Tag Archives: dutch

Catalan Book Review

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And then comes the moment that she brings a book from school to be read and reviewed…in Catalan language! Up till now she has done about 4 book reports on her previous class (1st grade) and 1 book in this new class, but all of them were in English. She doesn’t even get one in Spanish yet. So she’s quite nervous that she now has to read and review a book in Catalan. It’s not a very long and difficult book, but it does have quite some text to read.

14 months ago she only spoke a few words in English and zero Spanish except ‘hola’ and ‘adios’. Nowadays she speaks English quite well and also Spanish. According to herself her English is at this moment a bit better than her Spanish, but it’s absolutely amazing how quickly she masters these two languages. Saying so, learning Catalan is not her focus last year. She understands it a bit (much much more than we do!) but talking is difficult and reading also. Since Catalan’s writing is not phonetically spoken like Spanish. You read it differently than how you speak it. Maybe this year her teacher wants her to learn more Catalan, hence giving her a Catalan book to be reviewed. Maybe.

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Most people living in Catalonia are bilingual. They switch between Spanish and Catalan fluently, which is amazing. Well, good thing and bad thing. Because while they mostly don’t mind to speak only in Spanish when they find out we’re not speaking Catalan (yet), they still tend to use some Catalan words in their speaking. So it happened that we suddenly heard our doctor said something in Catalan, but also the neighbour, office colleague, and of course on the street where it’s all written and said in Catalan (about 70-80%). We had one funny experience when we bought Sky’s bike from a guy living in Vic, a city about one hour riding from our house. As usual, we started the conversation by apologizing for our very simple Spanish. His answer: “Well, it’s not my first language either (Catalan it is), so we are equal.” That was a genius statement!!

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For those who think that Spanish and Catalan are similar…no they are not. Well okay, the amount of similar vocabulary is significant and you will learn Catalan absolutely quicker when you already speak Spanish. When I read I can often guess the meaning of the text (based on my Spanish vocabulary). But when listening, depending on who’s speaking and the context, sometimes I understand completely zero and other times up to 40%. That’s it. I followed basic Catalan class last year, 20 hours in 2 weeks. All my classmates were South-American whose Spanish is their mother language. And they all need to learn Catalan from the basic. That shows how different those two languages are. I do not avoid to learn more Catalan, not at all. But at this point I think it’s wiser to strengthen my Spanish first. My plan is to continue learning Catalan next year. Poco a poco, they say. Poc a poc, in Catalan. Little by little.

Back to the book review. I promised Sky to read the book together with her, because we are learning together. I think that relieves her a bit, knowing that we are all in the same journey. That it’s not something scary we’re facing, but an interesting stuff for all of us. Learning language takes time, but it’s fun! 🙂

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Her Spanish comics

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Emigration Milestone

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Last week I felt that we have reached an important milestone regarding our emigration from the Netherlands to Spain, 14 months ago. I said “we”, but it’s actually Sky’s milestone. For the first time since our move she wanted to; and was able to; talk about our time in the Netherlands. Without crying or feeling homesick. Just talking. With the same emotion like when we talk about the dinosaurs. We were talking about her previous classmates and her friends, in which grade they are now. About how we used to walk to school (“that I still remember very well”, she said) and also to the grocery store (“I’m not sure I remember that”), and how the surroundings of our previous house have changed rapidly from what we heard from friends living nearby.

It sounds simple. But I believe it’s a huge milestone for her, and for us. I sensed how she feels more and more ‘home’ here in Spain. And by being able to talk about her previous life without feeling homesick, means she already feels comfortable with her new life, her new environment.

And she likes her school a lot. She missed school so much during the long summer holiday. Yesterday she told us: “I have so many friends here, sometimes I don’t know who I should play with!” Such a luxury! And an awesome news to hear for us, her parents! 🙂

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A little celebration last weekend because she turns 7,5 years old!

learn and be proud

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School’s field trip to Maritime Museum Barcelona

We were walking to her school one morning when she asked me: “Mama, can I stay in this school for many years? Till what age can I stay at school actually?” I smiled at her and answered: “Till you’re 18 years old. And yes, you can stay as long as you like.”

And I really hope I didn’t make a false promise. She likes her school very much and we; all three of us; like to live here. So hopefully she can indeed stay for many years at her amazing school.

So many things happened in the past few months. Yesterday was the last day of my Spanish course this school year. In September I will start with the next level and I got more than enough exam-points for that. Our Spanish is getting better and better. I wouldn’t say we’re advanced, but we’ve got enough to communicate with people. Sky has just got her periodical eye-control and we bought new glasses for her (her right eye now has lower cylinder and the left one stays the same). And she has finished a set of dental treatments (6 visits were needed in total). And all of those were done fully in Spanish. We’re so proud of ourselves!

But the most amazing thing is of course to see how well Sky is developing in these 10 months we’re living in Spain. I see that she now feels confident to communicate in English and Spanish, and she understands Catalans much better than me. At the Jocs Florals (Sant Jordi) celebration at school 6 weeks ago, she was one of the winners of poetry-drawing competition…in the Spanish category!!! We were called secretly by her teacher a few weeks before to attend the ceremony, so to gave her a surprise that we were there. It was such a grand moment to watch her on the stage…so proud…❤️

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Kids birthday party in Spain

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Yesterday, Sunday, we had a birthday party of one of Sky’s classmates. The Sunday before we also had a similar party, our first children party in Spain. 3 of Sky’s classmates celebrated their birthday together. Now we have experienced two parties, I can write something about it. Can’t avoid to compare it with what we are used to in the Netherlands (and although I have never been in a kids party in Indonesia myself, I will also tell about it a little, based on what my friends shared through social media’s).

Here in Spain, the whole class is invited. Not only the children, but also the parents, brothers and sisters. So if the whole class would come together with the families, there could be about 100 people in the party! Not that it was the case last Sundays. Not all children could come, and there were 40-60 people in each of both parties. That’s still a big number though! In the Netherlands, it’s normal that the birthday child may invite friends as many as her age to-be, or plus 1 or 2, but no more. For sure not the whole class. And the parents would drop the kids off and pick them up again. Usually the party will be held either at home (with some activites), or somewhere else like a playground, animal farm, zoo, museum, or other organized activites. Mostly are held on Wednesday afternoon because the school ends just before lunch, or otherwise after school on other days when the school ends at 3 p.m. This article describes the Dutch kids party really well, if you would like another read on this subject (it’s actually quite the opposite point of view as what I experienced here, because the author is a Mexican lady living in the Netherlands, and I have just moved from the Netherlands to Spain!).

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Since the school ends quite late here in Spain, the birthdays are normally celebrated in the weekends, usually on Sundays. The first birthday we had was held in a learning centre in the middle of our city. As I said, there were 3 children who had their birthday celebrated together because the dates are close to each other. The children were invited for a robot/programming/science workshop, which they were all beyond enthousiastic about. It’s a close workshop, which means the parents can just drop the children off and leave. But it didn’t happen. Noone left after dropping off. Instead we all went to a cafe nearby and got a cup of coffee. And talked, and socialized…until we could pick up the children again. Then we cut the birthday cakes, sang Happy Birthday and the kids opened their presents.

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There was a bit of commotion about the presents beforehands. A parent didn’t want the child to get too many gifts. An option was to donate or collect some money for the party givers. But finally it was “decided” (not sure how and by whom, it just happened) that noone should give money nor gifts, nothing. The parents of the birthday child will buy the gift themselves (only 1, as far as I can see). The idea behind this is that every child will eventually celebrate his or her birthday this year. So at the end it will come to an equality. The important thing is that everyone will have a good time, enjoy the parties and get to know each other better.

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There are some non-Spanish parents in the class and they just can’t understand this system. Well, I’m one of them of course, but I’d rather say I have some pro’s and con’s regarding this idea. It’s such a social and noble system. I observe such parties to be held also in Indonesia. Where the whole class is invited, often the parents too. With the intention to have a good time together. The difference is about the gifts, there a child would receive a huge pile of gifts from everyone, and often the party has a certain theme, where the decorations and the cakes and the treats will all be in style (if you have the money, of course…).

Another pro point: Because the parents stay at the party, it’s really an opportunity to meet and get along. After two parties I start to recognize some faces, and even be able to link them to their children! Not easy for an introvert like me, but I also managed to have a chit-chat, practice my basic Spanish, and even talk about many different things with some of the parents whom I normally wouldn’t be able to talk with.

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Now the con’s: The same social system can also put pressures on one’s shoulder. Although a mother assured me it’s absolutely okay not to follow this system, there will be for sure a pinch of guilty feeling if you decide, for example, not to invite the whole class. Because your daughter has been invited by everyone, and you don’t do the same!

And it’s well known here in Spain, to put families (in this case the class, or the class’ decision) way above your own sentiments. An example: the parents of the second birthday party actually would like to collect some money, but change their mind when the group decided not to do so. But these parents are “alone”, I mean it’s not a joined birthday party, which means they have to spend a lot of money and organize everything for the party themselves. It was a fun party by the way. We all had a train ride around the park and afterwards the children could play in the big playground while the parents gathered around the picnic table, or played with their kids.

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The social issue and follow-the-majority is not something I can judge. It’s highly cultural and country-related, I believe. Maybe I’ve been living too long in the Netherlands to find that having 100 people at a children party is just not so efficient. And that everyone should be free to choose what he wants and who he would like to invite. Some people think it’s so harsh to exclude some kids by not inviting them to your party. Other would say it’s like the life itself, you won’t always be invited to every occasion. That children should deal with disappointment. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. I never saw Sky being disappointed by not being invited. Maybe it’s in her character, but children are flexible and they can handle things and emotion more than what we’re thinking of.

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On the other hand, based on what I experienced so far, the parties here are way more relaxed and easy going. No excessive food nor gifts. No time limit when the party should end (sometimes even no exact time when to start…not always handy, but okay…). No pressure to talk with someone you don’t really match (although they do love to talk here! But it’s so different than when you have to sit in a circle in the livingroom like the usual Dutch birthday party). And the gifts part…I think it’s such a good idea! One ‘big’ gift only, from the parents. Not 25 ‘small’ ones you barely will use. We still keep Sky’s birthday gifts from last year. From the 5 gifts she received from her friends, 1 hasn’t been used at all, 2 are used only a little bit, 1 is given away (with her permission) and the last one is somewhere in her drawer.

So at the end…. I still don’t know. The pro’s and con’s will stay for a while, I suppose. Meanwhile we will observe and experience more. And for Sky’s birthday; we have told her that she may choose. If she chooses to have a Dutch party style by inviting only some kids she really loves to play with, it’s fine. But if she chooses to join the class and invites everyone, it’s also good (but then I would try to find some b-day partners, I think, haha…). We’ll see!!! 😉

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adjust, adapt and be positive

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Sky told me last week: “Mama, I think I like my current school better than my old school in the Netherlands.”

That one sentence really means a lot for me. To know that she is really happy and satisfied with her new environment, after only such a short period of time (4 months at school now) and with new languages she didn’t speak yet when she started… Of course I have noticed that she feels good by observing her behaviour. She hops happily from school everytime I pick her up and she tells me a lot about things she’s been doing at school. But to hear it coming out from her mouth, and to see that smile…it means the whole world!

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When I asked her why she likes her current school more, she replied: “Because this school has many fun activities, like art, sport, computer language, music, singing, swimming, online English learning…”
Well yes, I understand. I would love to redo my school time too!

At this very moment they are preparing a piece of theatre, based on the Lion King story. Each class picks a different movie. I believe they have evaluated the story, the roles and characters, and still learning about the costums (which they have to make themselves), the decor, the music and so on. All is done in 3 different languages, each language covers its own topics. Such a stimulating and fun process of learning!

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But I also believe that not only a good school is important when you’re going on a huge adventure like moving country, but also a positive attitude. We try to support each other as much as we can, and show that however it will not always be easy, there’s always things to be grateful for. Look at the bright side of life and enjoy, and you will make yourself easier in the process of adjusting and adapting.

When a stranger talks to me in Spanish and I don’t understand at all, I can still be grateful for the friendliness people seem to have here towards strangers. When we can only borrow very simple children books from the library with minimal or even no text at all, I’m still grateful they have those books in the library and Sky is now focused on the illustration and it makes her try different types of drawing, which is very fun. And when we are often so frustrated with the “relaxed” way people dealing with rules here, it can also works on my benefit, like yesterday. I borrowed some extra books from the library but apparently I would have in total one book too many. The maximum allowed is 15 and I have got 16. But the friendly librarian gave me a big wink and said: “It doesn’t matter, just one book too many. And besides, your daughter loves the books so much, right?” 🙂

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About last Saturday, ear piercing and Xmas concert

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I forgot my key this morning. As usually we went out of the house together and Joop dropped Sky and I off nearby the school, on the way to his work. After making sure Sky was in her classroom I went home by train, and just in front of the gate of our house I realized I did not have my key with me.

So here I am, sipping a cup of ‘cafe con leche‘ at a cafe at the commercial centre, about 20 minutes walking from our home. Waiting for Joop to ride home during his lunch break to lend me his key. Writing a blog post to kill the time, about our weekend. Because last Saturday was one exciting day for Sky.

She had her ears pierced!!!

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She was never as sure as now. In the Netherlands she was one of the last girls in the class without earrings. One by one her girlfriends got theirs, but Sky wasn’t really eager to get one. Interested in, yes, but it’s not before we’re in Spain that she mentioned her will to get pierced. We waited till the approaching Christmas holiday. Because she won’t be allowed to swim for 3-4 weeks. Next week she will have to miss one swimming lesson at school, then followed by 2 weeks holiday. So in the new year everything will be just healed and well.

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Actually it goes really well already. She has got almost no pain. We could clean the ears, drip a bit of alcohol and turn the earrings around without any significant problems. And her excitement…it’s so amazing to see. How happy and proud she is. Beaming and glowing like a grown-up girl. And she is! Those small shiny things in her ears make her suddenly looks more mature…. Oh my mother’s heart…. ❤️

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Where in the Netherlands it’s usually the jewellery stores that do ears piercing, in Spain you will have to go to a Farmacia (a pharmacy/drugstore). We went to a big Farmacia nearby our house on Friday, but were asked to come back on Saturday morning, because the lady specialized in piercing children’s ears will be available by then. So we did, and we were very satisfied with the unbelievably proffesional and super friendly service.

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Sky was asked to choose which earrings she liked most; pink flowers it is. The lady drew two black dots on her earlobes and before we knew it she already punched one ear. One minute later the other one. So quick, and almost painless (according to Sky)! Mission completed and another milestone achieved!

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But the Saturday was not over yet. While Sky was still hyper-enthousiast about her new look, at 4 she had to be at school, wearing her full uniforms. For the grand rehearsal of the yearly Christmas concert! At 6 we, the parents and other guests, were welcomed at the school’s Auditorium. After some instrumental performances by senior students and music teachers, all the first grade students (well, not all, about two third of all students because participation is not obligatory), wearing Santa hats (so cute!) came onto the stage and performed the Christmas songs. 2 English songs, 2 in Spanish and 2 in Catalan. It was so entertaining. We had such a fun and memorable night.

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Watching her singing those songs, in 3 languages she barely knew 4 months ago… I was so moved. This whole adventure, we can’t be sure of anything. But one thing I’m sure of: it will bring many more beautiful moments like this in our path. 🙂

how quickly children learn (languages)

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There are 4 non-Spanish children in Sky’s class. Two of them instantly become her best friends and both girls speak English (one also speaks Spanish as her second language and the other Catalans). Such a lucky situation, because their friendship improves Sky’s English (a lot!) and helps her through learning some Spanish and Catalans words. The teacher affirms that, and I notice it in many ways. Some days when she comes home from school she even answers me with “yes/no” or “si/no”, and I notice a slightly different “r”-sound in her pronounciation. Very English! Her Spanish also goes rapidly forward. Because I think she constantly hears (and uses) it at school. The other 22 children in her class speak Spanish, of course! Plus she gets extra Spanish lessons at school, together with other children from all classes who do not speak Spanish yet. I can’t measure it, but I think she actually understands a lot of Spanish (and Catalans) words now. Which is amazing!!!

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Three weeks ago one of the girls was celebrating her birthday. So we spent one lovely Sunday afternoon on a horse riding school, because both the girl and her mom ride horses. That was actually the first time I could “observe” Sky, how she behaved and talked with her friends. And wow!!! I can hardly put it in words, how amazed, proud, happy, moved I was…to hear her talking in English, just like that! She can do it, she does it, she has no problem with it…and she seems happy with all that. 🙂

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And when she doesn’t know how to say a word, she uses other words she knows or even mixes it up with Dutch, which is completely perfect. For example I heard her saying to her friend, pointing to the back of her helmet: “You have a ‘strik‘ on your ‘helm‘” (strik = Dutch for a bow). And the friend would reach to her helmet and felt the ‘strik‘, and she knew what that was, and they laughed together. So…so lovely…how children create their world without having to speak a certain language. Without expectation and prejudice… 🙂

Oh, and the horse riding itself was also very fun. The instructions were in Spanish, but once again the children were all okay with that (fun learning!). At the photo below Sky was making a pirouette on the back of the horse! And the parents and friends came from all over the world, we had a truly international table, which made me so thankful to be part of it. Blessed!

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