Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: Nederlands English by Alison O'Dornan

A Book for Teaching Bilingual
Children the Alphabet
When I was teaching my eldest son the alphabet I faced a problem that only parents of bilingual children face - the fact that the traditional objects used for each letter don't match in both English and Dutch. What I mean is this:

A is for apple (EN) and appel (NL)
B is for ball (EN) and bal (NL)
C is for cat (EN) and oh.... kat (NL).....

For each letter I drew the object and until I hit C, it was working a charm. At such a young age trying to explain that cat in English is spelt differently to kat in Dutch is difficult to say the least, if not impossible. In fact, there aren't a huge array of typical Dutch words to use for teaching toddlers the alphabet. Finding something that worked in English and Dutch was hard. And I had only reached C.......

"Learning the alphabet in a second language is much easier when the words start with the same letter in both languages" reads the back of Alison O'Dornan's book "Nederlands English". Which, I think, was my thought process a few years ago when I started with my son. This book would have made that process a lot  easier.

I'll let Alison explain how this book came in to being,

"The initial idea was inspired by a young Dutch mother living in the UK, who found it confusing to read either Dutch or English alphabet books with her one year old daughter. At the age of one, children do not distinguish between the two languages but simply learn that an object has two different sounds associated with it.  Hence as they start to learn to recognise letters by associating their shape with a sound, it is important that the item depicted matches the sound of the letter.  So if a child is shown an English alphabet book where “K” is often represented by a picture of a ‘Kite’, then this would be very confusing as it should be “V” for ‘Vlieger’ in Dutch, a very different sound. By carefully picking the objects that we have used for our ABC book we have eliminated this confusion."

The book itself is nicely laid out with the English word and a sentence at the top of the page, a picture of the object in the middle and the Dutch word and text at the bottom of the page. It's the first book in what will be a series with other languages.

It's a great concept and as far as I know it is quite unique. If you're teaching your children a second language from an early age this is a great resource to have. The book is currently being revised and teh new version will be available in the spring - it's worth waiting for the updated edition for an improved read with your children.

For more information and a peek inside the Dutch/English book visit

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