I’m not a great fan of watching too much TV, particularly football, rugby… and yes, cricket. Just ask my English hubby.
I usually ‘lose it’ with him when there are any major tournaments on…
Who bloody wants to watch rugby (football…. You name it!) Saturday/ Sunday afternoon weeks on end?
What’s the point in watching, when you could be having fun… running… biking… kicking a ball?!
Anyway, my rant is over and I must admit that a few times a year I allow myself to get sucked in too.
It’s usually during Wimbledon, the Winter Olympics and Ice-hockey World Cups…
I get so excited about my country competing that during the last Winter Olympics I had even my English friends cheering for my country during the ice-hockey semi-finals.
Despite the Brits knowing nothing about ice-hockey (sorry guys, but it’s true!).
That must have been when my bilingual little treasure 2 a.k.a. Richie got the bug for the game. He’s an athlete by heart and soul and all his body anyway, but still.
When we went to Czech for the Easter break, he was glued to the TV when the ice-hockey was on.
Apart from the game itself what he really enjoyed was listening to the commentators calling out the ice-hockey players’ names and surnames.
Bearing in mind the surnames in Czech very often still have some meaning or at least part of the word resembling a meaning.
On one occasion my bilingual little treasure came running to me saying:
‘Mummy, mummy, you won’t believe it, but one of the players is called Svačina which means a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.’
Richie was almost in hysterics over it. Kids, hey, bilingual or not.
Later that day we even talked about ice-hockey and all the funny surnames the players have like Rooster, Little Paul, Red, Stork, Moved, Barrel Maker, (He) Stared, Jolly, Dragoon...
What a varied and interesting vocabulary to be learnt while… watching an ice-hockey match!
Which brings me to the 1. Benefit:
When watching sports the commentators are always using a specialized ‘sports related vocabulary’ to which your bilingual little treasure might not otherwise normally be exposed, especially if you or they are not very much into sport.
Secondly, the TV commentators are always describing a changing situation that has some (very often logical) consequence, eg.:
‘They start to have much better rotation around the goal area. This should be worrying for the Canadians…. Space here! They didn’t fire the shot in… a solid shot, but now he’s forced into a defensive role. He’s the captain…’’
Obviously, depending on the type of sport itself, the comments can come out very suddenly like in basketball or Formula 1, or can be very short and intense such as in a short distance 100m running sprint.
‘Repetition is the mother of skill.’ as the famous Latin proverb says.
But in 21st Century we struggle to deal with the ‘boring’ stuff.
Watching sports in general can deliver exactly that:
They can be very repetitive without becoming boring for your bilingual little treasure.
You just have to find something they can get easily sucked in to or excited about, that’s all.
The only downside as I can see is that sport programmes can be literally loaded with English expressions like for eg. in ice-hockey ‘playoff, offside, goalie’, which kind of encourages ‘code switching’ (altering between two or more languages in conversation).
Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of it too now and then, when I can’t remember certain vocabulary or simply don’t know. But generally speaking, I encourage a ‘clean talk’ at our house.
So that’s what watching sports can do for your bilingual little treasure in terms of improving their language skills.
And there is a bonus to it too! I’ve noticed that it inspires my sporty kids too.
Usually after watching a little bit of sport they feel like going outside and do a bit of running around.
To sum up, learning a specialized vocabulary in a very descriptive and repetitive, but exciting way, what else can be more effective?