Tag Archives: learn

Catalan Book Review




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.


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!!



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! 🙂


Her Spanish comics

learn and be proud


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…❤️


books without words


Some of you might know that we are big fans of the library. Any kinds of library; big or small, with or without building… like this one, where we found a bilingual Pocahontas comic (English and Catalan). So cool!


In the Netherlands we would visit the library at least once a week, often more. Somewhere last February we were featured in the library’s newsletter because Sky has borrowed (and read!) 1000 books, in her almost 6 years of age.

You would understand that now we moved to Spain, we are eager to continue this “hobby”. Last month we went to the Central Library (there are 3 in our city) and applied for a library card for Sky.


She digged in the books immediately, and found some nice ones. But…our Spanish and Catalan are still so minimum, even the easiest children books cause us trouble to read. Not that we don’t try to, that’s for sure a fun way to learn new languages. But to have to look at the dictionary or do Google-translate on almost every sentence is a bit depressing. Bilingual books are a bliss. We borrowed some, and also English children books and fun dictionaries. And then, I noticed the section “comics”. Browsing through the colorful pictures, I got an idea. Let’s start from the very beginning again. From the love of books. Without languages, without words, without pressure. Try to make it super fun again. And it works, Sky grabs these books often and has pleasure “reading” them. I found a great serie of “el Petit Pelut” (originally Petit Poilu in French or Stoppeltje in Belgium), and then we found more fun books, without words.


Trying to make library visit fun also includes joining the activities they organize. We attended a children theatre performance, by coincidence it’s in English! And will of course try to attend more in the future.


The libraries in our city are not as big and sophisticated like we used to have in the Netherlands. But it’s also because we live in a smaller city. I think the libraries in Barcelona and other big cities would be wonderful too. Would love to visit them in the near future. One difference I noticed immediately is the children section. Our libraries have spaces dedicated for children books, of course. But while in the Netherlands it’s more or less allowed to “make noise” in the children section (well, children are children…), here it’s all quiet. We were really asked to lower our voice down. But once again, it’s maybe because the building is not that big. Noises will be heard across the whole library and would possibly disturb visitors in other sections too.

Above photo’s are from the Central Library, and below is a photo of the nearest library to our home, it’s quite pretty actually. Only the opening hours are a bit tricky. They only open for 3 mornings in a week, each for 3 hours. And 5 times a week at night.


Well, we might not visit the libraries as much as we used to do, but it won’t slow us down in reading books. We access the Dutch children books through the library app (because Sky will still be a Dutch library member till she is 18, which also means she is allowed to use the app everywhere around the world). Sometimes we borrow books from our Dutch friends. And when our Spanish and Catalan are improved, we hope to be able to start reading local books too. Step by step. Poco a poco. A poc a poc. 🙂

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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learning language is fun(ny)


blog1Yesterday was the last day of my Basic Catalans Course. 10 x 2 hours in 2,5 weeks. Learned basic conversations like how to introduce yourself, to ask and order something, to go to the doctor, and basic things like the numbers, colors, weather, food and drink… It was fun! The group was very diverse, but mostly come from South-America so already speak Spanish but want to learn Catalan. Only 3 people were still learning Spanish as well, and I was the most beginner one, haha… The whole course was done in Catalan (and some Spanish words if really needed), so I would not say I understood everything. But the teacher was just awesome. She made me feel comfortable and so I have taken the most advantages of the course. Too bad I can’t join the next level course because the timetable collides with my Spanish course, which has started last week. Two times a week, each 2 hours in the morning. Joop is also planning to follow a Spanish course, but the only institute which offers night classes has at the moment no night group for his level (A2), so he has to wait for a while. Oh, and yesterday we had a little “festa” (Catalans for fiesta/party) to end the course. Everyone has to bring l’entrepa (like tapas, small food) and we enjoyed them together. Yummm!!

Talking about language, we notice we make a progress. Sometimes we’re able to participate in an easy conversation. But it goes up and down…another time we’re just completely lost in translation, haha…. And we make mistakes, oh for sure, we make lotssss of them. But no learning without making mistakes, right? And some of those are really funny. Here are some I still remember:

  • One day we went to a cafe and I tried to order some drinks. I knew the word for ‘drinks’ is ‘bebidas‘, but somehow out of my mouth came the word ‘huevos‘, which is ‘eggs’. Can you imagine the looks of the waitress when I ordered some ‘huevos’? 😀
    Vector cartoon non alcoholic drinks
  • Joop and Sky were at the supermarket. They asked some people whether they have ‘pre-baked bread’ (bread that you still have to put for a short time in the oven). Using two keywords: ‘bread’ and ‘oven’. Well, yes, they have. And they shown Joop a shelf full of…bread flour!! 😀
  • blog6One of my Catalan classmates asked me if I am “casada” (= married). What I heard is “cansada” (= tired). No, of course I’m not tired, what makes you think of that! 😀
  • We had an issue with electricity shut-down when it rains. So after calling the landlord, he made an appointment with the building maintenance and the guy came to check everything. He asked me if I have “papel de cocina” (literally: paper of the kitchen). I do, so I went to the kitchen to get the parchment paper. He laughed when he saw that, showed his dirty hands and said: ‘No, not that. I need something to clean my hands’. Aha! ‘Paper of the kitchen’ simply means kitchen rolls/paper towels. Sounds logical afterwards! 😀
  • blog2This one happened quite a while ago, when Joop was alone in Spain before we came together. He had finished his dinner and the waitress came to ask what he wanted for desserts. Out of all options that she mentioned, Joop could only catch the words ‘kiwi‘ and ‘balls‘. So he thought that might be ‘kiwi ice cream’ and he ordered ‘two small balls of it’. And there came his desserts: two real kiwi’s served with a small knife and a spoon. 😀

And how about Sky? Well, I think she is absorbing, a LOT. From 8.30 to 16.30, 5 days a week, she’s surrounded by either English, Spanish or Catalans (plus half an hour Chinese). And she is okay with it. With the fact that she doesn’t need to understand it all. Maybe we have given her a good example. She sees how we try to speak those new languages, with ups and downs, with funny mistakes and frowned eyebrows. And that’s all right. Of course she is also progressing, but firstly it’s important that she feels comfortable. Everyday she says she has a good day, with many stories to tell. I notice that when I pick her up, she sometimes still answers me with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (instead of ‘ja’ or ‘nee’). So fun to hear! 🙂

This sentence I will always remember. She made it just after we moved here. It contains such a brilliant language twist I couldn’t even make myself:
“Die jas draag ik elke dag”
English translation: “That coat, I wear everyday”.
“Die jas” sounds like “dias”, which means “days” (in Dutch: “dag”).




similarity Indonesian – Spanish


blogNow we have learned Spanish for around half a year, I realize there are some advantages I own as an Indonesian-born, compared to hubby Joop (a Dutch guy). Here are some obvious ones:

  • It seems like my tongue is able to roll the ‘rrrr’ sound much easier. 🙂
  • Indonesian and Spanish have the same grammar rule regarding the noun-adjective combination. So in English (or Dutch) you would say “expensive house (or duur huis)”, while Indonesian and Spanish would say the other way around: “rumah mahal” and “casa cara”.
  • Both Indonesian and Spanish are phonetic languages (some even say they are number 1 and 2 of the most phonetic languages in the world!). This means you read a word exactly like how it is written. For example the English word “love” would have been written as “laf” if it is phonetic. I notice how easy I can pronounce Spanish words, even the long and complicated one like “independientemente” (= independently). However, I remember having a trouble with this word at the beginning: “calcetines” (= socks).
  • Due to the past history between Indonesia and Spain, there are still some Spanish words that sound like Bahasa Indonesia. Far not as many as the absorbed Dutch words in Indonesian language, but still very interesting. I have collected some I learned along the way: (Spanish – Indonesian – English)

bandera – bendera – flag
bola – bola – ball
ruedas – roda – wheel
zapato – sepatu – shoe
mantequilla – mentega – butter
mesa – meja – table
jabón – sabun – soap
camisa/camisola – kamisol – shirt
chaqueta – jaket – jacket/coat
relojes – arloji – wristwatch
escuela – sekolah – school
gratis – gratis – free
guerrilla – gerilya – guerrilla
caldo – kaldu – broth

Next to these words there are many more predictable words which are similar between English, Spanish and Indonesian. Like ‘standard’, ‘normal’, ‘period’, ‘camera’, ‘panic’, ‘photo’, etc.

But up to now, there are 2 Spanish words which are exactly the same in Indonesian but have different meanings. “Pintar” in Spanish means “to paint”, while “pintar” in Indonesian means “clever”. And the word “pagar” in Spanish means “to pay”. But this same word in Indonesian means “the fence”. However, the Indonesian word for “to pay” is “bayar”. Somehow they sound a little bit similar, or am I now pushing it too far? 😀

first bad word and new lettertype


blog 1Dia tersandung dus mainannya dan isinya berserakan kemana-mana. Tiba-tiba aku mendengarnya berkata: “sh*t”
Begitu saja, seolah-olah itu kata yang biasa diucapkan. Bahkan tidak memandangku saat mengucapkannya, melainkan langsung memunguti mainannya yang bertebaran. Aku terkesima, tidak mempercayai pendengaranku. Betulkah yang aku dengar tadi? Kata ‘kotor’ pertamanya? Wah, pasti ketularan di sekolah ini! Buset, baru 2 hari sekolah (1 hari penuh + 2 kali setengah hari) sudah begini! Pikiranku penuh tuduhan. Tapi tidak peduli dari mana dia belajar kata itu (dan tidak peduli apakah pendengaranku berfungsi baik atau tidak), aku bereaksi sebagaimana para orang tua kukira juga bakal bereaksi; bahwa kata itu tidak sopan dan aku tidak mau mendengarnya lagi. Bahwa kalau sesuatu tidak berjalan baik atau ada masalah kecil dia harus berkata seperti yang biasa dia katakan “ups / upsi (pupsi)” atau “oh oh”. Nah, sepertinya dia memahami penjelasan dan kata-kataku. Kita tunggu saja apakah memang begitu prakteknya. Walah walah…cepat sekali ya…belajarnya…

Ngomong-ngomong tentang cepat belajar:
Di hari pertamanya sekolah, kami (papa dan mama) boleh tinggal sebentar untuk melihat pengajaran di kelas. Karena tahun ajaran ini sekolahnya penuh sekali (satu kelas yang biasanya berisi 30 anak kali ini sampai 32 bahkan 34 anak), sekolah mengadakan tambahan tenaga pengajar, yang membawa anak-anak di grup terkecil bermain di kelas lain, 3 kali seminggu di pagi hari. Tapi karena hari itu Sky baru pertama kali hadir, dia boleh tinggal di kelas normalnya bersama anak-anak yang sedikit lebih besar (kelas Sky itu dobel, jadi grup 1 dan 2 bersama. Yang grup 2 berumur 5-6 tahun). Anak-anak ini kebetulan sedang belajar huruf. Minggu ini jadwalnya hurup ‘h’ dan ‘o’. Dan ternyata belajar hurufnya itu menggunakan huruf keriting, lain dengan yang selama ini kami pelajari di rumah. Sky tertarik sekali, dan mengikuti permainan huruf dengan penuh semangat. Siang itu cuaca cerah, aku bertanya apakah dia mau bermain di luar. Biasanya dia bakal menjawab ‘ya’, tapi kali ini jawabnya: “Enggak mama, aku mau mengetik di komputermu. Pakai huruf-huruf keriting. Boleh ya?” Hari berikutnya persis sama. Dia ingin sekali belajar huruf baru itu. Kami mengeprint poster berhuruf keriting (yang terlihat di bawah ini) dan menempelnya di sebelah meja belajarnya. Kalau dia memang mau belajar kami tentu bakal membantunya.

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Ze struikelde over haar speelgoed doosje, de inhoud vloog in het rond en ineens hoorde ik haar een woordje zeggen: “sh*t”
Gewoon koeltjes, alsof het een normaal woord is. Ze keek me niet eens aan maar begon gelijk het rondgevlogen speelgoed op te rapen. Ik stond perplex, kon mijn oren niet geloven. Heb ik het wel goed gehoord? Haar eerste scheld woordje? Moet wel op school geleerd hebben! En dat na welgeteld 2 dagen (1 + 2 keer half) op sKleine_letters_2chool gezeten te hebben! Mijn hoofd zat vol beschuldigingen. Maar ongeacht waar ze het geleerd heeft (en ongeacht of mijn oren het goed deden of niet), zei ik wat ik denk gezegd moet worden; dat ik dat woordje niet netjes vind en niet meer wil horen. Dat ze terug naar “oepsie (poepsie)” moet als iets niet goed is gegaan. Ze leek mijn woorden te begrijpen. En nu maar afwachten of het ook echt zo is. Tsjonge tsjonge…wat gaat dat allemaal snel…dat leren…


Over snel leren gesproken:
Op de eerste schooldag mochten we (papa en mama) even blijven zitten om te kijken hoe het in de klas gaat. Omdat de klassen dit schooljaar erg vol zitten (32 tot zelfs 34 kinderen per klas), heeft de school extra ondersteuning geregeld en gaan de kleinere kindjes met een andere juf 3 ochtenden spelen in een ander lokaal. Sky mocht blijven zitten omdat het haar eerste dag was. Toevallig gingen de grotere kindjes (groep 2, want Sky zit in de gemengde klas groep 1-2) aan de slag met letters. Ze hebben deze week de letters ‘h’ en ‘o’ om te leren. En dat doen ze dus met krulletjes letters. Anders dan wat we thuis tot nu toe geleerd hebben. Sky vond het reuze interessant. Die middag was het mooi weer en ik vroeg of zij buiten wilde spelen. Normaliter zal ze ‘ja’ zeggen, maar deze keer antwoordde ze: “Nee mama, ik wil graag op je computer tikken. En dan met krulletjes letters. Kan dat?” De dag daarna precies hetzelfde. Ze wil heel graag de nieuwe letters leren. Er hangt nu een poster met krulletjes letters naast haar tafeltje en als ze er naar vraagt zullen we het ook stap voor stap samen bestuderen.

her drive to learn writing



Bagaimana tidak terharu dan bangga, kalau beberapa kali rumah sepi dan aku menemukannya duduk di meja kecilnya sedang berlatih sendiri menulis huruf dan angka, dengan hasil seperti terlihat di sini…


Hoe kun je niet ontroerd en trots zijn, als het meerdere keren stil is in huis en je haar ziet de letters en cijfers te oefenen, met dit mooie rijtje als resultaat…


gaining more resilience



Hari ini aku mendengar beberapa hal menyenangkan dari Ibu Guru di kelas preschool Sky. Saat kelas dimulai dan anak-anak seperti biasa duduk melingkar mengelilingi Ibu Guru, Sky ingin menceritakan sesuatu. Jadi Bu Guru meminta semua anak untuk diam dan mendengarkan cerita Sky. Pipinya terlihat agak memerah pertanda dia agak malu, tapi dengan berani dia meneruskan bercerita, tentang gaun barunya yang bagus, hadiah dari Sinterklaas. Presentasi pertamanya di muka publik nih, haha! Dan Ibu Guru juga bilang bahwa Sky akhir-akhir terlihat lebih berani dan lebih tahan banting. Berani mengutarakan apa yang dia mau dan juga mengambil tindakan yang dibutuhkan. Contoh hari ini: Sky ingin naik sepeda roda tiga, tapi sepedanya dinaiki terus oleh seorang anak. Dia bertanya beberapa kali pada si anak apakah dia juga boleh bersepeda, dan apakah mereka bisa bergantian naik sepeda. Anak itu mengacuhkannya dan setelah mencoba dan meminta beberapa kali Sky akhirnya mendorongnya minggir supaya dia bisa naik sepeda! Ibu Guru memberi keterangan tambahan bahwa di sekolah memang mereka mencoba membiarkan anak-anak mencari solusi sendiri sebisa mungkin, menyelesaikan konflik yang mereka alami sendiri. Baru kalau menjadi agak parah maka Guru akan turun tangan membantu. Tapi senang sekali mendengar bahwa Sky sekarang lebih berani angkat suara dan bertindak. Satu hal yang rasanya hanya bisa dipelajari kalau dia banyak bertemu dan bermain dengan anak-anak lain.


Vandaag kreeg ik van de juf op Sky’s peuterspeelzaal een paar leuke dingen te horen. In de ochtendkring bij het begin van de klas wilde Sky iets vertellen over Sinterklaas. Dus de juf heeft alle kinderen gevraagd om stil te zijn en te luisteren naar Sky. Ze kreeg een kleurtje, maar zette het dapper door, en vertelde dat zij een mooie jurk van Sinterklaas heeft gekregen. Zo’n beetje haar eerste spreekbeurt, haha! En de juf vindt ook dat Sky de laatste tijd weerbaarder is geworden, durft meer te zeggen wat ze wil en ook de bijbehorende actie ondernemen. Een voorbeeld: vanmorgen wilde ze op een driewieler fietsen, maar er zat de hele tijd een ander kindje op. Sky vroeg een paar keer of zij ook er op mocht, of ze om de beurt wilde fietsen. Het kindje negeerde haar, en na een paar keer gevraagd en geprobeerd te hebben heeft Sky dat kindje gewoon van de fiets af geduwd! Extra uitleg van de juf: op school laten ze de kinderen zoveel mogelijk hun eigen ‘probleem’ oplossen, en pas als het ernstig is grijpen ze in. Wel fijn om te horen dat Sky nu meer lef en eigen wil toont. Toch iets wat je alleen kunt leren als je veel in aanraking komt met andere kindjes.