Posts Tagged ‘English’

And BOY are we busy?!

As if the campervan conversion isn’t keeping us busy enough, we’re now several weeks into the new school year as well as juggling work and home.

This year is an important one for both boys really.

For Jake, particularly, it’s a huge year because he is working towards taking GCSE Maths and IGCSE English next summer. At present, I’m helping Eliot in the mornings and Jake is fairly autonomously learning in the afternoons, 3 days a week Maths and 2 days English. He’s got a lot to cover but I’m confident that, if he WANTS it, he’ll achieve what he wants (the burning question, of course, is does he WANT it?!)

Eliot’s schedule is a little less hectic but we’re coming on so much, it’s mind-blowing to think where he began.

In the 4-5 months that we’ve been home educating (and bearing in mind that we too had 6 weeks off over summer!), his “Maths Age” has increased a full 12 months.

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It’s amazing to see how much how much he’s improved, and today, for example, the exercise was mental addition of 3 2-digit numbers. He was coming up with the answers only a second after I had solved them (I blame lack of sleep…or age…or, well, I had several excuses).

There are dozens and dozens of things that he did not have a clue about before and now he can do without thinking. Even his times tables, which I haven’t put emphasis on learning, are improving. We have a chart of the 1-12 times tables to which Eliot can refer, if and when he needs to, for other exercises (not for multiplication-specific exercises, obviously) and he’s starting to refer to it less and less over time.

The Maths Whizz website is an absolute godsend. I can’t even begin to imagine how we’d have got this far without it. Their method of teaching is great and their incentives work a treat with El!

In English, I’ve had various English exercise books of various levels on the go, but I’ve decided on one in particular that we are working through gradually. It’s a Key Stage 2 book (he’s not been taught English since age 6, so he’s pretty far behind!) and it’s laid out just right for us. Some books are more designed to work alongside the school curriculum, but this one is more independent and it’s working out well. We’ve touched on prefixes, past tense, commas, speech, adjectives and more so far already this term. Usually, we do 3 topics during the week with a refresher/reminder(/test!) a week or so later after a different topic. Seems to be working so far, and more importantly, it’s sinking in.

One day, he WILL come out with the word “taught” BEFORE the word “teached”!

Apart from school (and the campervan, of course) there’s been little else going on, but we did have a little excursion yesterday.

Jake and Nik had bought Groupon offers for supercar driving at Blyton, which is only 10 minutes from here. Even as a 15yo non-driver, Jake got to drive in a Lamborghini! The first car Jake ever drove will ALWAYS be a Lamborghini Gallardo.

How awesome is that?!

Typically, the weather did what the British weather does and it rained ALL day…until we got home! Days either side have been lovely but hey ho, Jake had fun and it’s difficult to beat that for your first ever drive in a car, I reckon!

Anyway, 3 weeks until holidays and then back to more of the same: work, homeschool, campervan building etc etc

It’s all good fun!





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I’m not sure if it’s an obvious one or not but I did struggle to come up with anything more important to us, here in Portugal, than the whole language element, whether that be Portuguese (português) or English (inglês)

So, here it is

I is for Inglês

Language is, of course, one of the biggest hurdles when you move to a non-native-English-speaking country. It’s the one thing you can’t really get away from, not entirely. Sure, if you live somewhere touristy or expat-filled enough, you might get away with just a few pleasantries during day-to-day life but, one day, time will come when you need a doctor, a policeman or a pharmacist and you encounter a language barrier. If you’re child-free, you could probably get away with it up to this point. If you have children in the Portuguese school system, however, you need to be prepared to make some effort to learn the language. Once you get into school “red tape” territory, you will encounter plenty of people who don’t (or won’t) speak English and you have to learn at least to keep pace with your children’s pace of learning. Trust me, you do!

How useful are you going to be with homework if you have no understanding of the language? And who wants their children to be able to talk fluently in a language they know nothing about?

If your children are being educated in Portuguese, you’ll need to learn too, regardless of whether you need it at other times or not.

Just a selection of our Portuguese learning books

But this post is about Inglês right? That’s English, not Portuguese!

This is where the Algarve is very different from probably most of the rest of Portugal (and definitely different from rural Portugal!)

In the Algarve, particularly its coastline towns and areas, even if you attempt to ask for something in your best, most practised Portuguese, there will be times (many, many times) when you find that you are responded to in English.

It’s pretty obvious to state that a large percentage of Portuguese speak almost-perfect English. After all, tourism is the mainstay of the Algarve’s income and most of the population here work in the tourist industry to some degree. English is a pretty universal language and you can sometimes hear it spoken more, when out and about, than you hear Portuguese. In tourist season, you’ll wonder if you even live in Portugal at all sometimes! It’s a shame but it’s a fact of life of the Algarve. You can rehearse your restaurant order in Portuguese but don’t be surprised if your waiter answers you in English. Chances are, the German couple next to you will order and be responded to in English too. It’s everywhere!

At first, it feels disheartening when your best efforts are, seemingly, wasted but look at it this way. These people are in a service industry (whether restaurant, supermarket or post office) and, when it’s busy, they need to keep things moving. If their English is better than your Portuguese, just go with it. It’s quicker and more efficient all round. Why spend 15 minutes battling in pidgin Portuguese when you could transact in 5 minutes in English, right?

Some of our portuguese phrase books.

The “BBC” Portuguese Phrase Book and Dictionary is excellent and I highly recommend it!

If you live here, people will get to know you and respect your efforts. The butcher doesn’t reply to me in English any more, our entire conversation is now portuguese. Likewise in the Post Office (depending on how busy they are) I can often get a Portuguese response to my efforts. It’s encouraging.

There are times where it has been a downside that so much English is spoken here, of course. In Jake’s school, when he started, in year 6, many of his new classmates spoke very good English. This means that English has become their primary language of communication which has definitely been a drawback. He is getting there though, with the help of a very good Portuguese language teacher  who comes to teach him, on a one-to-one basis, once a week.

Eliot didn’t have such problems. No one spoke English in his little primary school (well, one TA did if required but his teacher didn’t, or wouldn’t!) so he was thrown in at the deep end. To hear him in the playground now, however, you can see how much that benefited him!

There are many people who have lived here for many, many years and still don’t speak a word of portuguese. I guess living somewhere like this, it’s too easy to get by. It riles me a lot! I have no intention to be so “ignorant” of where we’ve chosen to live. I’m working very hard to learn and I’d love to be at least competent, if not fluent (I think this dog’s maybe too old to get fluent!) by the time the boys are. I have numerous books that I regularly refer to.

501 Portuguese Verbs (Barron’s 501 Portuguese Verbs) is another that is regularly thumbed through by both Jake and me.

Portuguese Verbs Explained: An Essential Guide is a great book you can work through to teach yourself. It’s simple, with quick exercises at the end of each chapter. I used to use this book to teach myself while I waited outside school, in the car, before we left the UK!

Collins Portuguese Dictionary is our main “household” dictionary. Another well-used book!

Collins Gem – Portuguese Dictionary is the smaller version that Jake uses at school. We’re actually on our second one of these. They don’t “wear” too well, kicked about in a school bag every day!

Not forgetting, of course, a few fun vocabulary books, for the boys! First Thousand Words in Portuguese is a fun book with colourful pictures and useful vocab and Eliot has loved learning from his Everyday Words Flashcards: Portuguese which are very well-used now!

As you can see from my first bookshelf photo, there are numerous other books that we use. I have a couple of “Portuguese as a second language”  books which I’ve used from time to time (not often enough, if I’m honest!) and Jake has some that he uses for his lessons.

There’s no substitute for getting out there and using your newly learned language skills though, despite the English you may get back! Be persistent and reply to their English in Portuguese, they’ll soon get the message 🙂

Note: All book links are Amazon affiliate links. I’ve only posted the ones we have used a lot and found hugely beneficial to have around (goodness knows we actually own many, many more!) so please do consider repaying the recommendation by using our links. Thanks!

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