Tag Archives: language

April 26, 2009

reviewing muzzy, bbc’s language course for children

My little girl is the first grandchild on both sides of the family, and it certainly shows with the abundance of gifts she has received. So when my mother asked me what she might ‘need’ this past Christmas, I had trouble coming up with anything specific. I told her that I would think about it. What could a child, who has plenty, possibly need? Finally, the thought came to me; my little one could use something educational. She had just turned two and was just beginning to structure words into sentences. Maybe we could begin to slowly introduce her to a second language. That was when I came across Muzzy, a BBC series of cartoons designed to introduce children to a new language of choice.

I was not sure what to expect as my little one received her gift and immediately asked to watch it onscreen. I certainly had reservations about the idea of a toddler learning a second language. Would she actually enjoy the program? Would the cartoon be remotely entertaining? Would I be able to follow along as well? When the DVD began and Muzzy, a large, fuzzy green creature with a deep voice began speaking, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my daughter was quite engaged in the cartoon. I found it amusing that her favorite character is not the king, queen or princess, but a furry green thing that enjoys eating clocks and parking meters. She thought this creature was the most hilarious thing and now insists on watching him daily!

Although my little one thoroughly enjoyed the DVDs, I certainly still had reservations about a toddler learning a second language. How soon would she catch on? Well, I am pleased to say that my little one, without any prodding, randomly counted to five in French last week. I was so shocked that I asked her to repeat it, and she did! With a master’s in education, I was well aware of the malleability of a child’s brain, but to see it actively apparent in your own child is a completely different experience and well worth the effort. The DVD’s also come with a parent’s booklet that translates the DVD’s dialogue for moms and dads so we are able to guide our children through this remarkable learning process. Merci beaucoup BBC!

March 6, 2009

how do you say “mother”?

Parvati (Hindu Mother Goddess)

At 4 months, Kai started to call me “Uma”, his version of the word. This sparked my interested in the linguistic origins of the word “mother”. It derives from the root “mater” which means measure. Other words with this common root are: matriarchy, maternal, and matron. Did you know that the word mama means “breast” in Latin? Go figure.

Check out the word “mother” in other languages:

- Mata (Hindi)

- Ma (Mandarin)

- Madre (Spanish, Italian)

- Imi (Hebrew)

- Okasan (Japanese)

- Makuahine (Hawaiian)

- Me (Vietnamese)

- Mamma (Swedish)

- Ina (Tagalog)

No matter what, the word “mother” in any language is powerful. Ask any child, I’m sure the word conjures up comfort, nourishment, and authority.

How do you say it in your household?

August 8, 2008

meandering through mandarin

Around the holidays last year, I thought it might be fun to try out a foreign language class with my then 2 and a half-year-old son. I briefly wrestled with which language, with my top choices being Spanish, French and Mandarin. Not surprisingly, those were the options that I found with the greatest frequency when I poked around for classes online.

I finally settled on Mandarin for a variety of reasons, which included: choosing a useful language for where we live in Northern California, wanting to learn something new along with my son, and giving him some early exposure to something he might not get later in school (i.e., we are hopeful that Spanish and French will be available options when the time comes for him to start elementary school, but Mandarin might not be offered). So, partly driven by curiosity, partly by the sheer foreignness of the language and alphabet, and partly by the bandwagon mentality of China-mania (booming economy, Olympic fever), I chose Mandarin.

I found a class that sounded perfect through Language at Play, which offered different courses for babies and early talkers in the three languages I had considered at a few locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The closest one for us was held weekly at the Beresford Recreation Center in San Mateo.

The class exceeded my expectations, and I was really impressed with the quality of the teachers, the variety of instruction and activities to hold the children’s interest, and the usability of the lessons taught. Every class had a logical flow that made the hour long sessions predictable even though they flew by! We started and ended each class by sitting in a circle and singing a simple Mandarin greeting song to all of the children (about 8-10 in all): “ni hao” (hello) and “zai jian” (good-bye). The teachers wove in book reading, puppets, dancing, singing, snack, and other activities. It was really fun. Now, four months later, my son can still say a few key phrases, including “pai pai sho” (clap your hands) and “xie xie” (thank you). I am strongly considering enrolling us in another class, time permitting.