A Bilingual Child: Whatsapp and language use

Whatsapp, bilingual, family, language use, motivation, Brazil

Mr T is 4 and half years old and, as a digital native, perfectly comfortable with most forms of technology.  Obviously, I am aware of some of the potential pitfalls of over-using technology, but there are also huge potential benefits beyond just being comfortable with phones and computers.  It probably all started as a baby with Skype chats and he learnt how to turn of the video.  By playing Minecraft together he has learnt a number of letters as I tell him which key to press.  He has learnt problem solving skills by learning for himself how to navigate around youtube by touching the screen.  He has become more independent by being able to use the remote control to get to the TV station he wants.

He has recently discovered Whatsapp and he was amazed.  He started by sending emojis to various people.  This started to get a bit out of hand so I set up a couple of groups that he was allowed to send images to.  These groups were made up of close family and friends who would understand it wasn’t me sending random pictures of cakes, swords and planes to them.

WhatsappBut emojis were good for only so long.  He has learnt how to take photos and send them, and then he surprised even himself when he accidentally shot a video.  For a while, the best thing in the world was to record what he was watching on TV and send it to one of his uncles.

He quickly discovered the ability to record short spoken messages and send them to people.  And even better was when they recorded their own messages to send back.  He has had up to 3 different conversations going on at the same time with people in various parts of the world.

Did I mention that he is only 4 and a 1/2, not 14?

The upshot of all this has been an increased willingness to speak English.  He wants to send messages to his Nana, Do Do and uncle in the UK, so has either asked me for a translation or just had a go at it himself.  The results are not always intelligible, but he is improving.

He also found out that he could use my phone to do Google searches by voice.  This has opened up a whole world of pictures of dragons, peregrine falcons and Harry Potter.  The voice search on Google isn’t always responsive to Mr T.  Sometimes he speaks too slowly, or he starts to talk before Google is ready for him.  Sometimes its his accent which can switch between Portuguese and English very quickly.  Sometimes it is just his own idiosyncratic way of saying things.  But this is all good as it is teaching him patience, perseverance and encouraging him to experiment with different ways of saying things.

It has also led me to turn on the child friendly search option and to start investigating other ways to protect him online if he is going to start being an independent user.  There are soon going to be conversations about how to protect himself and us, as well as attempts at rationing of screen time.  Just some of the pleasures of being a parent to a digitally literate 4-year-old to look forward to.


100 Not Out

English: Jacques Rudolph cover drive

Jacques Rudolph cover drive (Wikipedia)

“And Head of the Heard plays a glorious cover drive to reach his maiden century.  Surely there are many more ahead of him in what promises to be a glittering career…”

I am a cricket fan and, in my dreams, I often score centuries in a Brian Lara or Ian Bell style.

Unfortunately, they are only in my dreams and so the closest I will ever get to scoring 100 is in my blogging.  While it isn’t exactly cricket, I am ever so proud to write this, my 100th blog post about raising a bilingual family in Curitiba, Brazil.


Unfortunately, now that I am a dad, it is practically impossible for me to watch a whole day’s play of cricket match, never mind the whole 5 days of a test match.  And then there’s the fact that any decent match will be one of a series of 5.  This means that I have to make do with the highlights, which in all honesty can be better that watching live when England are involved.

The same is no doubt true of you, dear reader.  I am sure you don’t have the time to go trawling through all of the last 100 posts I have written, so I decided to package what I consider to be the best of them in my own edited highlights.

1. The Most Important Word – I describe how Mr. T learned a word to describe a colour, a mood, a style of music and probably the best football team in the entire history of the world.

...and 100!

…and 100! (MarcelGermain)

2. Another Reason to Speak English – There are many reasons to try to bring up a bilingual child, but I hadn’t thought about this one until I read about it somewhere else.

3. 2 Words Are Better than 1 – Mr. T shows the first signs of developing his language skills.

4. Question Time? – Talking to babies/toddlers is basically just asking a series of unanswered questions.

5. What Are Books For?  – Not just for reading.

6. Free the Feet – Now that the weather is starting to get warmer again we might just be able to free them more often.

7. Grudge Cabinet – We all have one.  Unfortunately I think Mr. T’s might have grown somewhat since I wrote this.

100 Reais

100 Reais (markhillary)

8. I Hate Scuffers – I had a lot of fun writing this one.  It merges together aspects of my own childhood as well as my son’s.

9. Should you Come to the World Cup? – Did you realise we are having the world cup next year in Brazil?  Are you coming?

10. The Oncoming Storm – This is probably my favourite single piece because it involves Dr. Who and Mr. T.  What’s not to like?

Of course having a celebration all on your own is pretty boring so I thought I would also invite some of the bloggers who have been important in teaching me how to blog, or those that I just enjoy reading.  I think my blog falls into 3 different categories; dad blogger, multilingual parent blogger, blogging about Brazil.

Brazil Bloggers

A Brazilian Operating in this Area – a great blog by a Brazilian journalist who lives and studies in London.  He always has a refreshing viewpoint on Brazilian current affairs.

Andrew Downie’s Brazil Blog – this is written by a foreign correspondent who lives in Brazil and writes about everything to do with the country.  He is sometimes called a Brazil hater, but I reckon he is just the friend that Brazil needs.

Born Again Brazilian – an American woman who went to Brazil and was born all over again, not necessarily religiously but as a person.

A Taste of Brazil – some wonderful writing all about Brazilian food.

Rachel’s Rantings – great writing about the day-to-day life on an American woman living in Rio.


100 (Ryan Christopher VanWilliams – NYC)

Dad Bloggers

Ask Your Dad – funny and warm writing about being a dad who doesn’t know the answers.

Dork Daddy – anything and everything nerdy or dorky and daddy.

Snoozing on the Sofa – some of my favourite dadtime stories are on this blog.

Modern Father Online – He is an Aussie but still claims to be modern.  Who’d have thunk it?

Lunar Baboon – Always funny.

Multilingual Parents Bloggers

Expat Since Birth – How many languages can one family speak and still stay sane?  Go to this brilliant blog to find out.

European Mama – A great Polish writer living with her German husband in Holland with their three kids.

Dads the Way I Like It – What do you get if you call a French/English/Welsh speaking Scots/Irishman living in Wales?

Bilingual Monkeys – One of the first blogs I read about raising bilingual kids and still gives me great inspiration.

Multicultural Kid Blogs – A place where parents of kids from all over the world can come together to try to build a better future.


100 (funadium)

Music in the Family

English: Sony Walkman WM-B603 audio cassette p...

Sony Walkman:1989 (Wikipedia)

I have a theory about music and the generation growing up today.  I reckon they are exposed to a lot more music that any previous generation because everywhere you go somebody, somewhere is playing something.

When I was a little kid we didn’t have a radio in our car, and then when we got a radio we didn’t have a cassette player so we had to listen to the radio which meant it was usually something crap, full of adverts, some old jovial Irish guy killing me softly with his inane wit, or a mixture of all of the above.  I also remember my first Walkman and my first tape-to-tape stereo.  ‘Yes, son, these things actually existed.’

So, my theory is that the youth of today is blessed to have so much access to whatever music they want to hear whenever they want it.  Hopefully this will mean more and better music in about 20 years, although as somebody who is already approaching the grumpy old man stage, I probably won’t appreciate it.

The Wheels on the Bus

As a family, we like dancing together to most upbeat music, but especially, I am proud to say, The Jam.  Mr. T’s favourite song, though, is The Wheels on the Bus.  He will watch various versions of it on his tablet for hours on end.  He will perform all of the actions, like the baby crying or the wipers swishing backwards and forwards.  He doesn’t know any of the words yet, but he can sing the ‘beep beep’ part when the horn blows all day long.

Musical Instruments

Chitarra acustica Mantra / Acoustic Guitar (Ma...

Much better condition than ours (Wikipedia)

My mother-in-law has a couple of beaten up old acoustic guitars hidden in one of her cupboards and so one day I got them out and started to ‘play’ them.  I haven’t got a clue about how to play the guitar so I just started hitting the strings to see Mr. T’s reaction.  He was awestruck.  Whenever he sees the guitars now we have to sit on the sofa together and sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ while smacking the strings to make an unholy racket.

Mr T’s great-grandfather has an old out of tune piano and one of the best things we can possibly do is spend a few minutes hitting keys at random and listening to the sound that they make.  Both mamãe and vovó can play a passable impersonation of chopsticks and so they play the right hand while Mr. T plays the left hand.  Hardly Mozart, but it’s a start.

Music Classes

Because Mr. T seemed to enjoy music so much we enrolled him in music classes for babies and toddlers once a week.  All they do is shake and hit stuff and dance around a bit (Actually, that is all they are supposed to do.  A lot of the parents seem to think that the class is just for them to zone out so that their pride and joy can just run about the room.) but it gets them into the habit of handling musical instruments.

Bed Time Songs

I had three songs to sing to Mr. T when I wanted him to calm down and go to sleep.  I used to start off with The Wild Rover by the Dubliners, then move into The Gnome by Pink Floyd and, if he was still awake, finish it off with Keep Right On, the anthem for my football team, Birmingham City.  One day, while in the middle of the second song, I realised I was singing to him about drinking, debauchery, drugs and a lifetime of sorrow.

Unfortunately, if I start singing a song nowadays I am told in no uncertain terms to shut up, unless it is the Wheels on the Bus, of course.  This might be because Mr. T doesn’t like the songs I choose to sing, or perhaps it is my terrible voice.

Musical Heritage

Português: O cantor e compositor brasileiro Ch...

Chico Buarque (Wikipedia)

Brazil and Britain both have incredible musical histories.  Some of the most important bands and genres have developed in the two countries, and this means that as a bilingual and bicultural person our son is going to have access to both of these rich heritages.  I just hope he chooses to listen to Chico Buarque or The Stone Roses rather than Gusttavo Lima or One Direction.  Two amazingly musical countries and we both produce absolute nonsense like that.

Music and Language Learning

So far I am not sure what effect all of this music has had on Mr. T’s language skills.  I am sure it will have some effect, but only time will tell what it is.

This post is part of the Raising Multicultural Children Blog Carnival.  This month the carnival is being hosted by Mother Tongues Blog.