Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Vacation Travel with Children Overseas - Eight Tips for Parents

Summertime, summertime! With the vacation travel season ahead, many families are thinking about how to get around with children during trips to countries where a different language is spoken. Beyond the basics - getting passports and vaccinations in order, making arrangements for currency exchange, arranging your lodging and transportation, you'll want to enjoy this opportunity to improve your own language skills while also showing your children  how much fun it is to discover a a new country.

 Here are eight tips to make that vacation overseas lots of fun for everyone, especially you, the parents.

  1. Play a travel game during the weeks before the trip. This is just like playing house, except we play travel. Your child can look at pictures of the places you will be visiting, and you can talk about what clothes and toys to bring, then make-believe packing a suitcase, or help pack the family suitcases. Older children can learn to trace the itinerary on a globe or map, and look up each place you will visit on Wikipedia or similar reference site.
  2. Young children tire easily, so try playing travel a few minutes each day: "Let's pretend we're on a trip! Look, I am waiting for my airplane! When it's time to go, I need to look at my ticket to find out where I'm sitting. Now the fun part: Make a pretend airplane ticket, then make rows of chairs with numbers so that each family member can find their assigned seat. Talk about the trays in the airplane, the meal service, and make believe looking out the window to see the clouds.
  3. Practice the numbers, the departure and arrival time, and any other basic expressions your child already knows, but make them part of the travel game. How will you greet people when you arrive at the destination? Let's pretend, and let's carry our suitcases around the house, asking for directions, etc. (Young children can carry their favorite toy in a daypack, or pack clothing for their dolls, etc.)
  4. To keep children safe, make sure they know basic expressions so that if they become separated from you they will be able to ask for help. At minimum, "Please, Thank you, Excuse me, and My name is ... and I'm staying at ... Could you help me find my parents?" - hoping that last one will not be needed! Make sure the children have age-appropriate "stranger danger" awareness, and understand that they must stay with you all the time, to make sure everyone stays safe. Also, if you will be staying in a hotel with a swimming pool or near a lake or ocean beach, this is a good time to review all the safety rules about swimming, ideally using the target language.
  5. Every trip has its unexpected events - that's part of the adventure! Try to avoid scolding or reprimanding your children if they become confused or misbehave due to a chaotic or confusing situation. Just let them know they are safe with you, and by remaining calm yourself, you'll help them calm down as well. If you find you have a longer than expected wait at the airport or train station, try to make a comfortable "nest" with a few toys for your child to relax in, (and hope they will be able to take a nap.)
  6. During your trip, look for children's magazines and colorful souvenirs that will be easy to bring home; avoid anything too fragile, because you really do want the child to play with the toy or read the book or magazine rather than keep on a shelf. Also be careful not to bring too much stuff with you - it can get very hard on the parents when young children wear out and need to be carried - along with all the bags and totes. 
  7. Mealtime is a lot of fun during a trip - you can show your child the menu and talk about the different foods in the country you are visiting. Try to use the target language as much as possible, making all the same QTalk Method games you play at home, but now with even more opportunity to learn and practice!
  8. When you return, keep the travel experience alive - prepare some of the foods you enjoyed during your trip, and retell stories of special experiences or talk about what your favorite meal was, or your favorite spot to relax during the trip. Try to use the target language as much as you can, so that your child will enjoy the memories for years to come.
Many of us remember our own childhood travel experiences - the first ride on a train or airplane, the first time staying in a hotel, the first time riding in a taxi - it can be a lot of fun, but also kind of scary when it's new and completely different from being at home. I hope you and your children will have fun "playing travel" before and after the trip, and I wish you a relaxing and wonderful summer vacation adventure with your family!

Visually Speaking: Maurice Hazan's new Kickstarter project

Visually Speaking: the Science of Language Acquisition with QTalk: Revolutionary new Visually Speaking app will trans...: NEWS UPDATE:   Maurice's new Kickstarter project is for the revolutionary new Visually Speaking app, Maurice has a prototype working and he's so excited that at last his dream may become a reality. He needs your help, so please share and repost this link and pledge even $1 to help make Maurice's project reach its goals.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

6 tips to teach language to teenagers

teens - by Maurice Hazan - www.mauricehazan.com
Looking for ideas to keep your middle school and high school students engaged, challenged and focused in language class?

Here are six tips I can share based on my own experience and the advice of language teachers at Tribeca Language and other schools.

Sapling is the QTalk term for the tween-teen years - age 11-171. Be clear: The teenage brain is going through huge developmental changes. From day to day a student may appear to be a different person - and they actually are! With all the neural, hormonal and social changes, not to mention their body shape and size changing and growing, teenage life can be very confusing. So keep things clear in the classroom.

"The dog has a bone" is a simple idea students will understand immediately.2. Keep it simple: You might think it's exciting to mix multiple topics and activities, but many teachers find it's more effective to provide a simple routine so that students always know what to expect. When students don't understand the purpose of the lesson, don't know how to perform the activities expected, or are unclear about the outcomes you are looking for, you can lose some or all of the students' attention very quickly.

"Julio drinks orange juice." 3. Be brief: Anything that seems to go on and on and on
can appear to be a chaotic, impossible topic to a teen. We are language teachers - we think language is fascinating! But with teens, we need to put our brakes on and take breaks. That usually means breaking a longer activity into shorter parts with c
lear start and stop times. Briefer lesson segments also provide you with better ways to signal when it's time to talk and interact, versus when it's time to remain silent and listen to others.

4. Remain in the target language: Tell students what you expect, and write on the board, flipchart or Smartboard, provide handouts and assignment sheets, to give every student multiple ways to make sure they know what's going on and what you expect of them. That's a lot easier to do, when you use a visual scaffolding system such as the QTalk Method, or a story-based method such as TPRS.

5. Be silent: Leave silent pauses between your sentences. Provide time for sustained silent reading or study - even if it's only three minutes to let students reset their attention. Any single activity should last no more than five to eight minutes without a pause - a chance to reset, recalibrate, or just let students absorb for themselves what they have achieved.

6. Be active: If you are standing or sitting in front of the class, static, you will be boring. If you move purposely and comfortably throughout the classroom, engaging with individual students or small groups, you will keep everyone's attention - they never know when you might walk right up to them and ask a question.

Use these six tips and you will keep your teens focused and learning during every language class.
For more information about how to use the QTalk visual method, visit the QTalk Method training site:

If you'd like to find out more about free samples, pricing and options for schools, homeschools and individuals for the various QTalk Method materials suited to teenage language learners, visit www.QTalkPublishing.com, the sole source provider subscriptions, publications and classroom manipulatives to support Maurice Hazan's QTalk Method. You would want to look at the Sapling materials for Level 1 and Level 2. Some older teens might also benefit from the Tree materials, so take a look at those also.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Do This At Home - Tip 4 - QTalk Gradual Immersion

I am going to get a little wonky here, sorry. Maurice Hazan has been utilizing the findings of cognitive research and the great thing about Tribeca Language is we don't need to wait for a major textbook publisher to support a new approach - we can just jump in and do things differently. But we don't just "try this, try that," there really is science behind the visual method and these techniques you can use with everyday situations, anywhere, any time.
QTalk method based on cognitive science
Cognitive Science explains how we learn

Parents, you are going to really love this technique. It builds on the "QTalk Echo Technique" (See earlier post.)

“QTalk Gradual Immersion”
Another technique we developed in our classrooms at Tribeca Language is what we call “QTalk Gradual Immersion.” When Maurice Hazan created the QTalk method, he was asked why not simply use immersion.
True vs. Faux Immersion needs to be understood. Many of our students at Tribeca Language have a parent or other caregiver who speaks the target language (the one you want your child to learn in addition to English) and we are often asked how that person can work with the child. 
Everyone knows that true immersion is the fastest way to learn a language - however, please notice I said TRUE immersion, meaning only the target language is spoken and heard around the clock. The brain of a child is bombarded by brand new experiences practically every minute of every day. 
The main way children prioritize what is important is by how often something occurs. Events that happen regularly become labeled "substantial" by the brain. If only 1 or 2 people in a child's life are speaking to that child in a certain language and everyone else is speaking English, the brain says, "English is an option. I only need to get the gist of what is being said to me in this other language in order to satisfy this adult."

Children with parents or caregivers who speak other languages usually develop some level of comprehension - sometimes very high levels of comprehension - however, they are generally unable to say much of anything back - unless someone is working on their understanding of individual words and phrases to the same degree they are being worked with on their English. Understanding what is being said and being able to respond back are two very different processes. They are performed by separate parts of the brain and are as different as understanding how someone rides a bike and physically going through the process of learning to do so on one's own. Speech is muscular. It is not developed by listening, comprehending or writing, only by actually speaking - and speaking by way of true recall - going through the process of being able to pull the words out of thin air - not by reading them off a piece of paper. Think of the time you have spent with your child as a toddler having him/her repeat all those primary words over and over. Correcting their questions and statements throughout each and every day - it's been tremendous work. Being communicative in one's own primary language is a hard won feat! We are born to do it and can all learn any language on the planet but it takes consistent repetition.
If English is spoken in your home and you want your child to both fully comprehend and be able to speak back to you in a second language, we suggest you begin the use of the “QTalk Echo Technique.” (See prior post for examples and instructions.)

Step 2. Once you have been using the “QTalk Echo Technique” and your child has grown accustomed to hearing the target language repeatedly, with the English naturally sandwiched in between, you can gradually begin leaving the English out. 
You have the juice, water, milk conversation probably 10 times a day so by the end of day one, you could begin removing the English from the question "Are you thirsty?" You can begin moving to the "Immersion" version of this conversation - you just have to decide to be strict about not giving your child what he/she wants until they have made a repetition attempt. In no time they will be coming to you asking for things in the target language. This is what we call "QTalk Gradual Immersion" and that's all there is to it.

The concept is part of what is called Comprehensible Input or "CI" as the language teaching experts refer to it. If I just ask you "¿Tienes sed?" and refuse to translate it for you and just keep saying it over and over. You might literally NEVER figure out what I am actually asking you. You might get that is has something to do with receiving a beverage but that doesn't mean it is something you can actually use. Theories vary on this topic but we find the Echo Technique to dramatically increase the speed with which students are able to begin using words and phrases independently. So give it a try and share your experiences!
This is the most wonderful adventure you can have, helping your child learn a new language. I want you to use these techniques with confidence, knowing they actually WORK.
As always: Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy!

Do This At Home - Tip 3 "QTalk Echo Technique"

“QTalk Echo Technique”
Our “QTalk Echo Technique” was developed in our classrooms at Tribeca Language. It can be used by parents, teachers, co-workers, friends, or anyone who is teaching or practicing a new language. This amazing technique works to take students from zero comprehension to fully comprehending and speaking without experiencing any of the stress and intimidation so often associated with learning a new language.
QTalk Echo Technique: Are you thirsty?
Are you thirsty?
It is incredibly simple:
Step 1: Ask all questions with the target language first followed immediately by English as if they were one piece. (Both parents should use the technique - which means if you are the parent who does not speak the target language, you get to start learning along with your child.) Begin by learning how to ask the most basic questions, foods and objects that permeate your child's day to day routine:
   a. Are you hungry?
   b. Are you thirsty?
   c. Are you cold?
   d. Are you hot?
   e. Are you OK?
   f. Are you tired?
  g. What do you want?
QTalk word cue "to drink"
Yes, I want to drink juice.
Prepare your child for the fact you are going to start playing the "(Whichever Language) Game" A typical script goes like this: My child says "I want some juice." I respond, (in Spanish) "¿Tienes sed? Are you thirsty?" (All in one piece like it's one phrase.)

He/She says "yes". I say, "OK then tell me 'tengo sed Mommy'. That means I'm thirsty. Now you say it." Press lightly for the repetition of "tengo sed" but keep it fun. "No jugo til you say "tengo sed". (Jugo is juice - definitely need to learn that one.) Big praise once they say "tengo sed" or even just "sed".
QTalk word cue - orange juice
Do you want orange juice?
From here I would then ask ¿Quieres jugo? Do you want some juice?"  He/She says "yes". I say, "OK then tell me 'Quiero jugo'. That means I want juice. Now you say it." Again press lightly for the repetition of "quiero jugo" and praise any attempt - even if only part of the phrase comes out. If he/she just says "jugo" you enthusiastically cheer!

Next, we will progress to the "QTalk Gradual Immersion" technique. Keep letting me know if this is helpful! I really want you to succeed and ENJOY teaching your child a new language.

Do This At Home Tip 2 - Use Wooden Puzzles

At Tribeca Language we use a mix of our proprietary QTalk Teacher Tools along with everyday items and toys found in any child's home.
I'll be posting a series of tips on the specifics of using every day toys and items you most likely already have in your home to practice the target language with your child(ren).

QTalk Sentence Puzzle
Use puzzles to practice vocabulary
The secret is how you use those items. For our classes, we use our own wooden matching puzzles for single word identification as well as our Sentence Puzzles for making whole sentences but the process works with any puzzle.

Pick up any children's puzzle you have and take out all the pieces. If you don't already know, find out what each piece is called in the target language.

Next, find out how to say "Where is the...?" , "goes" (third person singular),  "here"  and "very good" in the target language.

Let's say you are using a farm animal puzzle.
With all the pieces taken out, using the Echo Technique (Please see entry on Faux vs True Immersion - use of the Echo Technique), you ask your child "Where is the cow?" in the target language immediately followed by English. (Example, in Spanish: "Dónde está la vaca? Where is the cow?"  When your child finds the cow you help him/her say "here". Say "very good" and then say "La vaca va aqui. The cow goes here." and have your child repeat that sentence "La vaca va acqui." before he/she gets to put the piece into the puzzle.

QTalk Matching Game
Say the words and place the pieces
Continue with all the pieces.

You can begin removing the English translation by the 3rd or 4th round of "Where is the..." Try this activity with all your puzzles. You can change up the activity by changing the question from "Where is the..?" to playing "I see the..."

The puzzle is just a distracting way to get your child to practice the complete sentences.

Do this at home - Tip 1 - Enjoy!

Does your family have silly songs you sing together? Sometimes it's a jingle from a commercial you can't get out of your head, or a nursery rhyme everyone loves, or a popular song tied to a meaningful family event.
Think of how these kinds of fun songs can make work go faster, or help a child fall asleep at naptime, or keep everyone entertained on a long car trip. One family member might know all the words, another has figured out harmony, another can't keep a tune but manages to add some interesting percussion by tapping the rhythm on whatever household objects are at hand.

That's the way I'm suggesting you think about language practice. Just make sure you are relaxed and having fun, even when you and your child are feeling challenged or confused -- it's just part of the process!

For the next few weeks I'll be posting one tip at a time, techniques to use at home to help your child practice their new language. These tips apply whether your child learns from you at home, or studies the language in school, or participates in after-school language classes or tutoring. Whether you are fluent, familiar, or just learning the language along with your child, does not really matter.

What matters is that your child sees that you ENJOY speaking and thinking in a new language, and because you enjoy it, your efforts produce results and lead to even more fun and enjoyment. This is not a "sit back and be entertained" activity. It's a "roll up your sleeves and make it happen" activity, like painting the house, baking a cake, or any of the other fun or crazy adventures you and your child have enjoyed together.

I approach language learning as a very meaningful way we can build community, explore creative possibilities, strengthen our families and friendships, and expand each person's power of self-expression.

You never know where this journey will take you and your family. But I can guarantee you, it will be a lot more enjoyable if you just think of language practice as one more song the family can sing together.