Native Language @ ISB

21 beneficios de leer en voz alta

March 12, 2019 · No Comments

21 benefits of reading aloud. Without looking at the image below, how many can you name? 

Many of us know, but forget, how valuable it is to read aloud daily to children—even teens. A 21-day challenge this month aims to help families remember. To take part, visit the Read Aloud 21-Day Challenge.

And . . . 

 21 Benefits of Reading Aloud (en español)

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Ask Olga! Early Literacy in Three Languages

February 28, 2019 · 1 Comment

A moment of precious time with our grandchildren: pencils and paper, puzzles and activity books, scissors and glue are scattered about the table. Michelle draws an object of her imagination: a special vacuum cleaner. She draws arrows and labels different parts of the device. Then she gives her drawing a title. She admires her work—the writing is a mix of Cyrillic and Latin scripts. She sometimes finds it easier to write words in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, with its near-perfect letter-sound correspondence.

Drawing labeled in both Cyrillic and Latin scripts.

Michelle is taking her first steps toward literacy. We tried hard to prepare her for these moments. She has been read to extensively, and she has been learning letters through various games and activities. She knows letters in three languages: Russian, French and English. She is beginning to read simple books in English at school and to write phonetically.

We have anticipated this stage, and now it’s exciting to watch how engaged and focused she is.

Along with excitement come worries.

Languages are written in different ways, sometimes with no similarities at all, and sometimes with similarities that confuse. Children must figure out how letters and signs of different scripts work together to form words and sentences in each language.

Should we encourage Michelle to read and write in all three languages at the same time? Should we wait and let her develop skills in the language of her educational setting, which is English, before attempting to introduce literacy skills in French and Russian?

Many parents have to answer these questions and address these worries. Research on this matter is not prescriptive; it does not supply a clear recommendation or a timeline for learning multiple literacies. What it does say, is that learning to read and write in one language will make it easier to learn to read and write in another, as many reading and writing skills are universal. Research also cautions against disregard for the child’s interest and motivation. Frustration in learning to read and write, which some children experience, might signal some general difficulties in learning, rather than the effect of multilingualism.

On the positive side, the simultaneous approach has great potential for broadening the learner’s perspective on literacy, making comparisons, analyzing more deeply the structural elements of each language, and understanding the purposes and cultural aspects of reading and writing.

Indeed, literacy in several languages can be the key to vast linguistic and cultural resources and the foundation of globally-minded learning. It gives access to diverse knowledge and worldviews.

Two months after labeling her vacuum cleaner, Michelle reads a book in English that she has brought home from school. She is “sounding out” letters and reading simple words on a page. Then she has an idea. “Mama, I will now read this book in Russian,” she says. “I will read the words quietly in my head, in English, and then say them in Russian.” And she does. 

Another day, Michelle creates a text, a recipe for her panda’s favorite soup. She announces the purpose of her writing clearly, in Russian, and then begins to write in English, saying the words slowly but recording with amazing fluency. 

Soup for a panda. Ingredients: two eggs, two bowls of flour, five sticks of bamboo, and one pot of milk and water.

And so, Michelle’s English literacy gains ground. We wait for an opportunity to infuse Russian and French. We know we need to proceed in ways appropriate for a five-year-old.  “The most common mistake people make is to ask for too much too soon.” I came upon this recommendation once for training cats—but somehow it fits perfectly within any learning context! So we are patient, and we take small steps. The same source notes, “If a behavior results in something the [learner] likes, she will do it again.”

As grandparents, we are now planning for our next visit with Michelle and her brother Maxim. Here are a few thoughts on our next steps to support their engagement with literacy.

  • Be ready with a few vocabulary games and activities. Reading can be a source of frustration when a text has too many unknown words.
  • Create short, engaging stories together, modelling writing.
  • Start a daily journal with the children.
  • Write cards and letters to family and friends.
  • Maintain a supply of books in their languages—books with simple text for independent reading, and books with more complex language for reading aloud to the children.
  • Collect stamps, postcards, labels and other objects with print in their languages.
  • Engage children in letter and word sorting games to differentiate different scripts—especially looking for letters that are “the same but different.”
  • Create name cards in multiple languages.
  • Have conversations about literacy.

Recommended reading:

Mother tongue: Why is it important for education?

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Happy International Mother Language Day 2019!

February 21, 2019 · No Comments

“We need to take care of our languages just like we take care of a garden.” With these words, librarian Nat Whitman showed a Grade 1 class several books authored in their native languages, and asked staff member Khun Jeab to read a book aloud in Thai. Down the hall, teachers, parents, and students wrote “good luck” phrases in their languages—from Slovak (above) to Portuguese and Tagalog (below)—on a large chalkboard. These were just two observances of International Mother (Native) Language Day 2019 at ISB.

International Mother Language Day is a day to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The UN reports that at least 43 percent of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Every two weeks a language disappears, taking with it a way of knowing.

To affirm the importance of native languages, ISB hosted a Raising Multilinguals followup workshop for parents in all divisions, in which participants (some shown below) discussed ways to offer children language-rich experiences.

ISB staff also affirmed languages with a display in the MS/HS Library, images in the High School student bulletin, and a Facebook post showcasing several Native Language classes. We applaud them!

Happy International Mother (Native) Language Day!

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Raising Multilinguals “How?” A Followup Workshop

February 5, 2019 · No Comments

How can parents nurture native language besides speaking it with their children and enrolling them in classes? Find out by joining us on February 21 for a new workshop: Raising Multilinguals How? Unlocking the World Through Language-Rich Experiences.

In this workshop, a followup to Raising Multilinguals, we will explore how families can promote literacy (reading and writing) and rich conversation, in support of the family language plan.

Parents of students in PreK through Grade 12 are welcome. The workshop will be held in the MS/HS Library’s Literary Lounge. February 21 is also International Mother (Native) Language Day, so mark your calendar and join us to celebrate! If you have questions, please write:

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Raising Multilinguals, an Annual Parent Workshop

January 23, 2019 · No Comments

Please join us on Thursday, January 24,  2019, from 7:45-9:15 a.m. in MPB 1 at the top of the Zigag, for a parent workshop called Raising Multilinguals: Unlocking the World with a Family Language Plan. Open to parents in all divisions (ES, MS, and HS), this annual workshop focuses on maintaining students’ native languages while they also study in English at ISB. It is especially useful to new families. More details are here.

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Meet ISB’s After-School Native Language Teachers, Semester 2, 2018-2019

January 17, 2019 · 1 Comment

Semester 2 is underway, and families are registering for activities including language classes. So who provides these classes? To find out, see this new page on the Native Language @ ISB Blog, which introduces our after-school educators.

Their bios include their top tips for maintaining native languages while at ISB!


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HS Hispanic Club Offers Carnaval for ES, Grade 6 Spanish Speakers

January 8, 2019 · No Comments

Feliz año nuevo! This Saturday, January 12, ISB’s HS Hispanic Club will offer a special event for Spanish-speaking students in grades PreK-6.

Grade 11 club leader Josephine writes, “We will have a scavenger hunt, a piñata and many more games, as well as a merienda while watching a movie.” The club hopes to “organize activities to encourage collaboration.”

The free event will run from 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is themed Carnaval. Children can come in costume.

Interested families may sign up by contacting

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How Bilingualism Can Boost the Brain

December 10, 2018 · 1 Comment

Being bilingual or multilingual confers many benefits, from cultural connections to academic opportunities. In addition, research shows that it fortifies the brain, boosting grey-matter volume and white-matter integrity in areas affecting executive function: humans’ ability to control their behavior.

The cognitive benefits of bilingualism are still being studied, fuelling a debate to be featured in the Annual Review of Linguistics January 2019 issue (volume 5). Meanwhile, contributor Mark Antoniou, psycholinguist at the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, Western Sydney University, describes what IS known in this interview at Knowable Magazine. Worth a read!

Image: Results from a study measuring gray-matter volumes in bilingual or monolingual undergraduates, discussed by Mark Antoniou at Knowable Magazine, 29 November 2018.


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Danke schön and auf Wiedersehen to a Middle School German Teacher

December 3, 2018 · No Comments

Sabine Lingenfelder, teacher of ISB’s after-school MS German class, will teach her final session this week as she and her family prepare to move back to Germany. She has taught on ISB’s campus since September 2017.

Ms. Lingenfelder answered a few questions about her plans, her life, and her tips for maintaining German while at ISB:

Where have you grown up and spent your life?

I grew up in the middle part of Germany in a very small village—absolutely countryside, close to the former border between the two parts of Germany, but surrounded by fabulous nature (green hills, a small river, meadows, a lot of animals, etc.).

After my school career in 1992 I moved to Gießen  (still in the  middle of Germany but 100 km from my home) to study education, biology and chemistry at the Justus-Liebig-University. After my examination in 1998, I started my teaching career in the subjects biology and chemistry.

From 2001 I worked in a Gymnasium (an advanced or high-level school) with students from Grade 5 to 13 in Eltville, close to Wiesbaden, about 50 km away from Frankfurt. This school is located in—I’m not exaggerating—the nicest area you can find in Germany! We have a lot of vineyards and one of the major rivers of Germany, the Rhine River; my school was located in one of the towns along the Rhine. Some villages away, my husband and I built a cozy home for ourselves and our children 10 years ago! It’s a fantastic area to bring kids up.

What are your fields of specialty and your interests/hobbies?

I love to read: science magazines as well as historical literature and biographical books.

In recent years I have developed a deep interest in establishing a healthy lifestyle. As a biology teacher, I taught this content as part of our curriculum in Germany. But if you want to inform students authentically and correctly, you have to be well informed yourself. So, wherever I can find information, I try to soak it up and integrate it into my personal life (but that was and is the hardest part!).

I also like to paint and do handicrafts, especially Christmas/Easter/holiday card-making. And while I’ve been in Nichada, I have had time to move my body more than ever by running, sometimes biking and doing workouts.

What have you enjoyed about teaching German at ISB?

Teaching at ISB is far away from teaching at a German public school. Of course, I have been in a different situation after-school compared with those who teach during the day (I assume). But I have enjoyed being able to focus on working with the students, and not having all the formal responsibilities that one must usually fulfil. The students at ISB have been amazing. They have made it so easy to teach them, even more so since I was used to teaching a different subject. I have loved teaching in one room, where I could leave my stuff and didn’t move materials from class to class. That’s so convenient. And although I really liked my school in Germany—the students there and my colleagues—the atmosphere here is relaxed, the students have been alert and kind, and the same goes for every staff member at ISB that I have had contact with.

What are three tips for ISB families trying to maintain their children’s native language?

  • Continue speaking the native language at home, even when English is much easier for the kids.
  • Read books at a level that fits children’s language skills. It’s not easy, I know, because their intellectual level might be higher than their language level. To find books that do not use lots of sophisticated expressions, but still offer topics that kids enjoy at their age, can be quite complicated. But the reading can help a lot to maintain and increase their language level.
  • What I also did with our kids: watch German TV !

Deepest thanks to Ms. Lingenfelder for her work with ISB students. She will be succeeded in her role by Christine (Tina) Klempin from January 2019.

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Books Signed for ISB Students in Korean

November 27, 2018 · No Comments

A book signed 책과 함께 멋진 미래, “I wish you a wonderful future with this book,” for students at ISB.

On a recent storytelling trip to South Korea, ES Librarian Nat Whitman brought back several picture books signed in Korean by the authors. These books are now displayed in the ES Hub. They join a surprising number of signed titles in ISB’s Native Language collections, in both the ES and MS/HS libraries. It’s great to see authors send messages to ISB’s multilingual readers. 

An author encouraged ISB students by writing 오늘도 화이팅, “good luck” or “go for it!”

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