Last week, I started reading Ana Flores and Roxana Soto’s book Bilingual is Better as part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs book club. In the foreword, Jeanette Kaplun mentioned that the likes of apps and the internet are resources that were not available to today’s parents when they were children. Apps and the internet have been a part of being parents for my wife and me, and were also a part of preparing to be parents. During labour, for example, I used an app to keep tabs on the frequency and duration of her contractions. In the first few days after our son’s birth, I regularly used my smartphone take photos of him and send them to my parents and in-laws. We also regularly use Skype to have video calls with our parents, which is great as they live several hundred miles away.
Using apps is something that is relatively new to me as I bought my first smartphone last year, a matter of weeks before I found out that my wife and I were going to become parents. I think that the only things that I downloaded to my previous fairly basic phone were Tetris and an app that turned my phone into a torch (…which was handy when I went out to check that our two chickens were back in their house just before going to bed).
As I’ve mentioned before in a post entitled Being a Bilingual Parent, my wife and I are bringing up our son bilingually in English and Welsh. Although I’m from Scotland and didn’t speak a word of Welsh just over six years ago, it’s become a language that is part of my life both at work and away from work. I use apps that allow me to look up Welsh words that I don’t understand (or translate words from English to Welsh) and make it easier to text in Welsh. My smartphone has also helped to expose our son to the Welsh language. He has two CDs of Welsh language nursery rhymes and I’ve copied them to my phone so as I can try to learn some of the words myself as I didn’t grow up with Welsh language nursery rhymes. Thankfully I haven’t started singing along out loud on the bus to work yet! However, playing some of these tunes via my smartphone once helped to stop our son crying at about 3am when he was only a few weeks old.
When it comes to making our son aware of other countries and cultures as he grows up, I’m sure that the internet and apps will play a role alongside books and films. I recently read an inspiring post on this topic by Ashley Steel entitled Visiting India the Virtual Way. Given that my wife and I absolutely love Indian food, our son will probably get to know about curries fairly quickly. When I was teaching English in Lille (France) from 2002 to 2004, I used to travel back to Leeds several times a year to see my MA supervisor at Leeds University. I’d always try to organise my journey so that I’d have sufficient time between arriving at the Eurostar terminal in London and getting the train to Leeds in order to go for lunch at a fantastic Indian vegetarian restaurant that is five minutes away from Euston Station. Their lunchtime buffet is absolutely amazing and always features a colourful and mouthwatering selection of dishes.
Because I lived in France for three years and have taught French to students for almost a decade now, I have thought about teaching my son to speak the language as well. We recently visited the country for the first time since becoming parents, as I described in a recent blog post entitled Our First Family Holiday. Although I spend a lot of my working week teaching students about the French language and culture, I haven’t really thought much about how and when to introduce the language with our son. We’re already bringing him up using two languages, and we’re a bit wary of throwing too many languages at him all at once. I know lots about apps and websites where it’s possible to watch French language television programmes online, but know next to nothing about apps, websites and other resources that are good if you’re trying to teach French to a young child. I’ve taught English to primary school age children in France, including during a holiday camp where they did several activities connected to my native Scotland (baking shortbread, drawing the Loch Ness Monster, Scottish country dancing), but have never taught French to kids of a similar age. If anyone has any suggestions for resources that are useful for teaching French to very young kids, I’d love to hear from them!
The types of technologies that people use as parents and in other contexts are certainly changing, but I sometimes wonder if what they are being used for is really changing all that much. Last week, I gave a lecture about the early days of cinema in which I talked about the Lumière brothers and Georges Méliès. Despite the difference of medium, there seemed to be some quirky parallels between certain aspects of this very early cinema and more contemporary television and new media. One of the 1890s Lumière brothers films that I showed was entitled Déjeuner du chat (literrally, ‘Cat’s breakfast’) and it seemed appropriate that I was showing it to the students via YouTube given that so many people nowadays seem to share or watch videos of cats doing amusing things on sites such as YouTube.
What we see happening in the cinematic pioneers’ film L’Arroseur arrosé (1897, often translated as ‘The Sprinkler Sprinkled’) are precisely the sort of antics that feature of home video clips and out-takes shows such as the UK’s You’ve Been Framed. Maybe it’s a case of plus ça change plus ça reste la même chose…
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I’ve written this post as part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs October Blogging Carnival about using media to raise multicultural children that is being hosted by Olga Mecking, who blogs at The European Mama.
I’ve also linked this post up with the Best4Future Wednesday Link-Up.