MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

Singing our way to 3 languages September 23, 2013

language and music Stevie Wonder

We are a bilingual family, trying to become trilingual. Our kids are fluent in Afrikaans, even though they were born here in the USA and don’t hear Afrikaans outside of our house on a regular basis. So we are always looking for ways to reinforce their second language. One of the ways we have found to work for us, is lots and lots of music.

We love listening to music. When the kids were babies, we listened and sang Afrikaans children’s songs all the time. Repetition helped them to learn the words – it is such a fun way to learn more vocabulary.

Now that they are a bit older, we’re all learning Spanish. Listening to Marta Gómez and Peret help us to get used to the sounds and rhythm of the language. Afrikaans music is still part of our house – the kids know lots of songs by heart.

Here are my tips to use music to help your kids’ language learning:

1. Sing to your kids when they are babies and toddlers, and then sing with your kids once they can follow along.

2. If the language you are trying to teach your kids have DVDs or YouTube videos with singing characters for kids, make sure you get them. In Afrikaans we have Lollos – the kids have enjoyed it for many years. If the songs have subtitles, so much better!

3. Figure out who are your kids favorite musicians in the language of choice, and sing along to the songs in the car.

4. Nurture a love for music in your kids, and who knows where it will take them!

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Making peace with our language journey August 17, 2013

multilingual sign

I had big ideals when our girls were born. They would be bilingual, bicultural, and able to read, write and speak two languages fluently (Afrikaans and English). Later we added Spanish to the mix. The more languages, the easier it becomes, right?

The last year or two I’ve come to realize more and more the truth of this John Lennon quote:

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Our youngest was in a Spanish Immersion class in Michigan, and was able to read and write Spanish by the age of 7. Moving to a new state changed the education options available to her. She now has only one and a half hours of Spanish instruction per week. Our oldest daughter is currently in a Middle School with a special before school Spanish program. She gets an hour of Spanish instruction each weekday. Even though we can supplement our Spanish learning at home through reading, listening to music, and watching movies in Spanish, we don’t always get around it.  Who has the time, right?

On the other hand, the kids are hearing more Afrikaans here in Nashville outside of our house than they did in Michigan. We’ve had friends and family visit over the summer, giving the kids’ Afrikaans a boost too.

I have now come to accept that each of our language journeys will be different, and will not always go as planned. Sometimes we’ll have the time and the opportunity to learn a lot. And sometimes our language abilities will be stagnant. If we rely on the school system for language learning, we will not have a lot of control over the journey. But cultivating a love of language in our kids, will make them lifelong learners and enjoyers of language. And I’ll be happy with that.

 

Learning another language after turning 40 July 22, 2013

This blog post was written as part of the Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival for July. The topic for this month’s carnival is “Hidden Opportunities”. I wondered for a long time what is my hidden opportunity of being a multilingual family. And then it hit me: for me, learning a new language after turning 40, would not have happened if we didn’t walk the multilingual family route that we did. Here is the story of how it happened.

Chiapas, Mexico

In Mexico, where we attended a Spanish Language School.

I’ve always been a math + science kind of girl. Chosen profession? Electrical engineer. Since I grew up in South Africa, where it is normal to speak at least two languages, I had to learn English alongside Afrikaans. My lowest grade ever was for English. (You can probably guess that from all my grammatical errors on this blog! Sorry!)

Fast forward 10 years. After giving birth to our two girls, I made a career switch to being an entrepreneur, so that I can work from home and determine my own hours. My chosen business? Printing words from around the world on t-shirts and other apparel. Suddenly, I’m reading papers written by linguists, and researching translations of life-affirming words.

Fast forward another few years: Our youngest daughter starts school right when the public school opens a class for Two Way Bilingual Immersion. We reason that adding a third language, Spanish, to our household can’t be too difficult, and will only have positive possibilities for her in life. And so starts our multilingual family journey.

Since our daughter learns to read and write in Spanish, it only makes sense that the rest of the family learn Spanish too. So we spend 3 glorious summer months in San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, at a wonderful language school where I finally expand my Spanish knowledge beyond the colors of the rainbow and the parts of my body.

Fast forward another couple of years. We move to Nashville, Tennessee, where there is no possibility of Spanish Immersion for our daughter – because of a combination of Tennessee law which states that 51% of education has to be in English, and because the only Spanish (semi) Immersion school in Nashville accepts on the basis of a lottery, which happened many months before we even knew that we would move to Nashville. So now our kids go to school in English, and I continue my Spanish lessons.

In the past year, I’ve discovered that even though I struggle to remember new words, and even though it is hard to remember the difference between cuarto and cuadro and cuatro, I love to learn another language. I can now follow simple conversations. I can even speak a little bit, as long as no irregular verbs in the past tense are involved. And I look forward to traveling to a Spanish speaking country sometime soon, and not having to ask my 9-year-old to translate for me.

 

Multicultural Kid Blogs: Pinterest Scavenger Hunt + clue July 20, 2013

Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt
Get ready to explore! The Pinterest Scavenger Hunt has officially begun! This contest is sponsored by Multicultural Kid Blogs to celebrate the official launch of our website.
The Scavenger Hunt will run from July 15 to July 28. Participants have until July 31 to submit their entries, and the drawing will take place on August 1. You can win one of four fabulous prize packages!
Details about the Scavenger Hunt can be found here.

Today’s Clue is:

Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to share? Why do mosquitoes exist?

Now take a look around on my MotherTongues blog and try to find the post that fits the clue. Once you think you’ve found it, pin it to the Pinterest Board you’ve created just for this contest.

Be sure to pop over to Open Wide the World for the other clue for today. A full schedule and rules of the game can be found below. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom for more chances to win!

Good luck!

How to Play:

Create a Pinterest board specifically for the contest and name the board “Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt.”

Each day a new clue (or two!) will be revealed. Follow the clue to the blog of the day and pin the post described in the clue. (Any image from the post is fine).

In the Rafflecopter below, enter the link to the Pinterest board you created for this contest. The Rafflecopter will also have lots of other ways to earn extra entries. The only required entry is the link to your Pinterest board.

Please note: You can enter the Rafflecopter at any point during the contest. Obviously your board won’t be complete until the end of the contest, but you can enter the link in the Rafflecopter before then. If your name is drawn at the end of the contest, we will check your board at that time.

The final clue will be given July 28. Participants will have until midnight Pacific time on July 31 to finalize their boards. The drawing will take place on August 1.

Winners must have pinned all of the correct posts to their board. Winners will be notified via email and must respond within 48 hours or another name will be drawn.

Good luck, explorers!

Scavenger Hunt Schedule

(Visit the Scavenger Hunt main page for a full list of clues as they are revealed).

July 15

All Done Monkey

Crystal’s Tiny Treasures

July 16

The Squishable Baby

SpanglishBaby

July 17

Be Bilingual

July 18

the piri-piri lexicon

MommyMaestra

July 19

Creative World of Varya

Expat Life With a Double Buggy

July 20

Sprout’s Bookshelf

Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns

July 21

Open Wide the World

MotherTongues

July 22

MarocMama

Head of the Heard

July 23

For the Love of Spanish

July 24

InCultureParent

Moms Gone Global

July 25

Crafty Moms Share

The Art of Home Education

July 26

The European Mama

Spanish Playground

July 27

Vibrant Wanderings

A Hotchpotch Hijabi in Italy

July 28

Kids Yoga Stories

Adventure Bee

Final day to enter the contest is July 31, 2013, at midnight PDT. Drawing will take place on August 1, 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Pochemuchka July 12, 2013

Pochemuchka

A word from the World Words app from MotherTongues. (The World Words app is currently under construction, but will be back in the App Store soon!) One of my favorite words. All children should be Pochemuchkas and have the chance to ask questions.

 

5 reasons why I travel with my kids June 18, 2013

CIMG5015

Exploring in Mexico

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

As I’ve said before, I love to travel. And I love to share this love of traveling with my family. We try different foods, we try learning new words, we learn about another culture. Here are 5 reasons why I love to travel with my kids:

1. When traveling in a country where the dominant language is not English, the kids soak up the language around them. This happens every time we visit South Africa – their Afrikaans improves within a week! – or when we visit a Spanish speaking country. Traveling helps them to see WHY we try hard to be a multilingual family.

2. Traveling reinforces the lesson that not everyone looks the same, eats the same food, believes the same, or enjoys the same sport. Wade Davis said: “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you: they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”

3. Whenever we can spend a little longer time in another country, the girls make friends from all over the world. Instant pen pals!

4. Our kids are much more likely to try new foods when traveling than they would at home. I think travel opens up your senses and makes you more adventurous.

5. And lastly: I see the world differently through the eyes of my kids. What a priceless experience!

 

Bilingual and bicultural: do they go together? May 22, 2013

Bicultural means that two cultures are functioning in one person, or that one person can be active in two cultures.

As we move between two, sometimes three languages in our family, I often wonder if we do enough to encourage our kids to be bicultural as well. We visit South Africa every couple of years, but we don’t specifically talk about the differences and similarities between the two cultures. Do you have to work at being bicultural, or is being bicultural something that you absorb just by being part of two different cultures?

Image

Exploring a different kind of playground in South Africa.

Does speaking two languages mean that you are bicultural too? I don’t think so. It is possible to speak two (or more) languages without ever leaving your country / hometown / culture. And I guess the opposite is true too: you can be bicultural and monolingual (think Australian and South African, or British and Canadian).

In a recent article in Psychology Today, Francois Grosjean writes that there are many advantages to being bicultural: for instance having a greater number of social networks, being aware of cultural differences, and being an intermediary between cultures. He states that recent research has shown that biculturals have greater creativity and professional success: hooray!

I’ve never deliberately thought about fostering biculturalism in our kids. They have two passports each, and have traveled back and forth between South Africa and the USA more times than they can remember, even before turning 10. I’m grateful that they feel at home in either country, can navigate the social rules, can make a new friend at the playground lickety-split, and know what their favorite candies and food are in each country. I’m thankful that even without us really trying, they have become bicultural.

What do you do to nurture biculturalism in your kids? Do you watch cultural movies, visit the second culture often, send them to spend time with grandparents or cousins in the second culture, or do you talk about the culture often? Comment with some ideas for us all to try!

Helping our kids become bilingual is a great gift we are giving them. But helping them become bicultural is also an amazing gift, one we don’t think about often.

 

 
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