Nelson-Mandela-on-Language

10 Good Reasons to Learn Foreign Languages

  • Discover Oneself

There is often a language that plays a special role in a family’s history. This language is that of the local land, forefathers and roots, culture or religion, or even in-laws. You may have come across this little child whose family immigrated one generation ago. For lack of a common language, she cannot communicate with her grand-parents who stayed back in their country. As she grows older, more and more questions come to her mind. By learning her parents’ language, she will also discover the culture and the country of her ancestors, and better understand where she comes from.

  • … and discover the Other

You may be in a large city or a small village, in the desert or the jungle, in an office or on the beach, abroad or in your own country. When the Other sees how you make the effort to address them in their own language, they will turn their head towards you, stare at you and start smiling. Whether your accent is barely detectable or clearly audible, whether your grammar is already perfect or still perfectible, the Other is moved by your respectful behaviour. They relax, open up, ready to share more personal thoughts now that a psychological filter has been removed. Language knowledge is an invaluable gate-opener towards the Other.

Nelson-Mandela-on-Language

Nelson Mandela on Language

 

  • Go on a trip

Be it for holidays, a stopover or a business trip, knowing the local language can change drastically your experience. Not knowing the language, have you ever been hostage to the exclusive grip of a guide monopolizing all exchanges with the outside world? Have you ever seen foreigners fall prey to a complete misperception of the host country because they could not communicate? Conversely, has the local language never made contact with locals, planned or not, much easier? It will sometimes enable you to find your way, have dinner at night, even get your passport back or go through customs.

  • … or go for good

Between 1990 and 2010, about 160 million migrants changed countries. Do you happen to be one of them? Whatever the reason to migrate, it is life-changing. Having a good command of the host language is a pre-requisite to social and economic integration. In some countries being granted a visa –let alone citizenship- is subject to a minimum level in the host country’s language. Parents sometimes struggle and prior knowledge of the language is a decisive advantage; children usually adjust much quicker and soon surpass their parents.

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Global Migrations 2005-2010 (credit Abel, Sander et al)

Global Migrations 2005-2010 (credit Abel, Sander et al)

 

  • Be successful at one’s career

As globalization increases, there are few jobs and positions left that do not require at least one, maybe two or even three foreign languages. English has become the unchallenged lingua franca of science. In business, one of the job interviews could take place in a foreign language. Language skills will enable the applicant to stand out from multiple candidates with similar résumés, if she manages to put forward her knowledge of Japanese, Spanish or Bahasa at the right moment. As for incumbent employees, some see their career development hampered by their weaknesses in international communication.

  • … and start by succeeding in one’s studies

The role of languages at school increases as that in life. In Singapore for instance, pupils take one of the two most important exams of their lives at the end of Primary School; half of the subjects are languages –English and their mother tongue. Elsewhere in the world, language level might decide which high school students will attend, impact significantly the matriculation results or give a huge edge in a University application file.

ScreenHunter_136 Mar. 30 21.43

The language section of a resume found on LinkedIn, exceptional yet increasingly common

 

 

  • Live better, live longer

Language practice shares cerebral mechanisms with those involved in old-age neurological diseases. Thus it has been noted that Alzheimer’s disease sets off on average five years later for bilinguals than for monolinguals. Do your linguistic gym and live better!

  • … and increase your cognitive capabilities

Knowing several languages is the ability to switch from one to another by focusing on the language used while ‘inhibiting’ the others. Multi-linguals resort to this capability even in non-linguistic fields. They demonstrate a bigger intellectual flexibility, a better ability to deal with ambiguity or apparent contradiction, and can cope with information while ignoring unnecessary or spurious signals.

factorial-task (credit dimensional-overlap.com)

Bilinguals are more successful than monolinguals at classical Strimulus Response tests where the stimulus contains conflicting elements to be processed or ignored (credit dimensional-overlap.com)

 

  • Marvel at other languages

You may be amongst those passionate people for whom discovering any new language triggers jubilant amazement. What sounds has this new language produced? What ingenuity will it come up with to convey such or such concept? Will it be isolating, flectional, agglutinative? How will it address, for instance, the possessive, given that some languages will alter the possessor and others the possessed, or both, or neither, some resorting to an affix, others to a particle, and others still elegantly doing without any grammatical appendix? Isn’t it extraordinary that the French version of this post should have 5368 characters in 1006 words, the English one 4978 characters in 980 words, and the Chinese one only 2174 Chinese characters?

  • …and understand better one’s own language

One’s mother tongue remains for very long the obvious response, the one found without having to look for it, the only possible option that no one even thinks of challenging. But opening up to a second language puts things in perspective. Without a doubt an additional language enables to further one’s native language knowledge. The language structure that such and such language has adopted becomes more palatable when compared to others: the origin of words is unveiled, roles in the sentence take shape and the meaning of words is refined. If shadow and shade have the same translation in French, does it not prove blatantly that ombre has two distinct meanings? Even the infamous agreement of the French past participle when used with the avoir auxiliary can be better understood if one is introduced to the Hindi ergative.

Levels of language structure (credit glogster.com)

Various levels of language structure : Phonology – Morphology – Syntax – Semantics – Pragmatics (credit glogster.com)

 

And what are YOUR reasons?

ma

To Read Chinese One Must Start Early

In any written language, words are subject to a triple association: sound, spelling and of course meaning. For example, the English word horse refers to the working and racing animal, is pronounced /hɔː(ɹ)s/ and spelled h-o-r-s-e. Anyone knowing how to read will be able to pronounce the word relatively correctly even if they have never seen it in writing before, as English is written in the Latin alphabetical script.

As explained by S. Dehaene, the reading process takes place here through the so-called phonological route: graphemes are mechanically converted into phonemes without resorting to deeper semantic representations.

cheval

The situation is quite different when it comes to Chinese. All Chinese languages are written in the unified system of Chinese characters. These Chinese characters are pronounced differently in each of the languages of the Chinese linguistic branch, for instance in Mandarin, the most widespread. Non-Chinese speakers often claim that the mapping of a Chinese character and its pronunciation is completely arbitrary; therefore it is said to be impossible to pronounce a character, even when knowing its meaning, unless its pronunciation has been learnt by rote beforehand.

The reality is slightly more subtle. Indeed, it is often necessary to learn simultaneously a word’s character and its pronunciation. But it must be stressed that 80% to 90% of Chinese characters are actually compound characters. They often consist of at least two subcomponents: a phonetic root (there are about 200 of them) and a semantic root (there are about 1000 of them). The phonetic root, often on the right side of the compound character, may give clues as to the pronunciation of the character. The semantic root, often on the left, tells about the word’s meaning, or at least the lexical category it belongs to. For instance, the Chinese character for a horse is马in simplified Chinese, and is pronounced  (third tone) in Mandarin.

The word for mother is pronounced mā ma (ma is doubled, the first one is pronounced with the first tone); the compound character for each ma has the semantic root of woman on its left and the phonetic root of horse on its right.

ma ma English

In a paper dated 2007, Bao Guo Chen and colleagues proved that the more arbitrary the mapping between meaning and sound or spelling, the higher the effects of the Age of Acquisition (AoA) on Chinese reading (for native speakers). Characters acquired early would be read with ease; characters acquired at a later stage would be more difficult to read if the correspondence between writing and sound or spelling was difficult to predict.

In other words, the more difficult it is to deduct meaning and spelling by reading a character, the more detrimental late acquisition is to quality and speed of reading.

Thus, within Chinese language and for native speakers, the impact of the Age of Acquisition increases with the arbitrariness of the mapping between meaning, pronunciation and spelling. What is the situation for alphabetical languages? By definition, reading an alphabetical language gives a very valuable clue as to what the pronunciation is going to be*.

Taken as a whole, the Chinese language is significantly more arbitrary than alphabetical languages in terms of mapping from character to sound and meaning. One can therefore assume that for Chinese even more so than for other languages, there is benefit in learning the language early so as not to be negatively impacted by the enhanced effects of the Age of Acquisition on reading.

 

 

 

 

 

To learn more about Chinese learning :
Chen, B. G., Zhou, H. X., Dunlap, S. and Perfetti, C. A. (2007).Age of acquisition effects in reading Chinese: Evidence in favour of the arbitrary mapping hypothesis. British Journal of Psychology, 98: 499–516. doi: 10.1348/000712606X165484

Stanislas Dehaene (2007). Les neurones de la lectureEditions Odile Jacob

 

Note : * The situation varies quite significantly from language to language. Italian or Turkish, for instance, are very easy to pronounce when reading a text, while a given spelling in English can be read in multiple ways (refer for instance to  toughthroughthorough, etc…)

motivation languages vivaling

If Interest Isn’t the Best Teacher, Then What Is?!

motivation languages vivaling

Many great educators believe that motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic, is where interest originates.  The sense of satisfaction a student gains from having  learned something is example of Intrinsic motivation.  The student is subsequently motivated to learn more. An extrinsically motivated student, on the other hand, studies for different reasons, such as receiving a reward or avoiding a penalty.

Every child has different levels of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for any given task. The ultimate goal of all motivational development is, of course, to engender intrinsic motivation in all students. It is vital for educators and parents to have patience and to work towards this goal, step by step.

Here are some tips, from VivaLing’s educators, on how to motivate young learners.

motivation languages vivaling

Stop comparing and give some thumbs up…

“Look, Donald’s son got A in Maths.”

“Your friend Jillian came  first in writing competition!”,

If this is the sort of thing you tell your kids, please stop now!

We all know that competitiveness can be a driving force when it comes to performing well, but it also has negative effects such as stress, loss of confidence, depression, etc.

Why not give your kids more encouragement? Provide them with positive feedback and help them set realistic expectations.  Give them a thumbs when they reach a milestone!

Studies have shown that encouragement helps to build self-esteem, motivation, and cooperation in children. Note that encouragement is not the same as praise. The effect of encouragement “You shared your book. Thank you!” is quite different from the effect of praise  “You’re such a good boy!” Parents and educators should always aim to give their compliments with details- be constructive. It makes more sense to the kids, and will help to motivate them further.

gamification vivaling

 

Gamifying the learning process

Gamification is a  technique that is rapidly gaining popularity, when it comes to engaging learners  in the e-learning field. It’s not about getting students to  make up their own games, or about playing commercially-made video games. It’s about applying game-related principles – particularly those relating to user experience and engagement – to facilitate learning and influence student behavior.

Compared to traditional learning, which focuses on meeting specific learning outcomes, gamification offers many possible benefits.  Gamification promotes a fun, relaxed learning environment that will ultimately foster intrinsic motivation along the way.

It is worth highlighting that customised gamification can further boost a student’s interest. Remember the picture of Elsa at the beginning of this article? VivaLing coaches build a rapport with young learners by tailoring the teaching materials to the student’s interests and making it fun!

 

interest vivaling

Stories always help

From the Aesop’s Fables to modern, inspirational picture books, good stories can always empower kids with positive energy and sow the seeds of imagination.

Reading a story together is also important. According to OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), telling stories or reading books to children when they are very young is strongly related to how well they read and how much they enjoy reading later on.

Good educators always engage students with story telling and role play.  This motivates students to explore the world of books, helping them to gain more from reading and studying later on.

Spamish songs

Hola! Let’s Sing Together!

Five Spanish songs to inspire your little ones

What is your first impression of Spanish language? Passionate, mysterious, artistic…it could be a mixture of feelings.

With 329 million native speakers, Spanish ranks as the world’s No. 2 language in terms of the number of first speakers. Spanish is also the the fourth most widely spoken language around the globe, with at least 3 million native speakers in each of 44 countries.

But…maybe all these numbers are nonsense to the young ones. What they want from learning a new language is purely fun! Here we have gathered five Spanish songs from VivaLing coaches, let’s explore them together:

Numbers 1 to 20 ( Contar hasta 20)

Family members ( La familia dedo)

 

Parts of the body ( Cabeza, hombros, rodillas, pies)

 

Days of the week ( aprendiendo los dias de la semana)

 

The weather ( Que Llueva)

joy-1740311_1920

10 Popular Beliefs on Bilingualism and Bilingual Education

There are still many beliefs and cliches about bilingual education and bilingualism. This argument deconstructs the 10 most popular beliefs.

bilinguisme

1. Monolingualism is the norm and bilingualism is the exception.

Not true. We estimate that more than half the people on the planet are bilingual and 40% speak more than one language on a daily basis. Bilingualism is a phenomenon that exists throughout the world, on all continents and in the majority of countries. There are different ways of being or becoming bilingual: plurilingual family situation, living near a border, schooling in foreign language, working abroad, etc.

2. Being bilingual means mastering two languages and two cultures.

Mastery of two languages is rarely perfect and balanced. We estimate that only 20% of bilinguals are as at ease with one language as they are with the other. Being bilingual is first and foremost about being able to communicate easily in two languages, and being able to switch between languages depending on the situation and the tasks at hand: bilingual people develop and use their languages in different and varied social contexts, for distinct purposes. What’s more, we can speak a language without actually knowing and mastering all of the cultural values and practices associated with it: a bilingual person is not strictly bicultural.

bilingue

3. You will never be bilingual if you learn a second language too late in life.

There is no age limit when it comes to learning another language. The quality of exposure to the language and its teaching, along with motivation, are essential to successful learning. If an adult can learn quicker than a child, he or she will, however, find it more difficult to lose their accent.

4. One language must be mastered before learning another.

Mastering one language is an illusion, as we continue to learn it throughout our lives. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to be able to rely on past achievements in your primary language to develop skills in another language. In the same way, studying another language enriches the knowledge and mastery of the primary language.

5. A child who has a bilingual education must have at least one bilingual parent.

Bilingual teaching applies to all children. It is an educational device and not a school that is just for children from bilingual families. The academic success of children who attend bilingual institutions therefore does not depend on the linguistic skills of their parents. However, if they have the benefit of being exposed to the language outside of school, it means that their learning is enriched and consolidated.

enfant bilingue

6. You have to be a good student to undergo bilingual education.

Whether or not certain bilingual educational institutions decide to select only the best students, bilingual education applies to all children without discrimination. All students find added value in bilingual education, regardless of their level of learning. Switching to another teaching language can even sometimes help to relieve educational difficulties and encourage better learning.

7. The use of different languages must be avoided in the classroom.

On the contrary, bilingualism can complement the development of both languages: the teacher can then build on this observation to develop adapted teaching strategies, taking the linguistic level of students into account. Alternating languages from one activity to the next and exchanging points of view by comparing ideas and documents in the original language encourages reflection, memorisation or even conceptualisation.

8. You can’t study a subject correctly in a foreign language (history, mathematics, sciences, etc.) without mastering this language.

Not true, it all depends on the strategies adopted by the teacher, who must take the linguistic level of students into account. With beginners, for example, it is fluent and efficient to deliberately draw on the students’ native language. Additionally, studying a subject in a foreign language allows students greater and different practice of this language, and to be enriched by it.

bilingue

9. Educating a child in two languages increases the risks of difficulties in their learning.

Bilingual children have no greater difficulty in learning than monolingual children. The only situation that could lead to a bilingual child having difficulty in their learning is if they have not sufficiently mastered any of the languages before starting school.

10. The benefits of a bilingual education are purely linguistic.

Bilingual education allows students to deepen their knowledge of languages and cultures associated with them, which invites them to think and understand the world differently. Furthermore, it motivates students by offering an authentic and dynamic linguistic practice within the framework of different academic disciplines. By approximating language and knowledge, we encourage students to exercise mental flexibility, which translates to being better able to resolve problems in various situations, as well as making them more selfsufficient.

Source: Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques – www.ciep.fr

 

learn english vivaling

Sing It When You Learn It, and Love It!

Discover six songs that bring your kids closer to English language

Music training speeds up brain development in children, especially in the sound processing function. For very young children, music has more power and meaning than words. Moreover, when children are exposed to music from other countries and cultures, they are able to learn about a different part of the world.

Singing is also one of the important tools that VivaLing coaches use to engage our young learners. If your kids learn with us, you must have heard some lyrics that are familiar, “if you’re happy happy happy clap your hands”, “how many fingers on one hand?”, “what are you wearing?”.

Here are six more fantastic English songs, recommended by our creative coaches. Learn them with your young ones, let them sing these songs with their coaches next session. The objective is clear – to make your children’s learning journey more fun!

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Recommended by: Coach Chloe L

“I love this one as it is a great way to reinforce the vocabulary for naming parts of the body. It is uncluttered and only uses the target language. The repetition and strong rhythm means it can be learnt by even very young learners. The actions and mimes support the development of the language and also improve memory.”

Old Mcdonald had a Farm
Recommended by: Coach Chloe L

“This fun song is great because it includes the animal sounds to associate with the vocabulary. Not only is this entertaining but it encourages word association in the mind of the learner. It is an opportunity to do some acting – pretending to be each of the animals! It encourages the learner to develop listening skills as they have to listen carefully to which animal is next so they can make the right sound.”

Do You Like Broccoli Ice Cream?
Recommended by: Coach Hannah

“Sometimes students are used to having ‘right answers’ and ‘wrong answers’ but when we look at things we like, we all have different answers! This song is very simple, catchy and shows us that we can like and not like different things.”

Yes, I can!
Recommended by: Coach Hannah

“Sometimes understanding ‘can’ is difficult at the beginning. This song is also very simple and shows exactly what animals can or can’t do.”

Baby Shark
Recommended by: Coach Hannah

“To introduce family members for young students can be a little difficult sometimes so this song shows a family of sharks with a very catchy, fun tune!”

Going on a Lion Hunt
Recommended by: Coach Hannah

“This is a great adventure song! We follow a boy and a girl who are looking for a lion. We can act with them on their journey and it is also a song that is used with native kids. This song is for slightly older children.” A quick note, this song is more suitable for children over five years old.

the effects of bilingualism

A New Study Explains Why Bilingual Children Perform Better

Children who experience two languages from birth typically become native speakers of both, while adults often struggle with second language learning and rarely attain native-like fluency. With roughly two thirds of the world’s population estimated to understand or speak at least two languages, bilingualism has become the norm rather than the exception in many parts of the world.

Although some might be concerned that bilingualism puts children at risk for language delay or academic failure, research does not support this. To the contrary, studies consistently show that, besides the obvious practical and economic gains, bilingualism leads to a number of cognitive advantages. Emerging research supports the view that the capacity to learn language can be equally applied to two languages as to one.

A recent study conducted by the University of Washington (Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences) compares the major milestones in bilingual and monolingual language acquisition, outlines the reasons behind the frequently observed variability in bilingual language learning, and describes the cognitive benefits of bilingualism. Here are the main outcomes.

the effects of bilingualism

1- Language learning in the first year of life

Until about 6 months of age, infants are capable of hearing the differences between the consonants and vowels that make up words universally across all languages. By 12 months of age, discrimination of sounds from the infant’s native language significantly improves, while discrimination of non-native sounds declines (Kuhl et al., 2006). Infants’ initial universal ability becomes more language specific, like that of an adult, by 12 months of age.

Research shows that the infant brain is more than capable of learning two languages simultaneously. Young children learn language rapidly; however, the quality and quantity of language they hear plays a key role in the learning process. One study shows that infants exposed to a new language at 9 months of age in play sessions by a live tutor learn in just 6 hours to discriminate foreign language sounds at levels equivalent to infants exposed to that language from birth. However, no learning occurs if the same material on the same schedule is presented via video or audiotapes (Kuhl, Tsao, & Liu, 2003). Thus, early language learning is critically dependent on social interactions, and on the quality of speech that children hear.

Taken together, in monolingual and bilingual children alike, language growth reflects the quality and quantity of speech that infants hear. Young infants learn best through frequent, high-quality, social interactions with native speakers.

the benefits of bilingualism

2- Vocabulary and grammatical development

Young children exposed to two languages from birth typically begin producing their first syllables and their first words at the same age as children exposed to a single language. Furthermore, the bilingual course of vocabulary and grammatical growth looks very much like the trajectory followed by monolingual children; the kinds of words children learn, and the relationship between vocabulary and grammatical growth in each language replicate the monolingual pattern.

Nevertheless, the effect of bilingual experience on language production and comprehension is often reported as a lag in vocabulary and grammatical acquisition. Although some studies have shown that bilingual children are within monolingual norms for the age at which they achieve basic vocabulary and grammatical milestones of language development, several studies report that bilinguals control a smaller vocabulary in each language than monolinguals, and lag behind on grammatical measures when skills are measured on a single language (Hoff et al., 2012). Given the extensive research showing that children’s language skills reflect the quantity of language that they hear, these findings are not surprising. Bilinguals split their time between two languages, and thus, on average, hear less of each language. Importantly, however, studies consistently show that bilingual children do not lag behind monolingual peers when both languages are considered. For example, bilingual vocabulary sizes, when combined across both languages, are equal to or greater than those of monolingual children. Similar findings are reported on measures of grammatical knowledge.

3-Learning to read

Reading is a complex process acquired through explicit training, typically after a child has learned to speak in full sentences. Studies with monolingual children demonstrate the critical role of oral language in reading and academic success. Thousands of U.S. children find themselves in situations where they must acquire the fundamentals of reading in a language that they do not speak, or where their linguistic knowledge is extremely poor. Not surprisingly, studies often report that bilingual immigrant children perform worse than monolingual English children in reading acquisition. However, research demonstrates that exposure to two languages increases phonological awareness, which is the ability to recognize and manipulate the sound units of language and is one of the best predictors of reading ability.

the benefits of bilingualism

4-Cognitive benefits of bilingualism

Contrary to the once held concern that bilingualism causes confusion, research shows that simultaneous exposure to two languages is related to several cognitive benefits. Part of the concern about confusion arises due to “code mixing” or “code switching.”

Bilingual children occasionally combine words or phrases of both languages when interacting with their peers, parents of teachers. It is important to understand that code switching is natural for bilingual adults and children and reflects the fact that bilinguals often know certain words better in one language than in the other. Code switching in bilingual adults and children is rule governed, not haphazard, and bilingual children follow the same principles as bilingual adults (Paradis, Nicoladis, & Genesee, 2000).

Rather than causing confusion, it is now understood that the constant need to manage attention between two languages fosters children’s thinking about language per se, and leads to increased metacognitive and metalinguistic skills (Bialystok, 2007). Bilingual infants as young as 7 and 12 months have been shown to be more flexible learners of language patterns compared to monolingual infants (Kovacs & Mehler, 2009). Bilingual toddlers exhibit a prolonged period of flexibility in their interpretation of potential words (Graf Estes & Hay, 2015), and bilingual 2- and 3-year-olds are more flexible learners of additional labels for previously known actions or objects, whereas monolingual children often find it difficult to learn labels for actions or objects that already have a name (Yoshida, 2008).

A growing body of evidence also suggests that bilinguals exhibit enhancements in executive functioning, which have been observed in children, young adults and middleaged and older adults (Bialystok, Craik, & Luk, 2012). The primary processes of the executive functioning systems are switching attention, flexible thinking (cognitive flexibility), and updating information in working memory. Bilingualism requires the constant managing of attention to the target language. Research suggests that experience with two languages enhances the relevant brain networks, making them more robust for executive functioning throughout the lifespan. Interestingly, the accumulating effect of dual language experience translates into protective effects against cognitive decline with aging and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (Craik, Bialystok, & Freedman, 2010). Recent brain studies indicate that differences between monolinguals and bilinguals in executive functioning are present at an early age (Ferjan Ramírez et al., 2016), and persist throughout the school years (Arredondo et al., 2016) and into adulthood (Abutalebi et al., 2011; Stocco & Prat, 2014).

 

the benefits of bilingualism

Conclusion

A growing body of research indicates that the experience of bilingualism alters not only the scope of language acquisition and use, but also a broader scope of cognitive processing from a very young age onward. Bilingual children perform equally well or better than monolinguals when both languages are considered. Studies suggest that optimal learning is achieved when children start learning two languages at an early age (i.e. between birth and 3 years of age) through high-quality interactions with live human beings, and both languages are supported throughout the toddler, preschool, and school years. Supportive environments for bilingual learning encourage parents and caregivers to use the language in which they are most fluent and comfortable, value both languages equally, and view bilingualism as an asset that brings about important cognitive, social, and economic benefits.

 

Source: http://ilabs.uw.edu/Bilingual_Language_Learning_in_Children.pdf

 

comptines enfants chinoise

Six Songs to Improve Your Children’s Mandarin Learning

Dear parents, did you sing “if you are happy and you know it” or “Jingle bells” with your children, when they first started learning English? Well, what if they’re learning Mandarin and feel like singing? Here are six songs for different age groups. Let’s sing together!

 

For 3-6 years old

Sounds from animals 动物的叫声

 

Easy catchy melody, easy vocabulary, super simple but useful sentences.

 

This song not only teaches your kids about animals, but also the sounds they make in Chinese! (Yes, the animals’ sounds are different in Chinese than in English) It will also help them learn some basic verbs such as walk (走), swim (游) and roll (滚), too.

 

Two tigers 两只老虎

 

Every country has its own version of this song. Every child knows the melody!

It’s interesting for kids to learn and sing a version of the same song in another language, plus the lyrics are really funny: one tiger has no ears, another tiger has no tail…

It’s nonsense, but kids don’t care! Trust us, once they’ve learned this song, they’ll never forget it.

 

For 6-9 years old

 

Where is my friend? 朋友在哪里

 

Beautiful and easy melody, contains numbers, and some basic everyday vocabulary and simple question structure.

 

White little bunny 小白兔白又白

 

Every Chinese child knows this song. It’s extremely catchy and popular in China.

It’s a song children sing with their grandparents, parents, kindergarten classmates and anybody you can think of.

It contains easy vocabulary like white bunny, ears, carrot, vegetables, etc.

Having learned this song, your kid will share a “universal language and topic” with Chinese kids. The adults will be impressed too!

 

For 9 years old and above

 

Counting ducks 数鸭子

 

You may know how to count 12345 in Chinese, but how about when the number are not in order? “Counting ducks” gives you a good blend of easy and advanced expressions for numbers in Chinese.

 

The yellow bird 黄鹂鸟

 

Is this a song, or a funny joke? No one can tell. But we know it has an absolutely beautiful melody with funny words that contain some advanced vocabulary and expressions.

Once your kids understand the meaning of the lyrics, they will laugh and love this song for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man vs Robot - VivaLing

Teaching Languages to Children : Man vs. Robot

At the recent EdTechXAsia 2016 event, an eminent speaker confirmed what all have been witnessing: contrary to initial fears, technology has not replaced teachers. But, he warned, “teachers proficient with technology will very soon replace those who are not.” The speaker knew what he was talking about : he was none other than  Dr. Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State at the Ministry of Education of Singapore, the country that topped all global PISA rankings in 2016.

The digital leap and the rise of the (good) teacher are two of three current mega trends that we previously explored while reflecting on the future of language learning.  These two phenomena are intertwined. With the coexistence of Man and Robot, there will be dramatic adjustments and power shifts. There will be winners and losers. At this stage you may be wondering what to do to remain off the endangered species list.

We very much agree with Dr Puthucheary’’s view that teachers’ inherent value is increased by their ability to leverage technology. As a facilitator in an enhanced learning environment, the tech-enabled teacher offers more and better learning choices to her students. But this is only the beginning of the story. The rest of the story is that many teaching tasks are now performed better by machines than they are by humans. “Better” can be understood as more consistently, more accurately, more effortlessly, more teaching-effectively or more cost-effectively. Is there any need left for humans when it comes to enunciating a grammar rule, teaching vocabulary, drilling, correcting pronunciation, consolidating knowledge? There isn’t. As a matter of fact, when a teaching task can be fully and unambiguously described as “specialized, routine, predictable” (as Martin Ford, the author of The Rise of the Robots, put it in 2015), chances are machines have already taken over.
The saving grace for teachers is that several of the language learning drivers (as introduced in VivaLing’s ViLLA © ) remain much better activated nowadays by Man than they are by Robot. Let us go over these language learning drivers, from the least to the most favourable of Man over Robot.

 

Man vs Robot - VivaLing

  1. Consolidation. In addition to the natural occurrence during sleeping phases, knowledge consolidation happens when memory is retrieved at the right time and in the right manner.  Robots are already more effective at implementing well-known spaced repetition algorithms. They are also improving at memory retrieval techniques which diversify the ways a given piece of knowledge is tested, activated or reinforced.
  2. Language quantity. Computers are already tireless when it comes to offering unlimited language input to learners. Their ability to bring about learner output i.e. language production, however, is more difficult to control. As to providing feedback, today it can only happen in very structured environments such as Multiple Choice Questions or True / False questions, but not in natural language.
  3. Attention. Is the learner’s attention wandering randomly? A teacher can help them focus on the right elements. Machines can too, when highlighting specific elements to focus on. But the risk remains that the learner’s attention will just drift away, in the absence of a “big brother” watching and with the computer environment sometimes even adding to the distraction.
  4. Motivation. Machines have already made significant progress to satisfy extrinsic motivation by providing badges and rewards. But humans still have a significant edge by the timely and adapted encouragement they can provide with the right choice of words and body language. They can also outperform machines in personalization (content and pace), which greatly enhances learner motivation. However truly adaptive learning is high on robot makers’ roadmap and catching up fast.
  5. Social interaction. This is where the ultimate human advantage lies. Social interaction is an absolute requirement for younger children, and strongly recommended for true communicative language learning at all ages. As long as robots cannot fool children, human teachers will remain more effective at teaching. A few weeks ago, a famous US language app at the leading edge of technological disruption launched its chat bots. But after trying them out, we were surprised to note that these bots chat only in writing and in a rigidly structured context, make unexpected grammar mistakes and even used … suspiciously flirtatious vocabulary. They are still very far from matching authentic human interaction.

When adding a historical perspective to all the language-learning drivers, it becomes apparent that Robots are increasingly encroaching on what used to be Man’s exclusive teaching territory. For some drivers, such as consolidation or language quantity, the Robot has already made huge inroads and will soon undeniably and irreversibly overtake Man. Regarding other drivers, such as social interaction, Robots are further or even much further off. But let us keep in mind that Google’s AlphaGo beat the world’s best Go player in the world decades before it was anticipated. Artificial intelligence is making steady progress and it will most likely take no more than a generation or two for a bot to fool a child language learner.

 

Man vs Robot - VivaLing 2

It is even more important today for teachers to master the technology that is available, and to elevate their teaching skills to specific domains and levels still protected from the rise of the Robot. If a teacher is simply requested to deliver a pre-scripted lesson without being able to deviate from it, let there be no mistake: the teacher will be replaced by a Robot before they know it. But if they nurture the pedagogical expertise and social skills to truly offer a superior language learning experience to the learner, they will thrive.

Teachers are not naturally equipped with these skills, and are not sufficiently prepared to embrace their human advantages in traditional teacher training programs. This is why programs such as VivaLing’s VOLT-YL  for teaching languages to children online are progressively preparing them adjust to the fast-changing teaching paradigms.

 

Christmas memories

Christmas Memories from around the World

Christmas all over the world is celebrated on Christmas Day, the 25th of December. Some countries however have different Christmas traditions and Christmas celebrations take place over a longer period of time. Discover how the VivaLing coaches live Christmas around the world.

 

Christmas in South Africa with Coach Angela

 

Christmas memories VivaLing

 

What is your best Christmas memory?

My great big family (about 40 of us) getting together to make a special dish and then playing games with presents. Each person had to bring a fun gift wrapped in newspaper. We could exchange our gift if we wanted to. With 40 people the game lasted quite a while and there was a lot of laughter.

 

What do you like best about Christmas?

Preparing and eating dessert. My sisters and I try to outdo each other each year, whether we are buying or making the dessert. Last year, I contributed rich chocolate mousse cake in the shape of Christmas crackers. It was delicious and really sought after. My sisters and I are close and love cooking, so the competition is healthy and  fun.

 

Christmas memories VivaLing

 

What do you usually eat on this occasion?

It’s high summer in South Africa yet we still insist on food that has been influenced by British traditions so we often eat roast meats, roast vegetables and rich desserts such as trifle and Christmas pudding. However, we also add a South African flair to it by having a braai (babarque) grilling meat and eating salads with them.

 

Christmas in Scotland with Coach Hannah

 

What is your best Christmas memory?

Normally in Scotland, we get lots of rain. Sometimes it snows but a lot of the time it lands on rain and melts away. My best Christmas memory was when we had about 15cm snow! :)

 

Christmas memories VivaLing

 

What do you like best about Christmas?

I love the build up to Christmas. There’s lots to do but I love the excitement, especially for children :)

What do you usually eat for this occasion?

In Scotland, we normally eat turkey with potatoes and vegetables, followed by Christmas pudding. Christmas pudding is very rich and full of dried fruit. We normally eat it with cream or brandy butter :)

 

Christmas memories VivaLing

Christmas in France with Coach Laetitia

 

What is your best Christmas memory?

I’m the oldest of four children. We used to get very excited about the presents.  We woke up really early in the morning to open them all. One year, we went a step too far and woke our parents up at 4 in the morning!  After that episode, our parents told us to wait until 7 am to wake them up. But we still woke up really early and the 4 of us would just sit on the couch in the living room watching the presents with only the Christmas tree fairy lights turned on..  This endless wait in the semi-darkness, with  my brother and sisters, is my best Christmas memory.

 

christmas-decorations-1150006_640

 

What do you like best about Christmas?

I lived abroad for a few years and still live far away from my family, so to be with my family for Christmas is what I like the most.

 

What do you usually eat on this occasion?

We normally eat some of the following meals: foie gras with onion jam and gingerbread, smoked salmon, homemade tarama, snails, a turkey or a platter of seafood (my family lives close to the sea and my brother-in-law is a fisherman!) And of course a “bûche de Noël”. However, this year, for a change, we will have the “13 desserts provençaux”.

 

Christmas memories VivaLing

Christmas in China with Jing

 

As a Chinese, Christmas for me was just a great holiday for shopping: all the big malls have great discounts during that period. Until I moved to Europe, I didn’t know the real meaning of it, I hadn’t felt the festive vibe.

In Europe, Christmas is really a family festival just like the spring festival in China, regardless of religion, this holiday is for everyone.

Now that I live in the Netherlands, I play “secret Santa” with my family and friends.  We exchange gifts, and most importantly, we get together and have a big Christmas dinner.

Christmas memories

Another thing I really love about Christmas is decorating the Christmas tree. I never expect that it could be so much fun to make your own Christmas tree. I feel like I am a little girl again. I usually go to the Christmas market to buy a lot of beautiful ornaments for my tree, then I set it up and turn the lights on. I feel as proud as when I make my own “Chinese new year dinner”.