Tag Archives: Dutch

Online news sites for children

When children reach a certain age, parents want them to learn about what happens in the world. Many parents struggle with the way news are presented on TV. In fact, pictures and the way news are presented in the evening news can be quite traumatising. A great alternative are online news sites for children, where children and parents can choose the kind of news they think are appropriate and get more information about some topics in a child friendly way. What I personally like about online news is the choice to either read or watch the news.

Like in many multilingual families, my children like to have access to news in different languages. As I’m far from knowing about online news programms for children in other languages, asked some parents from the Multicultual Kid Blogs group to share news sites they recommend for children and am glad to share this here below.


Rita Rosenback recommends the Danish site Kidsnews. You have to subscribe to the magazine, but the news videos are for free.


The Dutch Jeugdjournaal is a news programm for children that goes live every day at 18:45 and can also be watched online. There is also a Jeugdjournaal app that permits you to access news in a child appropriate format on mobile devices.

English (British):

Amanda van Mulligen suggested the BBC site for news. This site is very interesting not only for news but also for general information about different topics.

Another site that my children like to visit is the First News Site.


Annabelle Humanes recommends the real paper newspaper that has also a news website. This website is, as far as I could see, without videos, therefore children need to be able to read to access the news.

Isabelle Barth points out that in France and in French-speaking countries, there is no News Channel just for children. But they have few channels just for childern an they have news in their programs. These channels are: Gulli, Tivi5mondeplus and canalj.


On the German tivi site, children can watch news and choose the topics they’re interested in.


The Italian site Bambininews offers news for children who already can read. In fact, there are no videos available (so far). Also, some Italian newspapers publish news sites for children, like Il Giorno. The TV channel RaiGulp offers also online access to some series and news, but, as far as I know, there is no video news programm online.


And on the Norwegian site nrksuper children can access the news that are also aired on TV online.


For Portuguese, Annabelle Humanes‘ husband recommends the Folinha de São Paulo, a website or supplement from an adult newspaper. It is Brazilian.


Anna Watt recommends two Russian websites, one for a younger audience and one for 10-16 year olds and older.


The Spanish site educatumundo is an educational site for children, parents and teachers. Under noticias you can find several topics, written for children. These news are not available on video, but maybe there is another site that offers news clips in Spanish?


Rita Rosenback recommends the Swedish site SVT, where children can watch the news.


Of course, these are only a few online news sites for children and I really would like to extend this list. Therefore, I would really be glad if you could recommend any further online news sites for children in the comments section here below (indicating your name and, if you have one, your website). – Thank you very much!


Mothertongue, first language, native language or dominant language?

In the strictest sense, we all have a mothertongue as we all have only one (biological) mother. – But does this mean that the language our mother did talk to us is automatically our mother tongue? What about this friend I had in school, who was adopted when she was 2 and grew up in a Dutch family: would her mother tongue be Swahili because her mum was talking Swahili to her or would it be Dutch, because this was the language the mother who adopted her did talk to her?

Usually, mothertongue (or fathertongue!) defines the first language we were exposed to, our L1, the first language we speak, the one we grew up with or that our parents (or caregivers) did speak with us. And usually people tend to speak this language for a long time.

If we want to define the first language we speak, learn and feel comfortable with, the term first language may seem more appropriate. This first language doesn’t have to be one. In multilingual families it can be two or three: the important aspect to define a language as first language is, that the child uses it on a regular basis, preferably every day – linguists suggest that an exposure of at least 20% of the daily time would be optimal for a child to become (almost) equally proficient in the family languages. If there are more than one first languages in a family, we can also use the term of family languages: these would be for example the language a child talks with the mother, another one with the father, a third one with a caregiver (i.e. at daycare, school etc.), maybe a next one with extended family or locals, a fourth one with friends…

My parents only spoke German with me and my sister, but we were exposed to Italian since day one. We didn’t “learn” it in the conventional, academical way, so Italian counts as our second-mother-tongue or one of our first languages. – Usually, when people ask me which is my mother tongue (or mother language) I answer German and Italian. Both languages are still equally dominant and valuable for me.

If I analize the different phases in my life, there were phases where Italian or French or German were dominant languages in my life. I’ve spent about 4 years talking mainly Italian and French (and did study Old-French and Old-Provençal, which felt like “living” in this time and period!). During that period I really had difficulties communicating in German. I struggled every time.

Only when this linguistical situation changed and I did focus more on German and Italian, my German became more dominant. English was the fourth language I’ve learned and I didn’t use it very often from age 20 to 34. I did re-activate and improve it when we moved to the Netherlands, along with Dutch that I learned with my son.

In the last 8 years, English and Dutch became the most dominant languages, with German being our family language.

Therefore, my first languages are now German, English and Dutch, with occasionally Italian (the language that still feels like the closest to my heart!), French and Swissgerman.

Using a term like family language would also be an option, but then it would mean that the whole family (maybe even the extended family?) shares these languages or gives them the same value. But this, in a family of five (even three would be enough!) is not very realistic. Also, using first language instead of family language, I would inply that the dominance of the languages within a family can change throughout time. Situations change, we move abroad, we immerse into other cultures and languages and within a multilingual family this can be a reason for prefering one language to another – even if only for a certain period of time.

Which are my children’s first languages?

From a chronological point of view, this would be Italian and Swissgerman for all of my children, but only for their first years.

This changed when they started attending the Dutch crèche and then an English school.

Today – I should better say “at the moment”! – they consider German and English as their first languages and of course Dutch. They don’t feel that confident in Swissgerman or Italian (at the moment). But I know, by my own experience, that this can change if the linguistic situation changes again or if they just decide to talk them more often.

For multilingual children whom’s linguistic situation within the family and social context changes in their early years, the concept of first language changes too.

The first language or mother tongue plays an important role in sociolinguistics, as it is the basis for people’s sociolinguistic identity. Terms like native language or mother tongue refer to an ethnic group rather than to the first language.

Native speakers are considered to be “authority on their given language due to their natural acquisition process regarding the language, versus having learned the language later in life”. In this case, my native languages would be German, Italian, Swissgerman and Dutch because I did acquire them naturally, without studying them. I did not “learn” them at school, I did imitate speakers and copy sentences. The fact that someone is a “native” speaker because he or she did learn this language in an early stage, doesn’t really make sense to me. We are perfectly able to learn a language in a “natural” way also in a later stage of our life. In the same way, the mother tongue can be no longer the dominant one later in life (cfr. language attrition).

In his lecutre “English and Welsh” in 1955, J.R.R. Tolkien distinguishes the “native tongue” from the “cradle tongue”. The cradle tongue being the language we learn during early childhood and the native tongue “may be different, possibly determined by an inherited linguistic taste, and may later in life be discovered by a strong emotional affinity to a specific dialect (Tolkien confessed to such an affinity to the Middle English of the West Midlands in particular)” (cfr. pdf of “English and Welsh” by J.R.R. Tolkien)

We each have our own personal linguistic potential: we each have a native language. But that is not the language that we speak, our cradle-tongue, the first-learned. Linguistically we all wear ready-made clothes, and our native language comes seldom to expression, save perhaps by pulling at the ready-made till it sits a little easier. But though it may be buried, it is never wholly extinguished, and contact with other languages may stir it deeply.

My chief point here is to emphasize the difference between the first-learned language, the language of custom, and an individual’s native language, his inherent linguistic predilections: not to deny that he will share many of these with others of his community. He will share them, no doubt, in proportion as he shares other elements in his make-up. (cfr. “English and Welsh” by J.R.R. Tolkien, p.18)

The predilection of a language is, in my opinion, more important than the chronological place it has in our language acquisition history. For me, personally, the language I prefer speaking and that is closest to my heart and I’m more spontaneous in, is not the language my parents talked to me during the first period of my life.

lingua madre

lingua madre (Photo credit: Gianfranco Goria)

About the origin of the term mother tongue

“The origin of the term mother tongue harks back to the notion that linguistic skills of a child are honed by the mother and therefore the language spoken by the mother would be the primary language that the child would learn.” However, this type of culture-specific notion is a misnomer. The term was used by Catholic monks to designate a particular language they used, instead of Latin, when they are “speaking from the pulpit”.That is, the “holy mother of the Church” introduced this term and colonies inherited it from the Christianity as a part of their colonial legacy, thanks to the effort made by foreign missionaries in the transitional period of switching over from 18th-century Mercantile Capitalism to 19th-century Industrial Capitalism in India.” (cfr. wikipedia)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Some similarities between German and Dutch

Learing a new language is always very exciting. Especially when the new language we’re learning is similar to one we already know. These similarities can be at different levels (phonetical, lexical, syntactical etc.).

The Dutch language belongs to the westgerman branch of the indoeuropean languages and is actually close to German (and Swissgerman).

The simplified relation between the languages ...

The simplified relation between the languages Dutch, English and German. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many foreigners the pronunciations of “Scheveningen” or “Gouda” are a challenge. It’s especially the way the <ch> and the intervocalic <g> is pronounced that creates some articulatory problems. For Swissgermans the voiceless velar fricative <g> [x] or [ɣ] for the <ch> or the uvular fricative [χ] are very well known. They sound similar to the German in “ach”, “Bach”, “Fach” etc.. Therefore this is not something Germans or Swissgermans would find difficult to pronounce. In the southern Dutch dialects these sounds are softer and <g> and <ch> represent the palatal fricatives ([ʝ] and [ç]).

Something I personally found important to learn are the false cognates or false friends. People already fluent in German when learning Dutch, need to be aware of words that are phonetically similar and sometimes even have similar roots but are different in meanings:

The Dutch aandacht means “Aufmerksamkeit” (attention) in German, and the German “Andacht” means “devotion”.

The zetel is a seat and not a saddle (German “Sattel”), the winkel is a shop (“Laden”) and not an angle, like in German.

With vaart you don’t design the journey or trip (“Fahrt”), but only boat trip and varen refers to the movement of ships only.

Tot is not “tot” (dead) but only means “until” and is pronounced with a short /o/ (whereas the german “tot” has a long one /o:/.

A postbus is not a public means of transportation but a P.O. box (“Postfach”).

The kwartier is not a quarter or accomodation (germ.”Quartier”) but defines a quarter of an hour; and it’s often used in its diminutive form kwartiertje.

Glazuur has nothing to do with baking (germ.”Glasur”; icing) but is dental enamel (“Zahnschmelz”).

Blaffen does not mean to snap at someone, like the German “anblaffen” but the barking of the dog. In German this way to snap is comparable to the barking of a dog though and both words have the same etymon. When a Dutch says that he’s going to call you on the phone, i.e. bellen (ik ga je bellen), which is the abbreviated form for opbellen, or ring at your door, a German would think that this person would bark at him (germ. bellen). For an English speaking person it doesn’t seem too weird, as the English bell (noun) is producing a similar sound although the English verb to bell has a different meaning i.e. the semantic fields for the Dutch bell and the English one are slightly different.

The sale signs for houses and flats puzzle every German speaking person who visits the Netherlands for the first time: te huur (which means “to rent”) seems very similar “to whore” (“huren” in German), but once you learn that <uu> is pronounced like [] you’ll get over it. A similar misunderstanding could occur with the verkocht sign, when a property is sold, since it really sounds like the word for “overcooked” in German (“verkocht”).

Te huur in Huizen

Te huur in Huizen (Photo credit: CorporatieNL)

Verkocht onder voorbehoud

Verkocht onder voorbehoud (Photo credit: the_riel_thing)

What were the analogies or similarities you found between German and Dutch? Or another language you know and Dutch?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Some multimedia resources for (my) multilingual and multicultural children…

We all know that the best way to help our children become (and stay!) multilingual is by talking the languages we want them to become proficient in as often as we can and by providing an attractive context (with friends, family etc.).

By acquiring other languages, our children do not only learn about the grammar but also about the cultures, the traditions. I always preferred learning by contexts and this means by reading and talking, by interacting with people. And my children do the same.

But we all know that there are periods where we can’t provide this ideal context of friends and family talking to our children, or total language immersion and need to draw on other tools.

When I was a child, the only tools we had were LPs with music and stories from other countries. It was the pre-satellite era and we didn’t receive TV programms than the national ones and the internet was not even invented… (yes, now I’m feeling old!). – Raising multilingual children nowadays, is incredibly easy compared to this. Our children have easy access to multilingual materials wherever they are.

Personally, I don’t consider watching TV (or DVD’s) a very good way to teach language to our children, but I know, from my own experience, that it can really help to build at least a passive vocabulary. I prefer the internet sites of Radio or TV channels, which offer a really large variety of activities and games that are a much more active way to spend screen time. And by watching some TV programmes via internet, my children can choose the times that fit better in their personal schedules and usually they switch to interactive sites pretty quick. – My children are not allowed to watch TV during the week due to time constraints, hence they really enjoy their screen time in the weekends.

Here are the sites that my children visit when they have time:

For German: KiKa (Kinderkanal/channel for children) offers a considerable amount of valuable shows, games, riddles, and lists of books for children of any age. My children like to watch the “Sendung mit der Maus” (some video and youtube excerpts here ) on Sundays. My girls like the “Sonntagsmärchen” (Sunday tales, mainly Grimms’ tales but also from other cultures) and my son “Willi wills wissen” where all kind of curious questions are answered.

For English: my kids visited regularly the sites of the bbc cbeebies when they were younger, but now they prefer bitesize, or history for kids and the bbc site about culture.

For Dutch: children can watch filmpjes, visit kro kindertijd or kids nickelodeon, sites with games and other fun activities for children.

For Italian: I must admit that my children barely watch Italian TV or visit Italian internet sites. But this is only because they already have so much on their plates. Nevertheless, I can recommend the channel Rai Gulp with programmes for all age groups. What my son prefers watching are hockey games of his favourite Swiss (Italian) team and he reads everything about it.

My children love to listen to music. The fact that they understand everything in so many languages makes them very proud and I think that music as much as poetry helps a lot to learn and improve languages and to learn about the different cultures. But they also love to listen to audio stories. When they were younger, we used to listen to audio stories on our long car rides. For German these were mostly Grimm’s tales , Bibi BlocksbergPumuckl . For English, they liked stories from Barefoot books and for Dutch we have a whole series of audiobooks from Disney called “lees mee“.  Among the Swissgerman stories, they particularly liked Globi, Kasperli.

Bildschirmfoto 2013-10-09 um 12.28.38

©expatsincebirth; Kasperle; Globi

Personally, I think that folktales in general are very good to teach our children about the culture related to the languages they’re learning. They teach about the mentality and the core values. Of course, modern tales which are very country specific, like Nijntje and Mega MIndi in the Netherlands, can be added to the more traditional ones. – But this will be the topic for another post.


I did write this post as part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs October Blogging Carnival about using media to raise multicultural children. It is hosted by Olga Mecking on European Mama.

Related articles