Monday, May 09, 2011

Bilingual education

I'm hoping to take a class next fall on bilingual education - it's one of the electives that will count toward my degree. Perhaps something I learn in that class will shed more light on the fun stuff going on with Miriam's writing skills lately. Check it out:

Every once in a while, something like this happens - Miriam writes in English but from right to left. I think this kind of thing happens with a lot of kids.

But then there's this:
In the upper left corner of this lovely drawing, Miriam has written her name in Arabic. But she's written it from left to right. It should look like this: مريم.

I'm pretty sure this is par for the course when a five-year-old is learning how to read and write in two different languages at once - two languages that go in different directions, no less.

Honestly, I'm thrilled to see her writing enough to be making mistakes like this. I taught her how to read (in English) over the spring and summer of 2010. She did great. She begged for reading lessons every day, and sometimes wanted more than one a day.

Right around the time we moved here, though, something happened. She stopped reading. She refused reading lessons. I'd try to teach her, to pick up where we left off or even move back a few lessons, but she wailed and wailed, "I caaaaaaan't!" and there were many tears involved from both of us. It wasn't until about two months ago that we caught up to her August 2010 level of ability. It was frustrating and puzzling, and I am so glad she's got her groove back, for whatever reason. Because I love finding notes like this:

posted around the house.

And now she's got a little Arabic under her belt, too (they teach it at her school), so I suppose it's not so unusual that her English skills regressed when we moved here. For now, I'll take backwards Arabic - or backwards English - any day.


Matthew said...

My kids responded to language transition shocks in very similar ways.

As a side-point, I rather enjoyed overhearing them chattering with each other about which *kind* of Arabic they prefer.

Kathy Haynie said...

I went through several months of language (reading) regression when my parents moved our family while I was in the middle of first grade. It was a traumatic move for me, and I truly couldn't read for a while, though my dad thought I was just being stubborn. It was scary for me.

This was very interesting to read about Miriam's language development. Looking forward to updates!

Lisa Lou said...

I loved learning Arabic in 1st grade. I can't remember if it did anything to my English, but I don't think I was immersed enough to make a huge impact. The only things I remember are numbers 1-10 and how to spell my name.

Bridget said...

Matthew, I'm glad to hear Miriam's not the only one whose skills in one language took a hit once school started.

Kathy, how interesting that you can remember that so well! Obviously your writing skills have caught up just fine.

Lisa Lou, you learned Arabic in 1st grade?? Where was this?

Eevi said...

Saku uses his two languages in one sentence all the time. i.e "Shoes pois(off)". When he learns words in both languages, he seems to pick whichever is easier to pronounce. He does mainly speak in Finnish while he understands Finnish perfectly. Now that we are spending five weeks in Finland, I'm sure his Finnish vocabulary will increase exponentially. Though he mostly sings in English because of nursery. I would love to learn more about teaching kids multiple languages at a young age.

It is impressive that she is learning arabic, especially when she is old enough that her language had developed well before you moved there.

Tia said...

How did you teach Miriam? Because I have tried with Abigail and I have no patience. I tried teaching her the word stop in lowercase letters since she can read it in uppercase letters and she just didn't get it. Thankfully her speech therapist has been teaching her to read. I want her to continue to learn during the summer.

Bridget said...

Tia, I used this book. I heard about it from Emily R. I really liked it and until we hit the brick wall, Miriam liked it too!

Eevi, bilingual babies are so cute! I love watching them learn. I bet Saku will be a Finnish pro by the time you leave.

Tia said...

Thanks Bridget.

Ariana said...

We love ... there are fun lessons and games there for reading. (English. Can't help you with the other stuff lol)

Loradona said...

The cool thing about kids who learn two languages from infancy is that there is a period where they combine the languages. It's interesting because they don't yet understand that they're two discrete languages and expect others to understand the entire vocabulary. It can be distressing to parents, who may think that their child is learning incorrectly, but that isn't the case. Rather, it's one step towards figuring out that some words go with one language, and others go with a different one. It's fascinating and so amazing how our brains work!


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