Character #448: 客

Now Easter has gone the guests and visitors will be also so if you need to write about them in Chinese here are the characters.

來學正體字 Learn Traditional Chinese Characters

448The character 客(ㄎㄜˋ) means guest or visitor. Here is the stroke order animation and pronunciation. Here are the individual strokes for writing the character. Here is the definition in Taiwanese Mandarin. Here is the evolution of 客.

客(ㄎㄜˋ)人(ㄖㄣˊ) – a visitor, a guest
客(ㄎㄜˋ)廳(ㄊㄧㄥ) – a living room
客(ㄎㄜˋ)戶(ㄏㄨˋ) – a client, a customer

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I have a constant change of new arrivals with limited or no English.

Last week I was asked this proverbial question.  It comes up time and again and is increasing as children and society becomes more mobile schools who have had few or non EAL learners are now experiencing a different type of school day.

I left the question for open discussion during the training so that everyone could support the question. 

What came out was a lot of common sense and also positive affirmation that they are not alone. Many schools now find this a termly discussion and those with children from the travelling children experience it more.

Advice ranged from remembering that:

  1. We are teachers and every child that comes into our classroom has the right to an education (not always easy, but we must do our best to achieve this even with limited resources)
  2. You need to assess what they know and move from there otherwise they could present behavioural challenges
  3. When meeting the parent/ ask where they last went to school – if in the same country you maybe able to get some previous records even if limited it will support you a little more in finding resources that match the child’s ability to move them forward.
  4. When talking to parents create an atmosphere that says I am caring and am not prying re. e.g. previous records but I want to help your child. Some do respond.
  5. Invite the parents in, some teachers report creating ICT workshops for parents to meet together and allowed them to email relatives in their previous country or county. One teacher loved sewing so encouraged a sewing and natter group it really improved the parents perception of the school, the teacher has proper time to do some sewing that she could use with the children, the parents English improved and little molehills of problems were discussed and so mountains were reported less and less as the group gelled. It was agreed that if you choose to set up a club starting with something you are interested in then it will work.
  6. Where groups are running well and the people are secure you may pick up titbits that actually when shared help in the school or in your classroom.

If you have any further ideas please feel free to share them with us.



Addative or Subtractive bilingualism … which is the best?

I wasnt going to post anymore today but then a conversation within my cross stitch group really made me think. In this blog I have tried to pull together all the positive aspects for bilingual learning on a global scale so that by sharing we can make better judgements as teachers and parents, but I am reminded by this that no amount of research, adult discussion or policy making actually means anything if we do not consider the children at the heart of the changes we would like to see.

The thread of this discussion is by adults from around the globe with an interest in cross stitching, usually just patterns and ideas are shared but occasionally a  discussion starts on something general like the recent hurricane, that leads to a discussion about something else and this one led to the weather and crops around the world. I now know it isn’t just the UK that has had crop failure, all over the world farmers are suffering its not just newspaper and business hype to get more profit.  Even my local garden and craft show has suffered with a  decrease in entries because of our unusual weather conditions this summer.

This discussion then led to language somehow and as many people in this group live in different parts of the world to where were raised, so communication has become an important skill they have needed to develop. Discussion then led to bilingualism as these parents are trying to improve their children’s language diet within their children’s education to improve on the educational experience that they received.

Here is a small bit of genuine conversation.  I will keep the people anonymous because I think this could be any two parents anywhere in the world.

The start of the conversation

Adult 1

I never had roots, and I don’t miss them.  I do consider Texas my home, and we plan to retire there someday twenty years down the road.  The foreign service (diplomatic corps) gives me the opportunity to live in a country and truly learn about it despite the bubble.  As for what I do when not stitching – I teach temari making to locals, I am very involved in a local charity group, and I go out with friends…….  What’s funny is that out in the villages, they have outhouses and high speed wifi internet.  It’s a difference of ease and cost of putting in the infrastructure.We took a three day trip to Odessa, Ukraine last week.  It’s a three hour drive from here, and the one time I saw a village with more than one store and no wells, I remarked that that village had money.  The difference when we crossed the border to the Ukraine was pretty stark. People in the villages grow their own food and mainly live on potatoes and cabbage.  Even here in the city, if you have a yard, it’s covered in a fruit and vegetable garden, not grass.  Canning is not optional; it’s a way of life.  Homemade flour, wine, vodka, and pickled vegetables are the norm.   So are raising chickens and pigs.  When I would go out to the countryside in Uruguay, I thought a lot of it was poor.  It is very rich compared to here.  I am so thankful to have been born American. As for the languages I know – I learned German in high school and college, picked up French while living there, and learned Spanish in Uruguay.  Now, it’s Romanian and Russian.  I didn’t learn Albanian in Kosovo: too many speak English there.> > Anyway, that’s what Moldova’s like

and then it progressed until it reached this…..

adult 1

Much easier for children to learn many languages. They seem to absorb information much better than adults. My mom was teaching us german. When I started school, I knew both english and german. Then my blockhead of a teacher had a conferance with my mom. Told mom she was “confusing” us by using 2 languages. Mom regrets listening to the teacher and wishes she would have kept us with both german and english. I think it would have been interesting to know german. I really don’t have the patience anymore.

Adult 2 response

My grand daughter was told the same when she was trying to teach her daughter two languages.  My grand daughter spent most of her school holidays here in France and as a child just listened to the language.  When she was in senior school and had the option to learn French she took it and gained a very high mark.  She wanted Connie, her daughter to learn French as well as English so she spoke to Connie in French and her partner spoke to her in English. Connie was learning well but was not very talkative for her age so my grand daughter was told that that was because she was confused with the two languages.  I don’t think that is true as there are now many mixed language couples who speak to their children in their native language and the children respond without any difficulty

As you say it is a shame that your Mum was told the same.

and on speaking other languages in the real world

adult 1

I found the little time I was in France, that some of them know English but will not speak it to you to help out or anything.  Not sure why but that’s how it was when I was there.

response from adult 2

that is due to the french government. They want “purity of language”. They are being quite thawarted by computer language as they are trying to come up with french terms/words to use. Taken them several years to come up with just a few words. While many french people can write english, they do not like to speak in public. Canada is also different. While you have french and english speaking Ontario, Quebec is quite the opposite. In Quebec, they will even mix up your restaurant order, just to let you know of their dislike. Have been on the receiving end of that one!

And the debate goes on, but clearly as adults and particularly those brought up around languages they seem to see the benefits much quicker than minolinguans.

Language is best acquired when there is a perceived intrinsic purpose for using it.


Whilst funny this does give a little insight to how pupils feel, but also proves that when it is important or relevant language learning becomes easier, and feels less staged.

The Crisis in MfL in UK Schools by

Language and Meaning
Language is best acquired when there is a perceived intrinsic purpose for using it. In other words, use of language should be communicative in a way that seems relevant and interesting to the student. This engages the brain in a way that replicates the processes of early language learning by infants. Deep-level learning takes place; language is internalised.

Healthy human beings enjoy using language. We are equipped genetically to use it: purposefully, meaningfully, creatively and autonomously. It is argued that modern school syllabuses promote a relevant, communicative approach. So why don’t more pupils experience this?

In reality, most of what we are offering pupils under the heading of communication is only preparation for real communication… somewhere, some time. There is little current application; no actual message transfer; no purpose for using the language except as practice – for some future scenario, or for passing an exam.  This is just drill, no matter how much we focus it on real life. It is not communication.

Time for Change
Without contact with native speakers or the imminent prospect of a visit to a target language country, we try to incorporate Ersatz meaning and purpose into the language activities to compensate for the artificiality of the classroom setting.

This is easier to achieve in Primary School settings. We are not yet bound by government-dictated schemes of work; there are generally no exam syllabuses to follow.  (Long may that last!)

At Secondary level we desperately need to change things. We must start by shaking off underlying assumptions about language learning, deeply influenced  – more than most realise – by 100’s of years of Latin teaching. If we believe in oral work, for example, shouldn’t we limit MFL class sizes to 15? Or again, is it acceptable that we can offer exam success to pupils who may know nothing about the TL country, have never once been there, and have never even talked with a native speaker? Can you really learn a language in a traditional classroom?

For most of our pupils, an exam award, under current circumstances, is going to be of little use. It is poor preparation for “the real thing” in later life. Freed from the straitjacket of exam specifications and government-dictated schemes of work we could offer a more flexible, natural and enjoyable language learning experience – and accredit it with sensible standards provided by the Common European Framework.

There is an important minority of pupils for whom working with language in the traditional ways is suitable, and even enjoyable. Many of these pupils will specialise in language studies. For them, the academic route of exam success, prepared for by years of practice in laboratory-like conditions (dissecting and analysing), is fine.

At large, though, we have a major crisis on our hands. We need to think radically.

The following link takes you to a discussion paper which offers some pointers.

It’s surely time for change…

Schools need to operate as Ethical communities

Sir Michael Barber discusses Education at this week Education Summit and says that Schools need to operate as ethical communities and learners need to get on with people from different backgrounds and should be improved so that  global education does not  change at the geographical borders.We need as teachers, schools and educationalist to teach our learners to become World Citizens.

I believe that those of us who are already embracing bilingualism and multilingualism are already embracing this and are already developing ethical communities, but those of us who are using a learners previous experiences to build on then we are further forward than most. What needs to come next is assessment and global assessment so that if you have a grade C for argument in China it means the same in the UK…a really big ask but certainly something to be working towards. He suggests that if we look towards the new video games that is how assessment will need to look in the future as that is how the children are used to learning.

Some EAL educationalist in the UK still want new arrivals to start at their starting point rather than the new arrivals starting point as it is easier for them  What we need are tools to be able to communicate with each other successfully, because in an ideal world no one no matter how clever will ever be able to learn and communicate successfully in 6000 languages, as Lord Green says ‘it is a skilful country that will succeed in the world as large, we need to equip children with life skills’.

E (K+T+L) is the equation that Michael believes everyone in Education should be working towards.  E =  the Ethical Communities, K= knowledge, T=thinking and L=leadership skills

See more of his speech at:

and also Jim Wynn from Promethean at

Leading Educationalists highlight issues with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device/s) in schools?

What do you think about the issue of Bringing your own device into school? 

I was discussing with John (Foxwell) the whole notion of children and teachers taking their digital devices to school to access learning. I think teachers will and do take their devices to make life easier for them. It allows them freedom  to create resources at lunchtime (not that I am suggesting this is a good way forward at all, just realistic that this is what some do), in free time, afterschool and yet be able to use in a jiffy in readiness for their learners.

This then leads directly onto thinking about the children. Many of these are also using devices at home, yet do not always have the opportunity to use their skills or device/s at school. Many are challenging this but where do the teachers and school stand?

I think that many schools will encourage the children to bring their own device/s.I think this is great until the first real problem imagine all is going well and has done for years and  then little Jimmy loses his i-pad.  How does it get replaced?  I still remember with anger the loss of a blue and white Chelsea scarf my nan knitted for me aged 12 which was stolen when I was in PE (mind she did tell me not to take it to school…..but I did). It was costly in terms of her time and the balls of wool but not to the value as these new digital items. I just had to suffer the loss and telling off,  but will parents look to the school for reimbursement if the high value items are stolen on the school’s premises, and what happens when on the way to and from school.

My other issue is the teacher will then need to know everything about apple gadgets and also about any Microsoft gadgets to support learning via the various blended routes that are currently being talked about.  I am not sure this is a reality so where does it leave the learner?

Finally I suggested to John that someone needs to start looking holistically at this, because as more and more teachers and learners get their various devices and applications more will be expected from Education policy.

John rightly suggested that before we can produce a policy there are many issues that have to be thought through, before we can even think about where and when it will be used in the curriculum. Without really thinking these are the first questions that need to be asked and suitable answers found to them before policy can be written.

Q1. Will the children be able to bring their lap top/digital device? If so who is going to insure it?

Q2 Who is going to stop one child swapping it for a better make/model?  Our daughter had her flute swapped condoned by the teacher who swapped hers for one of lesser value and gave it to the other child. What happens if this should occur?

Q3. Who is going to look after the Sim cards and SD Cards? It is easy to take the sim card out of an ipad (for example) and put it into another and use all the pay as you go minutes etc. There is no way of checking this.

Q4. Once the devices are in schools can they access the same network?

Q5. What happens re viruses?

Q6. If they are accessing the internet what are the safeguards that need to be put in place for this?

Q7.How are they going to share the same programs or will parents be asked to fund this.  If the learner hasn’t got the program will they have to download before the class starts? On an apple this means linking to I-tunes which then requires passwords. How do we stop one child accessing i tunes and downloading what they shouldnt like games, or either gifting or being forced to gift things to other children.

This debate will go on but please join in and make suggestions to how we will solve this.

Why Chinese immigrants can struggle with English fluency

“Sometimes, people are just afraid to make mistakes and decide not to speak. We have to learn not to be afraid to embarrass and humiliate ourselves.”

Derwing said English-language training for immigrants must focus more on listening, speaking and pronunciation skills, as well as the so-called soft skill of engaging in casual conversation.

How often have we heard other teachers say this of our children in schools? Zhenyong Li gives a great account of the difficulties he finds particularly with small talk.  I am not sure that the children find some of these problems mainly because they pick up the social play ground talk quite easily, but have a problem with academic language.

The study by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy followed 25 immigrants each from Mandarin and Slavic groups, and assessed their listening and speaking skills at years 1, 2 and 7

There are observations to be thought about here not least why do they struggle so much more than the Slovak group, and what can we as teachers do to improve this.  Also this is surprising as those English speakers learning Mandarin seem to be really well.  A school in Canton Cardiff has achieved the success of many of its students passing exams for  adults to a really high level.

Read the rest here:–why-chinese-immigrants-struggle-with-english-fluency

Zhenyong Li has no trouble speaking English in his engineering jargon, but the Chinese immigrant says it can still be challenging to carry on small talk.

And yet, casual conversation with native speakers around the water cooler is crucial to language development — and social integration — for those whose mother tongue is something else, especially Mandarin.

A new study found the Mandarin-speaking immigrants it tracked had made “no significant progress” in their English accent, fluency and comprehensibility seven years after their arrival here, compared with their Slavic-language (Russian and Ukrainian) speaking counterparts.

The study by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy followed 25 immigrants each from Mandarin and Slavic groups, and assessed their listening and speaking skills at years 1, 2 and 7.

“Mandarin-speakers over time did not get much easier to understand when native listeners heard them speak,” said University of Alberta educational psychology professor Tracey Derwing, who co-authored the study with NorQuest College language instructor Erin Waugh.

“They made very little progress in their pronunciation and fluency. They still had many pauses and hesitation.”

Participants in the study — all possessing the same overall language proficiency, well-educated and with similar language training here — were shown pictures and asked to describe them in their own words, while being evaluated by 30 listeners to eliminate any bias or subjectivity.

Researchers also found the Mandarin speakers had had significantly fewer conversations of 10 minutes or more with native and non-native English speakers than did the Slavic participants.

The Mandarin speakers were, as a whole, more reluctant to initiate conversation and appeared to be less aware of current local events than the Slavic speakers.

The Slavic speakers, as a group, the report said, were more assertive and more deliberate in their effort to learn English. They also had an advantage because of interests shared with the larger community (ice hockey, for example), which helped with conversations.

Li, who came here from Shanghai in 1998, said Mainland Chinese learn their English from textbooks through reading and writing, and have no opportunity to drill their listening and speaking skills outside the classroom.

“If you cannot listen or speak proper English, you feel discouraged to participate in a conversation because you are afraid others don’t understand you,” said Li, 52, who has a master’s degree in engineering from the California Institute of Technology and is a manager of a Markham consulting firm.

The Chinese Professionals Association of Canada in Toronto has introduced several programs to address the language gap, which focus on pronunciation and “soft skills” in communication.

“It’s vital to be able to carry small talk,” said its president, Hugh Zhao, who moved here from Shenyang in 1989. “Small talk leads to common understanding and other big topics. It’s not enough just to talk about the weather in Canada.”

Zhao, a computing manager at the University of Toronto, said the Chinese language is very different from the English alphabet, and so are the cultures attached to those language.

Also, silence, which for the Chinese is a virtue reflecting humbleness, is not valued in the West, where people tend to appreciate participation and outspokenness.

“(Mainland) Chinese students are not active in class because, if they understand it, they don’t want to show off. And if they do not understand something, they don’t want to ask and show their ignorance,” Zhao said.

“Sometimes, people are just afraid to make mistakes and decide not to speak. We have to learn not to be afraid to embarrass and humiliate ourselves.”

Derwing said English-language training for immigrants must focus more on listening, speaking and pronunciation skills, as well as the so-called soft skill of engaging in casual conversation.

“Communication is a two-way street. The burden of communication should not be on immigrants’ shoulders only,” she added. “Canadians should not just zone out or shut down when they hear somebody speak with an accent.”

UNESCO advocate bilingual books – Cambodia

It is great to see that The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have developed a bilingual handbook for Cambodian Journalists.

UNESCO felt that the Khmer and English guide-book was important to highlight the general concept of food security and nutrition in simple language for journalist and policy makers to understand.

This is really interesting because when UNESCO has something really important to make sure everyone understands equally they have used both languages which is something I have always advocated whilst teaching particularly in relation to new arrivals, English as Additional Learners and their parents in schools, or at the various housing or benefits offices or new arrival information places.

The rest of the article can be seen below:

PHNOM PENH, June 25 (Bernama) — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has released a bilingual handbook teaching Cambodian journalists how to report news relevant to food security and nutrition.
Xinhua news agency reports the Khmer and English guidebook highlights the general concept of food security and nutrition in simple language for journalists and policy makers to understand.
“The handbook will serve as an essential tool to help guide and enhance the journalists’ knowledge for accurate reporting and advocating issues such as child mortality, children and women’s health, nutrition and food security,” said Cambodia UNESCO director Anne Lemaistre at the book’s launching.
“It will allow policy makers to access a wide variety of resources and information to guide them on key issues and to lead them to important information sources,” Lemaistre said.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the handbook will contribute towards helping Cambodia achieve the Millennium Development Goals in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

I’m Deaf – Why cann’t I be bilingual?

At this years Education Show I met an inspirational person called Deborah Reynolds  who was telling me all about sign langauge and the need in schools all over the UK as well as asking me whether the Primary Language Awards in 2013 would include sign language in the other category.  I can confirm that this will be happening this year. to find out more about the UK Sign language school

I remembered this because of this story which looks at bilingualism and deafness. It is interesting that many think that if  a child is deaf then literacy and linguistic ability is positively ignored. This article argues the case for bilingualism and the added dimensions it gives to these learners.  What do you think?

The brain-boosting benefits of bilingualism have been in the news quite a lot of late, and for good reason. The collective results of neurological and psychological studies show that bilingual thinking has a profound effect on the brain’s executive function, and bilingualism produces positive results in areas ranging from greater cognitive flexibility and faster response times to staving off dementia. With the backing of such staunch scientific proof, it seems only reasonable that educators, medical professionals and parents would advocate for bilingual education for children, and often they do; integrating foreign language learning into early education is an oft-cited goal for curriculum developers. But for deaf children, bilingualism as an educational option is ignored and in many cases even actively discouraged. The result is a child at risk of not mastering any languages, and therefore failing to reach his or her linguistic and cognitive potential.

It’s been proven since the 1960s that American Sign Language (ASL) has all the characteristics of a full and natural language, with a syntax and vocabulary independent of English, so the benefits of ASL-English bilingualism are the same as bilingualism between any two spoken languages. (I’m referring here to ASL and English, but the same holds true for signed and spoken language bilingualism in countries around the world.) So why would parents or educators try to stunt a child’s growth?

It isn’t a case of ill-intent, but rather simple misinformation. The media characterizes cochlear implants as miracle cures for deafness, and in the face of such impressive-sounding technology those who advocate for sign language education seem out-of-date or bitter about the potential loss of Deaf culture. In reality, though cochlear implants have provided hundreds of thousands of deaf people with unprecedented access to sound, as yet they cannot restore normal hearing. Success rates as to whether the user will be able to hear or understand sound and speech vary greatly, so deaf children accessing language solely through imperfect technology get fewer chances to acquire language than their hearing peers, and fall behind because of it.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not anti-technology, nor am I advocating for deaf separatism. Learning written and spoken English should be a top priority in deaf education; it’s essential for a successful integration into mainstream society. However, promoting speech shouldn’t mean sacrificing linguistic understanding, and it doesn’t have to. If given the chance, deaf children can acquire language through the natural process of incidental learning via signed language, because the visual modality allows for one-hundred percent access to linguistic information at all times. Having a strong linguistic foundation with which to think about language then allows a child to go on and learn a second language without frustration or the threat of developmental delay. But because of the stigma surrounding signing, children are often denied access to language in favor of promoting access to speech.

The arguments against ASL are many; the use of ASL prevents a child from learning to speak; learning ASL is hard; the distinct syntax and structure of ASL lowers deaf children’s reading levels. But the suggestion that ASL prevents a child from speaking is irrational, and illustrates a double standard in the education of deaf versus hearing children. Parents of a hearing child would never be instructed to stop speaking Spanish, French, Azerbaijani, etc, with their child in the worry that the child would not be able to learn English. In fact, teaching basic signs to hearing babies is trendy of late. It’s thought to decrease frustration, facilitate early communication and actually encourage speech. The idea that knowing two languages could hurt one’s reading ability is also tenuous. While some statistics show lower reading levels for deaf children, this data also includes children educated with oral methods, and research shows that children who have exposure both ASL and spoken English read better than those who know just one or the other. And the suggestion that verbal communication is easier for families should be met with question easier for whom?

With bilingualism, deaf children will not only catch up to their hearing peers, but also have access to the advantages of linguistic and cultural diversity experienced by bilingual thinkers everywhere. That is, if we let them.

Author Bio:

Sara Blazic is an instructor of undergraduate writing at Columbia University, freelance literary translator, and the founder of Redeafined (

with thanks to: