Language Challenge 180: Week 5 Check-In

by Corey · 36 comments

This page is for Language Challenge 180 participants only. Sign up now to join this event!

Congratulations! You made it through Week 5! How did it go? We heard from a few of you that your/your children’s motivation is waning. This is normal! Stay tuned for Monday’s Language Challenge 180 activities email – you will be relieved when you read it. It is all about how to fight the doldrums (but with something you may not expect!)

Did you go to the Language Page(s) or Multilingual Living Forum and make contact with other families? Here is your chance to find others who are just as excited as you and your family are with language learning.

Keep It Going

It isn’t easy to keep a language alive – for ourselves and/or our children! Many people say, “Just speak your native language to your children, how hard can that be?” Uh, excuse me? It can be very, very difficult!

Others say, “You used to be fluent in your second language, what has happened?!” Uh, hello! Give us a break! I guess life got involved and we fell behind in using our language. Like we don’t feel guilty enough!

Whether it is passing on our native language to our children or trying to keep a language alive that we learned in the past, dedication and consistency is necessary. They key is to find ways to use our language(s) on a daily basis without it feeling too artificial or draining. We need to think of the long-term when it comes to keeping language alive – this isn’t a quick fix… this is about the long haul.

We posted a fantastic article on Monday by Andrew titled, Maintain Your Language Even When You Don’t Live in a Country Where It Is Spoken. He tell us (1) what we need to replace and (2) tips for what to do with the replacement. Andrew knows how difficult it can be to keep a language going when we aren’t hearing is spoken around us on a daily basis! His tips are extremely helpful! If you haven’t read his article yet, do it right now!

Today’s Check-In Activity

Note: You can only enter this week’s giveaway if you are (1) signed up for Language Challenge 180 and (2) completed the week’s check-in below:

  • Check-In Activity: In the comment section below, tell us which word(s) and/or sentences have been the most difficult for you/your children to remember/pronounce.
    Are there some words/sentences that you find yourself stumbling over, even if they aren’t very long? Or maybe some specific grammar elements? Or what about your children? Do they often switch to the community language when using specific words? Or maybe they say certain sentences with incorrect grammar?
  • Giveaway: After you leave a comment below, head over to today’s giveaway and enter! You are now qualified!


Don’t forget to visit the Multilingual Living Forum to ask a question, start a discussion or give someone else some support. You do NOT have to log in to post there. We encourage you to check out the Language Challenge 180 section as well as the other sections.

Keep an eye out for your next email which will arrive on Monday! You are going to love this next one – it is all about fighting the doldrums with something you might least expect!

1 Francesca April 6, 2012 at 1:25 am

uhm uhm … I think that the most difficult sentence is the one I have to say when G. drops everything on the floor. I don’t know why but words don’t come so easy! Speaking about english grammar I still have some problems with the “if…” sentences…
bye bye from Rome 🙂 (and thank you for your work!)

2 Mary Kay April 6, 2012 at 2:51 am

Note: My child is two years old. Well, right now, we are focusing on her learning her last name. Diakite. In English it looks like Die-a-kite, but in Bambara it’s pronounced Dja-key-tay. No one around us can say it correctly, and that doesn’t help. So we practice it a lot. I know she’ll get it.

We are also working on the words for Milk. Leche is Spanish, but she refuses to say it. She calls it aah-che. In Bambara the word for milk is nono. But in English that sounds like NO, so she thinks I’m not going to give her any.

In terms of switching, I find it interesting that when she’s at day care, which is primarily Spanish, she asks for agua. She never asks me for agua. It’s very obvious to her that I don’t speak Spanish. When she’s home, she asks for water. When she’s in bed, and she wants something to drink, she asks for ji. So, the fact that she has mastered all three words for water, gives me hope that she’ll figure out that nono is just another word for milk.

Yes, I have definitely found it difficult to keep up the Bambara. And with the entire mess that Mali is in right, with rebels and Al Quaeda in control of the north raping and pillaging, the economic sanctions placed on Mali by the West African community and now the international community, the UN World Food Programme that has closed its doors on the hundreds of thousands people forced to flee their homes, and the national army who has taken over the capital city, it has definitely been hard to keep focused. Even though this turmoil reminds me how hard it will be for her to learn Bambara if the situation becomes such that we are unable to travel there for a while.

3 Michelle April 6, 2012 at 5:16 am

In Afrikaans, some verbs get the “ge-” in front when changed to past tense. But like all languages, there are exceptions… Our girls struggle with the ones that don’t conform, that don’t get the “ge-“. When they were little, we didn’t correct that, and now it is difficult to unlearn…

4 Jenny April 6, 2012 at 5:20 am

I think the hardest words for children to “get” sometimes are those that sound similar to English words. You’d think those words would be easier for them, but they are actually harder sometimes because they default to the English word.

5 Kim April 6, 2012 at 6:01 am

Its the u with an umlaut in any German word that causes pause in our house.

6 Letnji kampovi u inostranstvu April 6, 2012 at 7:51 am

Nice blog with great ideas!

7 Andrew April 6, 2012 at 7:59 am

right now i am trying to memorize this russian rap song there is one part i cant seem to remember the meaning which is making it difficult for me to pronouce the words (tend to memorize meaning first then the words stick and i can pronouce no problem)

8 JenneferJ April 6, 2012 at 8:06 am

The hardest part for me is to figure out the different verb forms. There are lots of them depending on level of politeness.

9 Andrew April 6, 2012 at 8:39 am

which language are you learning?

10 Karim Siebeneicher Brito April 6, 2012 at 8:22 am

I´ve been learning French for a short time now, so everything still seems difficult… But pronunciation is the most difficult part for me; getting the sounds of the vowels right, especially when speaking a little faster, is hard. I notice there are many “schwas”, and not so many strong vowels, which in turn are almost always the same…

11 Rashauna H April 6, 2012 at 8:47 am

In our house it seems difficult for me to remember when to use the preterite tense in Spanish versus the past tense. This has always seemed difficult for me. I think for my daughter, she spends so much time with English speakers at daycare that she automatically answers me in English. Sometimes she’ll switch to Spanish when she really needs/wants something and thinks I’m not listening =)

12 Alex April 6, 2012 at 10:09 am

The hardest thing to remember is the difference between “Schlussel” and “Schussel” in German. One means Bowl, the other means Key. When I wash the dishes, I make it a game to name everything in the sink. So I have to ask my Mommy over and over again. The most confusing Grammar would be the is and es ! I can never remember .

13 Susan April 6, 2012 at 10:31 am

Ohhhh, so very many places are challenging. We are not fluent but struggling along honorably in German. We do fine reading, it is speaking that we stumble along with. The word möchte is a great example. I learned German in Switzerland, so did my son. My husband learned it working in Germany. So we have long discussions about how to pronounce all sorts of things but to be honest I am not sure any of us is correct. 🙂 The trouble is that we are teaching ourselves now, without living in the country that actually speaks the language. That is why all of the suggestions here are so very helpful. This weekend we will be trying our Corey’s suggestion of an online German kid’s program which looks great for all three of us! Thanks!

14 Amanda Kendle April 6, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Ooh which is the online program Corey suggested? I must have missed it but would love to know. Danke!!

15 Wendy April 6, 2012 at 11:39 am

I’ve struggled with the double r in Spanish for many years, but I’m happy to say that my two 7-year-old daughters got this right away. I’d have to agree with Jennefer that learning the different verb forms is also a challenge. When I took Spanish in high school, we weren’t taught the vosotros form (only tu and usted) and I’m wondering if it’s worth learning now. Is this only used in Spain? My daughters are still trying to figure out the various forms of verbs in the present tense.

16 Jane Storr April 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm

In French I find words with multiple vowels most difficult to get my tongue around convincingly – such as caoutchouc (rubber) and cacahouete (peanut). Fortunately in this case I don’t have other people to speak with so it’s only talking to myself in the kitchen as I cook that I stumble over these

17 Simon April 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm

We’re all working on rolling our “r”s while we learn Spanish – sometimes with hilarious results. 🙂

18 Heather April 6, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I struggle with prayer in Spanish. I’d like to be able to say nightly prayers with my sons in Spanish, but that’s not vocabulary I was taught in school.

19 Elizabeth April 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm

My son is beginning Spanish and this week he got confused by whether nada meant nothing or swim. In general he has trouble imitating the prounciation of the “b” sound like in “abrigo”.

20 Amanda Kendle April 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm

My son (just two) is obviously still just learning to speak in general, so most of his problems are normal and to be expected, but it’s fascinating to see how he mixes the languages (German and English) – it’s clear to him that verbs should end in “en” (the infinitive form in German) so he just adds it regardless of language, so we get words like “pushen” and “jumpen”.

21 Mary Kay April 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Amanda, I loved your post. My little girl has created a word of her own. When she wants to say that something is hers, she says, “Sabou sor” (Sabou is her name). So when it’s Mommy’s, she says, “Mommy sor”. I have no idea where this comes from, but your post made me think of it. At least you know where his word endings are coming from.

22 Jessica Ward April 7, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I’m delving into future tense for the first time on paper and online… remembering to add it to my verbal collection is HARD! Je sera….

23 Denisa April 7, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Conjugation of verbs, and the strong “r”. 🙂

24 Mammamaman April 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm

My daughter is only two and a half so language-mixing is the norm (although she doesn’t do it much at her monolingual nursery!). The main pronounciation issues at the moment are her “o” and “r” when speaking Italian and Spanish. Basically she prefers the French “r” and English “o”, making words like “perro” sound a bit weird but ever so cute 🙂
Other than that, she’s now beginning to realise that words behave differently according to whether they’re male or female, and that the same “thing” can be male or female depending on the language (la macchina = el coche = la voiture)

25 Melissa April 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm

We have recently met some new friends from my husbands country of origin and I just cannot remember or pronounce one of the guys’ names. Starts with E (I think). My son (1.5yrs) always says ‘agua’ for water but most other things he will have a go in both languages.

26 Mikayla April 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm

My students struggle with the pronunciation of cognates, which are words that look that same in 2 languages and mean the same thing. The pronunciation of the vowels is sometimes different and that can trip them up.

27 Terra April 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I struggle with ser and estar in the past tense. I hope one day I can move past that!

28 Sarah M April 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm

My kids struggle with past tense verbs in English. They often add an “ed” to the end of an irregular past: I ated lunch or I wroted. They understand that they are irregular, but still need to add the typical “ed” ending. I am sure with a bit more exposure they will get the hang of it!

29 Tobias Barske April 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm

In my house, we have one native speaker of German (me) and one native speaker of English (my wife). Our child is still in the pre-production phase (she is almost 11 months old) so pronunciation for her at this point is a non-issue. My wife is picking up more and more German, though, as she listens to me talking to our daughter. As for most Americans, she does struggle with umlauts (especially u’s), but overall it is pretty impressive how she has been progressing despite the fact that she has never had any formal German language instruction.

30 Becky Smith April 9, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I have the hardest time learning the cognates in Russian. The similarity between the two actually makes it more difficult to learn than if the word was completely new and unfamiliar. My daughter, who is dyslexic, actually struggles with pronunciation in both of her languages–but her Russian is worse, since it is her L2. So, any unfamiliar word can be difficult for her.

31 Rachel April 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

We are having trouble with /r/ in German. I thought I was saying it right, but when my 4yo imitates a word she leaves the /r/ out. She doesn’t do that in English. I am also having trouble remembering “kid phrases”. I didn’t have children when I originally learned German.

32 Tracey April 9, 2012 at 7:23 pm

The hardest thing for me was the preterite verb conjugation in Spanish when I was learning 7 years ago, but living in Spanish I don’t struggle with too much. My 4 year old girls are pretty much fluent in Spanish and English (although they only have us to practice English with and when we Skype family we have to remind them that they can’t mix languages). They are both having a wee bit of trouble with some sounds like ‘s’ in either language but they certainly have a Bolivian Spanish accent and a Kiwi English accent. No real concerns on our front.

33 Cynthia H April 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm

The hardest thing for me is anytime I have to speak in front of a native speaker. My vocabulary flies out the window, and I speak pidgin French, Italian, and even my English begins to suffer.

34 Kristiana April 11, 2012 at 3:26 am

Unfortunately my girls struggle with the phrase “Qu’est-ce qu’on dit … en francais?” which makes it even harder for them to learn new words. I give them the option of “Comment dit-on … en francais?” but then they forget that too. I’m persevering by just speaking more to them every day even if they won’t talk back in French.

35 Li-Ha April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm

For my three year-old picking up Cantonese with me, it’s the “ng” sound in lots of words, starting with ‘I’ = ‘ngo’

36 Seana April 12, 2012 at 6:27 am

Whew…My kids are not even to the point of having grammar trouble. We need to find a way to ramp up the speech beyond reciting songs/poems. I just started Spanish lessons and my speaking is VERY remedial. I could speak more french with them, and they’ll be starting classes this Saturday at our Alliance Francaise. Personally, I am very sketchy on ser/estar as someone earlier mentioned, and I’ll be reviewing past tense in Spanish for my lesson next week. Can someone tell me how to say “If you wake up the baby you will be in big trouble” in French and/or Spanish?

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