Posts Tagged ‘second language learning’

December 7th, 2013

Ready for S-What about Z?

It’s interesting that I often help children to say S correctly, but rarely even address the Z sound.  When we say these sounds we do the same thing with our tongue and jaw, but with the Z sound we vibrate our vocal cords at the same time.  Try touching your throat while you make an S sound.  Your vocal cords are open, so you don’t feel much. Now try making a sound. You’ll feel the vibration.

The point is,  if you say S incorrectly, you’ll make the same mistake with  Z .  However, there are many words in English that have S and not as many with Z.  Where Z does come up more often is in plurals.  This week I explained to a parent who hadn’t noticed that in English  we often pronounce plurals with  Z. 

Try these words with your hand on your throat. See if you can tell which ones are the snake sound –S and which ones are the bee sound- Z.

cups      bugs      ads      rats      packages      locks      foxes     hairs      cabs     clothes

To keep it simple I usually focus on S and worry about Z  later, but if  plurals are the target I have to talk about both sounds.  If you’re working on plurals you can use these reminders; “Don’t forget the snake sound” or “Don’t forget the bee sound”.



October 12th, 2013

Vocabulary Building-Fall Theme

There are so many interesting things to talk about in October.  In Canada we get to celebrate Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en.  This is one of my favourite Fall rhymes.  It’s sung to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down:

All the leaves are falling down,  falling down, 

 falling down           

                                                All the leaves are falling down, red, yellow, green and brown  

When my kids were little I recall singing this endlessly on the way to and from preschool.  There may be more verses, but we kept it simple.  That way I could drive and remember the words at the same time, while planning dinner and thinking about the grocery list.

Activity: Brainstorming is a fun way to build vocabulary.  All you need for this one is a bucket/bag/box/bowl/basket of different kinds of leaves. Take turns printing and saying all the words you can think of that go with “leaf”.  You’ll find one word leads to another and before you know you’ve got hundreds of words. Try putting the words into groups (action words, describing words, nouns).  Make sentences.  If you have time put the sentences into a story and draw a picture.

Here’s an example of brainstorming:                    Leaf 

maple,  fir,  pine,  needle, branch,  green,  prickly,  soft,  floating,  twirling,  crunchy, brown,  rake,  pile,  jump,  squish,  damp,  earthy,  messy, toss, bugs, twigs

Describing words:  green, brown, earthy, messy, crunchy, prickly, damp, soft

Action words:  floating, twirling, jump, squish,  toss

Nouns: maple, fir, pine, needle, branch, rake, pile, bugs, twigs

Happy Thanksgiving.


August 25th, 2013

Raising a Bilingual Child: One Activity a Day

My guest blog is by Rina Parbhakar who has a unique perspective on teaching two languages.  Thank-you Rina for sharing your story.

As a bi-lingual, bi-cultural Speech-Language Pathologist, I feel a heavy sense of responsibility. It started the moment I became a mother.  I didn’t want my child to be among the generation of children who don’t understand or speak their home language.  I also didn’t want him  to understand but not speak; responding in English when spoken to in Punjabi.

The first year, while on maternity leave, was simple enough. I talked  and sang to him in Punjabi every chance I got.  He responded in coos and  babbles. That changed when  daycare began. He spoke mostly in English.   I automatically switched to English all the time.

When his third birthday approached I panicked.  Though he was picking up bits and pieces of Punjabi through grandparents and the community, it didn’t seem like enough.  I thought, “There must be more  I can do than simply ask my parents to speak to him in Punjabi a few times a month.

I began taking the advice I give to other parents almost daily in my practice as an S-LP.  I forced myself (mustering every ounce of patience and energy I have left at the end of a long day at work) to ‘turn on’ my Punjabi for one activity we do together each evening.

At first, he asked me to, ‘Stop being a Babaji’ (Punjabi for ‘Grandpa’).  He whined, ‘I don’t want to say it in Punjabi.‘  Though he wasn’t using Punjabi as his first language, he was slowly becoming more aware.

It has been several months  of at least one activity a day in Punjabi. Now he counts the muffin tin liners on his own and  finishes my sentence all in Punjabi. What makes me continue  is the sense of accomplishment and wonder I feel when the magic of dual language development happens before my eyes. He may never be  fluently bi-lingual and his Punjabi may forever be accented by  English, but that’s okay.

The key for me was to see teaching my son another language as a ‘privilege’ rather than a ‘burden,’ and to have fun with it.

These are activities I’ve tried that might work for you too:

  • Comment on things outside during the car ride home
  • Label body parts during bath time
  • Talk about food during dinner preparation
  • Sing songs in your language
  • Listen to music in your language
  • Play games in your language
July 30th, 2013

Vocabulary Building-Summer Theme

Summer means different things to different people. If you ask, “What words come to mind when you think of summer?” , you’ll get different answers.  Brainstorming is a great activity to get students to think more broadly. Try printing and saying a word associated with summer.  Talk about words that are the same or similar, words that are opposite and words that go with it.  Here’s some examples:

Word                  Same/Similar                             Goes with

vacation                holiday                                              travel

ocean                      sea                                                   beach

playground            park                                                   bench

Activity: Brainstorming.

1. Ask ” How many words that go with summer can you think of?”  The words could  be things (nouns) like; river, cabin, towel etc. They might be actions (verbs) like; fishing, reading, boating. They could also be describing words (adjectives) like; hot, breezy, humid, itchy.

2. Once you have a word, think of all the other words that go with it. Here’s an example:

Mosquito-buzz, annoying, itchy, repellant, slap, wings, bite, bug, fly

You get the picture.  Have fun with it-no answer is wrong when you’re brainstorming.