So the theory goes that children need 30% of their “waking hours” to be in a second language in order to achieve fluency. Check out Adam Beck’s cool pie chart and descriptions about how his family sneaks in about 30% of a second language.
Yet for many folks, that percentage can be tough to achieve. How do you get in your second language when you also have homework, soccer, piano, playdates chores and everything else to do in a day? I know that we struggle with the 30% rule often! Do you just give up on a second language if you can only get 15%? What about 5%?
I love this quote from Multilingual Living around this topic, “Sometimes less exposure can have more of an impact than we know! Just allow yourself to adjust your expectations to match your family’s language journey and see where you can add more language exposure along the way. The gift of language is priceless, no matter how much language exposure your child receives!”
That said, I have a little secret that I do every night that I think has a tremendous impact. Music.
Given that a third of our kids’ lives are spent sleeping, why not make use of the time! Studies have shown that some language acquisition can take place during the Zzzzzzs!
Every night after story-time and cuddling, I put on a playlist of Mandarin music for the kiddos. They love it! Lucas my son gets a different set of music than the younger girls. Lucas tends to like more Chinese pop and the girls love anything Disney. The music lasts for about an hour and half and they fall asleep to it. The music does not keep them awake but instead, I hope, they have sweet dreams of Elsa as they sleep!
Typically, I will cheat some more and play it again before I head up to bed just to get in another hour or so of language time. Try it! Can’t hurt right?
This may come as a shock, but my 7-year-old son’s attitude to learning a foreign language has been a bit less than absolutely enthusiastic. On a good day, we could, perhaps, describe his mindset as indifferent. I see now that he thought the bulk of the work was him choosing which language he wanted to learn, and now would I please let him get back to watching that super interesting youtube video featuring a 35-year-old man playing Minecraft in his mother’s basement.
I’m going to have to be sneaky, because few things are sustainable in a house with young kids if it causes lots of drama. Kids are drama enough. So, while my son isn’t exactly passionate about Spanish (the language he picked), he is passionate about soccer. And there are LOTS of ways to link Spanish and soccer.
El Mundial (aka The World Cup)
For those of you who don’t already know, World Cup soccer is upon us! Coming to us from host country Brazil, the World Cup will be broadcasted in the US in English on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 and in Spanish on Univision (side note: Univision has the most extensive coverage of the World Cup, broadcasting 56 of all 64 games, compared to ESPN’s 43 matches). The first game is Thursday, June 12 at 4:00pm EST between Brazil and Croatia; the final is July 13th. That’s a whole month of soccer, for better or for worse.
My plan: have my family watch the games on Univision, where all of the commentary will be in Spanish. You would be surprised how little the kids care that they don’t understand the language…my husband, son and even neighborhood kids have gathered in our house to watch past soccer championships on Univision…many tournaments are only broadcast on Spanish-language channels in this country. And everyone loves hearing the commentators yell “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!”.
Get Ready with Some Simple Vocabulary Prep
The main goal of my “Spanish through soccer” plan is to just get my son familiar with the sound of the language, and maybe pique his interest when he hears the passion of the fans, players and commentators in Spanish. Plus, he’ll get to watch TV commercials in Spanish, which is actually a great way to get learn commonly-used phrases and vocabulary. (I don’t know if World Cup commercials are anything like Superbowl commercials, but I’m guessing we’ll find out). But, to maximize what he takes away from the experience, I am going to prep him with a bit of soccer vocabulary, so he’ll be able to keep an ear out for words he knows, and maybe pick up a few new ones.
If you type “soccer words in Spanish” into google, you will find many lists to choose from. I picked 20 of the most common terms, and made a Quizlet flashcard set. If you are not familiar with Quizlet, it is pretty awesome. You just make an account (free) and then you can turn any list into online flashcards. Here is the list I put together for my son: Soccer Vocabulary in Spanish
Shakira and Soccer
Music is another great way to introduce language to children, and, through the magic of youtube, we have access to a lot of songs and videos that combine both Spanish and soccer. This year, the official theme song of the World Cup is sung by Colombian singer Shakira; there are several versions- this is the one in Spanish that features more soccer (rather than just a typical music video). Shakira also sang the theme to the 2010 World Cup… her Waka Waka song was immensely popular: it features a lot of famous soccer players, and is really hard not to dance to.
There are also many compilations of soccer footage put together by fans (you can find this in any language you are looking for), and set to music. If you type el fútbol musica into youtube, you will get lots of options. And if your kids have a favorite player, there is a good chance someone has set up a tribute to that player (type players name and “espanol”). Here are a few I’ve found, but there are SO many out there:
What delicious giggles I heard from my two little girls Hudson (2) and Lousha (6) while watching Bin Bin’s Magical Bubble Adventure! Perhaps it was because the show incorporates the two things my girls love best — flying and bubbles! Bin bin travels by bubble and flies to his magical adventures — you can’t get better than that!
In Bin Bin’s Magical Bubble Adventures, Bin Bin and his friends teach children about colors, foods and sleepy time through fully animated stories, catchy songs and fun “lessons” at the end of each show. The characters explore Mandarin vocabulary through three engaging stories, Where Did All the Colors Go?, Magical Land of Food, and Sleepy Time Adventure.
STORY 1: Where Did All the Colors Go?
In the first story, Where Did All the Colors Go?, Bin Bin rides a magical bubble to Color Land! A storm has washed away all of Color Land’s colors. At first, the characters only want to add their favorite color to the landscape, but then they realize that a world with all of the colors is more beautiful.
ASPECTS I LOVE ABOUT THIS STORY:
The main colors red, blue and yellow are clearly reinforced during the beginning of the story when each character only wants their color used. My two year old knew those three colors down pat by the midpoint of the story.
I love bigger message about difference and acceptance — that the characters realize that a world with only one color is no fun at all.
The creators of this DVD incorporated a bit of science into this story by showing how two colors can mix together to form another color. While this element would probably go over the head of a younger viewer, the older child would find this idea appealing.
STORY 2: Magical Land of Food
In the second story, Magical Land of Food, the Bin Bin’s friends are unable to find any food to eat so they go on a journey to the Magical Land of Food where funny food items grow on trees (hamburgers) and on the tops of flowers. My children loved the magical component of this story — hot dogs that you could grab on a bush.
NOT CRAZY ABOUT:
Many of the food items chosen were very “American” (hot dogs, pizza and hamburgers.) I am sure those food items appeal to children, but I want my kids to learn about food items that they would encounter if they went to China as well as foods that they see here. While I know that China has these food items, I would prefer it if my children learned the names for other foods that might appear in Chinese dishes.
STORY 3: Sleepy Time Adventure
The little bunny Max can’t wait to say good-night to his favorite things: stars. But when he looks up in the sky, Max is unable to find any!
ASPECTS I LOVED ABOUT THIS STORY:
After bubbles and the concept of flying, stars are right up there with things my kids love. The notion of engaging with the stars in this story was enough to keep them enthralled even though it is the last story in the series.
BIN BIN’S MAGICAL BUBBLE ADVENTURE PARTING THOUGHTS:
MAIN MENU SCREEN CHOICES: Parents have a variety of choices when they get to the opening screen — they can either pick to watch all of the stories, just the lessons, just the songs or the whole shebang. If the parent only has 10 minutes or so to kill and would love to pop in a video — this DVD enables parents to quickly and easily present just one small segment. Anyone who is a parent would know that you can’t pop in a full feature-lenght show for your kids and expect them to be totally OK with you shutting it off after just 10 minutes! Also, my children really love the songs and so often I will just choose the song options as that is what they want to hear and I don’t have to fast forward through the story to get to the song.
ENGAGING TESTING COMPONENT: I love the “testing component” sections at the end of each story. The “lessons” offer an opportunity for viewers to engage with Bin bin and his friends and answer questions. My children (even the 2 year old) loved answering the questions. Perhaps they were also compelled to answer because after a short pause, the answers are given by a group of happy sounding kids. That audio choice made my children want to play along with “the other kids”.
INVITING STORYLINE: Even though my children have watched this DVD many times, they are still riveted by the content. Hudson, the two year old, always says “ut oh” when the storm approaches in one of the stories.
IMMERSION WITHOUT ENGLISH AUDIO: So many of the DVDs out there for Mandarin only incorporate a few words of Chinese and then the rest of the DVD is in English. If you want to get an immersive DVD experience, you typically need to buy a special region free DVD player to play the disks from China. This disk plays on US players.
CLEAR WORDING: It was hard not to pick up some Chinese while listening to the story as the characters repeat vocabulary (but not in a boring way) and say them very clearly. I watch a lot of Mandarin Disney DVDs with my kids and often because the dialogue goes by so quickly, I can’t catch anything! The audio in Bin Bin’s Magical Bubble Adventures is clear and well-paced.
MEMORABLE SONGS: My kids sang right along almost from the very start!
A MOMPRENEUR CREATED IT: I love supporting the “little guy”and not let Disney have all of the fun. The visionary behind this series is a mom from the Bay Area in California. She had an idea and went for it.
No subtitles. For a newbie to Chinese, I would love to have some help in figuring out the storyline.
I could not get it to play in my car, but perhaps it is an issue with the kind of DVD player I have in my very swanky red Toyota minivan.
Why not teach your child a second language while they sleep? As part of your nighttime routine, put on Chinese, Spanish, French, (you name it) music and the beautiful words of these languages will lull your children to sleep while they soak up the language in their dreams.
You don’t need anything fancy — just an old player that you find at a garage sale will do! You can involve your child in the decision making process by getting 3-4 CDs so that he can pick which one he wants to listen to before bedtime. You may find that your child enjoys the music so much that he puts it on himself while he plays in his room!
What a simple, easy and fun way to get language into your child’s life!
MICHELLE’S STORY: I downloaded a whole bunch of tracks and put them on my kids’ ipods to play each night. The music lasts for about a hour and a half and I love the fact that their little brains get to engage with Mandarin Chinese words in their sleep. Often, before Jim and I go to bed at night, I will just press “play” one more time so that my children can get a second dose of language immersion while they count sheep!
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. My kid does not like to listen to music when he goes to bed — what can I do?
Option 1: You can be sneaky — like me! My son used to listen to the music when he went to sleep, but then the player broke and we did not have music for awhile when he went to sleep. As a result, he decided when we got a new player that he did not want to listen to the Chinese music at bedtime any longer. Now, I wait for him to fall asleep and then I put it on when we are about to go to bed ourselves. So far, he has not figured it out! 🙂
Option 2. Let him pick out the music that he listens to at night. Perhaps he would prefer something funny or something calming. Amazon allows you to listen to music before you buy so check out a few of the tracks with your kids and get “buy in” from your little ones before you “buy”!
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