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Interview with Hennie Jacobs, Author of the Uniquely Bilingual “Betty & Cat” Book Series – Bilingual Monkeys

At this time I’d like to provide a loud shout-out to writer Hennie Jacobs and her uniquely bilingual youngsters’s books. Whereas it’s true that, as a rule, I not function specific titles for bilingual youngsters’s books at this website (continuing to do so is past my capability), I feel that Hennie has taken an impressed strategy to the problem of creating “bilingual books” and I need to share her work with you.

What makes Hennie’s books totally different from the many different bilingual books I’ve seen is the means she incorporates the two languages in her “Betty & Cat” books. (Up to now, Hennie has produced three books in this collection, in numerous pairings of these languages: English, French, Dutch, and Spanish.) While typical bilingual books for youngsters will inform the story twice, with mirror translations of the text, Hennie has written books with two characters—“Betty” (a canine) and “Cat” (yes, a cat)—and each character speaks a unique language. In other words, these tales are informed by way of code-switching, with the canine speaking one language and the cat talking the other language.

Right here’s an example of this from the e-book she kindly sent to me, a Spanish/English version of At House with Betty & Cat. Notice that the canine speaks Spanish and the cat speaks English. All through the guide, their voices—and the two languages—alternate in the similar method.

At Home with Betty & Cat

First page from the book

Although this twist on traditional bilingual books could seem easy, it have to be dealt with with appreciable talent so that the story holds together nicely. My impression is that Hennie has achieved this purpose admirably, creating intelligent and colorful books that bilingual families and faculties will discover recent and enjoyable as well as useful to their bilingual objective. (Kudos to artist Christine Duvernois, too, for her pretty and playful illustrations.)

At the similar time, I should word that as a result of the books include no translation of the text, readers and listeners have to already have some means in the two languages used, in any other case it might be troublesome to take pleasure in them absolutely with no dictionary at hand.

To study extra about the interesting “Betty & Cat” books, read the revealing interview (under) that we pursued via an e mail change. You’ll find further info, too, at Hennie’s website.

Hennie has also agreed to offer free copies of her books to 2 readers of Bilingual Monkeys (and two books every!) so remember to enter this giveaway, which closes on Friday, March 16.

Interview with Hennie Jacobs

Hennie and friends

Might you please inform us about your self?
I used to be born in Holland, immigrated to Montreal at the age of 6 and “remmigrated” again to Holland as half of a mid-life crisis. I’ve written all my life, primarily working as a copywriter. I stay half the time in Holland and the different half in the mountains in France.

What led you to grow to be an writer, and particularly, an writer of bilingual books?
I can’t not write—so whereas I used to be working (I’m retired now) the want/urge was fulfilled. As soon as I used to be retired although, there was a scarcity. A good friend here in France—an illustrator—complained about the incontrovertible fact that she was feeling excluded from her grandkids’ upbringing as a result of their father was Irish and so they spoke English (hers wasn’t so scorching!). She asked if we couldn’t do a bilingual e-book collectively.

I wasn’t positive. I hate the concept of having to learn one thing twice in two languages, plus, my expertise in writing in several languages taught me that deciphering is nearer to the fact than just translating. In the finish, the concept for the books simply type of popped out!

How would you describe the “Betty & Cat” books? Are the characters based mostly on any real-life companions or experiences?
Actually, having decided to think about this proposal, one morning in bed with the actual Betty and Cat, the concept got here to me. The critters would do the talking, every in their very own language.

In fact, Betty was French—she was a sled canine, a chien de tete—given to us by a musher pal who realised she was depressed once work completed and she or he had to go back to only being one of the pack (Betty was a bit of a princess!). Cat confirmed up someday from who knows the place, and so it was logical that he would converse English (or the overseas language).

How did you come to write down these books in this specific format, the place Betty speaks one language and Cat speaks another?
From my time as an immigrant and growing up in Montreal, code-switching as it’s now referred to as was just the regular means of speaking. In case you’re bilingual, you turn forwards and backwards depending on the state of affairs or the way you need to categorical something.

You’ll be able to hear it on the trams in Amsterdam: two Moroccan or Turkish youngsters change from one language to another, depending on which one fits the concept they need to categorical. Similar in Montreal, similar in Singapore.

Youngsters, too, are utterly comfortable with talking or hearing a language they’re not 100% at residence in—they’re probably nonetheless studying their very own maternal language, so it’s all new. And in the finish, it’s the story that draws them. For years, I feel, once I was reciting the Lord’s Prayer, I assumed “into temptation” was people being unwillingly led to a spot referred to as “Temptation.” Youngsters cope in their own means. I do know a bit of French boy who moved with his family to Australia. The first time they came again—he was about 5—he got here into the kitchen and stated (in English; he by some means found out that that may work greatest for us): “I’m thirsty.” I advised him he knew the place the glasses have been, and to get one. On tip toes in front of the cupboard, he stated, “I can’t actually reach them.” For me this was superb: here was a 5 yr previous who was already choosing his own very specific words, setting up his own English, one that might go well with him.

When the books first came out, somebody in Holland advised me the English was too troublesome. Horrified (all criticism was deadly in these early days!) I began considering and went back to my own expertise. I used to be virtually seven once I began learning English. By the age of 9 I’d discovered The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in the library. It’s nonetheless one of my favorite books, but troublesome on a quantity of ranges (the language, the allegories, and so forth.). Nevertheless, it was the story that carried me although. Not as soon as did I feel of turfing the books as a result of I didn’t get the language.

In what methods can your books, and bilingual books generally, be of help to a mum or dad’s bilingual or multilingual goal for their youngsters?
The books got here into being as a result of a grandparent felt excluded from the bilingual expertise of her grandchildren. What’s nicer for an grownup than sitting on a sofa with a toddler and reading a e-book collectively!? This concept can also be valid for folks in a multicultural/bilingual household. Bilingualism, multiculturalism, these are wealthy enhancements to the human expertise. And it’s fun enjoying with language! Why ought to anyone really feel neglected?

A good friend in London who’s French (her husband is English they usually have a daughter), stated she felt all teary when her daughter explained to her husband someday that a raspberry was referred to as framboise in French. I feel as adults, we now have to keep in mind that for teenagers, day by day presents them with something new—whether it’s a word in their language or in the target language. It’s all so normal for them. It only feels bizarre for adults.

What lies ahead now on your writing and publishing?
I’ve just written a e-book a few group of youngsters, every with a unique mother tongue, dwelling in an English-language country. The aim is to make them feel extra assured about being bilingual—it’s an excellent energy, in truth!—and to make the concept of being bilingual extra engaging—and acceptable!—to unilingual youngsters. (I feel it’s fascinating that so many of the individuals shopping for my books are speech therapists and psychologists working with ex-pat youngsters.)

I’m critically on the lookout for a publisher or at the least an agent—for the superheroes ebook, but in addition to take Betty & Cat to the subsequent degree. I get so many requests from individuals asking if the books are available in this or that mixture. Since I self-publish, I can only go to the printer so typically (at the moment the kitty continues to be bare from the last printer’s run!). The Spanish variations have been a real eye opener—they’re doing rather well in places as far apart as Cuba, Lima and someplace in Guatemala as well as Spain and the US!

Giveaway of

Hennie is kindly providing signed copies of her books for this giveaway: 2 fortunate winners will every receive 2 books of their selection, in their most popular language mixtures. (Presently, these books have been produced in certain mixtures of English, French, Dutch, and Spanish. For the specific language mixtures out there for each e-book, please see Hennie’s website.)


The two winners have been picked randomly by my youngsters, with Lulu choosing…

Raquel in Canada

…and Roy choosing…

Deborah in the U.S.

Congratulations! And lots of because of everyone who entered the giveaway! :mrgreen:

To enter the giveaway, just comply with these three simple steps…

1. Share this submit with others by way of social media. Assist spread the phrase on Hennie’s books. Use the sharing buttons under or simply copy and paste this hyperlink…

2. Depart a remark under with the following info. (And please proofread your remark, before submission, to verify that the info is complete.)

1. Your first identify and where you live (Example: Adam in Japan)

2. Your youngsters and their ages (Instance: Woman, 13 and Boy, 10)

three. Your two (or extra) languages (Instance: Japanese, English, and Spanish)

4. What do you consider this type of “bilingual book” that uses code-switching as an alternative of translated textual content? (Example: I feel there’s rather a lot of potential in this strategy to “bilingual books” and it may possibly produce effective and interesting outcomes for each youngsters and adults who have some capacity in the languages used.)

3. All entries have to be submitted by the morning of Friday, March 16 (Japan time). On that day, the comments shall be printed out and minimize aside to serve as entry slips for the drawing. The slips can be positioned in an enormous, blue bucket then Lulu and Roy will every select one winner at random. I’ll then contact the fortunate winners by e mail and replace this submit with the results.

Please notice that we might not reply to these comments, however Hennie and I definitely look ahead to seeing them. Thank you for getting into the giveaway, and for sharing this details about Hennie’s work with others!

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