Featured

5 Formas Efectivas de Aprender un Idioma Extranjero

Normalmente escribo en inglés. Hoy sentí la necesidad de conectar con mi gente de habla hispana. Quiero compartir un poco mi experiencia con el aprendizaje de dos idiomas extranjeros y las herramientas que sí me han ayudado a alcanzar esa fluidez comunicativa que tanto he anhelado en una lengua que no es la materna.

Desde hace seis años resido en Alemania, y junto a mi esposo y mis tres hijos, vivo una experiencia llena de retos y satisfacciones. Debo confesarles que el mayor obstáculo ha sido el idioma. Aunque ya lo hablo a un nivel funcional, son muchos los detalles y destrezas que tengo que pulir para alcanzar ese nivel de dominio del idioma que tanto deseo.

Es cierto, ya puedo dar charlas an alemán, he superado dos entrevistas de empleo, y hasta tengo un grupo de red social con puras amigas alemanas. No puedo quejarme. Sin embargo, he tenido que verme de cara a la pandemia del COVID-19, para darme cuenta que el camino de aprendizaje es todavía muy largo y engorroso. Hay mucho vocabulario de prensa y noticieros que desconozco, cuando me siento nerviosa me resulta más difícil comprender el contexto y así… detalles que deben ser resueltos.

Reconozco que es un reto que puedo superar con las herramientas que ya he utilizado para vencer dificultades relacionadas con otros idiomas extranjeros. Por ello, quiero con honestidad compartir con ustedes lo que realmente me ha servido a mí para aprender inglés y alemán. ¡Acompáñenme!

Sácate de la cabeza la frase “es que es muy difícil”

Conozco cantidad de gente que repite constantemente esa frase nefasta que de una vez acondiciona el cerebro para enfrentarse al reto de aprender un idioma nuevo con el peso insoportable de la duda auto impuesta. Cuando me repito a mí misma, “ese idioma es un tormento”, “jamás aprenderé a comunicarme así” estoy partiendo de la premisa de que mis logros y mi capacidad de adquirir un conocimiento nuevo no son suficientes para la tarea en cuestión.

Me encanta pensar que las palabras forman historias, esos relatos que nos contamos a nosotros mismos y que definen nuestra forma de actuar y reaccionar. Se dice que no hay palabras inocentes y que no deberíamos ser inocentes al escogerlas. Creo firmemente en que me convierto en el relato que me cuento a mí misma, por eso, siempre trato de narrarme una historia de aventura y triunfo cuando pienso en el aprendizaje de un idioma.

En mis historias aprendiendo un idioma extranjero, yo soy una guerrera vestida con una armadura de hierro que va por el mundo venciendo las batallas contra vocabulario complicado y gramática ingrata.

@littlenomadas

Estructura tu aprendizaje

Necesito que seamos muy honestos en este punto. Sé que muchos tienen la disciplina para auto-enseñarse y aprender en su propio tiempo las peripecias de una lengua extranjera. Sin embargo, la gran mayoría de los seres humanos requiere de la motivación y estructura que un curso de idiomas formal aporta al proceso de adquisición de un idioma.

Asistir a un curso de idiomas representa un compromiso de dinero, tiempo y fuerza de voluntad que consolida tu actitud para abordar de mejor forma el aprendizaje efectivo de las estructuras gramaticales y comunicativas de un idioma extranjero. Esa disciplina requerida para cumplir con el horario, los deberes y dar la cara por uno mismo son ingredientes principales para hablar otro idioma.

Escoge el curso que más le convenga a tu horario, tu bolsillo y tus necesidades es fundamental. Déjate de excusas y empieza tu aventura inscribiéndote en un programa que te ayude a desarrollar de forma efectiva tus destrezas de lenguaje. En el mercado hay muchísimas opciones que se ajustan a diversos horarios y presupuesto. Recuerda, no tienes que transitar el camino del aprendizaje solo. Un profesor de idiomas es tu mejor aliado.

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Déjate de excusas y empieza tu aventura inscribiéndote en un programa que te ayude a desarrollar de forma efectiva tus destrezas de lenguaje

@littlenomadas

Intégrate en la comunidad local

Sí, a lo mejor les suena a disco rayado y repetido, pero no hay mejor forma de estar motivados a aprender el idioma local que NECESITARLO. La necesidad es tremenda consejera, nos ayuda a abrir los ojos ante la realidad y nos da un empujón para que actuemos.

Cuando te veas en la necesidad de buscar empleo, hablar con los demás en el curso de cocina, ballet y afines, la motivación para aprender el idioma será mayor. Ese sentido imperante de comunicar tus opiniones, de sentir que perteneces a la comunidad es el mejor aliciente para dedicarle tu tiempo, habilidad y recursos económicos a tu proceso de adquisición de la lengua meta. El voluntariado me ha ayudado tremendamente tanto en el aprendizaje del inglés como del alemán.

Ahora bien, es importante reconocer que exponernos a situaciones en las cuales muchas veces no podremos comunicarnos ni entender lo que nos dicen no es fácil. Requiere valentía y tremenda auto-estima. Es por eso que aconsejo cultivar el auto-cuidado y el manejo de emociones paralelamente al proceso de transición.

Alimenta tu Inteligencia Cultural

Es muy fácil sentir vergüenza y hasta discriminación cuando alguien se ríe de nuestra forma de hablar el idioma local o cuando nuestro acento marcado hace de la comunicación un proceso dificultoso. Sin embargo, es necesario que recordemos que en la mayoría de los casos, las miradas y risas no son una demostración de odio o burla, sino una reacción a algo diferente y desconocido.

Cuando elegimos mirar hacia “adentro” y conectar con nuestras propias tradiciones abrimos espacio para aceptar prácticas culturales diferentes. Entendemos que cada persona responde a la diversidad de forma única y basada en la cultura o culturas en las cuales fue criada. Otra forma de nutrir nuestra inteligencia cultural es leer o tomar una clase de competencia intercultural, donde es posible adquirir herramientas útiles para llevar una vida en el extranjero exitosa.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Conecta con tu niño interno

Normalmente mudarnos al extranjero, aprender otro idioma y enfrentar los retos de la comunicación intercultural nos hace sentir como niños pequeños aprendiendo a caminar, balbuceando y tropezándonos por doquier. De alguna forma he sentido que retrocedo.

Nuestra primera reacción es pelear esa sensación de inutilidad. Sentimos que es injusto pasar por la difícil situación de tener que hablar en un idioma que no es el nuestro, en un lugar desconocido rodeados de personas que no nos entienden ni buscan actuar de la forma en la cual nosotros actuaríamos. Recuerdo mis días de berrinches prolongados de mis primeros meses en Estados Unidos y años después en Alemania.

Normalmente mudarnos al extranjero, aprender otro idioma y enfrentar los retos de la comunicación intercultural nos hace sentir como niños pequeños

@littlenomadas

A pesar de esa necesidad de protegernos, es importante reconocer y validar lo que sentimos para luego actuar conforme a esas emociones. Abraza ese niño interior que busca abrigo y que está asustado. Busca formas de consolarlo. Encuentra herramientas que ayuden a tu niño interior a desarrollar esas destrezas que necesita para enfrentarse al mundo exterior. Practica el idioma, repite ese vocabulario a diario, inhala las estructuras gramaticales hasta que las exhales por los poros.

Para concluir solo me queda desearles una aventura satisfactoria en esta travesía de aprender un idioma extranjero. Les prometo que encontrarán las herramientas efectivas para su propio aprendizaje. Mi historia es solo para inspirar, no para copiar. Tu camino, tus destrezas, tus emociones SON únicas y te pertenecen. Saca motivación de donde sea y déjate de excusas.

¡Anímate a aprender otro idioma ya!

Abrazos, Flor

Featured

6 Reasons Why Your Family Needs an Online Language Teacher Now

The number of people using the internet has surged over the past three years, with more than one million new users every day. That’s equivalent to 59% of the global population actively connected to the world wide web. What it is even more impressive is that youth ages 15-24 is the most connected group.

Children and adolescents under 18 account for an estimated one in three internet users around the world. Let’s be honest, that represents 71% of the youth of this planet connected to the internet, accessing information at increasingly younger ages.

As the influence of digital technology has increased, the debate about its impact has grown louder. On one hand, many consider being connected to the internet as a boon to humankind, offering unlimited opportunity for communication and commerce, learning, and free expression. On the other hand, there are many people who think of the internet as a threat to our way
of life, undermining social interaction, political order, and threatening our well-being.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This has become an interesting but essentially complicated debate. Because for better and for worse, digital technology is a fact of our lives. Irreversibly. Always present and undeniable.

The relevance of seeing the glass half full

Digital technology has already changed the world, and as more and more children go online around the world, it is increasingly changing childhood as well. And that’s fine as long as we, parents and educators, are prepared to go along for the ride.

We don’t do anything by denying the reality that we face at home and schools around the world. We need to protect our children from the worst digital technology has to offer while still expanding their access to the best resources and information, so we can tip the balance for the better. Let’s not forget that our voices matter ever more in a digital world. A world we are not only inheriting, but helping to shape.

Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

How to benefit from the “Light side” of Technology

If leveraged in the right way and made universally accessible, digital technology can be a game changer for children being left behind. Whether because of poverty, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, displacement or geographic isolation, our responsibility to connect them to a world of opportunity and to provide them with the skills they need to succeed in a digital world is more than ever imperative.

As children grow, the capacity of digitalization to shape their life experiences grows with them, offering seemingly limitless opportunities to learn and to socialize, to be counted and to be heard. Actually, I became a advocate for technology accesible to children when my own kiddos were born. We lead a high mobile lifestyle that requires extra effort to stay connected to all those relatives and friends we often leave behind. Technology has been the answer to that challenge. Thanks to the internet, our laptop and mobile phones, our children identify themselves better with their grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins around the world.

Furthermore, when I think of my children and students and the impact of technology in their lives, I cannot help but admire the opportunity that being connected to the internet offers regarding language learning. Harnessing the power of digital technologies needs to be done by parents and educators to improve student language learning outcomes and to help children develop the skills they need to acquire a foreign language or to nurture the mother tongue when living abroad.

The Role of the Online Language Teacher at Home

A while ago I met online with a colleague to compare our lesson plans. She teaches Spanish online just like me. Together we were brainstorming ideas to improve language learning through games and crafts in ages 5 to 8. We also exchanged anecdotes about our students and their families.

All of the sudden it hit me.

I realized that we have become part of those families. That we implicitly shape, with every lesson, the behavior of those children connected to the internet. We are there for them when mom and dad work long hours. Somehow we harness and manage the power of technology in favor of our students and their learning process.

Educators should make time for children to better understand and therefore make better use of technology, to fuel the advantages of online language learning and cultural training.”

@LittleNomadas

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Online courses are increasing in popularity and attendance among students around the world, and foreign language e-learning courses are one of the many classes college students are enrolling in. While you may find this surprising, due to advances in technology and new learning techniques, I think that e-learning provides a great way to ensure that you and your kiddos can become multilingual as well.

6 Reasons Why Your Family Needs an Online Language Teacher Now

Accessibility
Because they run on different platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime among others, your family can access online foreign language lessons at any time during the day. Just schedule a session with your online teacher (paying close attention to your Time Zone) and get ready to improve your language skills in no time.

This means that you can brush up on your Spanish during your lunch break, learn French before your morning jog, or practice German late at night without the constraints of a rigorous schedule. Online courses also offer on-the-go mobile solutions, enabling you and your kids to complete coursework from anywhere, as your individual schedules permit, without having to travel.

Convenience

One of my students has a little down time when he get’s to work in the morning, so at 7:00 am we connect for an hour and a half for an online business Spanish class. He has the same book as I do, and we practice until his daily meetings begin. I even have students in Hawai, Sidney and Munich. We coordinate the times for the lessons, since they are in different time zones.

I am currently teaching 8 years old twin sisters who live in Michigan. They enjoyed our weekly online lessons so much that they asked their mother to add an extra session per week so we could continue playing Guess Who? in Spanish online!! Sweet, isn’t it? They are being homeschooled, so learning Spanish is both convenient and aligned with their educational goals.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Support

I am pretty sure you already noticed the many challenges that being a mom and a dad implies. It is even more difficult now that our children are exposed to tons of information that most of the time we are unable to filter.

Hiring an online teacher goes beyond paying a tutor to teach your child a language. You will be getting an online support who will introduce your child to the many verifiable resources in the internet, harness the unlimited power of being connected and will empower your son or daughter with tools to benefit from the Light Side of technology.

Adaptability

Few people pick up new foreign language lessons on the first attempt; thus, lessons that are truly tailored to your family’s needs will help students truly master another language. That is why I find that creating a Spanish curriculum for children around the world is one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done. The results? Online lessons that really engage students throughout the learning process, allowing children to learn at their own pace, while providing a comfortable and safe environment, as well as a solid and comprehensive education.

Empathy

An empathic teacher listens attentively to pupils and does all s/he can to get behind the words they are using and sense their emotional state and needs. This is the same whether it be a tired child, a busy spouse or a easily distracted teenager.

Online Language educators have the chance to meaningfully connect with their students, because both, teacher and learner, must rely in their voices and sense of hearing to experience the learning process. It is similar to removing our masks and postures so we can actually feel what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes.

All these years teaching Spanish and Culture online has given me access to experiences that can only drive my students language skills further as they struggle to find just the right words, the tones and the posture to express the subtleties required. To see them master the Spanish language and feel confident while doing it is my most appreciated reward.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Cultural Diversity

The current language policies indicate that linguistic competence must be accompanied by cultural awareness and so it follows that the foreign language teacher’s mission is to pass on the knowledge of communicating beyond words, through a language of understanding and tolerance, of appreciation for the other’s values, customs and beliefs and an awareness of the different cultures among and around us.

Did I convince you yet of finding an awesome online language trainer? Did you already feel the need to delegate some of your child’s educational needs to a trustworthy teacher who can be easily accesible to you and your kids? Please remember that to take advantage of technology is a must when raising a globally minded family.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

5 Traditional Christmas Songs from Venezuela to the World

Many are the traditions that we, Venezuelans, have for Christmas time. Delicious foods, decoration, folktales and religious practices are part of our daily routine during the holidays. But none of them compare to the rich musical culture that Venezuela has and which has been considered cultural heritage of Latin America for many years.

Growing up in Venezuela was such a magical journey for me! Ever since I was a young girl, I started discovering a country with such a musical diversity and roots. Musical diversity that has impacted the lives and culture of many Venezuelans in history. Music has been a protest tool, a bridge to unify social classes, a soothing approach to get little children to fall asleep and so on. Music is part of every Venezuelan’s life.

Please don’t forget that Venezuela is a very religious country and that 88% of the population is Christian

This holiday season I would like to share with you my five favorite Christmas songs that as a child, I heard in my birth country, my beloved Venezuela. These songs have a strong connection to the birth of Baby Jesus and the life of Mary and Joseph. Please don’t forget that Venezuela is a very religious country and that 88% of the population is Christian (according to the latest poll 2011). Therefore many of the lyrics are religiously based.

I am going to start with my favorite!

1. El Niño Criollo

This is without a doubt one of Venezuela’s most precious children’s song for Christmas time. It talks about the life of Jesus as a Venezuelan child, describing the different regions of our country and holiday traditions.

Watch the video with your child. The lyrics are also there for you and your family to practice pronunciation and learn new vocabulary.

El Niño Criollo, Venezuelan Christmas song

El Burrito Sabanero

Another beautiful villancico for children and very popular among Latin American nations. Additional to the embedded video I have written the lyrics to make singing in Spanish an easy and effective tool for language learning at home. Who said that we don’t learn also during the holidays?

Con mi burrito sabanero 
voy camino de Belén, 
con mi burrito sabanero 
voy camino de Belén, 


Si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 
si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 

El lucerito mañanero ilumina mi sendero, 
el lucerito mañanero ilumina mi sendero 

Si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 
Si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 

En mi burrito voy cantando, 
mi burrito va trotando, 
En mi burrito voy cantando 
mi burrito va trotando 

Si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 
si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 

tuki tuki tuki tuki, tuki tuki tukitá
da apúrate mi burrito que ya vamos a llegar 

Con mi burrito sabanero 
voy camino de Belén 
con mi burrito sabanero 
voy camino de Belén 

Si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 
si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 

El lucerito mañanero ilumina mi sendero, 
el lucerito mañanero ilumina mi sendero 

Si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 
si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 

En mi burrito voy cantando, 
mi burrito va trotando, 
En mi cuatrico voy cantando 
mi burrito va trotando 

Si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén 
si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén

El Burrito Sabanero

Fuego al Cañón

If you are looking for an upbeat song to celebrate Christmas this is it! Fuego al Cañón has easy to learn lyrics that will help your children practice vocabulary in Spanish in no time.

Fuego al cañón
Fuego al cañón
Para que repeten nuestro parrandon (bis)Niño chiquitito
Niño parandero (bis)
Venga con nosotros
Hasta el mes de enero (bis)Fuego al cañón
Fuego al cañón
Para que repeten nuestro parrandon (bis)Esta casa es grande
Tiene cuatro esquinas (bis)
Y en en medio tiene
Rosas y clavelinas (bis)

Fuego al cañón
Fuego al cañón
Para que repeten nuestro parrandon (bis)

Fuego al Cañón, an upbeat song for everyone in the family!

Al Llegar Aquí

When I was in high school, Christmas season was synonym of traditional bazaars and musical presentations where the students made all the arrangements to provide the perfect holiday ambience. I still remember singing Al Llegar Aquí while my two best friends played the drums and the cuatro.

Al llegar aquí,
Me saco el pañuelo
Para darle a todos feliz año nuevo

Palomita blanca,
Paticas azules
Tú eres la que cantas por dentro´e las nubes

Me subí a tres tapias
Pá cogé un laurel
Pasen buenas noches marido y mujer

La Virgen María,
La flor purpurina,
Madre de Jesús allá en Palestina

Esta es la casa
Que yo les decía
Que al llegar a ella la puerta se abría

¿Qué fue del dichoso? ¿Quién? ¡Maravilloso!
Como San José
Que una vara seca la hizo florecer

Esta parrandita,
De nosotros cuatro
Aquí no se meten ni perro ni gato

Dame los pasteles,
Dámelos calientes
Que pasteles fríos avientan la gente

Al Llegar Aquí, traditional Venezuelan Christmas song

Corre Caballito

One of Venezuela’s oldest Christmas songs, Corre Caballito tells the story of a boy riding his little horse on his way to visit the newborn Jesus. It is a song that’s usually sung at church on Christmas Eve mass.

Corre caballito, vamos a Belén
a ver a María y al Niño también;
al Niño también dicen los pastores:
que ha nacido un niño cubierto de flores.

El ángel Gabriel anunció a María
que el Niño Divino de ella nacería.
De ella nacería dicen los pastores:
que ha nacido un niño cubierto de flores.

Los tres Reyes Magos vienen del Oriente
y le traen al Niño hermosos presentes.
Hermosos presentes dicen los pastores:
que ha nacido un niño cubierto de flores.

San José y la Virgen, la mula y el buey
fueron los que vieron al Niño nacer.
Al Niño nacer dicen los pastores :
que ha nacido un Niño cubierto de flores.

Corre Caballito, an old song with a lot of significance to Venezuelans

What are you waiting for? Start playing these songs around the house now!

I promise you these traditional Venezuelan carols will make your holidays season more fun, cheerful, and full of Latin American rhythm.

¡Feliz Navidad!

Motivating Your Child to Read in The Target Language

Reading helps your child to know sounds, words and language, and develop early literacy skills. It is an exciting way to spark your child’s imagination and stimulates curiosity. Above all these, reading promotes language learning at home when you and your child wish to learn a foreign language.

We started reading at home when my first born was six months old. I would sit down by his crib to read out loud for 15 minutes. These minutes became part of our before nap time routine and allowed me to create a special bond with my baby. I felt so happy to share with my son stories from our heritage and our language. I used to read to him in Spanish. I did the same thing with my other two kids. It was precious.

Time went by and my children showed clear signs of wanting to read on their own. It all started with touching books, trying to grab them the same way they saw me doing it, always making sounds and speaking words… well, many of them were made-up words. Obviously each child developed their reading skill at their own time. And that was fine.

A comfy couch and a well lit room are perfect companions for a young reader. Photo credits Little Nómadas

Even though they liked to read, it depended very much on the material we read. They preferred books with big colorful images, fun faces, furry animals and crazy clouds. That’s when I realized that for me to keep them interested in reading in Spanish, it was necessary to provide them with books and other printed materials with fun, attractive and catchy designs. All of the sudden travel brochures, restaurant menus, comics strips, and church flyers became part of our home library. Anything that will spark that joy in my three kiddos for letter and sounds. And my native language, of course.

Bilingual Books for Young Learners

Dual-language books are a great resource, and many children’s books are published in two languages. If you speak a language other than English at home, reading dual-language books with your child might also help you become more familiar with English.

How to motivate your child to read in Spanish?

There are so many books to choose from that it can be hard to know where to start. As a broad rule, young children often enjoy books, songs and stories that have good rhyme, rhythm and repetition. In fact, one of the ways that children learn a second language is through repetition and rhyme.

Arroz con Leche was my favorite rhyme book when I was little. My kids loved it, too. Photo credits Scholastic.

Choose books that are the right length for your child and that match your child’s changing interests. Take advantage of innovation these days and find books and reading systems that provide sounds as a great way to learn to pronounce the words in the target language.

Many studies show that the development of comprehension in the target language texts improved by 50% when readers use innovative reading materials accompanied by sound or writing programs. However, we want to keep things easy and practical. Children don’t favor complicated instructions and steps to follow. They need something fun and attractive to find their mother tongue interesting and worth learning it.

At the moment my go-to book when I’m teaching toddlers and elementary age children is the Little Polyglot Book Animals in Spanish and English. This book is part of the series Little Polyglot Books from Linguacious. These books were designed to foster in children a sense of curiosity and pride for a foreign language.

The Little Polyglot Book Animals in both English and Spanish is an useful tool for parents and educators who may not be speakers of the target language themselves but would like their kids to learn a foreign language. It is also a colorful alternative for families looking to promote the minority language at home when living overseas.

Colorful, fun, and innovative. Photo credits Little Nómadas

Reading, even at a slow pace exposes students to more sentences, grammar, and new vocabulary per minute than the average, short class, TV show, or song. This is why students who read foreign books are able to speak more fluently than students who don’t, and this is even more noticeable when kids take advantage of innovative books that allow them to develop the four language skills needed to master a language.

In conclusion, any way you find to ignite your child’s love for reading and another language is valid. Just remember, keep it fun, flexible, according to your budget, and always oriented to your kids interests.

Happy Reading!

My 3 Favorite Games For Spanish Learning

I started teaching Spanish ten years ago and it has been ever since an exciting journey of sharing my native language and my culture with children and adults around the world.

Everything began when I decided to get a Masters Degree in Linguistics and Foreign Languages. My passion for the Hispanic culture found its way to shine when I learned about the different ways to teach my mother tongue in a fun and effective way.

These are some of the board games I use with teenagers in my Spanish lessons. Photo credits Little Nómadas

Hands-on language learning

Are you looking for effective but fun ways to teach Spanish to your students? Do you wish to support your children in their process to acquire a foreign language? You could never be wrong with games. Both children and adults enjoy the good laugh and healthy competition that playing can provide.

”Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.” Fred Donaldson

A great deal of research has concluded that play-based learning is genuinely and positively impactful on student learning and development. Language learning while playing allows students to advance the four language skills needed to achieve fluency and take advantage of the many benefits of speaking another language.

On the one hand, we must address language learning in children. Neuroscience presents us with strong evidence for the profound influence of early experiences. In order to build healthy brain connections from the outset, young children need responsive and rich social interactions with caregivers.

Hands-on experiences provide an effective and fun environment to acquire new vocabulary and understand grammar structures. What better way to meaningfully connect with parents and teachers than playing a game?

On the other hand, let’s talk about language learning in grownups. From Business Insider to a recent MIT study, it has been proved that adults learn from interactive activities such as apps, children’s literature, and conversational groups. However, many adult learners feel inadequate or too stressed to be playful in class, unless we, educators, bring something fun to the lesson. Games are the best way, in my opinion, to relax and break the ice.

My Favorite 3 Language Learning Games

There are many games out there of all shapes and sizes. Here I list my absolute favorite ones. Use this list as a guide to develop your own play and learn toolbox. Remember each learner is unique and we must pay close attention to each student’s interest to find the best game to develop his or her language skills.

1. Veo, Veo. This fantastic game to be played in face-to-face or online lessons is an all time favorite of my students. Veo, Veo makes my online classes more fun and interactive, promotes speaking in the target language (Spanish) and keeps little ones busy and entertained.

Check the link below to get your set of Veo, Veo cards to use in your next Spanish lesson. The link will take you to the Autumn version, however, Enjoy Español offers many versions of this fun game. Additionally to the Veo, Veo game, Enjoy Español has a wide variety of activities that teachers could include in their lesson plan. Homeschooling parents these are effective resources to include in your curriculum of a foreign language. https://enjoyespanol.com/halloween-dia-de-muertos-y-todos-los-santos-en-las-clases-de-ele/

Fun way to develop speaking and writing language skills. Photo credits Enjoy Español

2. Guess What! Flying Tiger’s star game is my go-to tool when I want to review vocabulary learnt the previous lesson. It is a fun and effective way to learn adjectives in Spanish with children, teenagers, and grownups. I bought my Guess What! Cards at Flying Tiger Frankfurt. Check your local store to see if they have them available.

Guess What! Cards are great to learn adjectives in Spanish. Photo credits Fajne Dziecko

3. Linguacious Flashcards. These monolingual (target language only) flashcards are engaging and fun. I have the Around the Home set in Spanish and it has been a great addition to my teacher’s toolbox. They are a colorful way to learn vocabulary in Spanish while having fun with children and adults alike. 

Linguacious flashcards are made of a sturdy but flexible material what I think it is important when working with children, because learning cards and games need to be durable. Do you want to hear something great? The Linguacious Flashcards come with a code that you can use on the Linguacious App to listen to the audio pronunciation of each word.

Linguacious Flashcards are an innovative tool for language learning. Photo Credits Linguacious

Conveniently, Linguacious flashcards and books are available in over 27 languages (and growing!) and they have won over 5 different awards. Check their website to discover games for both the flashcards and the books. 
www.linguacious.net

You can also check out Linguacious on YouTube for extra info and ideas.

Learning a Second Language has never been more fun! Video credits Linguacious

Aren’t you looking forward to learning Spanish with these great tools?

I assure you that your children and students will enjoy this hands-on approach to language learning. Fun, effective, and authentic!

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the Linguacious Flashcards for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. I don’t receive money for click on links or product purchases.

Self-care for Mothers raising Bilingual Children

A child’s first teacher is its mother.” Peng Liyuan

If you are a mother raising bilingual children, it is very probable that you have already found pages of articles giving you the benefits of raising kids who master more than one language. What many of these websites, blogs, books, and articles fail to mention are the many challenges and difficulties dealt by mommies around the world that come along with raising bilingual children.

Having seen and experienced many of the challenges that mothers of bilingual children face, I can understand the reasons why so many moms out there choose to give up. Other mothers simply fall prey of a huge wave of comparisons pushing their kiddos to the edge due to the pressure of “being the cool mom” with the overachiever children who speak more than three languages by the age of 4.

Here are some common challenges of raising bilingual children and how you can overcome them. I feel obligated to disclaim the nature of my article. I won’t be giving you tips to improve your child’s fluency, but I will share with you some of the self-care practices that have kept me sane and motivated throughout the years of raising three multilingual offsprings.

Proud mamá of three multilingual children. Paris, France

Feeling inadequate

While speaking in the United States to encourage educators and parents to raise diversity awareness through languages, I have come across many mothers who feel strongly inadequate to raise bilingual children. Many monolingual mommies think that since they don’t master the language, they won’t be able to provide the right support to their bilingual kids to achieve satisfactory results.

Tips

Learn the language yourself. From my own experience with the German language, the first place to start supporting our kiddos is to learn the language ourselves. Unlike having your child play the piano or taking swimming lessons, learning a language does require to at least some extent active participation from the parents.

I’m not asking you to run to enroll in the first language course you see online. I just want you to consider the marvelous adventure you and your child could share together by learning a foreign language. Your goals don’t have to be becoming fluent in six months, it will be all about the skills and time together. No more.

If you are a momma who has the resources to hire a nanny or private tutor to speak the target language with your children, so go on! Do it! Always remember your objective, if it is that your child learn a foreign language then use the resources you have at your disposal to make it happen. You can provide support by giving your children encouragement and exposing them to the language as much as possible. For more resources to raise bilingual kids while being monolingual yourself check out https://littlenomadas.com/2018/09/23/7-tips-for-monolingual-parents-to-raise-bilingual-children/

I was speaking to them in Spanish… they answered in English. Galveston, Texas

Feeling less than others

Being a blogger and a social media junkie has allowed me to have contact with moms around the world. Throughout the years, I have found many mothers who feel ashamed of their performance in parenting, specially now in the era of desperate parents jumping through hoops to raise multicultural, multitalented and well-traveled children.

They see every day on social media these well-groomed families traveling around Africa while their 5 years old twins speak Swahili with the local butcher in Mombasa. Moms around the world follow each other’s step online just to realize that this summer they stayed at home with their not yet fluent in french kids, while mom from Instagram account @whoknowswho is cruising through the Mediterranean with her bilingual Greek/Spanish daughters.

“I’m not doing enough!” I have thought the same thing many times…

Tips

Start by giving yourself some credit. Remember to highlight one positive thing you have done every day. Be kind and honest. Cut yourself some slacks. Waking up early to help your daughter pack her backpack and drive her to that Spanish Immersion school across town is good enough to pat yourself in the back.

I personally keep a journal of the positive things I see, hear and do daily. It isn’t easy, sometimes I stare at the blank page trying to think about something good, just one thing… why is it so difficult? But when done frequently it becomes easier and more natural.

Additionally to gratitude towards ourselves, I would like to invite you to reflect on the role of social media in your life as a mother. Avoid the comparison trap. Nowadays it is easier than ever to compare ourselves and our actions to those we see online. Remember that every bilingual family has its own challenges and rough patches, and perhaps that 5 years old boy whom you saw speaking Swahili fluently on an Instagram story, is having problems with his own native language… you never know. Be kind to others, but be also very kind to yourself.

I see their smiles and I know I’m doing it well. Brussels, Belgium

Feeling pressured

Many mothers feel judged and scrutinized when relatives and friends from their country of origin come to visit. They feel pressured to prove to all these people that her children speak the native language and that she has done an amazing job by keeping the culture of origin alive at home. Everything gets complicated when a well-intentioned grandma tells her grandson that his Spanish is not that good, or criticize his accents or code-mixing when speaking at home.

Tips

Children are well-known for their decision at time not to use a language. The reason are diverse and uncountable. However, it is necessary to understand as mothers and caregivers that many of those reasons aren’t our fault, or at least not entirely. We need to treat ourselves with more empathy and compassion to pass those same values to our children.

Yes, you may want your children to have some of the elements of your cultural identity as well, but pushing yourself and your children to force them to speak the native language at home it would only provoke rejection of the language and any contact with relatives and friends who speak it.

And please! Please! Don’t get me started with the whole “If he doesn’t speak to me in our native language, I ignore him.”

No! No! No!

I respect any process and methods you choose to raise bilingual children, but don’t ask me to agree with mothers of young children “ignoring” their kiddos to force them to communicate in their mother tongue. A mother who refuses to speak to her kids is committing an unnatural action. This will make your child feel rejected by her own mother. This will make you feel bitter inside and uneasy. It won’t give you the right results either.

Sometimes, you face difficulties not because you are doing something wrong, but because things are going the way they are supposed to. Be respectful to yourself, as a mother and as a woman. Self-care isn’t just practicing yoga 24/7 and eating super foods every morning… Self-care is also allowing yourself to be the mother you are meant to be and that your children need, bilingual or not.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Please feel free to add your own bilingual mom self-care practices down in the comments. I look forward to always speaking out for all the moms of bilingual children around the world and the many challenges we face that are unnoticed.

Would you join me?

Quesillo Venezolano: Childhood Memories

Food is an important part of cultural heritage and national identity. Cooking and eating together can connect us to people and places, bringing friends and families together with the same goal: to discover a new culture.

If we really want to deeply explore the beauty of Hispanic traditions, learning to prepare a couple of traditional recipes is a must!

When I was eight years old my mother enrolled me in cooking classes. Every Thursday for six months in a row, I discovered the beauty of cooking different dishes that somehow impacted my way of seeing food in daily life. For me eating a meal together means sharing values, traditions and building memories for the future. 

Quesillo, a delicious Venezuelan custard. Photo credits to Little Nómadas

Today I would like to share with you a recipe to prepare my favorite Venezuelan dessert Quesillo. This decadent dish is a treat that I frequently make for my husband and children when I see their need for some comfort food and also for special occasions.

Quesillo is a typical Venezuelan dessert made with eggs and condensed milk. The whole surface of the mold is cooked in a water bath and caramelized. It is usually served as a dessert specially on birthdays, however, I make Quesillo whenever I feel homesick or want to emotionally connect to my roots. 

History of Quesillo

Many historians relate the origins of Quesillo to the well known Leche Asada Española, a traditional Spanish flan originated in the Canary Islands (Islas Canarias) and brought to Venezuela by the Spaniars during Colonial times. The name Quesillo means “little cheese” and comes from the fact that this dessert has pores reminiscent of cheese holes. These pores are produced by being made with whole eggs (unlike the flan in which only the yolks are used). 

My Recipe

By giving all of you my go-to recipe for Quesillo, I feel like I am sharing a piece of my childhood memories and also letting you in on my culture and values. Quesillo brings to me memories of my mother, family reunions, the smile of my children and holiday traditions. 

Quesillo Venezolano a la Flor 

Quesillo before taken out of the baking dish. Photo credits to Little Nómadas

Ingredients:

6 Medium Pastured Eggs (kept at room-temperature) 

1 Can Condensed Milk

1 Can Whole Milk 

Vanilla Extract

Dark Rum (optional) 

For the caramel:

1 cup of sugar 

1/2 cup of water

How to do this delicious dessert?

Heat oven to 325 F.

Pour 1 cup of sugar in a warm pan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of water. Constantly stir the sugar and the water while they heat until they brown and turn into caramel. It should be like a dark-brown liquid.

Immediately pour caramel in a custard dish or large ramekin, tilting it so the caramel swirls around on the inside. Work quickly, as the caramel will cool and harden almost as soon as it hits the dish. Reheat caramel in the pan if it thickens too much to work with.

Blend all other ingredients until smooth. I use the blender, but my mother preferred the electric mixer. Your choice.

Pour the custard mixture into the caramel-lined dish. Place this dish in a large glass, ceramic, or metal baking pan. Pour hot water into the baking pan around the custard dish to a depth of about 2 – 3 inches. This process is called “Baño de María” or hot water bath. 

Enjoy Quesillo on Birthdays! Photo credits to Little Nómadas

Bake the Quesillo for 60 minutes in the water bath. Check with a knife inserted just off-center into the dish; if the knife comes out clean, the Quesillo is ready.

Remove the large baking dish from the oven and carefully take the individual dish out of the hot water. Let cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator for three hours or overnight. (Leave Quesillo in the dish it baked in until time to serve.)

To serve, invert dish onto a serving plate or platter, allowing the Quesillo to drop out and the caramel sauce to flow over the custard. Enjoy! 

¡Auxilio, mi hija no habla español!

En un ámbito tan lleno de cambios como lo es la transición migratoria, la única constante que encuentro en todas mis consultas es el temor y la queja constantes de los padres hispanohablantes que ven como sus retoños pierden el idioma español en frente de sus ojos y sin poder hacer nada.

Y es que este es un tema que ha sido abordado por psicólogos, lingüistas y educadores desde la época de los 70 cuando comenzó el flujo migratorio de México, Centroamérica y el Caribe a los Estados Unidos. Es un tema delicado que debe ser abordado sin prejuicios, mitos ni cuentos de camino.

Mi historia personal y profesional como madre y educadora me ha permitido comprobar que siempre que continuemos exponiendo a nuestros hijos al español y sigamos hablándoles en nuestra lengua, todo lo aprendido, lo escuchado, lo que se ha almacenado en su cerebro no está del todo perdido. Con las herramientas adecuadas, motivación y mucha paciencia, nuestros hijos recuperarán el español y podrán comunicarse sin problemas en la lengua de sus padres.

¡Comencemos!

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Hablar español se hace cada día mas fácil… más espontáneo. 

 

La persona bilingüe receptiva

Primero hay que entender el concepto del hablante bilingüe receptivo o en inglés “receptive bilingual speaker”. Una persona considerada bilingüe receptiva es aquella que ha tenido suficiente exposición a un idioma en su niñez como para tener fluidez de nativo, comprende el idioma, pero posee poco dominio del mismo. Este es el caso clásico de nuestros hijos: nos entienden todo lo que les decimos pero no nos responden en español.

Existe una discrepancia considerable entre lo mucho que entienden y lo poco que pueden expresar en español 

Una vez armados con esta perla de conocimiento y sabiendo que nuestros hijos presentan las características propias de esos niños que viven entre dos o más lenguas, nos toca profundizar un poco más en los procesos mediante los cuales esa receptividad se lleva a cabo y como encontrar paliativos. Al final, nuestra meta principal es cultivar el orgullo y amor por la lengua castellana, no se trata de imponer una orden arbitraria.

Atrición. ¡Adiós español, welcome English!

Aunque nuestros niños crezcan escuchándonos hablar en español en casa, es importante reconocer que están expuestos la mayor parte de su tiempo al idioma dominante del país en el que vivamos. Sea inglés, francés, mandarín, o alemán, los efectos son los mismos: pérdida progresiva de vocabulario en español, renuencia a continuar comunicándose en español y uso de la lengua dominante en las diversas situaciones cotidianas de su vida.

Como resultado nos encontramos con niños y adolescentes que se comunican con sus padres y familiares en un binomio lingüístico, pues mamá y papá les hablan en español y los chicos responden en su segunda lengua, la cual dominan con tal fluidez que se convierte en su nuevo idioma nativo. Nuestros hijos pasan a tener dos lenguas nativas: la materna y que debido a la atrición se vuelve receptiva, y la dominante, que por exposición y motivación se adquiere a niveles avanzados y constantes.

Esa atrición, o fenómeno de perder la capacidad de expresarse en un idioma, pero conservando las bases de dicha lengua en el cerebro, es la clave para lograr que nuestros pequeños sean adultos bilingües. Muchos estudios están de acuerdo en que si exponemos a una persona a su idioma de niñez (nativo-materno) de forma intensiva por un determinado período de tiempo, trabajando todas las destrezas del lenguaje, los restos “dormidos” de esa lengua en el cerebro que parecieran estar perdidos, se pueden recuperar satisfactoriamente.

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Hablar con los abuelos se vuelve fastidioso porque no quieren usar el español. 

Entonces mi sugerencia, para ti que me lees, basada en estudios y mi experiencia propia, es la siguiente:

Construcción de bloques esenciales de comunicación

La cantidad de español que se recuperará en el futuro depende mucho de las bases o bloques fundamentales que establezcamos para nuestros hijos durante su niñez. Por eso, es importante enfocar nuestra atención en la concentración del niño, sus gestos y otros elementos comunicativos, y habilidades sociales.

En lo referente a la concentración, padres y educadores deben motivar al niño a participar en actividades en español que se ajusten a la edad e intereses del pequeño. De nada me sirve sentar al niño frente a la TV si mi hijo corre por la sala y lo que quiere es jugar con la pelota. Sería mejor jugar con él en el jardín utilizando la pelota como medio de aprendizaje, refuerzo vocabulario y doy instrucciones de forma clara y precisa. Todo en español.

Así mismo, la comunicación cuenta con diversos componentes. Los gestos y entonación son parte importante del proceso comunicativo y deben ser trabajados con empeño para que nuestros hijos adquieran las señales necesarias para descifrar el idioma cuando no entiendan una palabra. Enseñarles a nuestros hijos el vocabulario de emociones en español tendrá mayor impacto a futuro si incorporamos cierta mímica al expresarnos. Recuerden que queremos “bombardear” los sentidos de nuestros hijos con estímulos en la lengua meta: español.

Cuando nos referimos a las habilidades sociales buscamos que nuestros hijos interactuen con nosotros y con sus familiares y amigos en español. Puede ser que el niño no le hable a la abuela en español, pero si él entiende lo que su abuelita le dice e interactúa con ella de forma positiva, se da el proceso de aprendizaje. Receptivo, pero siempre existente.

Maximizar la absorción del español en casa 

La forma en la que les hablamos a nuestros hijos influye directamente en el nivel de adquisición de su idioma materno. Cuando les hablo a mis hijos (siempre en español) lo hago de forma clara, gesticulo y pronuncio cada palabra con detenimiento (a excepción de cuando estoy mandándolos a recoger su dormitorio), hago contacto visual, si es necesario repito la instrucción y recalco cada palabra, especialmente aquellas que sé deben aprender mejor (esto se llama “teacher talk”). Debemos asegurarnos de que nos escucharon y entendieron lo comunicado.

Otra forma efectiva de maximizar la adquisición del español en casa es través del juego. Dependiendo de la edad los chicos se benefician enormemente de las noches de juegos en familia, juegos de mesa, bingo, pantomima y afines. Para más ideas de juegos didáctico revisa mi artículo Game Night and Language Learning

En casa los libros son los mejores aliados de los padres. Asegúrate de crear un rincón de lectura y arte en donde el idioma español sea el instrumento de aprendizaje pero no la meta principal. Queremos que nuestros hijos lean o simplemente exploren libros ilustrados y se cree una atmósfera de entretenimiento y armonía, todo ello mientras la lengua materna los guía en la actividad. Si buscas ideas para una biblioteca casera te invito a revisar mis consejos aquí Leyendo en español I y Leyendo en español II

Motivación y buena actitud 

Muchos niños y jóvenes viviendo en el extranjero pasan por el proceso de atrición de su lengua materna y esto es normal. Entiendo que como padres resulta frustrante ver como nuestros hijos pierden su habilidad de producir frases completas en español y eligen siempre expresarse en una lengua que para nosotros es extranjera… de cierto modo extraña. Sin embargo, mantener una actitud positiva, respetuosa y sobre todo amorosa nos traerá resultados positivos. Se los aseguro. Y si estamos de buen humor y dejamos de querer forzarlos a lo “general” a que hablen español por “su bien” o porque “así lo mando yo”, el proceso de fomentar nuestra lengua en casa se hará más llevadero y entretenido.

Mis hijos se resistían, no me respondían y aún lo hacen pero cada vez menos, le huían al español. Yo continue expresándome en mi lengua porque así me siento más cómodo, mas auténtica. El resultado: satisfactorio 100%. Ahorita que tienen clases de español en la escuela los veo floreciendo, construyendo frases gramaticalmente correctas, con una pronunciación muy cercana a la nativa (aunque uno de ellos no me dice la “rr” con fuerza) y paseándose del inglés al alemán y de vuelta al español con una agilidad mental y comunicativa tremenda.

Vamos a hablarles en español, motivémoslos con música, vídeos y hasta recetas de cocina. Seamos pacientes y amorosos. Respetemos su proceso evolutivo y comunicativo. Pellizquemos su intelecto para que los pedacitos de español adormitados en su cabecita se despiertan y florezcan. Usualmente los hijos de inmigrantes recuperan su lengua materna siempre y cuando sean motivados y expuestos al idioma de forma constante y efectiva, y eso ocurre en un período de tiempo relativamente corto, lo sé y lo he vivido.

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Ella merece disfrutar de su idioma materno. 

¡Manos a la obra!

Creating a Culture of Peace at Home

Last week I had the honor to be invited to the  World Law Congress  in Madrid, Spain. The Spanish capital became the international center of the legal world, where a numerous group of jurists, lawyers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and professionals of diverse fields from different countries gathered to present their ideas, research, and innovative proposals to achieve peace through law.

For two intensive days I listened to distinguished personalities from the international legal world, many of them prominent figures from Spanish civil society, all united to recognize the importance of the Rule of Law as a mechanism to guarantee democracies in the world. Many of them talked about society’s imperative need of peace, the rebirth of extremist movements in Latin America and Europe, and the relevance of respect and tolerance in a context of global governance crisis. 

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Sunny break. World Law Congress, Madrid 

Then it happened. 

During an ecumenical act in the Almudena Cathedral of Madrid, I attended the speech of the president of the World Jurist Association  Dr. Franklin Hoet-Linares and his words left a deep impact on my heart. ¡Vamos a educar para la paz!, he said. Let’s educate for peace… Hearing these words made me conscious of the level of responsibility we have as parents and educators with the world and the future of human kind. 

All of the sudden those endless appointments at the doctor’s office, sport tournaments, music lessons, and art presentations seemed futile when confronted with my “real” duties as a mother of three. Am I raising children of peace? Are we, my husband and I, giving our kids the tools to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner? 

How do we educate for peace? 

How do we raise future leaders pro democracy and diversity?

Then it hit me. 

Everything begins at home. 

No, we don’t need to enroll our kids in an international congress about law and democracy at the age of 6. 

What we need to do is to bring peace to daily activities both at home and school. 

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Ecumenical Act in the Almudena Cathedral, Madrid Photo Credits Dr. Alexander Loew 

Answering these questions and telling you how to do it would be too pretentious. However, I can give you some ideas of where to start creating a culture of peace at home, thus fulfilling your mission as parents in charge of a better world. Then remember the job is yours and as long as we work together towards the same goal, the results will be beneficial for all of us, specially, our children. Who knows… maybe we are able to plant the seed of law in our offsprings and they become lawyers and jurists in the future. 

Promoting a Culture of Peace at Home

As parents we all have a role in teaching children about peaceful behavior. We need to be role models for our kiddos by showing them peaceful ways of thinking and behaving. 

  1. Let’s cover the basic needs. If a child is malnourished, sleep deprived, sick and cranky he or she won’t behave nicely. Frequent tantrums and aggressive reactions are always present when a child hasn’t slept well or when the child is hungry and thirsty. Then it is our job to make sure our kids get enough sleep, spend a big deal of time playing outdoors in contact with nature, eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water. You may roll your eyes at these, but believe me, it is so much easier to deal and teach a child that’s well rested and fed properly. Don’t forget to make adjustments that adhere to your family’s routine and means. 
  2. Let’s discover the world together. Another impediment to peace is intolerance of other people. Intolerance can be to distinctions of race, religion, cultures and lifestyles. We can change this through education. Explore with your children new traditions from a different country, get in touch with people with distinct backgrounds from yours, and talk to your children about commonalities and diversity. Promote respect and tolerance of others at home. 
  3. Let’s be conscious about the impact of media. The media is a very influential source of information and learning. It is our duty to promote watching documentaries or programs that present Peace Journalism. Question what you and your family see and hear from the media. It is important to analyze the way our children view violence. Media glamourizes violence and pornography. Talk to your children about behaviors observed in TV, online and video games that project aggressive behavior and war as a normal conduct. I always tell my kiddos that the fact that a behavior is common doesn’t make it good! Counteract violence and criminal behaviors with acts of empathy. The main point here is to avoid our children’s lack of sensitivity to conflict and violence. 
  4. Let’s be role models of peace. Start by yourself, learn new ways to resolve conflicts peacefully, include your children in family discussions and show them how to participate in conflicts resolution with a respectful and non-violent attitude. Through my years as a lawyer, educator and mother I have read many materials that suggest avoiding fighting with your spouse in front of the children. To me this is somehow utopian and unrealistic. We spend a big deal of time together, we travel together and get out of our comfort zones together… how do we avoid marital conflict in front of the kiddos when we are stuck in a small cabin in the Icelandic countryside and nowhere else to go to vent? What are we supposed to do then? We discuss our problems, yes, in front of the kids (please don’t get self righteous). But we always stick to principles of respect, tolerance, compromising, and love. We make sure the children see us reconcile and come to an agreement, we give them, by example, the tools needed to resolve problems in a healthy and peaceful way. 
  5. Let’s get family members, friends, and teachers involved. Everyone is busy and nobody likes to be told what to do. However, there are many ways to bring up the conversation of creating a culture of peace in the classroom with your child’s teacher and school director. Many schools around the world have started including “Culture of Peace” as a subject to teach children about tolerance, mediation, and rewards for behaviors of peace and justice. Be active! Offering to read a book during story time could be a nice and smooth way to teach peace to young children in elementary school. Supporting the debate team of your teenage child in secondary school could be also an effective way to introduce more tolerance and respect towards other’s opinions at such an important age. The possibilities are endless. Be creative.

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Morning view from one of the seminars room. Madrid 2019 

The above ideas are just some of the small steps towards a culture of peace we can take at home. By putting ideas like this into practice I’m hoping to create a more peaceful living for our children and our society. Like Dr. Franklin Hoet said, the Rule of Law is key to guarantee peace and justice in the world, however, the relevance and impact of peace starts with our children, and just by teaching peace can we get closer to the goal of a more peaceful and democratic world. 

Let’s not forget that our children are the leaders for our future and it is through them we will create a culture of peace. 

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Dr. Franklin Hoet speaking at the World Law Congress, Madrid 2019 

The Challenging Path of Bilingualism

Every day I read comments written by parents worried about their children’s refusal to speak the native language at home. Somehow moms and dads out there feel admiration for my three offsprings who speak English, Spanish and German willingly and happily. The reality falls far away from what it is projected in social media.

My kids’ dominant language is English while German comes in second place and Spanish is a desperate cry for keeping mom’s culture alive. Don’t get me wrong. Things have gotten better with Spanish lately, but it wasn’t until their teenage years that my children understood the importance of communicating with relatives and friends from Venezuela using their mother tongue. 

Those first years and people’s expectations 

Baby and toddler years were challenging for our family. We were raising our offsprings in the United States and even though I spoke Spanish to them the whole time, they continued to choose English as their preferred channel of communication. 

No, it wasn’t my fault. 

Yes, I only spoke Spanish.

No, it wasn’t our intention to raise them monolingual. 

Oh those years… and oh, those comments! Every time we traveled to our home country, relatives would want to evaluate the children’s Spanish skills and would highlight their inability to build a full sentence without mixing languages. Friends and teachers in the States weren’t silent either. They were always worried about my kids and the state of confusion and ambiguity we were raising them in. How would their English be good enough for elementary school if they just hear Spanish at home? 

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Thanksgiving Feast, NJ Elementary School, USA

Reality is simple. Their brains are awesome

So years passed and the three little Nómadas (not so little anymore) continued to show dominance in one of the two languages: English. And this was normal. Our kids had a greater exposure to English and needed it more to communicate with people in the immediate environment. 

Please rest assured that this is normal.

The main effect of dominance is that the stronger language is more developed than the weaker one. Therefore, my children learned more sounds and words in English, they had more grammatical structures at hand to communicate and started to transfer English morphemes into Spanish. 

Then came grandma to tell us that the children didn’t speak Spanish nor English, but a dialect composed by a mixture of codes from both languages. Ha! 

The future would include bratwurst and sauerkraut

Little we knew that our life plans would be altered by a job offer and a sudden move to Germany. Our dynamics changed to open the door for a new language. Priorities had to be rearranged to support our children to learn German as soon as possible. They were already in elementary school and enrolling them in an international school wasn’t an option. 

Since we knew that not all bilingual and multilingual children acquire their languages in a simultaneous manner (hello first semester of Language Masters), we weren’t surprised when our kiddos started to acquire the German language naturally by interacting with teachers, classmates and other members of the majority language community. It was fascinating to see them flourish in such a challenging language while their English continue to be superb and their  Spanish started thriving as well. 

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Enjoying the German summer months in Nuremberg 

The more languages, the better

Eager to find the right way to support their bilingual upbringing I decided to deepen my knowledge about the human brain and the way kids learn foreign languages. I reviewed all the material from my Masters years, enrolled in many seminars about diversity, expats and bilingualism. Tons of information and talks to experts about the bilingual brain reassured me that as long as we promote exposure to their three main languages, our children will be fine and multilingual. 

Please grandma, trust us! Your grandkids will be able to communicate and strive! They don’t speak an unknown dialect, they are using code mixing as strategy to produce and balance their weaker language. 

Things that you need to keep in mind

Raising bilingual children is a rewarding experience that can be challenging and exhausting to pursue. You need to stay strong, confident and believe in the reason why you are supporting your kiddos in this path. Languages are excellent tools to communicate cross-culturally and raise diversity awareness. To me, giving my children the chance to live overseas and learn other languages is an invaluable gift. This is the inheritance we are leaving for them. (Do you think that with all that traveling we have money left in the bank? Lol) 

So I did the homework for you and listed the things to be aware of when bringing up bilingual kids:

  • Children can become bilingual at any age. The long-standing myth that the earlier a language is acquired, the more fluent a person will be in it is just that: a myth. What it really seems to influence their capacity to acquire a second language is the learner’s attitude toward the other linguistic group. My children started to develop their Spanish skills in depth when spending time with grandparents and other family members during holidays in Venezuela and Mexico. They began to identify themselves with the Spanish speaking group, enjoying long walks with grandpa, dinner at their favorite Mexican restaurant, the freedom of being able to order their own meals at the local Venezuelan bakery, and so on. They were motivated and their Spanish began to flourish fluently and meaningfully.
  • Forcing your children to speak your mother tongue won’t help. Threatening, grounding and screaming at a child because he or she didn’t answer in your native language will not give you positive results. Language learning has to be a process of joy, fun, and motivation. If the only reason for your children to speak French is an upset mom or judgmental uncle, language acquisition won’t be fruitful, but resentful and hateful. 
  • Create an effective strategy and stick to it. Does you son refuse to speak Spanish with his cousins? Then create a healthy and fun environment where they can play together. If your child is having fun with his cousin, soon enough he will be more motivated to communicate using the cousin’s language. A detailed but flexible plan of strategies will be your best tool. Think about resources, tools, trips, native speakers, games and opportunities to expose your children to the target language and be consistent. Watching a movie in Russian every four months won’t be of much help to encourage your 5 years old daughter to communicate with grandma in Moscow. Follow a daily routine. 
  • Build a network system. Working alone sucks. Languages are all about communication and interaction. Start by following blogs, IG accounts and other social media outlets of families going through the same process. You need to build a sense of support and belonging for you and your family to stick to your resolutions. Additionally, search information in specialized journals and magazines. There is also the possibility to visit bilingualism workshops and seminars to acquire more knowledge and meet people in the field. 

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Proud mom of a German speaker. Zurich, Switzerland 

Just remeber, whatever you do, do it with passion. Believe in what you are doing and don’t hesitate to let others know about your plans. Avoid comparisons and trust your gut. Raising bilingual children has been an amazing experience for our family and many others out there.

You will not be disappointed!

Embrace bilingualism and its many benefits and become a motivator for your children. They will thank you for it in the future. 

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