What I have been learning from my baby boy – part 3

Murilo’s journey to bilingualism has been an enormous learning opportunity for me, and an extraordinary field for me to put into practice many theories related to bilingualism and bilingual education in the 21st century.

Murilo, now 4 years old, masters the comprehension of the English language typically spoken by me. There are some terms that I am introducing in his vocabulary that are new, but the majority of my comunication with him in English is understood by him.

Now I’ve decided that it’s time to translanguage less. In other words, there are some words I have been using in Portuguese to facilitate comprehension, that I am now switching to English. Chicken, for instance, I used to call “franguinho”, but now I have been telling him that it is in fact “chicken” in “my” language. There has been no resistance in that sense, he just takes the new word and starts using it.

But I have been fighting against his laziness to be exposed and to speak the language. Sometimes he argues with me about watching a film in English. When he realizes that there is a version in Portuguese he wants that. And I say no, I keep telling him that the original one is in English and it’s best to hear the original voices, things like that.

The biggest challenge, the one about his oral production, I have been overcoming using something rather unusual and, I have to say, something that I never thought could be useful in a bilingual environment: translations.

Yes, we created a game in which we ask Murilo: How do you say “…….” in English, and he has to say it in English. We always ask about full, complex sentences, statements, and he seems to feel challenged to answer and then answers them with a high level of accuracy. The bastard knows it! But  he feels it’s easier to speak Portuguese. But once challenged he can do it very well, and gets really happy when we celebrate his correct answers. He keeps asking for more and more of the challenges!

His experience watching Youtube and looking for videos about his favorite videogame character, Sonic the Hedgehog, are also helping. Sometimes we see him playing by himself with his toys, using the English language and the structures he was exposed to in the videos.

I am really impressed with the results so far, and my belief that raising bilingual children even with little exposure to the target language in the social and cultural environment around us is possible, is turning out to be true.

More to come. Stay tuned!

Carlos Henrique Trindade

Carlos Henrique Trindade has been in the ELT world for over 27 years and throughout this time he has worked in some of the main international publishers. Carlos is a specialist in Bilingual Education and has been implementing bilingual education programs in schools all over Brazil for the past five years. Carlos is currently the leader of Santillana's Group newest initiative: Educate Bilingual Program.

2 Comments
  • Marcia
    Posted at 11:28h, 01 dezembro Responder

    Carlos, your experience must be shared to everybody because the race life in the current days, ends up delegating only to school the role of education,
    but if parents really want a belingue education, they should do their part at home, so bilingual education will really make sense.
    So our role as educators, goes beyond the student in a bilingual education, but their parents too.

    • Carlos Henrique Trindade
      Carlos Henrique Trindade
      Posted at 20:02h, 07 dezembro Responder

      Thank you. I do believe that parents have a key role in educating their children. But the schools need to reinvent itself in order not to become completely obsolete and unnecessary.

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