How to read and write in multiple alphabets

As you have already read in the articles  Bilingual school at home: reading and writing in more than one language and  Bi-literacy: reading and writing begins with the words that surround us , when we help our children read and write in more than one language the part 1 is teaching, the other 9 are inspiration and support. In one way or another, children become fascinated and excited by the idea of ​​learning to read, although they may still feel a little nervous and shy about all this. In this sense, our job as parents-teachers is to stimulate the interest of our children by encouraging them to the taste of learning to read, thus continuing to help them grow and develop their literacy.

Unlike monolingual families , bilingual ones have the added value of having to manage more than one alphabet. Although two alphabets include the same letters, very often they can have different sounds (or, the sounds can be the same but the letters change). But how does a family manage all this? It’s not as difficult as it seems, it only takes a little creativity (which bilinguals are better at this, right?).

One, two, or more?
Families often wonder if they should start teaching their children how to read in one language and then transfer this knowledge to another language, or if they should start directly in both languages. Both approaches are fine. The answer actually boils down to wanting to know what makes the most sense for parents and children.

The process of learning to read, regardless of each language, is a step in itself. The use of symbols to reproduce the sounds of speech can take a child for a moment and give him the opportunity to fully understand; and this is one of the reasons why many parents prefer to remain anchored to a language while the process is taking hold. Other parents, however, do not consider it necessary to make an artificial distinction between reading in one language and the other, and thus approach this process with two languages ​​at the same time. In family groups called One Parent One Language [1] (one parent one language), each parent feels involved in the teaching process through the use of the language they speak with the child .

We need to decide which approach works best with the child and make adjustments to implement it. For a child (or parent) who feels confused about learning in several languages ​​at the same time, it would be better to concentrate only on one language, for a moment. There will be time to change and then switch to another language. If, on the other hand, you and your child are doing well in more than one language, you can go on like this. Do not worry! If you learn to speak several languages ​​at the same time, you will not confuse your children by teaching them and learning to read in more than one language yourself . There will always be initial confusion.

Should you start with the minority language?
When they want to teach their children to read, many families focus on the focus of the minority language approach. They have the feeling that in this way, their children can better assimilate it before embarking on reading in the community. In fact, for those families who choose the approach to reading in one language before proceeding with the addition of other languages, it is the most common way of doing. A further benefit of teaching only the minority language is that children will perhaps learn to read only in the community language at school, so you will not have to spend additional time in that other language. Focusing on the home only on the minority one will be able to help your children acquire the habit when they are still young.

Do different letters sound the same way?
Often the alphabets also have the same letters, but their names “sound” in different ways. For example, in English, the sound of the letter E is the same as the I in German, and that of the letter E in German is the same as the letter A in English. This can be confusing when talking about the alphabet to your children. The key, to get to this speech, is to distinguish the letters with your children in various ways. For example, in our family, we refer to the German letter I as “eee with a dot” and to the English letter as “eye with a dot”. The German I is pronounced as eh elongated sound and the English one as eee elongated. [1]

Both you and your children may come out with strange ideas and various tricks to distinguish the letters in the various languages. You may also be freely involved in the sounds they produce rather than their denominations. For example, instead of referring to the letter T pronounced as “emm” you could also refer to it with “mmm” In some languages ​​it could make things really confusing since individual letters could have different sounds for the same letter, as in the case of the letter C in English which sounds like K or S depending on the words. Another tip is to spell a word to your children in the language in which it is written, because when you scan the words in English use the English name for the letters; the same goes for the spelling of a Spanish word by spelling out the names of the letters in Spanish.

et’s start
Children learn to read the phonetics, start with the individual sounds of each letter and then continue with the formation of two or more letter words, for example help your children learn the sound of the letter T and then have the vowels added after the T; new words will come out like TE, TA, TO, TU, TI. Spend time looking for new letters and letter combinations as long as you can: in books, on magazines, at the grocery store, while driving on the highway, visiting friends, on billboards on the street etc … This will be an opportunity for your children, to take advantage of the idea of ​​learning to read while having fun. Once your children feel comfortable in the combinations between two letters, you can move on to the addition with more combinations such as: BAT, BOT, TOT.

There are various websites that give useful advice on how to make learning fun and stimulating. Do a search on the various suggestions and find the ones that do the most for you and your children. As for me, I highly recommend Colorín Colorado. It is mainly addressed to English-speaking speakers , but most of the tips and tricks present there are also valid for speakers of any other language.

Language skills and literacy
It is very important that your children are exposed to as many oral inputs as possible. Engage them in conversations using new lexical words. Read aloud the terms from the books that your children love, as well as complex lexical phrases and structures. It is essential for children’s emotional involvement. This also supports Xiao-lei Wang (p. 28). Research has shown ample evidence of establishing a close connection between a child’s oral skills and written skills. Children with higher levels of oral proficiency (native speakers) and with a more sophisticated lexicon read and learn faster than their companions with less linguistic proficiency. Research states that the properties of oral words such as “stress” in English, “syllable” in French and “morae” in Japanese are closely related to the writing process.

It is also important for your children to know that you will not, undoubtedly, stop reading aloud for them even when they have learned to read for themselves. Be sure that bedtime stories and other conversation and education activities will continue as before. Your children should note how beautiful learning is, how it adds value to their lives rather than causing them to lose closeness with you parents.

How did you deal with coming across those letters of similar appearance but with different sounds? Have you taught your children how to read and write in more than one alphabet? What are your suggestions for other families?

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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