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Posts tagged ‘parents’


Junior Language Challenge: Aalaya’s story

Last week, we heard from Jackie Gliniecka, a teacher at The Hawthorns School in Surrey, about her experience of the Junior Language Challenge over the last ten years.

But how does it feel to take part in the competition? Today we’re sharing runner-up Aalaya Sanjeeva’s story, which begins three years ago…


I started JLC when I was in Year 3. In the first year, when I got through to my first JLC finals, I did not make it to the final 12 after the heats. However, just getting into the finals was a fantastic experience and I just had to do it again the following year. In the second year, I worked really hard and made to the final 12 but not the top 3. This year, my friend Nithya and I worked our way through to the finals and we both did really well to get into the top 18. It felt so great and seriously nerve wracking while we were playing, when I came second I could not believe it (I still can’t believe it).

I would recommend entering JLC as the whole experience is a lot of FUN and besides, learning languages is an important skill, it helps you communicate better when you go to foreign countries and also since you know where the money is going and what it is helping with (onebillion), it inspires you and makes you work even harder for it! Over the years, I have seen the videos of a school classroom built in Malawi and happy children learning to read and learn maths in their native language and progressing quite well. It makes you happy to see their smiles when they get the stars on the iPad.

I also remember Martha Payne, a girl not much older than us, who handed out the prizes during JLC 2013 – her story, ‘Martha, Meals and Malawi‘ was amazing and really inspiring and touching!

I had great fun learning all the 9 languages over the last 3 years 🙂 Thank you, team JLC for the wonderful opportunity!

Aalaya and Martha Payne at the Junior Language Challenge final 2013

Aalaya receiving her medal and certificate from Martha Payne at the JLC Final 2013

Aalaya’s parents, Sanjeeva and Priya

We have had an amazing experience learning so many languages over the last 3 years, it has instilled in Aalaya a love of languages that will stay with her for life and the steadfastness of effort that was required was also something wonderful to see in all the kids who have  done multiple rounds. Plus she has had tons of fun, going to the semi-finals and finals – looking forward to the special journey to London Olympia with her teachers Mrs Gliniecka & Mrs Guest and schoolmate Nithya, the exposure to the huge language show opening up the wonderful world of linguistics and last but not least,  those marvellous goody bags – all part of a wonderful package for a young child 🙂

Your team (Liz, Franco and others) and Richard Howeson are amazing and inspirational people – the happiness and camaraderie and the genuine passion in what you do is so evident every year! Richard, especially, with his vision for onebillion, has been so instrumental to all this and much more. The progress we saw unfolding with EuroTalk and onebillion was heart-warming, it gives a lot of hope for the future. We hope and pray that onebillion will achieve the goal for which it was founded and will try supporting it by encouraging more children to join the competition every year!

Some learning stays for life! Aalaya has been very inspired by the wonderful initiatives she has witnessed and this in turn with similar other experiences will help her grow as a responsible person.

THANK YOU again and keep up the good work!

Two ever grateful parents! 🙂

Aalaya at the JLC final 2015

Aalaya at this year’s JLC final, where she came second

If you’d like to know more about the Junior Language Challenge, or you’re thinking of entering next year, please do feel free to contact us at or visit, where you can sign up to join the mailing list and be first to know all the details of the 2016 competition.


5 reasons to join the Junior Language Challenge

If you’re a regular follower, you’ll have heard us talk in past years about the Junior Language Challenge, our annual competition for primary school children across the UK. This year’s challenge is now underway, and here’s why we want every child who’ll be aged 10 and under on 1st September 2015 to join in:

1. It makes languages fun

All parents and teachers know that children learn best when they’re enjoying themselves (as we all do – not just children!). So the JLC uses games and the competition element to make languages fun. We want every child who takes part in the JLC to come away from it with a new love of languages, and eager to continue with them as they move on to secondary school.

EuroTalk Junior Language Challenge

2. It introduces children to languages they’ve never heard of

Last year, children taking part in the competition learnt Italian, Japanese and Somali. This year, they’ll be starting with Portuguese. We like to offer exciting, different languages – because once a child knows they can learn Chichewa, suddenly French and Spanish won’t seem so daunting. And it encourages them to learn about other cultures and countries, some of which they may never have heard of before.

EuroTalk Junior Language Challenge

3. It doesn’t take up loads of teacher or parent time

We know teachers and parents are busy people. That’s why the JLC is designed to be as easy as possible to set up. We’ve even created this letter to parents, which explains what it’s all about. Everything’s done online, so once you’ve got them registered, children can login on any computer and keep learning. Our system records all the scores, so the only thing we need from the grown-ups once they’re up and running is encouragement!

EuroTalk Junior Language Challenge

4. It’s for charity

The JLC doesn’t just benefit the children who take part; it also raises money for our charity, onebillion. They’re doing fantastic work creating apps to transform the education of one billion children in developing countries, and we’re proud to support them. Each child who enters the competition pays a £5 entry fee, all of which is donated to the organisation.

Children studying at Biwi school, Lilongwe, Malawi

5. There are some great prizes on offer

The JLC champion wins a once-in-a-lifetime family holiday to Africa (our 2013 winner, Ella, wrote us this fantastic report about her trip to Malawi). There are also prizes for the runners-up – in previous years these have included iPods and cameras – and goodie bags for everyone who makes it through to round 2 and beyond, including t-shirts, pens, and other treats, as well as discounts on EuroTalk software for the children and their schools.

EuroTalk Junior Language Challenge 2014

Registration is open now for school groups and individuals. Teachers can register their school for free, to take a look and try out the games before deciding whether to sign up any pupils.

If you’d like more details about the Junior Language Challenge, or to join in, visit the website or email us.

And if you know anyone else who might be interested, please spread the word!

Good luck to everyone taking part this year. Or should we say Boa sorte 🙂



Why learn Mandarin Chinese?

In Europe and the United States alike, a growing interest in Mandarin Chinese is leading to big changes in public and private education, with various schools for adults and children now incorporating this language into their curriculum. Many parents are currently encouraging their children, aged as young as four or five, to learn Mandarin, in an attempt to boost their prospects in the face of an increasingly competitive workforce.

Chinese growth 

Despite a marked increase in popularity of Mandarin Chinese, it is interesting to view a spate of news articles and blogs advising adults and children alike not to bother learning this challenging language. Fluency in this language is impossible, their authors say, without spending many years in China; Mandarin (which utilises over 2,000 characters) is too difficult to learn in one’s free time; the tonality of the language (an array of pitches are used to convey different meanings) is a hurdle most students will fail to overcome. Even eight hours weekly spent on the subject, they claim, is not enough for top-grade fluency to be achieved.


Yet the statistics cannot be argued with: currently, some 40 million foreign students are studying Mandarin in China and by the year 2020, the Chinese government predicts that this number will rise to 100 million. According to, ‘China is now the number one producer of wind and solar power in the entire globe’. It is also the number one nation in the world in terms of trading when import and export totals are added; it boasts more foreign currency reserves than any other country; China consumes more energy than the U.S. and is the leading manufacturer of goods. There is no doubt that the study of the Chinese language can open many doors, many of which are simply not immediately foreseeable. Owing precisely to the difficulty of Chinese, children have a better chance at achieving a good conversational level if they start young. Moreover, bilingualism is not the only valid goal for budding students; even having an intermediate speaking level can go a long way in sectors such as the tourism industry.

Increase in Chinese tourism

Recent developments show the growth of Chinese investment in Europe. In late 2013, Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, attended a Sino-CEE summit in Romania, where he and dignitaries from 16 other countries pledged to forge tighter economic ties in the near future. Chinese tourism to Europe is also on the rise, with countries like Spain receiving some 33 per cent more visitors in 2013 than in 2012. Many Chinese tourists favour countries like Spain and Italy as popular tourist destinations. As noted by, the Mediterranean is one of the ‘most popular cruising destinations’ for tourists from across the globe. In addition to economic reasons, there are more factors attracting children and adults alike to hone their skills in Mandarin. Recent studies indicate that speaking this language has an entirely different effect on the brain than speaking other languages. The study, undertaken by researchers at the Wellcome Trust in the UK, has revealed that the tones, sound and complicated characters used in Mandarin Chinese employ both temporal lobes in the brain (speakers use only the left temporal lobe for the English language). As states, ‘learning Chinese may train a host of cognitive abilities not utilised in the study of other languages’.

It is hardly a source of surprise to find that learning Mandarin has such vastly different effects on the brain than other languages, all of which descend from a system developed in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago. The origins of the Chinese language are of a completely different nature and although learning this language for the first time can undoubtedly be time-consuming and challenging, it is also an entertaining and, some would say, beautiful, melodic way to boost one’s economic future and brain power.

Eve Pearce


Toddler Talk: How to Encourage Your Little One to Learn Language

Today’s post was written by guest blogger, Eve Pearce.

For most parents, a child’s first word is a huge milestone – the first step in learning communication, language and the beginning of a whole lot of chattering. After the initial ‘mamas’ and ‘dadas,’ a string of other words usually start to flow but this isn’t always the case. Up to 6 million children in the United States suffer from some sort of speech or language disorder which can affect their ability to talk. Others may not have a disorder but simply take longer to develop their speech and language skills. Despite experts suggesting that toddlers will be at least three years old before being able to form short sentences, there are things that you can start doing much earlier on to encourage your child to talk. Here are some tips to help encourage your little one to learn language and what to do if your child won’t talk.

What if my child won’t talk?

What to do if your child won't talkIt’s important to remember that children develop at different rates so comparing them to their peers isn’t always helpful. Sometimes there are simple reasons why a child doesn’t speak much. For example younger siblings can sometimes be quieter because they allow their older siblings to talk for them. Other times children may develop in physical areas such as crawling, walking and climbing more quickly and this detracts attention away from their interest in talking. But if you feel that your child has reached an age where they should be speaking more than they are of if you are generally concerned about a lack of response to your attempts to interact with them it could be worth seeking advice from a paediatrician or speech therapist. Unfortunately developmental delays in children do exist and conditions such as Apraxia, Dysfluency and ADHD are relatively common and all affect speech and language skills. Getting these diagnosed will help you get the professional advice you need in order to help your child move forward with their language.

Verbalize their feelings

Children communicate with their parents from day one through crying. Over time parents come to recognize the different types of cries and what they mean. As your child develops they will begin communicating in other ways – smiling, gurgling, throwing tantrums and whining. These are some of the more obvious signs but even facial expressions can give away what they are thinking or feeling. If you can verbalize their expressions then they will begin to associate these words with how they are feeling and know what they mean even before they are able to say them out loud. For example if she is smiling at her dolly you say ‘you look very happy today’ or if he is becoming frustrated with something ask him ‘why are you cross?’

It sounds silly but sometimes parents simply forget to talk to their babies. Many wrongly assume that a small baby is incapable of communication and talking is therefore pointless; but actually a baby becomes attuned to their mother’s voice while they are in the womb and talking to them will reassure them, comfort them and interest them even if they can’t understand what you are saying. Alter the pitch of your voice and sing songs. This will grasp their attention. They cannot respond in words yet but you will see from their smiles, gurgles and squirming that they are enjoying the interaction.

Read, read, read

Read, read, readIntroduce books as early as possible. Your baby will probably not start to engage with them fully until six months onwards but reading helps them to associate pictures with words, follow stories and pick up on your expression and emotion as you read. It will help them to not only learn the words but recognize the things in the world around them and develop their listening skills too. Introducing sensory books with fabrics, noises and shapes is also a great way to grasp their attention and increase their interest in books. Similarly, do not feel you have to be totally led by the book at all times. Let the child explore the book at their own pace rather than forcing them to sit still and listen while you finish it conventionally. Developing an interest and love for books means developing an interest and love for language so you need to make it fun to hold their enthusiasm.

Talk properly

The reason many people talk to their children in ‘baby speak’ is simple – words such as ‘choo choo’ and ‘woof woof’ are more pleasing for a child’s ears and easier for them to say. As young babies it is ok to use this sort of language but as they grow up it means teaching them that actually a ‘choo choo’ is a train and a ‘woof woof’ is a dog, which is double the amount of learning for them. Some child experts believe that talking authentically from the beginning is the best way to help a child develop language skills. They will notice the difference in your tone and language when you speak to other people and wonder why they are being spoken to differently. There is no need to speak to your toddler in a pitch that ten decibels higher than your normal voice just in everyday conversation – this is not natural and yet you want them to learn and mimic natural behaviour and speaking. This doesn’t mean speaking to them in the same way you would speak to an adult; obviously you need to use simpler words and talk a little slower so that they can pick up on everything you say, but do not patronize them.

If anyone has any other helpful tips, please feel free to share them in the comments below.

We’ve heard from parents that our Vocabulary Builder program for 4-12 year olds has been helpful to them in encouraging their children to talk. Even if it’s their own native language, the colourful characters and games are a fun way to build up their confidence. Vocabulary Builder is available in over 100 languages.



The benefits of exposing younger children to multiple languages

Today we have a guest post by Stephen Thomas, on behalf of Pearson PTE, on why it’s important to expose children to other languages at a young age.

Why expose children to other languages?

Communication is fundamentally part of what makes us unique organisms on earth. The way that we have developed language to exchange concepts, ideas, narratives and so on with sounds that are culturally recognised to the degree of complexity we have, is distinctive and unmatched by any other organism.

Clearly then, learning a language reaps obvious benefits: we can learn and understand new things with ease, retain ideas throughout decades, make each other laugh and cry, discuss, debate and develop the most fundamental questions of philosophy – all through using just one language. So aside from the want or need to communicate with speakers of a different language, is there any benefit of being bilingual or raising children that are bilingual? Well, Pearson PTE spoke with Dr Catriona Morrison, senior lecturer in psychology at The University of Leeds who advised that there is evidence to support the notion that merely exposing children under the age of five to other languages has benefits, regardless of whether or not they become bilingual.

Young children

Between the age of 3 and 6 is a vital stage of childhood in terms of language learning and development. The malleable mind of a child
at this age is like a sponge and Dr Morrison advises that “after the age of five, it is highly unlikely to acquire the mother tongue of a language if it is not yet already acquired”. Although in later childhood or adult life we may learn a new language, we can be sure that we do not learn it with anything like the same ease that we would as a child. After this crucial point in child development there begins a change in the human brain that effectively shuts down the ability to ‘naturally’ learn language. Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a language in adulthood, but if you have, I’m sure you will agree that it is much more difficult in contrast to a truly bilingual person (who learned two languages before this crucial stage) whereby the two languages are seamlessly managed within the brain as though they were one.

Beyond the communicative advantages, research suggests that bilingual children have better capacities for storytelling and interpretation. The processing of information seems to happen at a deeper level and they will think through and into the story more. So for example, statistically if we were to take a group of monolingual children and a group of bilingual children and tell them a story, when we ask them to recount the narrative and characters, the bilingual children will show evidence of deeper understanding and a higher level of information processing.

Furthermore, Dr Morrison suggested that bilingualism seems to act as a preventative mechanism against the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Although it will not create immunity and one may still fall to the condition, statistically if it is going to happen it will happen later in life, when compared to monolingual sufferers. In layman’s terms this could be because one is using more of the brain when accessing two or more languages and thus the brain is more active, and an active mind is a healthy mind.

How can we help children to discover languages?

So if you are a monolingual parent and you see the benefits of bilingualism in younger children, how should you go about helping your child? Realistically, a child of monolingual parents isn’t going to become bilingual, even with partial immersion in other languages through accessing foreign television radio or sending them to a nursery that caters for multiple languages. This is why Dr Morrison agrees that it is such a tragedy that the UK’s schooling system doesn’t introduce children to other languages as it is at this vital time of youth that we have the change to expand their minds in a way that isn’t possible at any other stage of life.

However, this doesn’t mean that the exposure is pointless or irrelevant: “I have a lot of faith in the idea that the more languages a child is exposed to, the better,” says Dr Morrison. Part of what makes language learning hard is that a new language draws on an entirely alien phonemic inventory to what we are used to hearing. When we try to listen to and learn these sounds, our brain simply isn’t accustomed to hearing them. So there is definitely a benefit for parents endeavouring to expose children to these sounds that they would otherwise be starved of and therefore selectively excluded from the brain; absolutely do allow your children to watch  foreign TV shows or listen to internet radio form other countries and if possible encourage human interaction with your child and other language speakers. This will only help and bolster their learning and development.

Stephen Thomas

If you’d like your children to start learning a language, why not try our Vocabulary Builder program? With its colourful characters and fun games, it’s a great start for young learners – and it’s available in over 100 languages.