Bilingual parenting means learning lots of jokes


PicMonkey Collage JOKES

Some people would probably say that I struggle to tell good jokes in English, which is my first language. Indeed, both my wife and my best man mentioned this at my wedding. As my wife and I are bringing up our son using English and Welsh, one of my main language objectives for this year is to learn more jokes in Welsh. I may use Welsh regularly in and out of work, but I just haven’t learned all that many jokes along the way.

For my birthday last year, our son gave me a book of dad jokes on which he had written (in very neat handwriting for a six month old) ‘I think that I might regret getting this for you’. However, the fact that I speak to our son exclusively in Welsh means that he is less likely to hear me telling him the following jokes than he would have been had we not decided to bring him up bilingually:

William Shakespeare went into a pub. The barman took one look at him and said ‘you’re bard!’.

What do you get if you drop a piano down a coal shaft? A flat minor.

Why did the florist sell his shop? He could see that there was no fuchsia in it.

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‘Oh dear, dad’s telling bad jokes again…’

Now some of you will probably be thinking that our son’s childhood will be greatly enhanced by not having to endure such jokes. However, I really think that I would be failing in my paternal duties if I were not able to share with him a wide variety of jokes in Welsh. As it happens, reading a blog post entitled Easy Spanish Jokes for Kids on the website Spanish Playground got me thinking that I really needed to get my act together when it came to knowing jokes in Welsh as well as English. Within minutes of reading about kids’ jokes in Spanish, I had done a web search for Welsh language joke books and the following day I bought two of them from our local bilingual bookshop.

Some of the jokes in the two books were ones that also exist in English and may even be recognisable to non-Welsh speakers. In fact, let’s have a little quiz to see if any of those of you who don’t speak Welsh can identify these jokes without using an online translation website:

Beth gei di os wyt ti’n croesi ditectif a chacen Nadolig? Mins sbei!

Doctor, doctor, dwi’n meddwl mai bisgeden ydw i. Wel, chi’n swnio’n cracyrs i fi!

Beth yw mochyn sy’n gwneud carate? Porc tsiop!

I can’t offer you any prizes, but do please feel free to try to work out the English versions of the above jokes by posting your guesses in the comments section at the end of this article. As I mentioned in a blog post that I wrote last year about being a bilingual parent, I felt a bit like I’m cheating when I sing nursery rhymes to our son in Welsh that are more or less the same as ones that exist in English. It just seems that I’m not fully embracing bilingual parenting when I’m singing ‘mae’r olwyn ar y bws yn troi a throi…’. However, but the upside of having mentioned this is that several people have stumbled upon this blog after entering search terms such as ‘Welsh version of wheels on the bus‘ or ‘Welsh language wheels on the bus‘.

The cynics said it was probably just wind, but I like to see this picture as one of the earliest examples of our son chuckling after hearing one of my jokes.

The cynics said it was probably just wind, but I like to see this picture as one of the earliest examples of our son chuckling after hearing one of my jokes.

Thankfully, the two Welsh joke books that I purchased contained some good rib-ticklers that just wouldn’t work as well in English. I quite liked  one section that contained jokes about pigs that involved rhymes with place names, such as this one:

Pam mae moch y Felinheli yn crynu wrth edrych ar y teli? Maen nhw’n teimlo’n ofnus braidd ‘rôl gweld y Gemau Olymp-blaidd.

Continuing on a pig theme, there was a joke about pigs going on holiday to Abersoch-soch, which plays on the fact that there is a place in North West Wales called Abersoch and Welsh speaking pigs generally say ‘soch, soch’ rather than ‘oink, oink’. It’d probably take me a while to explain why a policeman from Llanberis is called ‘Copa’r Wyddfa’ and a postman from the Netherlands is called ‘Vincent fan Goch’ but even those of you don’t speak a word of Welsh will probably understand the fact that DOLgellau is where Barbie goes on her holidays.

Before I end this blog post, I would like to launch a personal plea. If you are a Welsh speaker, please could you let me know your best kid-friendly jokes yn y Gymraeg. They may be jokes that you have been mocked or shunned for telling because they are so cringe-worthy, but they could play a big role in helping me to embrace an important part of being a bilingual parent. Diolch yn fawr!

I wrote this post as part of the Multilingual Kids Blogging Carnival for February that was organised by Olga Mecking of  the European Mama blog. To read about the other posts that fellow bloggers have written as part of this blogging carnival about funny multilingualism stories, click on this link.

If you speak more than one language, how easy or difficult do you find telling and understanding jokes in several languages? Is it easier to be funnier in some languages rather than others? Please feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also now a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it.


Being a bilingual parent

Being a multilingual and multimedia parent

Being a multilingual and multimedia parent


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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.

247227_10150268849931327_3851991_nUsing 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.

DSCF1787When 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…

I’d love to hear your views on this post and the topics that I’ve discussed here, so please feel free to let me know your views via the comments section below. If you want to keep up with this blog, there are ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+. Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin.

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.



Being a Bilingual Parent


This week, I’m talking about raising our son bilingually in Welsh and English and my experience of learning Welsh. I have written this post as part of the Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival on the theme of ‘Hidden Opportunities’ that is being coordinated by Stephen Greene from the Head of the Heard blog. If you’re interested in these sorts of themes, please see The Piri-Piri Lexicon and the Multicultural Kid Blogs websites. 

Learning any language can involve a fun journey and a few challenges along the way. With learning Welsh, minor milestones that stick out in my mind include things like the first time I left a voicemail message in Welsh, being brave enough to select ‘Cymraeg’ (Welsh) as the language to use on ATM machine and running a Welsh language football podcast for about a year.

I moved to Wales in 2007 and live in an area where the majority of the locals speak Welsh as their first language. I’ve learnt the language thanks to Welsh for Adults courses available at the university where I work and regularly use Welsh in my working life. However, it felt like I was starting off on a new journey once we decided to raise our son bilingually. Indeed, it has been an exciting journey for both myself and my wife that has brought with it some exciting challenges and opportunities.

When reading about bilingualism before our son’s birth, I was struck by the number of different ways in which children can be brought up bilingually and the different dynamics this can involve. Colin Baker’s book A Parent’s and Teacher’s Guide to Bilingualism was a real eye-opener and full of useful tips for a range of situations.

As I am from Scotland and my wife is from England, our decision to bring up our son in Welsh wasn’t motivated by a desire to pass on a culture and a language that had been a part of our own upbringing. What we wanted was for Welsh and English to be part of his upbringing so as he could be fluent in both the native languages of Wales and become aware of the importance of both within Welsh culture. As Welsh is the first language of the majority of people in our village and the local area, it seemed the logical thing to do.

For me, becoming a bilingual parent has helped to enrich my Welsh vocabulary with words and expressions that I hadn’t ever learnt in classes. Some friends kindly gave us a book entitled Magu’r Babi: Speaking Welsh with Children that features entire sections on topics such as ‘Codi gwynt’ (bring up wind), ‘Taflu i fyny’ (throwing up) and ‘Cosi traed’ (tickling feet). Thankfully we haven’t had to use phrases from the second of those three categories too frequently so far!

Bringing up our son in Welsh as well as English has also meant that both my wife and I have been trying to learn some Welsh nursery rhymes. There are some that we have come across that are basically just Welsh versions of popular English nursery rhymes such as ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’.

In some ways, I feel that singing Welsh versions of nursery rhymes that exist in English is almost cheating so I’m keen to learn some Welsh nursery rhymes that don’t seem to have English equivalents  such as ‘Dau gi bach’ (Two Small Dogs). I’ve already purchased two CDs of nursery rhymes in Welsh that I have been listening to in the car on the way to work. With it being quite hot at the moment and often having to roll the windows down, I think I could easily end up embarrassing myself if I start singing along too loudly!

My wife has got a bit of  a head start on me with the nursery rhymes as she’s been going along to a ‘Cymraeg o’r Crud‘ (Welsh from the Cradle) course that is aimed at people who speak little Welsh themselves but want to be able to use it with their baby. It seems like fun too as the classes often involve arts and crafts as well.

These classes and indeed becoming a mum, have been a real spur for my wife to learn more Welsh. As she hasn’t got to know as many Welsh speakers through work, she hasn’t had the same source of motivation as I’ve had. From the day of my staff induction at Bangor University, I learnt about the status and importance of the Welsh language and started learning Welsh within a matter of weeks.

For me, learning Welsh has provided all sorts of opportunities that I would have not had access to had I not decided to learn the language. For example, I have become interested in the local music scene and been able to follow a Welsh language drama series called Rownd a Rownd that is filmed in a village where I lived for three years. Almost two years ago, I also made an appearance on Welsh language television channel S4C in a comedy sketch show where I had to speak French to a plastic pigeon.

I hope that my son and indeed my wife will discover all sorts of fun and exciting opportunities through learning Welsh just as I have. In a few weeks time, we will all be going to the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol (a week long annual Welsh speaking cultural festival). To mark the occasion, I’ll be doing a bilingual (Welsh and English) blog post about this and my initial experiences of speaking Welsh to our son.

I’d love to hear your views on this article, so please feel free to leave a comment below or on the Dad’s The Way I Like It pages on Facebook or Google+If you’re interested in bilingual parenting, check out the blogs Multilingual Living and http://livingbilingual.com/.

Since writing this post, I’ve also now added it to a Best4Future Wednesday link-up party where you can find links to other blog posts about bilingual parenting and traditions around the world.

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop

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