New Year’s Resolution: learn foreign languages!

little girl writing and learning foreign languages

Who made a New Year’s resolution this year?I’ll be honest and say I don’t really believe in them myself. Plus, if all the articles on the subject are to be believed then most of us would’ve given up on them by now and January is barely halfway through! But: if there’s one resolution that I do believe is worth the effort, for yourself and for your kids, is to try learning a new language!

It may seem daunting, especially as you get older, yet there are loads of reasons why you should consider learning a foreign language at any stage of your life, and plenty of different learning methods to help. It’s always a good time to take up a new language!

It is true that English has become this century’s “lingua franca” in business, and in other fields. Everywhere you go, you are likely to maybe find someone who speaks English albeit sometimes a very hard to understand English, according to how well they master this language or their native language.

I would argue however that the English spoken today, has become a version of poor American, due to the massive influence Hollywood films have had over the past century and it has intruded into various countries.

When I lived in France I was often amazed at how some English words entered the French vocabulary (such as “le parking” – for car park used in day-to-day life,  or “le camping”) and with more appalling adoptions in the corporate world, such as “forcing” – to force something or someone into something, “burn-out”, “conf-calling”, “debriefer”, “brainstorming”, “personal branding” and so on. Not entirely sure if l’Académie française is over the moon with those.

How learning a new language improves your brain

Less risk of developing dementia

Research has shown that people who’ve learned foreign languages have less chances of developing dementia later in life.  I’ve seen the ugly face of dementia in hospitals, it deprives people of their humanity and dignity. Some people even forget the names of their loved ones, which is heartbreaking. I am personally in favour of doing anything to beat that, whether it is running or playing memory brain games, playing the piano or learning another language!

You’ll have a bigger brain!

Anytime you learn something new, new connections (or neuronal pathways) are created in your brain, which in turn contributes to enlarging your brain.  According to research, if you learned a language, your brain networks are better integrated, and they’re more flexible and allow for faster learning.  The faster those connections are the more efficiently they can work together as a network!

You’ll think more logically

I am biased here, because I loved logic in high school (oh such joy to determine if a sentence is true or false, if the conclusion inferred is therefore valid or not!) and logic is closely linked to semantics (the meaning of words and how sentences are structured). However, geeky arguments aside, developing the more logical side of reasoning allows people to make more rational decision, based on facts and evidence – which in today’s divided world is a plus!

Why is it important for kids (and not just) to learn a new language

Exploring and understanding new cultures

When learning a new language, you’ll be exposed to differently ways of thinking and doing things. Each culture has their own rituals and collective way of thinking. It is said that British people are very insular and their humour is unequalled (I agree, I love British comedy it is what attracted me to this country and civilisation). French people’s humour is somewhat different – a lot of the times directed at others, as self deprecation doesn’t really exist in this culture. It is a much more expressive humour, based on irony and gesture.

During University, I was an Erasmus student from Eastern Europe, studying in France and later on in life I moved to the UK. While very nostalgic for our habits at home – mostly related to certain types of food consumption at Christmas and Easter, or missing my friends and going out with the, – I always felt very lucky to be able to discover other types of food in France, other ways of being and behaving in England and I always felt personally enriched by those. My horizons expanded a lot and I am hoping today to be a more balanced person due to this as in being able to see more than just one side of a story.

Relating to each other

I mentioned above that learning languages let us discover new cultures. This in turn contributes to developing more understanding and empathy towards other people, other behaviours that might not be like ours or other cultural norms. Which leads to more tolerance and more acceptance of differences.

Research has also found that people who speak more than one language develop a higher tolerance to ambiguity and unexpected situations. How does this work? Well, during a conversation between let’s say a native speaker and a non native speaker, if a word is not known by the latter, they will carry on the conversation by inferring the meaning from the context (they won’t stop the conversation saying “oh I do not know this word, I’m completely lost”). What this means then is that people who have this high tolerance to ambiguity and unexpected situations have higher resilience levels against anxiety and stress. And we all know how precious mental health is.

Improved job prospects

If you work in an office, in a firm with several locations abroad, you might have been in a situation where you had to attend a teleconference with your Spanish, German and Japanese colleagues. And all of a sudden the Spanish stop and giggle about something between themselves in their own language. Well, if you know one of those languages you’ll have an advantage over some of your colleagues, in that you’ll understand what the giggles are all about! If you worked with Japanese people you’re also likely to have committed one or more cultural no-no’s in their world (for example, in Asian cultures, the word “no” doesn’t seem to really exist – especially when asked by a superior to do something).

It goes without saying that being able to put a foreign language under “Languages” in your CV will improve your employment prospects. Not just because may work for a  company that operates in a different countries but it also demonstrates higher intellectual abilities to a prospective employer.

Once in a job you may also have better chances for mobility (i.e. being sent abroad as an expat – which usually comes with great perks!).

So don’t rethink that New Year Resolution to learn Japanese just yet!. Plus you can make it really fun and involve your child and learn together. We have  an amazing vendor called Lil’ollo in our directory, they sell a range of printables, maps and cards to help your children learn languages in a fun way – and adults can benefit from this too and learn with their kids.

I would love to hear from people who started on a new language this year. As for myself, I have given myself to learn Spanish as I may embark in a new professional adventure outside Rainy Days Fun.

A bientot, Hasta luego, Ciao, La revedere, さようなら !

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These Christmas crafts are so cool, you’ll want to make them!

pink christmas tree on a red background

Can you believe it’s less than a month until Christmas? It doesn’t seem all that long ago that we were welcoming in the New Year, does it?

For all the joy of Christmas and the wonder of the season, it can be a stressful time too – especially when it comes to finding the right gifts. With all the Christmas music in shops, decorations and ‘sale’ ‘sale’ ‘sale’ ads, it can all get a bit overwhelming and tricky to find something personal.

I’ve often found that a personal, homemade gift, lovingly made with the kids, makes for a lovely, heartfelt a gift.

We’ve rounded up in the post some brilliant and easy to make Christmas crafts that can also make great keepsake gifts for friends and families :

Fingerprint snowmen ornaments


Snowglobe with men shaped from fingerprintsVia Hative.com

This craft drew my attention as it is really easy to make and can make some normal baubles truly stand out. All you need are some plain baubles, some white paint and some felt to make the scarves for the snowmen. Ask your child to cover their hands in white paint (this should really entertain them!) and to hold the baubles. In order to create the snowmen, draw some eyes, noses and mouths. Use some felt to make their scarves. You can also draw some snowflakes.

Paper plate Santa

Paper place with cotton balls Santa face

Via Acultivatednest.com

This is a classic craft activity, very inexpensive and fun to make. It takes some time to make, for the paint to dry as usually paper plates need more than just one coating to look nice, as we discovered when we first made our paper plates froggies.

All you need is some paper plates, cotton balls, and paint (red, orange, pink, white and black), and either some glue or a hot glue gun.

Start by painting the plate orange – leave to dry then repeat. Paint the nose, the cheeks and the eyes. Again leave to dry. Carefully glue the cotton beads onto the bottom of the plate to form the beard.

Paint the top half of the plate red, then after it is all dry, glue some more cotton balls to make the hat.

Christmas cards for Dad

christmas card for dad

Via Craftymorning.com

Melt Dad’s heart by helping your little one deliver a home made card this winter! All you need is some card stock paper, glue, a pair of scissors and silvery glitter glue.

Fold a piece of white card stock paper in half. Draw a bubble letter “D” on a piece of red paper and cut two out. Make a triangle for the Christmas tree from the green paper.

Add a yellow star, tree stump, and some decorations with the glitter glue.

Sponge Painted Christmas Sock

Sponge Christmas orange sock

Via Easypeasyandfun.com

You will need:

  • two sheets of red card stock paper
  • sponges in different shapes (you can also cut a kitchen sponge into various shapes – square, rectangle, triangle)
  • colours
  • wool
  • single hole puncher
  • scissors

Draw a shape of the Christmas sock on the red paper and cut it out – making two identical socks. Put one over another and start punching holes along the edges. You can decorate the sock by stamping various shapes, using various colours. Let the kid make this as unique as they wan’t to – and we all know the more, the better!

Once the socks are decorated place them on on top of the other and lace with wool to hold them together.

Now fill it up with stocking fillers and sweets!

Handprint Christmas tree

Handprint Christmas tree with baubles

Via Pinkieforpink

This is very easy to make, a bit messy and will make a brilliant card for family as well. All you need is some white paper, paints and little hands and fingers. Use the hand prints to make the  tree branches with green paint. Paint on the trunk and star. Once the tree is dry  you can either use finger prints or brushes for the lights.

Pine cone garlands

Pine cone DIY Christmas garlands

Via UKCraftblog.com

This is a very nice decoration that will fit around a fireplace. The tutorial in the picture is pretty self-explanatory, all you need is some pine cones (a lot, of them!), some white paint to make the snow frost and red wool.

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Ever wondered what it’s like in Little Street?

Red fire truck at Little Street

For those of you who haven’t heard of Little Street, they’re an imagination based play centre with multiple locations in Kent and Surrey.

As we live in Maidstone, and it is one of our son’s favourite places, we decided to pay Little Street a visit again and to describe our experience to other readers.

Before you go, make sure to book your session!

Once you arrive, you’ll be asked to take your shoes off – so that the place is kept as tidy as possible and little ones can run about safely.

Little Street is like a mini town with 7 areas: Starlets, Police Station, Klien Construction, Little Savers, Little Learners, Chicco’s Cafe and a Picnic area.

What my son loves to do first is jump on the little cars. For some reason, he calls one of them “his GPS”.  The little cars are usually around the massive fire engine which seems to be a favourite for all the children:

Big red fire engine at Little Street

He then likes to head over to the construction site and play with the digger and the “stones”. They might look real enough but, of course, they’re made of foam.

Boy playing with a digger and foam stones at Little Street

The Little Savers market place is a favourite for all the children. The till though might be the slowest in the world: expect long queues :p ! It’s great watching the little ones interact with each other and trying to imitate the adults with one of them behind the till and another one handing them the goods, knowing that this is what you’re supposed to do when buying stuff at the shops.

Market with plastic goods in Little Street

You can either chose to carry on visiting the rooms in order (very unlikely) or hop from one room to another with excitement. Don’t run too fast in “traffic” or you might end up behind bars, in the police station:

little street police station

After all these adventures, graciously accept a coffee (imaginary too) made by your toddler in Chicco’s Cafe, or have a rest on the benches in the Picnic area.

toddler sitting in chiccos cafe in little street

You might feel a little sick after all this cake, so pop over for a brief consultation at the doctors where you’ll be cured in an instant of all those diseases (whether imaginary or not!)

toddler at the doctors in Little Street

The whole experience wouldn’t be complete without a show, so, if your children feel like it, they can dress up as their favourite superhero, put on imaginary make-up and even perform a play for you!

toddler playing in the make up theatre room in little streetLittle Street also has a cafe area where parents can sit down for a rest, while the little ones run about. I must admit I am impressed at the precision with which the staff remember exactly where every tiny toy comes from and the speed with which these are put back where they belong, after each session!

We’ll definitely be back.

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Summer 2017 activities at The Deep (Hull)

Holich Family North Seas

Hull has been nominated this year as the UK City of Culture.  Between the 22nd of July and the 3rd of September, The Deep are celebrating Hull’s year as City of Culture with loads of activities and fun.

The Deep are challenging their visitors to show off their creative skills in the craft corner (open from 11am each day) to help them create a giant montage showcasing their favourite things about the aquarium.

But first, you have to have to explore the attraction to discover the aquarium if you’ve never been there, or, to remind yourself of which exhibits you love if you have already visited, as well as discover some of the aquarium’s newest additions in sea life.

Where to begin? At the very start of time of course! Make your way through prehistoric seas, past tropical lagoons, into the vast open oceans, down to the darkest depths, through the chilly Kingdom of Ice and into the future.

Be sure to stop and marvel at the variety of amazing marine life including the Deep’s newest arrivals, the Loggerhead sea turtles and discover more about these animals from The Deep’s guiding team. Enjoy their daily presentations about the animals that live at the aquarium throughout the day.

Don’t forget to wave hello to the Deep team of Aquarists too! You will see them feeding the penguins at 11.30am and 3.30pm, as well as carrying out daily dive shows to feed the animals or give the tanks a good spruce up at 2pm.

So if you’re up for a visit take the family out for a fun day at the Deep in Hull and show off your jaw-some talents at the same time!