being shown in screenings in Northern California. You can see the documentary trailer on the website: http://speakingintonguesfilm.info. You can purchase the DVD at: http://speakingintonguesfilm.info/buy-a-dvd/. Educators can find additional materials at: http://speakingintonguesfilm.info/for-educators/.

Listening: the key element to foreign language learning

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I am so glad to find another person, Corey Heller of Multilingual Living, who is loudly telling language learners and teachers that listening is the main element to foreign language learning. If more people listened to their target language and immersed themselves in it, they’d be more apt to learn it well. Read The #1 Language Ingredient For Raising Multilingual Children for more info on why listening is so key to foreign language mastery.

Foreign Language Courses, Brushing Up or Immersion

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From the New York Times, foreign language classes are in demand. People are looking for inexpensive ways to learn or brush up on languages while on-the-go. I had to laugh at the end when the journalist mentions that peole might want to learn Russian to read Dostoevsky. The Dostoevsky-draw has always been one of my theories about why people learn Russian. Foreign Language Courses, Brushing Up or Immersion

Speaking in tongues: cutting primary school foreign language education in New Zealand

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Ay, yay, yay! New Zealand is cutting foreign language education at the primary level and focuisn on secondary schools. But the kids will do much better and get better accents if they start in primary school! One of the arguments is that primary school teachers don’t have the proper background to teach languages to kids. How about using technology in the classroom and giving kids music and media in their target language in primary school to at least get them used to the foreign tongue? Here’s the full story from The Aucklander: Speaking in Tongues by Joanna Davies,

Even the Ivy League cheats students on foreign language education

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A super expensive Ivy League education at Harvard may still deprive students of the knowledge they need to get ahead in this world. According to the article, Colleges come up short on what students need to know to know in the Washington Post, even colleges such as Harvard don’t do as well as public universities in making students study foreign languages. If Harvard, our most internationally renown university, doesn’t recognize the value of foreign languages, how will we get the rest of the country to wake up and realize that whether they like it or not: multilingualism is a must. Period. If Harvard isn’t going to teach you a foreign tongue, figure out how to do it yourself. My suggestion: start with music!

Foreign language education: keeping us from being stupid

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I agree with Michael Hofmann, author, poet and translator who wrote in the British newspaper, The Guardian, about the importance of foreign language education. I am glad the US is not following the UK and New Zealand and strategically cutting back on foreign language education because of a belief that it’s not valid. We may be axing foreign language programs because of lack of budget. The inward nature of Anglo countries in thinking that everyone should learn English and we shoul;dn’t bother learning foreign languages is disgusting. We need to learn other languages, and be multilingual to thrive in a global economy. It’s not about a cultural superiority argument, it’s precisely, as Hoffman writes, a need so that we can understand and communicate with people in other countries. To speak another language isn’t just cultured, it’s a blow against stupidity: A leading translator argues that if we rely solely on English we’ll lose the curiosity that drove Milton and Orwell

Links between languages and music

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I just got Aniruddh Patel‘s book, Music, Language, and the Brain because I am keenly interested in learning more about the relationship between music, language and our complex neurological system. Patel is a neuroscientist and musician who was quoted on National Public Radio today about his research about the possibility that language evolved from music. Quoting the NPR piece: “Even Charles Darwin “talked about our ancestors singing love songs to each other before we could speak articulate language,” Patel says. And musical ability is similar to language in that you can see aspects of it in other species. Some monkeys can recognize dissonant tones, songbirds use complicated patterns of pitch and rhythm, and a few parrots can even dance to a beat.” Although I am not a neuroscientist, I truly see the link between language and music as it relates for language learning, especially foreign language education. The seven minute piece is a good introduction into the topic of language, music and the mind. Signing, Singing, Speaking: How Language Evolved by JON HAMILTON

Learning languages on a budget and on the Web

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Not having a language teacher nearby is not excuse for not learning a language. Finding a language tutor or language exchange partner online can be even cheaper than taking a formal class. Let’s say you live in Omaha, Nebraska and you want to learn Spanish. You can pay a Spanish teacher in Mexico via PayPal or another Internet payment system $5/hour, while a tutor in the US may cost you $20-40/hour. Here’s an article from the New York Times with more information: Learning a Language From an Expert, on the Web

Kobe Bryant helps kids learn Chinese

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American born Kobe Bryant grew up in Italy while his dad was playing for an Italian basketball team. Now this polyglot basketball star is funding Chinese classes for children in Los Angeles through his Kobe Bryant Family Foundation. This is the first time I can think of when a prominent sports figure is supporting foreign language education. Grazie! Sie-sie! (“Thank you” in Italian and Chinese.) The Confucius Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles and Kobe Bryant are helping children learn Mandarin Chinese and Wushu, a martial arts discipline. Mixing foreign language learning with a physical activity that will both keep the kids awake and get them interested in Chinese culture is a great idea. Learning a foreign language is about much more than memorizing Chinese characters and trying to learn the four tones of the language, it’s about engaging the mind, body and spirit in the activity. Learn more in this article by the Xinhua News Service: Confucius Institutes open new doors for youngsters

Why culture and language matter

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My friend Eric Blaisdell painted these drawings when he was teaching English in Japan to show important it is to learn cultural norms when in a foreign country. In the case of the clueless Australian visitor to a Japanese home, the Japanese hosts are shocked that the Westerner did not take off his shoes when entering. It’s not just language that matters, cultural cues are paramount. http://www.ericblaisdell.com/portfolio.html