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Kletsheads [English edition] is a podcast about bilingual children for parents, teachers and speech language therapists. What can you expect if you’re raising your children bilingually? What’s important? What will help your children’s language development and what won’t? In each episode, Dr. Sharon Unsworth, linguist and mother of two children (both bilingual, of course), discusses the science behind the language development of bilingual children with another expert. Along the way, there are practical tips, we hear from children about what it’s like growing up with two or more languages, and we talk to parents and professionals about their experiences with bilingual children. This is a separate English-language edition of the Dutch-language episode, Kletsheads.

Kletsheads [English edition‪]‬ Sharon Unsworth

    • Kind en gezin
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Kletsheads [English edition] is a podcast about bilingual children for parents, teachers and speech language therapists. What can you expect if you’re raising your children bilingually? What’s important? What will help your children’s language development and what won’t? In each episode, Dr. Sharon Unsworth, linguist and mother of two children (both bilingual, of course), discusses the science behind the language development of bilingual children with another expert. Along the way, there are practical tips, we hear from children about what it’s like growing up with two or more languages, and we talk to parents and professionals about their experiences with bilingual children. This is a separate English-language edition of the Dutch-language episode, Kletsheads.

    Bilingual families in lockdown and Mother Tongues [Season 2, Episode 10]

    Bilingual families in lockdown and Mother Tongues [Season 2, Episode 10]

    Transcript









    It's over two years since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and families across the globe were forced  into lockdown, with schools and childcare centres closed and many parents having to juggle working from home with caring for younger children and homeschooling older ones. Whilst this was a shared experience across many communities in many (if not most) countries around the world, individual families found themselves in many different circumstances, some more bearable than others.  In the second season of Kletsheads, we spoke about the impact of the pandemic of multilingual families in a special episode dedicated to the topic in early 2021. In that episode, I also told you about a research project which I was carrying out together with students following the MA in Linguistics programme at Radboud University, The Netherlands. Many listeners (and many others) took part in this project and in Hot off the Press (starts at 01:12), I tell you about our main findings. You can read all about them in the full report and infographic on the project's webpage, available in English and in Dutch. A publication in an academic journal will follow soon. 









    In Let's Klets (starts at 09:57), I talk to Dr. Francesca la Morgia is Founder and Director of the Mother Tongues, a social enterprise working to promote multilingualism and intercultural dialogue in Ireland. Co-incidentally, she also contributed to the earlier Kletsheads episode on bilingual families in lockdown. Francesca is a linguist, researcher and social entrepreneur based in Dublin. As she mentioned in our conversation, Francesca is also the creator of the Language Explorers Activitiy Book, which can be used by teachers and parents to help children explore their own bilingualism as well as bringing them into contact with 30 different languages in a fun and interactive way. Another great resource! Find out about all of Mother Tongues' various activities - including the Mother Tongues festival - on their website.









    This is the final episode of the season. Stay in touch via social media and thanks for listening! 

    • 34 min.
    How the bilingual mind handles words from two languages [Season 2, Episode 9]

    How the bilingual mind handles words from two languages [Season 2, Episode 9]

    Transcript









    Bilingual children sometimes say things that their monolingual peers would never say. This is the same for adults, too. They don't always know certain words in each of their two (or more) languages. And in the many cases when bilingual children do know the word in question, they can't always think of it straightaway. Again, this also holds for adults. I speak from experience as someone who sometimes has to use google translate from Dutch to English to remember what a word is in my native language. As a parent, teacher or speech language therapist, you may wonder whether all of this is normal. The answer is "yes". Being creative with words, not always finding the right one, and sometimes saying things in ways monolinguals would never do is quite normal. In this episode research Elly Koutamanis explains why this is the case, how we know this exactly, and what this tells us about how the bilingual mind deals with words from two languages.







    We talked about two different kinds words: cognates and false friends. Cognates are words which look or sound similar and mean the same thing. For example, cat in English looks and sounds like kat in Dutch, and they both refer to the same four-legged furry creature that miaouws. False friends also look and sound similar but they mean something different. For example, the German word schlimm 'bad' sounds and looks like the Dutch word slim, which means something quite different: 'clever'. Research shows that the bilinguals respond differently to these two kinds of words, both compared with each other and compared with words that are completely unrelated across languages. Listen to the podcast to find out how exactly! What this research shows is that bilignuals are unable to switch off their languages and this means that how they use or understand one language is often influenced by the other. It also shows that a bilingual's two languages live together in the same 'bin' rather than in two separate 'bins', one for each language. 







    How words from two different languages are connected to the same concept (the triangle idea Elly spoke about in the episode)







    In this episode, I also share the last Kletsheads Quick and Easy (starts at 18:00) for this season, a concrete tip that you can immediately and easily use to make a success of multilingualism in your family, classroom or practice. This episode's tip is to talk to your child about their bilingualism! In the episode I mention Eowyn Crisfield's book, Bilingual Families: A Practical Language Planning Guide, and the animations, Bilingualism in the picture. These are three short films about bilingualism and what it means to grow up bilingual. They are available in English - and if you go to the Dutch website - in Dutch, Polish, Turkish and Arabic. 









    Elly Koutamanis is a PhD student at the Centre for Language Studies at Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Her research is on exactly the same topic as this episode: how does the bilingual chil...

    • 41 min.
    Language mixing and bilingual secrets [Season 2, Episode 8]

    Language mixing and bilingual secrets [Season 2, Episode 8]

    Transcript









    Most bilingual children mix their two languages. Perhaps not all the time and not in all contexts, but as many parents will know, bilingual children regularly start a sentence in one language and finish it in another, or they insert a word from one language whilst speaking the other. Such behaviour is perfectly normal. You might say it's part and parcel of being bilingual. Yet why children mix and why some do it more than others remains poorly understood. Given that language mixing is often one of the biggest concerns raised by parents raising their children bilingually, it's surprising how little research there is on the topic. In Hot off the Press (starts at 01:05) I tell you about one of the few pieces of research on language mixing in bilingual children where researchers in the US asked what makes children mix - not being proficient enough in their two languages or not being able to control which one they're speaking? It turns out that it's a bit of both. Listen to the podcast to find out more or take a look at the research paper yourself. Here are the details:







    Gross, M.C. & Kaushanskaya, M. (2020). Cognitive and linguistic predictors of language control in bilingual children. Frontiers in Psychology. 11:968. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00968







    Megan Gross is a researcher at the University of Massachussetts at Amherst in the US, and you read about her work on her Bilingual Language Development Lab's website. Rita Kaushanskaya is a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also in the US. Read about her work on her Language Acquisition and Bilingualism Lab's website.







    In this episode I also talk to another Kletshead of the week (starts at 12:21). This episode we're off to Ireland where I talk to 12-year-old Sara who's growing up with English, Arabic and Italian. She tells me about learning to read in Arabic and how one of the benefits of being bilingual is being able to use your 'other' language as a secret language when you don't want everyone to know what you're saying. This is in fact one of the most popular answers we've had to that question on the podcast!

    • 27 min.
    Bilingualism and academic achievement [Season 2, Episode 7]

    Bilingualism and academic achievement [Season 2, Episode 7]

    Transcript









    Every three years, teenagers around the world are tested on their abilities in maths, science and reading, as part of PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment. Basically, it's a way of comparing how well countries are doing when it comes to educating their children.  Because of Covid-19, the latest PISA data we have are from 2018 and what these data show is that in many countries, there are huge differences between children in how well they score, differences that are related to, for example, their parents' level of education (often referred to as socio-economic status), where their parents come from (whether they have an immigrant background), and also the language spoken at home. What causes these differences and when do they emerge? Do we see the same differences for all bilingual children? In this episode of Kletsheads, we're talking about the relationship between bilingualism and academic achievement. To what extent does speaking another language at home affect how well a child does at school?







    In conversation with researcher Orhan Agirdag, we discover that the performance gap between bilingual students and their monolingual classmates is *not* due to their bilingualism. It is precisely the children who use their home language more that do better at PISA. So what is the reason? According to Orhan, this achievement gap is caused by the way bilingual children are treated in education. We talk about the role of teachers' expectations, a country's educational system, and about using the multicultural capital of bilingual children in school. 









    Orhan Agirdag is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences of KU Leuven and at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences of the University of Amsterdam.  He has more than 100 publications to his name on all kinds of subjects concerning bilingualism and education. If you want to know more about his research and about the topics he discussed in the podcast, and you read Dutch, then read his book, Onderwijs in een gekleurde samenleving. 









    In this episode I also share another Kletsheads Quick and Easy (starts at 25:44) with you, a concrete tip that you can put to use straightaway to make a success of the bilingualism in your family, class or clinic. This episode's tip is to play a game with your child. It's a tip taken from the resources provided by the PEACH project.  The PEACH project is a European project supporting families raising bilingual and multilingual children by creating a handbook for parents and educators as well as informative videos and a whole host of free resources for you to use (be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page!). As I mentioned in the podcast, there are even pictures you can download to turn into jigsaw puzzles to play with your child whilst speaking your hertiage language. It's well worth a look!

    • 37 min.
    Multimedia resources for multilingual families [Season 2, Episode 6]

    Multimedia resources for multilingual families [Season 2, Episode 6]

    Transcript









    When you're raising a bilingual child and you're the the only source of one of your child's two or more languages, it can be a good idea to try and find other people or places for your child to hear and use that language. One way you can do this is to use multimedia resources such as tv and films, apps, audiobooks and music. In Hot off the Press (starts at 01:12), we talk about a recent piece of research from Singapore that investigates whether using multimedia resources really does support bilingual children's language development. This is the study in question:







    Sun H and Yin B (2020) Multimedia Input and Bilingual Children’s Language Learning. Front. Psychol. 11:2023. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02023    







    The researchers asked what matters most: how much time children spend engaging with this resources or how many different kinds of multimedia resources they use? It turns out that for the dominant language in the children's wider environment, English, multimedia resources didn't have much of an impact at all. For their children's heritage language, Mandarin Chinese, the diversity of resources was positively related to their scores on a range of language tests, but how much time they spent engaging with such resources was not. 







    Our discussion of multimedia resources continues in Let's Klets (starts at 09:26) when I speak to Ute Limacher-Riebold from the PEACH project. The PEACH project is a European project supporting families raising bilingual and multilingual chidlren by creating a handbook for parents and educators as well as informative videos and a whole host of free resources for you to use (be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page!). As Ute mentioned in our conversation, there's also an ever-increasing set of Spotify playlists with all kinds of audio resources in a range of different languages (go to Spotify and search for PEACH project) and there are PEACH ambassadors around the world. Ute also mentioned a number of other resources she's been involved in creating, including the Activities for Multilingual Families YouTube channel.









    Ute Limacher-Riebold is a language consultant with expertise in intercultural communication and multilingualism. She is based in the Netherlands but has lived in various countries around the world, although never in her parents' country of origin, Germany. Find out more about Ute and her work at Ute's International Lounge. 

    • 31 min.
    Learning to read in two languages [Season 2, Episode 5]

    Learning to read in two languages [Season 2, Episode 5]

    Transcript









    Learning to read is an important step in your child's development. When children start to learn to read depends on the country they live in. In some parts of the world, like the UK, children are taught to read pretty much as soon as they enter school, whereas in other countries, like here in NL, children spend a year or two first learning to recognise letters before they're actually sat down and taught how to read and write. Learning to read comes more easily to some children than others. And as a parent, it's important to help your child by reading to them, helping them sound out words, and of course encouraging them to read themselves. In this episode we discuss what you can do as a parent to help your bilingual child learn to read in both languages together with Elise de Bree.







    We start by discussing the process of learning to read, the steps involved and where children might experience difficulties. We learn that bilingual children learn to read in exactly the same way as monolingual children and all parents can support their children's reading development by helping them practice, having them sound out words and reading to them yourself. This will help children to learn new words, a crucial part of learning to read, because even if you can figure out what each letter on the page sounds like, if you don't then recognise the word you're reading, you won't be any the wiser. 







    We also discuss the question of how to approach reading in the home or heritage language (or languages). How do you make sure that your child can read in their heritage language as well as their school language? Is it always better to start with the school langauge and then move on to the other language? Or is it ok to do it the other way round ? Or even at the same time? What happens when the two languages use different scripts? Listen to the podcast to find out the answers to all of these questions. 







    In this episode I also share my third Kletsheads Quick and Easy (starts at 24:45) with you, a concrete tip that you can put to use straightaway to make a success of the bilingualism in your family, class or clinic. This episode's tip is to map your child's input. The book I mentioned in the episode, where this tip comes from, is Eowyn Crisfield's recent book, Bilingual Families: A Practical Language Planning Guide. There you'll find more about the idea of mapping your child's language input. For a similar (and simpler) approach, take a look at the materials developed by the Planting Languages project and in particular at page 13 (step 5) in their booklet for parents (here in English but also available in Polish, French, Dutch and Greek). As I said in the podcast, I also tried to map my daughter's input. Here's the result:















    In the podcast I mention a tool that we've designed as part of the Q-BEx project. Essentially, this is a questionnaire which parents complete online (or together with a teacher or speech language therapist) and which outputs various measures of language exposure, language use and language richness, in both of the child's languages. In other words, it's a way of mapping a bilingual child's input! If you want to find out more, take a look at the project's website where there's information for teachers, parents and clinicians. We'd love it if you gave it a try!









    Elise De Bree is professor of Dev...

    • 46 min.

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