Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Penny is a French speaking polar bear

One of my son Emmett's favorite stuffed animals is a polar bear puppet we named Penny the Polar Bear. Penny, as she likes to be called, is one of my favorites too because she speaks French. I often put her on and talk to Emmett in French in a high "Penny" voice. He always plays along and answers her. So this morning we had a conversation that went something like this "Bonjour Emmett! Comment ca va?" (hello Emmett! How are you?"). Emmett said "très bien" (very good). Then he whispered to me so Penny couldn't hear, "How do you say the sun is coming up?" I reminded him he knows how to say sun ("le soleil") and then I taught him "le soleil se lève." Emmett repeated this phrase back to Penny perfectly. Penny got so excited about the sun coming up that she did a little happy dance and gave him a kiss on the nose.
Engaging your kids in speaking a foreign language through puppets is a great way to make learning new words fun. Kids have an amazing ability to suspend disbelief and will happily delve into a long exchange with a puppet - try it with whatever words you know in Spanish, French, Chinese, or whatever language you are teaching your child, and see the great reactions... Penny says "Bonne Année!" (Happy New Year). Wishing everyone a healthy happy 2009, from our family to yours.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How Do Kids Celebrate Holidays Around The World?

In FRANCE families eat a special dessert at holiday time called Bûche de Noël (pronounced "booche de no-el") which means "Christmas log". It's a very sweet cake, shaped like a log from the fireplace! It's made of sponge cake and has lots of chocolate icing. Here is a picture:

In MEXICO a big party for children usually includes a Piñata, (pronounced Peenyata, for it has an ñ, not an n), filled with peanuts in the shell, oranges, tangerines, sugar canes, and candy. All the children sing while one child at a time tries to break the Piñata with a stick while he/she is blindfolded.

Although Piñatas started in Italy, today they are a Mexican tradition. Mexican piñatas are usually made out of cardboard and paper mache and decorated with crepe paper.

Decorate your own pinata:

Or fill a store bought
one with your favorite treats HERE.

ince the vast majority of the Chinese people are not Christian, the main winter festival is the Chinese New Year, which takes place toward the end of January. Kids decorate by lighting their houses with beautiful paper lanterns. Many Chinese children also hang stockings and await a visit from Santa Claus, whom they call Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run) which means "Christmas Old Man." Santa Claus may also be called Lan Khoong-Khoong, "Nice Old Father."

Make your own lantern:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Une Pomme" Means Apple

Emmett has certain words he always remembers in French that he loves to say. One of them is "une pomme." Whenever we find one he points it out and says excitedly "une pomme!" When he is having trouble remembering new words in French I point to an apple and say what is this in French? He always brightens right up. "Une pomme!" he says proudly. Or sometimes it’s more of a "duh mom, une pomme, of course!" This helps keep learning fun for Emmett, and it's also a key piece of the Pimsleur Method. My father's method included many instances of recall affirmation - he'd' teach you a complex phrase and right after ask if you know how to say "How are you?" Or something easy like that. "Of course I do," you think and answer with ease. That little surge of confidence enhances your ability to remember the more complex phrases being taught.

Find your own "une pomme" with your kids and remember that affirmation and repetition are key to a child's learning a new language. And keep it fun!

(Click on Little Pim above for our Word of the Day Coloring Pages, another way to make language learning fun and interactive!)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Angelina Jolie Uses Little Pim!

On Thanksgiving morning I woke up to an email from my mother-in-law that said "My friend Elaine just read in a gossip magazine that Angelina Jolie is using Little Pim!"  Quoi? I confirmed with my husband that his family didn't have some quirky Thanksgiving tradition of fooling the kids... and since they don't... I did a Google search on Angelina, on Brangelina on everything to do with them and their kids, but no mention of Little Pim.

Fast forward to me at the news stand on Broadway, madly leafing through every gossip magazine available - under the scowling gaze of the seller. I found it! There in Us Weekly's "Heide and Spencer Elope" issue was a picture of Angelina Jolie holding Shiloh with the caption "Angelina Jolie uses Little Pim to teach Shiloh Jolie-Pitt French." And the Little Pim web address. C'est magnifique.
I have to admit I'm not an avid reader of gossip rags -- I didn't even know who Heide and Spencer were (and still sort of don't) -- but as an entrepreneur, having a celebrity like Angelina Jolie endorse Little Pim was quite a thrill.  I have great admiration for her as a mother, a professional and someone dedicated to teaching her kids her mother's native tongue. For a moment, my mind drifted to visions of vacationing with Brangelina and their brood in the South of France. You know, now that I am their language advisor and all. Would they want to stay at the Negresco in Nice or the Eden in Cap d'Antibes? Would we vous-voi or tu-toi each other?

But mostly I am excited that moms getting manicures and haircuts across America could be reading about Little Pim right now.