More Praise for Betty & Cat

It never rains, but it pours. Seems like this is the time for Betty & Cat reviews – all good!  Thanks, Laura Claes Maranhao for your kind words:

http://lauraclaesmaranhao-en.blogspot.nl/2017/11/betty-cat-bilingual-book-to-kids.html

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Special Offer for Sinterklaas

Although I don’t – yet – have a Spanish/Dutch version, you can still make your own by buying Thuis bij Betty & Cat At home
+ At home with Betty & Cat En casa.
Until December 7th, you can buy both books for the special price of €12,95 instead of €14,95.  The books are available via this website.
Happy Sint!
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The Advantages of Meeting My Potential Readers

This past Saturday I had a stand at the salon de Livres Jeunesse at a village near us. An amazing number of people turned up, people bought armsful of books, and the whole atmosphere was one of amazing interest.DSCN4863

The people who saw my bilingual books (there were only two of us flogging bilingual books!) more often than not approached with a certain diffidence. Teachers and librarians were more open, as were the kids themselves. I had two girls – 11 year-olds – read me a sample page, each taking a part. The one reading the English part was amazed at how well she understood the text, even though she didn’t know every word on the page (probably not even half!). What a kick for me – and for her. Nice to know you’re on the right track. The interview below is interesting. A researcher explains how kids are perfectly capable of learning two languages at once, from day one. Have a listen.

http://www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/drive/bilingual-babies/8391152

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Does knowing another language make you more open to others?

For five years now I’ve been bringing my French/English books to the local post office here in France. OK, I’m no JK Rowling, so we’re not talking thousands, but we are talking a steady stream.  Not once did someone ask me what the books were about.

bettycoeur

Change of village.  The post office in the mairie is suddenly allowed to dispense the coveted Tarif Livre et Brochure (yet another way for France to spread the French language abroad; the rate is not available domestically). My first trip in last Thursday, I sent two sets of books – one to England and one to Canada.

Today, I went in again, and sent a bunch of books. I took one to show, and maybe display at the Mairie. When I showed the secretary the book, she said, “Oh, I know! I was curious and so I went on line and had a look at your books!”  She then said some complimentary things which I’ll spare you. I was chuffed.

But here’s the thing: This woman had lived for six years in Italy.  She had had a daughter in Italy and lived there till the child was six. They’re both bilingual. So, does being bilingual make you more curious about other languages, other cultures? I feel the answer is “yes”, and am often confronted with what I consider as proof.

We now share a warm fuzzy connection, as well as Chez Betty & Cat At Home.  I gave her the book for her daughter – once you’re bilingual, what’s a third or more languages!

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The bilingual debate – where do you stand?

The debate continues:  are you doing your kids a favour by encouraging them to be bilingual – or even trilingual – or are you risking what Victorians used to call *brain fever* (I think you can see where my sympathies lie!)screen-shot-2016-09-04-at-20-53-22

Of course, all kids are different, and respond to the idea of bilingualism in different ways.  I often hear people say that their child picks and chooses when to speak the target language.  Often the child will only in the right context.

For instance, a child who knows that her Dad speaks her native language may ignore the bilingual experiment with him.  But change the context, and off she goes, nattering like a native: maybe in the other country, maybe with a grandparent or other relative, or maybe even with a doll she associates with the other country.

Other kids are born communicators from the first oo and ah.  I know a boy whose parents immigrated from France to Australia.  At four years old he came back to France for a visit.  Somehow he knew we’re native English speakers (although he’d always spoken French with us), and asked in English for a glass of water. He was thirsty.  I told him in English that he knew where the glasses were, and to help himself.  Only thing was, the cupboard was too high for him to reach.  So, instead of saying “I can’t reach”, or grunting on tiptoe, he said, “I can’t actually reach them.” Not a phrase he would have picked up from his parents. From where, then? This child loves language, loves communicating, and instinctively made the target language his own – from day one. I love it!

What to do?  You don’t want to push too hard, you don’t want your child left behind, and you don’t want your partner or your parents or in-laws left behind either. Any thoughts?

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Why kids seem to get my books quicker than adults

When I tell an adult – a bookstore owner, a librarian, or a potential buyer – that the books aren’t translated, they nod, and start flipping through a book.  Then suddenly, as though I’ve been hiding this fact from them, they look up and say, “But it’s not translated!”.

Yup.

And kids don’t see this at all. I know a French four-year-old who stopped his mum translating the English bits – he found it annoying. He just wanted to get on with the story. And when you think about it, why is this so weird?

A four-year-old accepts that not every word he hears means something to him. That’s the beauty of being four: every day teaches you something new; every day you go a bit further, discovering your world. Today this is a bike. Tomorrow it can be a bike AND a fiets! (A precocious five-year-old of my acquaintance, whose mum is French and whose dad is English, explained to her mum one day that the raspberries they were having for dessert were also framboises, in case she hadn’t caught that!).

Since I started these books five years ago, I’ve been looking for a publisher – or at least someone to handle distribution. I can only approach so many bookstores, so many people – and there are so many people I want to make happy with my books! So I soldier on, hoping one day to reach a tipping point.

I’ve been told that the combination of unknown author and untried concept is deadly for bookstores.  And yet. . .

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Indigo in Montreal can’t keep the books on their shelves.  Montreal, I admit, is a special case. People there are constantly flipping back and forth from French to English and back again. They don’t have that built-in reserve most of the adults I come across have when it comes to a book that’s not translated. They get it in one!

But how to convince the rest of the world? Any ideas?

(The photo is from Indigo in Montreal, although they’re too limiting in the age category: Betty & Cat can go – and do go – to age nine or ten)

 

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Out of the blue, we now have Betty & Cat in Spanish

I find this article, translated from El Pais, very interesting and very encouraging. Among other facts, it states that: “In the case of families with children, 89.2% of parents say their kids are studying English. Despite the fact that 45% of parents say they have a favourable opinion of language studies at school, 38.3% say they also take their children to private language classes.”

es-en-casa

Lucky Betty & Cat! I’ve just published a French/Spanish and an English/Spanish version of Home, the first book in the series. Although I don’t speak Spanish, a young Spanish teacher living in France who asked if I had Spanish books available contacted me. I did not. A few months later, she contacted me again and suggested she do one for me! After giving it some thought (it’s complicated because how do I judge whether she got the tone right, or is really good at interpretation; after all, my name is on it), we went ahead. I knew a Spanish person whose opinion I respected, and who could confirm that the tone was right, and so via Skype and email we went ahead. A true sign of the times.

I now feel I know Rocío quite well. Having gone through the self-publishing mill together I feel we have a shared bond and am thrilled with her enthusiasm and her contacts! And I’m confident that the tone is perfect!

At home with Betty & Cat En casa and Chez Betty & Cat En Casa is now on sale in the boutique of Toulouse’s natural history museum, as well as bookstores in and around Toulouse. The book has crossed the border into Spain and is being used in at least one classroom there (a first; most teachers are wary about using them in class since the books aren’t translated) as well as in some bookstores.

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When you’re not sure what a word means, should you give up?

Kids are amazing! The way they play with language, you can almost feel their excitement, their sense of discovery. I have a French friend who moved to Australia with her four-year-old son. On a visit back to France, they were in our kitchen and Nino, who knew the house well, said, in English, that he was thirsty. (That somehow he knew to speak to us in English I already found amazing, but that’s not the story!).

I said that he knew where the glasses were and to go ahead and get one. He went to the cupboard, reached up, and said, “I can’t actually reach it.” That word “actually” was like a ray of sunshine on a dreary afternoon. How amazing! The word was superfluous to requirements. It added nothing, except perhaps a level of sophistication, indicating a love of language, of communications, of expression (I expect great things from this child!)

When I show my books to adults, and say that the books are NOT translated, they nod, then flip through the book. Nine times out of ten, they exclaim, “But they’re not translated! – (ie. Oh, the horror!). These adults are demonstrating their own insecurities, and not those of the target audience!

screen-shot-2016-09-04-at-20-53-22The first time I had this reaction, I crumbled, assuming I’d goofed with my lovely new book. However, I went back to CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which I found in the library when I was nine. It was and always has been, a favourite book. But look at the language! I’m quite sure I had no idea what even a wardrobe was at that point, but dove in anyway. And there must have been tons of words I didn’t know (not to mention all the allegorical stuff!). The point is, I coped, I loved, I learned, I grew.

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