Reading Aloud

English: Interesting Story

An Interesting Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first started writing this blog, I posted a number of reviews of books that we were reading to our son.  I had envisaged this being a regular thing, perhaps every couple of weeks or so.

I soon stopped because, although we have a lot of books in both Portuguese and English, we accidentally developed a core of about 15 books or so that we would read again and again.  These were books that we as parents lie, but also that Mr. T, our son, also liked.

It is no secret how important reading aloud to your children is.  We have been reading to Mr. T ever since he was born and it is one of the best parts of the day.  Even without the educational benefits that come with reading to our son I would be loath to give up this exercise.  Recently, however, we have been seeing some of the fruits of our pleasurable labour in his language as well as just finding the time to bond.

Reading to himself

One of the joys of the last few weeks has been to see our son getting a book out from under the bed and reading it.  Obviously, at 2 and a half he can’t actually read, but he does do a good impression of it.  He sits up in bed with his legs crossed and opens the book at the first page.  He then babbles away to himself about what he can see in the picture before turning the page and doing the same thing again.

I love to see this.  Apart from it being funny to watch it also means, hopefully, that we are well on the way to encouraging Mr. T to see books as a natural thing to use in his free time, and not just something that has to be picked up because you are told to.


T for Mr. T (Scootie)

Reading letters

He has learnt to recognise the letter ‘T’ and he can even write it now thanks his vovô showing him how to do it on a blackboard.  Whenever he sees the letter ‘T’ he shouts it out with wild abandon and repeats it just to make sure that we saw it as well.  He has started to recognise some of the other letters in his name as well as the letter ‘A’.

We are not trying to push him to read letters as I know there are grave doubts about trying to do this at such a young age.  However, he is very interested in letters so we encourage him to do it so long as he wants to.

Learning language

One of the main reasons to read aloud to a child is to help their language learning, and this is perhaps especially important for a bilingual child as it is a great opportunity to provide further exposure in a minority language.  One of the most favorite books in our house is ‘The Gruffalo‘.  It is so beloved by all of us that we have been reading since day 1.

A couple of weeks ago, as my wife was reading it to him before bedtime, he started to say some of the words at the same time as my wife.  Over the next couple of days we encouraged him to do this more and now he can say practically all of the end rhyme words throughout the story.  He has also started to do this with other books that he has heard practically all his life.

At the moment he only really uses these words when the book is being read, not in his every day life.  But I am sure that this shows he is aware of more words than he is using and that pretty soon he is going to be ready to start producing even more vocabulary.

Children's books

Children’s books (zetson)

Future Reading

I am aware of some disagreements over how to teach bilingual children to read.  Some people say you should teach them to read one language at a time, others that you can teach both together.  I’d love to hear people’s experiences in the comments sections below.

Further Reading

There is of course some wonderful material out there on the internet about why parents should read to their kids and how to go about it.  3 blogs that I have read and found particularly motivating are:

Bilingual Children: Why reading is important from

My Favorite Way to Get a Bilingual Child Reading More in the Minority Language from

Teaching a Multilingual Child to Read and Write from

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A Bilingual Child: Not blue

Variations of blue

The future is bright, the future is blue (Wikipedia)

One of Mr. T’s first words wasblue‘.  This is hardly surprising as my football team back in the UK, Birmingham City, are nicknamed Blues.  I am certain that this is due to the fact that they play in blue rather than a near-lifetime of giving me the blues.  Whatever, the reason, I made sure he was exposed to the name for the colour very early on in his life with songs and chants that it was almost inevitable that it would be one of his earliest words.

Since then, other colour words have been very slow coming.  He will say ‘red’ and has something approaching ‘black’ but sounds more like ‘ba‘.  He has a word for ‘white’ that is similar to the English, and he knows the word ‘orange’, but only in the context of ‘The Gruffalo’.

The interesting thing is that all the colour words he uses are English ones.  Our theory for why this should be so is the mere fact that the English words are generally a lot shorter and easier to say; compare ‘red’ with its Portuguese equivalent of ‘vermelho‘.

He understands most other colour words, in both English or Portuguese, he just hasn’t got around to remembering how to say them.  To get around this he has devised a cunning strategy.

Yesterday evening I picked him up from school and the teacher had drawn an alligator on his hand, or a ‘jacaré‘ as it is known in Portuguese and to Mr. T.  The jacaré was green so I asked him what colour it was and he looked at it for a bit and then proudly declared ‘Not blue!’


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Daddy Mouse

Danger Mouse, as seen in the series' title seq...

The world’s greatest secret agent (Wikipedia)

We had a boys’ night in last week when it was just me and Mr. T.  As he was on his way to pre-school earlier in the day, I asked him what he wanted to do, and he loudly declared ‘Pizza’.  Who was I to argue with such a convincing argument.

So I picked him up and brought him home to a kitchen with his little table in the middle and everything ready to make our own pizza.  First, he had to spread the tomato sauce all over the base with the back of a spoon, then I asked what we needed next, which was cheese.  He ate some of the cheese that I had already grated while watching me spread the rest out.

Next were the mushrooms.  He put one mushroom in the middle and then went back to eating grated cheese as I put the rest of the mushrooms on.  The same thing happened with the red peppers.

There was a slight deviation for the tomatoes as he stopped eating the cheese and started to eat the tomatoes instead.

While the pizza was in the oven we got the drinks ready.  A Toddy (Brazilian chocolate milk, no whisky involved) and a beer for me.

We then had to sort out what we were going to watch while we ate and had our drinks.  There was a bit of a discussion over the merits of Galinha Pintadinha (it has no merit whatsoever) before I suggested ‘Danger Mouse’.

Penfold in "The Odd Ball Runaround"

Good grief Penfold (Wikipedia)

‘Danger Mouse’ is a classic of British children’s TV that anyone of a certain age with any taste will have loved.  I have lots of taste so obviously I adored it.  I bought the DVD (for my son, of course) but the first time I played it it didn’t go down well.  That was some months ago, so I hoped things had changed.

Once the pizza was sliced we sat back with our beer/milk and I pressed play on the DVD.  Not a word out of my son for the next 15 minutes as he watched enraptured with the sight before him.  A big smile crossed his face at various times, and I was almost in daddy heaven: there I was with my son, eating pizza, having a beer/milk and watching Danger Mouse.  Could life get any better than that?

Yes, it could.

During the final credits my son jumped to his feet to dance along and got me up to.  We were dancing and jumping and acting like silly little boys.

But it got even better than that.

I started to sing along to the lyrics, some of which I could remember, the rest I made up.  I shouted especially loudly when the singer sings ‘Danger Mouse’ on more than one occasion.  My son repeated it after me, except he got it wrong in the best possible way.  Instead of ‘Danger Mouse’ he sang ‘Daddy Mouse’.

‘He’s the ace, he’s amazing
He’s the strongest, he’s the quickest, he’s the best
Daddy Mouse!’

It was one of the best boys’ nights in I think I have ever had or am likely to have.

Further reading

I have almost finished ‘Rivers of London‘ by Ben Aaranovitch.  It’s a fast-paced tale of wizards, spirits, murder and the Metropolitan police.  Not a world-changing book, but a very good read.  It’s the first in a series of four (so far) and I reckon I’ll be getting the rest soon enough.

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A Bilingual Child: Count me in

Numbers 0-9

One, two threeUm dois três (mrsdkrebs)

As someone who learned Portuguese as an adult there are two things that I find it very difficult to do in my second language: maths and swearing.  When I swear in Portuguese it just doesn’t sound right.  It feels a bit childish, a bit too funny.  There is nothing like a proper, old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon swear word to express exactly what I am feeling.

When it comes to numbers, I can count perfectly well, but if I have to do any sums, my brain stops working.  I have to translate the numbers into English, do the maths in my head and then translate the number back into Portuguese.  My theory for this is that numbers are such an integral part of our lives, that because we learn them almost from day one, at the same time as learning to speak, that they are a part of us and represent something about ourselves.

This is probably nonsense, but it works for me.

Mr. T can now, more or less, count up to 10 in both languages.  He can go from 1-6 quite easily in either English or Portuguese, but he then struggles with 7 and 8 in both languages, before saying 9 and 10 very easily.  I have tried to figure out a theory as to why he struggles with 7 and 8 in both languages, but so far I have nothing.


Not a Captcha (runran)

He is also starting to be aware of other numbers.  The other night he was having difficulty getting to sleep so my wife suggested they count together in order to calm him down.  He started in English and so she kept going with him.  After 10 she said 11 and Mr. T repeated, so she 12 and he repeated it again.  This kept on going until they got to 34.  Apparently 34 is a very funny number because he giggled at it and got Headess of the Heard to say it again, at which point he giggled again.  Apparently this went on for a few minutes before she continued on up to 100.

By the time they got to 100 he was almost asleep.

The other aspect of counting is that it is one of the first areas that Mr. T has words in two languages and he doesn’t mix them up.  If he starts counting in English, he doesn’t suddenly switch to Portuguese, and vice versa.  I am sure that this is because he has only ever heard numbers in one language at a time but I am wondering if it is one of the first signs that his brain is compartmentalising the two languages for language production.

One of the hopes I have for my son is that, as he grows up to be bilingual he will be able to do maths in his head equally well in both English and Portuguese.  I realise that the fact that he will have formal maths instruction in Portuguese means there is a possibility he will favour that language over English, but we have got off to a good start.

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The Emperor Strikes Back

Adriano: The Emperor

The Emperor is back, and looking rather trim

After 711 days The Emperor is back.  Adriano made his debut last night for Atlético Paranaense, my team here in Curitiba, in the first match of the group stages of the Libertadores (Champions League for South America) in the 40th minute of the second half.

If you’ve never heard of him, Adriano Leite Ribeiro (better known just as Adriano) was O Imperador (The Emperor).  He was one of the most promising players to ever come out off the seemingly never-ending footballer production line in Brazil.  He made his professional debut for the Rio club of Flamengo in 2000 when he was 17 and scored in his second game.  He was nicknamed the Emperor because of the way he owned and dominated the pitch.

He was soon sold to the Italian team Internazionale for around  £14m.  In Italy he he scored 22 goals in his first 36 games.  He has won 4 Scudettos, a FIFA Confederations Cup and a Copa America and 2 Brasileirãos.  He is now 31 and should be fighting for a place in the upcoming World Cup.

Except he isn’t.

As well as all of the positive achievements, he also holds the record for the highest number of Bidone Doro (Golden Trashcan), an Italian award for the most worthless player of the year.  His career has been marked by inconsistency with short inglorious spells at a number of clubs in Brazil.  The worst part was a one year contract with his home club of Flamengo in which he failed to play a single minute of a single game.

His problems have been well documented.  He has been accused of enjoying the high life rather than focussing on his football.  He has had well-publicised battles with alcoholism and over-eating.  He has been accused of domestic abuse on at least more than one occasion.

There are many potential reasons for his problems.  Some say he was an uneducated kid who was taken away from his family and friends at too young an age, given loads of money and sent to Italy.  He couldn’t cope with all this and the fame that came with it and, as I probably would have done, ended up enjoying himself too much.  Some say it was his father’s death that sent him over the edge.  Others claim he is just an0ther example of overpaid spoilt footballers.


Paranaense (Wikipedia)

Whatever the reasons for his problems, he has another chance.  On February 13th he played all of 7 minutes for his new club.  He didn’t contribute much, but he looked fitter and leaner than he has for a long time.  He ran around a lot, which given some of the previous criticisms is a good thing.  After the game he was in tears as he thanked everyone he had ever met for giving him another chance.

And the game?

Despite Adriano not contributing much, Atlético managed to win 1-0 against The Strongest from Bolivia.  (Seriously, that is their real name.  I haven’t translated it from Spanish.  They are called The Strongest.  I think this is one of my favourite names for a football club ever.)  It is only the first game, but a home win for the team from Curitiba gives them an excellent chance to qualify for the knockout stages later this year.

Some highlights of the game

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I Am a Horse. My Son Is a Dog

Dog and Horse

One from the family album (Samantha Meets Mocha by AMagill – CC-BY-2.0)

Shakespeare got it wrong.  He might have been a great wordsmith and playwright who could look into people’s souls and see what made them tick.  

But when it came to figuring out how many ages a man has it didn’t know the first thing he was talking about.

I know this because he forgot the ages of horse and dog.

Being a horse means putting my son on my shoulders and trotting around making neighing noises while he giggles away up top.  The neighing noises are very important.  He steers me around by pulling an ear to show which way he wants to go.  If he wants to go straight he usually just beats out the clippety-clop sound of a trotting horse on my head.

Or being a horse can sometimes mean getting down on all fours while he rides my back shouting out ‘horsey, horsey’.   He has to hold on very tight for this one which can result in a pinched neck.  And my poor knees!

Or it can mean just trotting next to my son as we both make horsey noises.  I look like a right idiot doing this in the middle of the supermarket, but at it isn’t quite so bad on my worn out knees.

My son, on the other hand, seems to think he is a dog.  He will crawl around for hours on end making ‘au au‘ sounds.  He says ‘au au‘ because that is the sound dogs make when they bark in Brazil.  It doesn’t seem to matter how often I say ‘woof woof’ he insists on saying ‘au au‘.

William Shakespeare

To be a horse or to be a dog?

But being a boy-dog goes further than this.  He sticks his tongue out and pants.  He licks anything that comes anywhere near him, including floors, feet and pebbles.  He puts his head in my lap, looking for strokes and for me to say ‘good dog’.

He has even started to eat like a dog, trying to eat his food without using his hands.

I don’t know what all of this means or how long it is going to last for, but if you see a child barking like a Brazilian dog sitting on the shoulders of a man trotting around and neighing, hopefully you’ll understand they are just going through the two ages of man that Shakespeare couldn’t get into his play.

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A Bilingual Child: Pronunciation interference

English: stamp with the words "Fail"...


A while ago I was talking to a good friend of mine who used to be an English teacher, but who has now moved on to other things.  We were talking about how frustrating it can be teaching young children English and, despite only ever presenting them with ‘correct’ models of pronunciation, they still insist on saying them with a distinctive Brazilian accent.

One example of what we were talking about was the pronunciation of the word ‘red’ /red/.  A typical Brazilian pronunciation would be to say something that sounds like ‘hedgey’ /ˈhedʒɪ/.  There are three things going on here that give rise to the Brazilian sounding pronunciation: the first is that the letter ‘r’ /r/ is usually pronounced as the letter ‘h’ /h/ would be in English.  The next thing is that the letter ‘d’ is much softer in Portuguese than in English and so usually sounds like the letter ‘g’ in ‘gin’ /dʒ/.  And finally there is the tendency in Portuguese for some consonants to always be followed by a vowel.

Fortunately, I don’t have a class of three-year-olds to deal with, but I do have one two-and-a-half-year-old who we are bringing up to hopefully be bilingual English and Portuguese.  Obviously he would never say any English words with a Brazilian accent, would he?

Of course he would.

Prainha beach at São Francisco do Sul island, ...

Prainha beachy (Wikipedia)

Life’s beachy

During our recent summer holidays we spent 10 days at the beach in Sao Francisco do Sul in Santa Catarina.  It was baking hot with temperatures up around the 40 C mark so we had to ration the amount of time at the beach so we didn’t get burned to a cinder.  Our son, Mr. T was not too enamoured with this idea and kept demanding to go to the beach, or, as he said it, the beachy /ˈbiːtʃɪ/.

I was distraught.  I corrected him and said it was the beach, not the beachy.  I used exercises that have been useful with my students.  All to no avail.

I had failed.  Both as an English teacher and as a father.  My son is speaking English with a Brazilian accent because he is determined to add a vowel at the end of the word instead of just ending with a consonant.  He even seems to enjoy my displeasure now and shouts out beachy at the top of his voice.

I am glad, though, that at least he has got the long vowel right and isn’t saying /ˈbɪtʃ/

Other Brazilian pronunciations:

bike /bɑɪk/ is pronounced bikey /bɑɪkɪ/

watch /wɒtʃɪ/ is pronounced watchy /ˈwɒtʃɪ/ or washy /ˈwɒʃɪ/

hot /hɒt/ is pronounced otchy /ɒtʃɪ/

The Ramones /rəˈməʊnz/ is pronounced as Hamonees /hæˈməʊniːz/

Further Reading

After a couple of long journeys to Rio and Blumenau I am now in the middle of the third book of the ‘Foundation’ series by Isaac Asimov.  So far, it is almost as good as the first two.

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