Minority language magazine subscription: a review of Caracola. 

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We’ve now been subscribed to Caracola, a monthly Spanish magazine aimed at 4 to 7 year olds, for six months.  Time for a review!

Firstly, the quality of Caracola is well ahead of most magazines aimed at children in the UK.   These tend to be spin-offs of children’s TV, full of ads, wrapped in plastic with a free toy stuck to the front.

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Here’s a quick snap of the children’s magazines from our local shop 

Caracola is fun and educational with a good selection of fiction and non fiction reading material and activities.  I find it’s pitched at just right level for my nearly 5 year old bilingual boy.

Each edition starts with a fully illustrated story, like you would find in a picture book. This was a big selling point for me as it is effectively like having a new book each month. This story is also available as an audio track, which is a great idea. However you have to access the audio through a specific app and you can’t save the files for later or transfer them to another device. Unfortunately, this means that the audio book version isn’t very practical to use so we don’t often listen to it.

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A page from one of the cover stories, el Árbol de Julia

One of our favourite sections are the illustrated features on non fiction topics, such as animals or science. My son loves non fiction books but we’ve mainly got English ones so it’s great to get regular Spanish content. I often learn new facts and vocabulary myself!

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Facts for curious minds

There are regular comic strips too, about a little space hero called SamSam, a little brown bear and a family.  S enjoys all these sections and looks forward to the new magazine each month.

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Comic book strips

As well as reading material there are always craft type activities to do and large busy pictures where you have to find certain objects.  S often doesn’t want to complete these sections, but prefers the reading, however I’m hoping he’ll try them one day and then we’ll have all the previous editions to work through!

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Juegos: puzzles, games or crafts

Overall I’ve been really impressed with Caracola.  I think a quality children’s magazine subscription is a great way to get new monthly reading material in the minority language.  We’ve signed up for a year’s subscription with international shipping to the UK and will definitely be renewing. The publisher, Bayard, produces a range of children’s magazines for all ages. We will try the next one, Leo Leo, when S reaches seven.   The magazine is printed on high quality paper and should last well.  I am to keep them all for my daughter when she’s old enough.

Do you subscribe to any children’s magazines in the minority language? I’d love to hear about any others you would recommend.

 

Building Vocab

vocab building

S is now a little chatterbox.  At home he’ll mostly be chatting away in Spanish, with some English along with made up words and sounds mixed in.  Recently he’s been asking me for the English word for the vocabulary he knows in Spanish.  This morning, while we were stuck in traffic on the way to nursery and I was complaining about us being late, he asked, ‘Cómo se llama tarde, Mamá?’, which is his way of asking how to say something in English.

When other children come over to play he’ll switch into English and address me in either Spanish or English. In this case he is mirroring my behaviour as I tend to speak to him in English when we are around other English speakers, but not always!

He continues to make up words in English by applying English grammar and sounds to the Spanish he knows.  For example, when he couldn’t think of the word umbrella, he called it a ‘par-ah’  –  the word ‘paraguas’ without the Spanish sounding endings.

Occasionally he makes something up that does actually exist.  He was playing with his pirate ship with his friend and I heard him say he was looking for a ‘pistol’.  I thought it was strange that he knew this word.  It’s quite old fashioned and I didn’t think we’d read it in any books. Then it dawned on me he was just saying ‘pistola’ without the a!

It’s really interesting how he’s using each language to build the other.

Starting to use languages in the right context

imagesIt’s been a while since I last posted.  S is now 32 months (2 years and 8 months) and his language skills have come on brilliantly since the start of the year.  As well as increased fluency and range of expressions in both languages, on of the main development has been him starting to use a particular language according to the situation or person.  Until recently he just used a mixture of Spanish and English in all places with a lean towards more English.  Now he is definitely more conscious of the languages being spoken around him, and he is showing a strong preference for Spanish when he narrates his play.

Now at home he rarely uses English and we’ve seen his Spanish vocabulary grow rapidly.  He’s a true little parrot, constantly copying what he hears and trying it the sounds.  He can repeat back almost any words now, even if it takes him a while to get the sounds in the right order (Guadalajara is particularly tricky!)  He’s no longer limited to short simple words but those with several syllables, compound words, little phases and making up his own sentences. He’s also beginning to conjugate verbs correctly in Spanish.   Although he no longer calls himself ‘tu’ (you) directly, he still uses the tu form of the verb instead of the first person . He say ‘quieres agua’, literally ‘you want water’, to tell us he’s thirsty, and another funny one is ‘quieres hambre’, literally ‘you want hungry’.  He thus comes across as a very polite toddler, always checking what other people want.

It’s interesting to see him swap into English (as we do) when we have English speaking visitors at home or when we are among an English speaking group. One particularly noticeable change is him addressing us as Mummy and Daddy in English. We are always Mamá and Papá at home and occasionally I’m Mummy too but he had never called L Daddy until we had some Australian visitors a few weeks ago, and now he uses Daddy quite often when we are out and about.

When did your toddlers start to understand which languages to use where and when? Does anyone else have a little one who thinks ‘you’ means ‘I’?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Making Nursery Rhyme Wall charts

I have been familiarising myself with Spanish language nursery rhymes and songs to sing with S at home.  I now have a good collection of resources so I printed out the lyrics of the songs so we could sing them together….. along with the Jose-Luis Orozco books I bought.

However the paper sheets of lyrics were quickly being ripped to shreds; I was afraid the same rough treatment would ruin my lovely new books.   I also found it hard to hold onto pieces of paper or books while doing clapping rhyme or action songs with S sitting on my knee!  Solution…. wall charts!  A hands-free, toddler-safe singing solution!

We have an nursery rhyme wall chart in English from BookStart, a national programme to encourage reading and literacy.  I stuck it up in the kitchen and S always points to it as we go by, so we stop and have a little sing.  I wanted to recreate this with some Spanish songs.  I had a look online but couldn’t find what I wanted so I decided to make my own.

After a lot of cutting and sticking and colouring – this was the result.

wall charts

Have you made any home-made wall charts? Have they been popular? Have they helped keep the minority language alive?