Monday, February 3, 2014

Story time session for International Mother Language Day 2014

Do you know Eric Carle's book 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'?

In the past three years we have been celebrating International Mother Language Day with a multilingual story time session. The 2014 motto is “Local languages for global citizenship: spotlight on science.”

This year we will meet again at the State Library of WA for an exciting book reading in many languages.The event is on 21 February 2014 from 10am for a 10:30 start in their children's area 'The Place', first floor, 26 Francis Street in Northbridge, Perth, Western Australia.

We love this colourful and simple book and if fits the 2014 theme perfectly. Through this book we learn, repeat and practice the colours and lower numbers in many languages and we also learn about the science behind the development of a butterfly.

This book served us well in the past years and will again be the feature of the event which also includes a creative activity for pre-schoolers. We plan to read the book in English, German, Spanish, Indonesian, French and Italian and we hope to add a few more community languages, including Mandarin, Arabic and Hebrew if we can organise native speakers to be part of the event.

As we only have the hard copy of the big book in English which we use to show the pages. Following each page the native speaker reads out the words in the native language, as the pages get turned by the reader or a helper.  This worked very well in the past years and helped us overcome difficulties in locating the actual hard copy book in the other languages. This year we hope to initiate simultaneous story time sessions on this book, all over Australia and even further.

The book was originally written in German.

Watch Eric Carle himself read the book in German "Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt."

The book has been translated into at least 49 languages. We found texts in various languages on the internet and here are some of the resources we used:

This is a lovely French version of 'La chenille qui fait des trous'

Here is the South American Spanish version 'Oruga Muy Hambrienta':

Another Spanish title is 'La pequeña oruga glotona': [Thank you to Irene for alerting us to this title. :)]

The Italian version 'Il piccolo bruco Maizacio' is available here:

The Portuguese title is 'A lagartinha comilona'. The pages are available in a power point document here: You find the a reading here:

Please leave links to any additional resources on public pages as a comment below and also let us know if you are hosting a similar event in any other library in Australia or elsewhere. We would welcome very much if your library, ethnic organisation, parent group or even families in your private home would join us and read Eric Carle's book on that day.

Please take photos and share them in your network and with us. We are on facebook too

Many thanks
Irma from Bilingual Families Perth

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best wishes for the festive season and 2014

Wishing you motivation for and perseverance in learning another language; and a lot of fun!
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How to find books in your family language

Reading is good for the development of a child's literacy. 2012 is the National Year of Reading and a collaboration between the state libraries is promoting many events across Australia to enjoy reading as a daily activity. The enjoyment of books, literacy rich environment and positive interaction between young children and adults are essential elements of early language and literacy development

It is easy to get picture books in English, our majority language in Australia. But for many multilingual families sourcing books in the family language is not as easy and often a quite expensive adventure. Finding books in Mongolian or Serbian is basically impossible in Australia and families often resort to ordering books on the internet or asking family members to send books over in the mail.

Best is to purchase books at your local book store, as you can take your child along to select a book the child is interested in. In Perth there are two foreign language book stores which offer a variety of books in other languages. Check out the Language Centre Bookshop in Leederville and the All Foreign Languages Book Shop in Perth.

Purchasing bilingual books over the internet is another option. Some internet book shops even post books and games free of charge, so at least the costly transport charges can often be prevented. Gerbers from Itzehoe in Germany ( is one of these book stores that sells books in German, English, Spanish, French and Italian, available without transport cost if the books are sent via sea mail.

Make your own bilingual book
An easier and cheaper option is often overlooked. I am talking of altering an English book to become a bilingual book by simply writing in the words on each page or through adhering stickers, handwritten or neatly typed, with the respective translation in your family language. You can pick up second hand picture books in English at any opp-shop or second hand book shop. Also try the second hand bookshop os the State Library of Western Australia which has a good selection of English picture books and and as well foreign language picture books for sale.

Why is it important to read and not just to tell the story as you go along?
What counts as literacy in early childchood has been the subject of many academic papers. According to Professor Catherine Snow from Harvard University one of the most robust long-term predictors of good literacy outcomes that can be measured in early childhood is vocabulary. Children with large oral language vocabularies are very unlikely to have problems learning to read.

When telling stories you are using the vocabulary that you always use with your child. Reading does something else, it introduces the vocabulary of the author which expands the vocabulary of the child. You get the best results in both languages when you therefore try to translate the words and the meaning of the author to the best of your abilities into your native language. This allows you to always use the same words for that specific page which over time builds the memory and vocabulary of your child. Use a good dictionary to find the right translation if you are unsure. I am fond of the DK visual dictionary that shows mostly accurate translations into five languages and used it as a picture book in its own right.

What to do if books in your family language don't open like English books?
If books in your family language open the same way as English books this works very well. If your family speaks Arabic or Farsi the use of English books is more difficult, as these bnooks open from the other side. However, there are soultions. One is to photocopy a book and put it together the other way round. Black and white photocopies are a cheap option and the book can double up as a colouring in book for your child.

Here are two examples: The first one is from the book 'Picture Book' by Ian Beck. Each page just has simple words. I wrote the translated words next to the English words on each page.

The second example is from the book "Wee G." by Harriet M. Ziefert. I translated the sentence on each page and hand wrote the translation next to it.

Many families are having great difficulties discovering interesting reading material for their young ones. With a bit of creativity it is easier than you think to make your own bilingual book. Give it a try and please tell me how it went.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Multilingual Story Time Session - The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Bilingual Families Perth is planning another multilingual story time session for Wednesday, 24 October 2012 which happens to coincide with United Nations Day. Also 2012 has been declared as the National Year of Reading. Our target audience are pre-school children, their parents, carers and grand-parents.
Building on prior good experience during our story time session for International Mother Language Day 2012 we have decided to repeat the event with another reading of Eric Carle's book "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". A creative activity for pre-schoolers and morning tea will also be part of the morning event.

We love this colourful and simple book. It gives a phantastic opportunity to learn, repeat and practice the colours and lower numbers in many languages. Last time we read the book in German, English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.  This time we hope to add a few more community languages, including Chinese, Italian, Hebrew and Indonesian. We will actually read it in as many languages as we can organise native speakers to be part of the event.

We also would like to initiate simultaneous story time sessions all over Australia on this book. Last time we only used the big book in English to show the pages. Following each page the native speaker reads out the words in the native language as the pages were turned by the reader or by a helper. It worked very well and was a good way to overcome difficulties in locating the actual physical book in the other languages.

The book was originally written in German. Watch Eric Carle himself read the book in German "Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt."

The book has been translated into at least 49 languages. We found texts in various languages on the internet and here are some of the resources we used:

Here is a lovely French version of "La chenille qui fait des trou"

Here is the Spanish version: Oruga Muy Hambrienta

The Portuguese title is "A lagartinha comilona". The pages are available here:
This page has several activities around the theme and story of the book
Please leave links to any additional resources on public pages as a comment below and also tell us if you are repeating such event in any other library in Australia or elsewhere.

Many thanks
Irma from Bilingual Families Perth

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Global Greens Congress, Dakar 2012, Senegal

The Global Greens held their third congress in Dakar, Senegal, hosted by the African Greens Network, from 28 March to 1 April 2012. I arrived in Senegal on Friday a week before the congress and spent some time exploring Dakar, but as well helped with the information, registration and language session for the young volunteers from the Senegalese Greens (Fédération Démocratique des Ecologistes du Sénégal (FEDES) prior to the congress.
Once the congress began, the first two days were committed to the Regional Network meetings, and the Global Young Greens. I only attended the first session of the network meeting where APGN members contributed summing up in a few minutes the most recent greens development in their country. I was surprised that not all APGN members were actually proper political parties, but some of them were environmental groups currently under stringent discussions whether they actually should seek party status in their country and what negative ramifications such a move would have.
My main role was to look after 17 members of the Asia Pacific Greens Network (APGN) including people from The Philippines, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Salomon Islands, PNG, Vietnam and Indonesia. What a diversity of people and what a similarity of issues; what a friendly bunch of delegates with a green heart and a passion for the green cause. Lots of things needed to be sorted as one of my roles was to assist the APGN delegates with any issues they might have; and there were many: lost luggage, vaccination issues, unwanted smells (we lived very close to the fishing harbour), issues with water, transport and food for vegetarians.
Furthermore everything happened in French. It’s not my native tongue but I speak it well and benefited from the German education system which made me learn French from year 7 in High School. This education gave me the basic language knowledge to survive; and the many years travelling in French speaking countries gave me the vernacular and the experience to thrive.
As everything went so well and people were very happy I was roped in by Margaret Blakers, the ‘mother’ of the Global Greens, to support the Resolutions Committee, where I worked especially with John Sutton from Newcastle. This required much negotiating, language switching and hands-on work with computer, paper and sticky tape.
The main themes for the Global Greens Congress and its 500 participants from nearly 90 countries were:            
1.       The Future of the Global Greens (including updating the Global Greens Charter)
2.       Climate Change
3.       Biodiversity
4.       Green Economy
5.       Democracy in Africa (and beyond)
Most resolutions were passed by consensus. They are now publicly available here:
The Australian Greens also held a stall to raise additional money for the Global Greens. The stall was very popular, and we could have sold many t-shirts and many more badges had we had more. Leonie Lundy from WA gave some of her time as a volunteer on the stall and the equivalent of 290 was raised.
My travel and participation at the Congress as a volunteer was paid for by the Australian Political Parties for Democracy Program (APDDP) under the Global Greens Congress Skills Exchange Program that aims to enhance the communication and collaboration between greens parties in the Asia Pacific Region. Unfortunately, due to the amount of work that needed to be done at the Congreee, I was only able to attend the workshop which I facilitated on RIO+20 and the main session on the last day.
I am very proud of the outcome of the RIO+2- workshop, as the final resolution defines the Greens vision of an Inclusive Green Economy after long negotiations as an economy that -
         i.            Incorporates the true costs of increasingly scarce natural resources and recognises the value of common goods and services of nature;
       ii.            Adopts innovative technology and eco-efficient and low carbon practices;
      iii.            Commits to durable goods and the end of inbuilt obsolescence;
     iv.            Proposes new forms of organisation of solidarity economy creating new bottom-up opportunities for all and investing in education;
       v.            Shifts from consumer-based economies to a focus on wellbeing, culture and healthier communities, with the full participation of civil society;
     vi.            Must be inclusive and reduce inequalities and poverty.

The final session was very positive, and often interrupted by claps and cheers. Delegates from across the world were coming together to decide on the resolutions which demonstrated the sense of our Green tribe working together for common goals, with common values, and a common sense of social justice and a green future.
Without French language skills this experience would not have been the same. I consider myself very lucky to be able to speak more than one language well.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

International Mother Language Day 2012

International Mother Language Day 2012 is on Tuesday 21 February. The theme for 2012 is “Mother tongue instruction and inclusive education”. Bilingual Families Perth is hosting a special story time session from 10:30am at the City of Vincent Library, 99 Loftus Street in Leederville.

The event's focus in on the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The book has been translated into at least 49 languages.

We will read the book in the following languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and German. A creative activity for pre-schoolers and morning tea is included in the event.
We have created a special facebook page for the event here: International Mother Language Day story time session on facebook.

Here is a lovely French version of "La chenille qui fait des trou"

The book was originally written in German. Watch Eric Carle himself read the book in German "Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt."

Here is the Spanish version: Oruga Muy Hambrienta

The Portuguese title is "A lagartinha comilona". The pages are available here:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

CHOGM - Raising awareness on bilingualism

The most important event for Perth in 2011 was undoubtedly the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting or CHOGM that happened during the end of October. More than 50 Commonwealth leaders and the Queen visited and ensured the program was splendid. Arts, sports and culture featured alongside many official meetings. The outcome was a long statement titled: Time for urgent reform.

One of the strengths of the Commonwealth is the bond through the common law and a common language. The Commonwealth is  CELEBRATING
the shared experiences of history and language [Harare, par.3], similar institutions and aspirations and including peoples of many different races and origins, encompassing every state of economic development and comprising an unequalled variety of races, origins, cultures, religions, traditions and institutions of the world [Harare, par.(2)].

The only reform that found entrance into the media was the announcement that the rules for succession were now changed to allow a first born girl to become queen, abolishing the requirement for a male ruler.

Realising that the Commonwealth is overlooking the asset and strength of the diversity of languages  of its member states I took the opportunity to raise the issue of bilingualism at the CHOGM Speaker's Corner established in the People's Space in the Northbridge cultural precinct. The stage was removed from the audience by a water feature, but about 80-100 people sat on the amphitheatre steps and listened more or less attentively.
The terms and conditions had to be met and I had to outline the topic of my talk when applying for a time slot. I took the first slot after lunch on Friday 28 October to tell the world about the benefits of having more than one language. Starting with my own experiences I outlined the benefits and strategies of raising children in more than one language.
It was a bit daunting at first to talk before that many people, but my passion about the subject took over and the allocated 15 minutes passed in a flash.

I am pleased that I took the opportunity and hope that the world has taken notice. Unfortunately the queen was busy otheerwise and Colin Barnett was not available too, but still, I did my share. It was good fun too!
To change the monolingual mindset we need to grab any opportunity that arises to tell the story and make a convincing argument. Don't be shy, join in and promote the benefits of knowing more than one language!
And there were other messages too, such as this one on the steps os the auditorium opposite the speaker's corner!