Native Language @ ISB

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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Ask Olga! What’s In an Accent?

October 31, 2018 · No Comments

“We be of one blood, ye and I,” said Mowgli, quickly giving the Snake’s Call.

“Down hoods all,” said half a dozen low voices.

—Excerpt from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

My family has had a great summer and fall. So full of children and chatter, stories and fun! My granddaughter Michelle has just turned five, and her little brother, Maxim, is three. He is joining in the linguistic adventures—she takes the leading role and he follows her lead, repeating everything she says. So far, brother and sister mostly converse with each other in Russian, one of their shared home languages. We laugh at the ways five- and three-year-old use, mix, modify and reorganize our adult phrases in their play.

Our ears also pick up that they speak Russian, one of their native languages, with an accent. They do not sound quite like their monolingual Russian-speaking peers.

So we begin to wonder if this is something we should ignore, or something we should address in order to “correct.” Is it something that will develop and adjust spontaneously? Does it even matter whether they speak differently?

We look for answers to these questions, dive into available research and parental experience, always looking back at our initial goals and visions, revisiting and re-evaluating our understandings, judgments, insights.

We know that accents, or ways people sound, are very much part of the linguistic landscape around the world.  Sounds of speech are like colors and tastes; they tap into our feelings and memories, our perceptions and stereotypes. They also signal social bonding and facilitate understanding. They are hard to ignore.

We all have our personal accents, or micro-accents, in our native languages, but we know that typically accents will be a clue to where people live and grew up, or what social group they have been around.

We often develop an accent in a second, or additional, language, when our speech exhibits phonological characteristics of our native tongue.

But my grandchildren’s accent fits a different linguistic profile: it appears to be the result of interplay between their two home languages, Russian and French, and their additional language, English.

Is it even worth worrying about the sounds of their speech? Especially because languages—and accents—are fluid. Accents along with languages evolve and change over time, and the perceptions of accents also evolve across social, cultural and generational groups. The ‘norms’ or ‘proper sounds’ in any language or group are not set in stone.

When we make a language plan for our children, we usually do not include “achieving a desirable accent that reflects our ‘current norm’ or our ‘group norm’ of pronunciation.” Accents seem to be very much part of the diverse linguistic landscape. 

On the other hand, accents can play a role in the way we are understood—in the intelligibility and the quality of our communication; in our ability to adjust, to fit in various social, cultural and linguistic contexts. In the excerpt from The Jungle Book above, being able to sound like a snake allows Mowgli to be trusted and accepted as part of the group. This brilliant fantasy has many insights into human behavior.

Research tells us that accents depend to a large extent on the amount and diversity of exposure to languages. The more time you spend with a particular group, the more you sound like its members. We know that our grandchildren, Michelle and Maxim, are restricted, compared to their monolingual peers, in the amount and variety of exposure they receive to each of their two home languages. Perhaps they will get even less exposure to Russian and French as they enter the UK educational system and spend most of each day with English-speaking teachers and peers. An almost sure way to acquire a “British” accent, whatever that means . . .

So, we can say, fine, we do not have to worry about their accent in their home languages, this is not important, this is a trait of multilingual speech; linguistic proficiency is not measured by an accent, there are more important aspects of language we will focus on. We can only do so much . . . But if we think of multilingualism as an asset, then perhaps we should seek ways to support all aspects of it and provide our children with opportunities to acquire accents that will allow them to function with confidence and flexibility in diverse settings. Just like chameleons change color in response to environmental changes, multilinguals should be able to change their accent in response to a specific social, educational or cultural environment.

To support phonological development of our multilinguals in their home languages we can focus on the sounds of speech through engaging children in various activities:

  • reading, memorizing and reciting poetry;
  • listening to and singing songs;
  • listening to audio books; and
  • reading books—and anything readable—out loud.

We can also:

  • look for and create opportunities for interacting with same-language peers;
  • widen the circle of home language friends so children can be exposed to diverse models;
  • expose children to cultural events, lectures, performances;
  • use home country visits to immerse children in cultural and educational events, family and social gatherings; and
  • look for resources to identify and become aware of differences in speech sounds of different languages, in order to work on articulation/pronunciation.

Finally, consult a multilingual professional if you notice any difficulties with speech production and/or clarity!

At the end of each encounter with our little trilinguals, I always have a feeling of “not enough done, what else could we do?” . . . regrets, successes, new ideas, plans for the future. But of course, no matter what our plans ahead of time are, actual interaction with the children always brings joy and surprises.

Retaining an Accent: Why Some People Retain an Accent in a Second Language

Multilingual Accents

On Bilingual and Monolingual Children and Accents

Columnist Olga Steklova is a retired EAL teacher at ISB and trilingual herself. She shares tips for raising multilingual children as she observes her own grandchildren. To read more columns, click on the Ask Olga! category below.

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Translanguaging: What and Why

October 11, 2018 · No Comments

On two recent Professional Days at ISB, groups of teachers have taken a session called Translanguaging: What and Why. There has been growing interest in translanguaging in ISB classes. So what is translanguaging?

This article for parents offers some answers. Simply put, translanguaging means using all of students’ languages in class when it helps their learning. Languages other than English need not be silenced, if other languages can support learning. 

Translanguaging does not mean chaotic classrooms, but rather designing instruction to involve students’ languages, which are part of their identity.  

It can also be a way to give multilinguals more practice with their languages for academic purposes. 

Keen to learn more? Here is the publicly available Preface (PDF) to the The Translanguaging Classroom, a book of interest at ISB. This is stocked by our Learning Design Center, which also offers books on multilingual parenting.

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Thai Books Available at ES Book Fair

October 4, 2018 · No Comments

Nothing encourages children to read quite like attractive books, readily available. Today and tomorrow, October 4-5, families have the opportunity to buy Thai-language children’s books as part of the Book Fair in the ES Learning Hub. Open from 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. today, and 7 a.m-2:30 p.m. tomorrow, the Nai-In stand (above) offers picture books through novels in Thai. Happy shopping!

 

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A CC Tour of the Netherlands

September 28, 2018 · No Comments

Room 407 of ISB’s Cultural Center is home to one of the native Dutch classes taught on campus after school. Teacher Saskia Leeuwangh worked with students to turn a wall of the room into a mini-tour of the Netherlands, which shows where she and students are from plus sites of significance.

The use of simple visuals (such as a labeled map) to support language, is a strategy that works in homes as well as at school. Can you think of an expression you learned just by reading a bulletin board or items stuck to a refrigerator?

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Posters for International Day of Peace 2018

September 21, 2018 · No Comments

 

Today, September 21, is the UN-designated International Day of Peace. ISB celebrated with an all-school assembly this week called “Hands & Hearts: Enriching Communities through Humanitarian Thoughts and Actions.” Posters for the assembly gave the title in a wide range of languages spoken by ISB students; we hope that our multilingual students felt “hearted” to see their languages on display.

Deepest thanks to the community members who helped us translate the title meaningfully! 

To watch the assembly, please see ISB Peace Day Assembly Video 2018

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Letters to Loved Ones for Respect for the Aged Day

September 17, 2018 · No Comments

Many multilinguals at ISB will observe special days this week, from Yom Kippur to Respect for the Aged Day. Students in ES morning Japanese enrichment, an activity led by parent volunteers twice weekly, wrote letters to older relatives recently for Respect for the Aged Day. Parents mailed the letters from the ISB Bookstore afterward, and the letters arrived in time for the holiday today, September 17. My children in the program got a big thank-you on Skype last night from a grandparent, who also conveyed thanks from a great-grandparent.

Using language for authentic purposes is a great way to keep multilingual children motivated. Kudos to all parents at ISB who find ways to help kids read, write, and speak with real people in their lives, using language for love. 

Photo above: Notes and envelopes prepared during ES morning Japanese enrichment. The note at upper left says, “Dear Grandma Satoko, Happy Respect for the Aged Day. How are you? Always be well.”

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Planning for an IB Bilingual Diploma

September 5, 2018 · No Comments

When making a family language plan, some ISB families include a bilingual IB diploma. This is a diploma received at the end of high school, when the student has earned a score of 3 or above in two A languages selected from the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program course studies in language and/or literature.

Excelling in language and/or literature in two A/native languages is quite a challenge. Families interested in the IB bilingual diploma will want to support and maintain their children’s native language(s) from as early an age as possible; they should also reach out to the Vice Principal in the MS or the Dean of Academics in the HS regarding questions on pathways and levels of proficiency needed to support success.

Questions? Email nativelanguage@isb.ac.th for an introduction to a counselor, administrator, or teacher who might be able to assist you.

ISB’s most recent graduating class earned 34 bilingual diplomas, in Chinese, English, French, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Spanish and Thai.

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