La Loteria & Vocabulary Learning

I won the lottery. No seriously I did! Of course it was at the expense of my two girls 6 and 3.5, and my mother-in-law. Somehow the victory just wasn’t as sweet as I expected. And instead of money I got to eat a caramelo.

We’ve just come back from two months in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. This trip was two-fold. First we wanted to introduce the girls, now of an age where they will remember the trip,  to their grandmother. Secondly, we desperately needed to jump-start their Spanish.

Living in Thailand, it has been difficult to get them the exposure they need. Their father, the only fluent person in our house, works insanely long hours. My Spanish had been stalled at an advanced beginner level since forever. Without loads of spanish-speaking people around, or access to telenovelas, I found it hard to motivate to learn and get past that present tense barrier. And of course the distance and cost meant we haven’t been able to get back as often as we’d like.

This trip was the moment for Mama and las niñas to finally really immerse ourselves in Español! The first thing I figured out is that they learned vocabulary best by playing games and doing every day projects and crafts vs. ‘learning’ the language.

Our Abuelita, who was beyond excited to see her nietas, was well prepared with various games including La Loteria. The girls loved playing the game, except when I won. Maybe my happy in-your-face dance was a bit too much when I shouted “Tabla llena!”.

Of course some of the cards were a little questionable: El Borracho? Ok well technically that applies to my father so it could come in handy. El Negrito? Is it just me or is using a diminutive here -well racist?.  But fear not, I was able to find other Loteria games that focused on the alphabet, numbers, baby items, you name it!

Loteria sheet Borracho y Negrito

Another big win were the mini Tortilla Makers. One was the traditional square wood shape and the other the round metal one. Both made small delicious tortillas de maiz.

Tortilla makers wood and metal

Kids know when you are trying to teach them something. One of my girls initially refused to speak to her teachers in Spanish at the local kindergarten they attended. On the other hand, she happily chatted with Anna, the young woman who came to clean the house. The girls love to do chores and the only way to help Anna was to speak Spanish.

This applied to me too! Learning as I made my way around the city or learned to cook new dishes was way more effective than sitting down reviewing conjugations. And it goes without saying that little shot of tequila also did wonders for my fluency.

 

This blog post was written for the August edition of  Multicultural Kids Blogs Carnival hosted by Multilingual Parenting. A huge thanks to Rita for hosting this month’s Carnival.  Please check out the many other wonderful contributors.

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Linguistic Resolutions: I will not be my father & the art of acquiring spanish neologisms

achorman 2 photo with sombrero

I stay away from resolutions like the plague. Basically as soon as I resolve to do something, I am pretty much guaranteed that I won’t get it done.

So I want to be clear: This year, I will speak less French with my children and I will most definitely not be fluent in Spanish after my epic two month trip to Mexico.

I will speak less French because when we needed to move to Asia for work, which conveniently put us in a country where neither my husband or I would now have to clean the toilet –a move I am quite certain ensured the success of our marriage– it never dawned on me that I would end up switching to English so our terrific helper Cherry wouldn’t feel excluded.

It was one of those things; I stumbled at first, managing to speak French to the girls and then translating to English for Cherry’s sake. Then my stumble turned to a slow roll down the hill. I would only speak English when Cherry was around and switch to French if we were out of the house. Before you knew it, I was rolling down the hill at full velocity, bulldozing everything in my way. When I managed to peel myself off the ground at the bottom, I was unable to recall the last time I spoke any French at all.

Bam, damage done. But I had a great relationship with my helper, who ended up as Cinderella and now lives in a palatial house in Austin. Woohoo (Hi Cherry!)

I have been paying for the mistake I made in trying to be inclusive. This happened when my eldest P was two and a half. She is now rapidly approaching 6. I need to stop and breath deeply here as that thought brings me to the precipice of a full on anxiety attack. I’ve been slowly clawing my way back but her French suffered tremendously. As a result, her sister’s is even worse, especially since she didn’t have the benefit of spending a few months in a French-speaking school.

Now that I am homeschooling, I’ve repeatedly failed to adequately prepare lessons to allow me to seamlessly talk about stuff in French. When it comes to math and other scientific stuff, I don’t even bother trying as I just handle complexity much better in English. Have you seen French conjugations? There’s just no way I can swing the uncertainty of science and getting the right ending for irregular verbs.

I’ve had to shell out some serious dosh to increase the time the girls hear quality French. They both go for an hour, twice a week to my friend Amelie’s house for French activities and conversations. This January, I also decided to send P, my eldest –little C won’t be of age until September this year– twice a week to the Acacia Language club to reinforce her French. It’s working but crickey, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and money if I’d just been a bit less worried about others for once.

Now on to Spanish. I should speak it fluently. Really. I have no excuse. My mother speaks it. One of my brothers speaks it. I took it at school –until I forged my mother’s signature at the start of year two and switched to Italian. My father claims to speak it along with any other number of languages but in his own words, he is full of bullsh**. He is in fact the perfect example of what I don’t want to become linguistically. Here’s an example:

Excerpt from my childhood.
Setting: living room, after dinner, saturday night.
People: Father, mother, brothers and me.
Conversation in French between mother and children:

Shall we go to the beach tomorrow? Why yes I’d love to…Oh not me, I can’t because of this… sure you can you can just change that….wait but is there a concert at the beach? No I don’t think there is a concert at the beach. But how would we get there? Oh well your father would rent his taxi but take a few hours off and drive us there. Hmmm that could be good, the beach is so lovely at this time of year. Oh yes, I love it when the seagulls swoop down and steal my sandwich –  And how the lifeguards like to perv when you take your bikini top off – must you do that? Mom I am french of course I must. Ok so it’s settled: all in favor of going to the beach say Moi. Moi, Moi, grumpy brother… oh alright, moi too. It’s decided we are going to the beach!

A nano second of silence. My father opens his mouth:

So would anyone like to go to the beach tomorrow?

Ya Pop, the day you speak French is the day Putin decides to run Russia democratically.

So, you see, I really need to speak Spanish. I had a Spanish boss for a number of years. He employed his Spanish wife and sister, both of whom spoke little English. I had spanish assistants and spanish customers. I met and married a Mexican –a real one, not a Chicano–and lived in New York City. I’ve signed up and taken a number of Spanish classes. I was always the best student in class and then something gets in the way, I don’t sign up for level two and my Spanish get stuck like an old vinyl record, me forever speaking in the present. This is truly unacceptable.

I can get by in Spanish. I have to. My Suegra only knows the following English: It’s your mother, I just called to say I love you and it’s been so long since we had an answering machine, I am not even sure if she remembers that. I don’t know how she understands me. I can only speak in the present but I am always talking about the past and future. I was once left by my husband on my own to explain to his mother –the catholic woman I hoped would like me enough to encourage her son to marry me– that I had actually already been married and was finalizing a divorce. To this day, I am not sure what I actually managed to tell her.

Similarly, I can only capture a small portion of what she says because you see my Suegrita is way cool and she uses a lot of slang. The kind of slang my numerous books on tapes don’t cover. Sometimes, it’s not even slang. She is linguistically creative my Suegrita, which is fabulous, unless I actually need to know what she is saying to me.

Suegra: Javi…. spanish spanish spanish… some word I don’t recognize… spanish, spanish.

Me to J: What was that word? J: I am not sure. Me: What do you mean you are not sure?! J: My mother makes up words. Me: I am screwed aren’t I. J: Pretty much, yes.

So this year, I will most definitely not be rocking Mexican Slang nor chock full of neologisms from my Suegra. Now where is my lanita as I seriously need a couple of caguamas.

This post was written for the fabulous Raising Multilingual Children Carnival hosted this month by Open Hearts, Open Mind.  I’ll update the link once it’s up. Please check it out!

Living with Pigs. Taking Media One Step Too Far.

peppapig muddy puddlesThis post is written the October Multilingual Kids Blogging carnival hosted by one of my favourite blogs The European Mama . The theme this month is Media. I see various forms of media as tools. And like all tools, they can be wielded skillfully and help you build something, like using a hammer to mount a blackboard. Or à la Trinity killer, you can use it to crush someone’s skull.

I apologise for the graphic nature of the last sentence but that’s really it. In most cases, it isn’t that extreme, it may just be a black and blue fingernail, but one should always think carefully about what the purpose of the media is and what you hope to achieve with its use.

When I first found myself incubating a wee one, I thought “yes, I’ll abide by The American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice and not allow my child any television before the age of two.” Then, as the stench wafting from my un-washed armpits caused my husband to dry heave when he made it home, reality set in and my desire for regular showers led me to rethink my decision. Perhaps a few soothing Baby Einstein videos wouldn’t be so bad. (AND no, I never thought nor cared for my child to be a genius. I am more of an ‘ignorance is bliss’ kind of gal). No more than 10 or 15 minutes top, I swore to myself.

Ha, as if. There’s a reason all these DVDs have a repeat button on them. And we all know kids love repetition!

peppapigblogrepeat

I’ve always been one to rationalise. Our brain’s ability to create reasons to justify what we need never ceases to astonish me.  I convinced myself the one way I could ensure adequate exposure to all three heritage languages was through the use of DVDs, programs, songs, etc.  I knew that providing enough language exposure would be a challenge. And a few “Rue Sesame” episodes seemed like just the ticket. No better excuse to pop your kid in front of the boob tube.

As it turns out, my first child was a late talker and I am a worrier. I know you say all parents worry. But I fall on the extreme end of the spectrum. I cross a street by myself and see visions of an 18 wheeler careening around the corner; I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Secretly enjoying the use of TV —insert whatever gadget you wish here as this all started pre-iPad—  I figured if I only got programs in Spanish and French, then any TV watching would be educational and furthering my goal of language acquisition. This seemed like a big win-win for all parties involved.

With the right discipline, or I should say wielding the tool appropriately, this would have been fine. But I couldn’t stick to this regime.  All sorts of cute programs were on and I couldn’t find French or Spanish equivalents. We got rid of cable television so I would stick to DVDs. This worked for a time. Living in Brooklyn with so many spanish speakers, most DVDs had a spanish option but once we moved to South East Asia, Tamil, Mandarin and Korean were more likely language options than Spanish or French.

Then there was the problem of programs being translated but not really culturally appropriate. Sesame Street in French should really be something like Rue Roblochon. And a Spanish Peppa Pig would not be talking about gardening all the time. Maybe siestas? Or long lunches with chorizo? OK maybe not a pig eating pork sausages…

I simply gave up making an effort for a long time and showed them predominantly English programming.  Perhaps I am also admitting that my house is full of TV addicts. And yes, it’s entirely my fault, along with some prone-to-addiction genes handed down. Hindsight is always 20/20. If I am honest with myself,  I always knew there was a problem but chose to suppress it effectively, as so many other things, for the sake of convenience. Until now.

This is the year I’ve started homeschooling. One of my goals, in preparation for their big summer in Mexico next year, is to ramp up their Spanish. Normally if the kids see anything in English for the first time, it is nearly impossible to persuade them to watch it in another language.  With one exception: Peppa Pig. They worship before the altar of this little pink porcine diva.  So desperate are they to watch Peppa and George jump in muddy puddles, they will take it in any language. A newly created Spanish version is my saving grace, despite the Castilian ‘c’ pronunciation -sacrifices must be made!

With this discovery, I was permitting more TV in order to get the girls hooked. Requests for Spanish programs rose and I heard a lot of I can’t wait to speak Español. Here’s the thing: the Spanish program was great, but too much of it wasn’t. Soon, every morning, before I’d even opened my eyes, I’d feel a little finger jabbing my shoulder and a small whispering voice… “mama, can I watch a movie? please? please? please? please? Some Peppa?”.

Despite my emphatic NOs, she continued, laying on the charm thick and fast. Even saying “but I want Peppa Español mama, pleeeeease?”

One night I was putting C to bed. She’d actually watched a bit of Peppa before her shower and had her bedtime story. The lights were off, we were cuddling, and I asked her, as I always do, what song she would like me to sing. Her response? she whispered sweetly: “A movie mama. Can I have a movie?” After about five offers to sing a song, I just kissed her goodnight. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if she fell asleep the words ‘movie’ and ‘Peppa’ still on her lips.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out we needed a major intervention; that I’d used the idea of media as language reinforcement instead as ‘a buy mama x amount of Facebook minutes’, or homeschool lesson planning or whatever other black hole of activity that seems to be sucking up all my time these days.

Instead of genuinely creating a plan, using all the tools at my disposition to create an enriched linguistic environment, I fell into a classic case of plonking kids in front of TV for some peace.

I normally spend hours, no weeks and months beating myself up about these things, but it’s pointless. Instead, I’ve just instituted a clean break. Time for them to reconnect with other things, like the muddy puddles in the yard from the endless rainy season downpours, while I strategize on how I can use these things constructively and in moderation moving forward.

I’ll leave you with my favorite exchange of the week:

Me to P: ‘ello gorgeous!

C to me: NO! I’m gorgeous!

Me to C: of course, you are both gorgeous!

C to Me: No, P is Peppa pig and I am Gorgeous. (aka George)

Mystery revealed. And time to cut down on Peppa episodes. The giveaway should have been being greeted as Mummy pig a few mornings prior.

P.S. What’s the attraction with cheeky pigs?

How Learning Yoga is Similar to Learning Another Language

I’ve finally started homeschooling and it hasn’t gone as smoothly as I’d hoped though I was told to expect this. So here is a big shout out and thanks to the lovely  Giselle Shardlow  for her guest post this week. Giselle is the author of Kids Yoga StoriesHer yoga-inspired children’s books get children moving, learning, and having fun.  She draws from her experiences as a teacher, traveler, yogi, and mom to write her stories found at www.kidsyogastories.com or on Amazon worldwide.

How Learning Yoga is Similar to Learning Another Language

I’m so excited!  I’ve recently had a fun aha moment.  It occurred to me that teaching yoga is a lot like teaching another language.  As parents, we explore this connection as we raise our daughter to be a yogini and Spanish speaker.  I recently wrote about how integrating yoga and Spanish is a perfect combination.   I would love to share with you how we teach our daughter yoga and Spanish at the same time.

Ways to approach teaching both yoga and Spanish

As a stay-at-home mom to a two-year-old daughter, I’m constantly thinking about how to create an effective and engaging learning environment at home.  As we continue along our journey, here’s how we foster our daughter’s love of learning both Spanish and yoga:

  • Share an experience or have another close family friend share one
  • Make the learning fun, engaging, light-hearted, and interesting
  • Cater to her interests, such as animals and nature
  • Create a consistent, daily ritual of learning (for example, spend five minutes a day)
  • Practice positive reinforcement
  • Make the learning meaningful and relevant to her life
  • Learn through activity and movement
  • Encourage her self-expression, and increase her self-esteem
  • Start with the basics (for example, animal poses for yoga and counting in Spanish)
  • Build memory skills through repetition
  • Foster an active lifestyle for her mind and body
  • Start early, and start simple
  • Create an effective and rich learning environment
  • Show passion and excitement for learning
  • Notice her mood on that day and adapt accordingly
  • Cater to her multiple intelligences through language, physical activity, sounds, nature, music, interpersonal connection, and visuals
  • Use a variety of media, such as books, CDs, videos, cards, and games

 

spansh resources all rights reserved 

How to integrate learning Spanish and practicing yoga

Downward-Facing Dog was our daughter’s first yoga pose.  She practiced it literally everywhere and anywhere.  Next, she learned the Tree Pose.  Now, there’s no stopping her.  She’s hooked.  Just recently, we started Spanish Yoga.

This Sun Salute sequence or each pose separately is a good place to start practicing.  Note the keyword in English and Spanish, along with the matching kids yoga pose:

  1. Mountain – La Montana
    Mountain Pose

Stand tall with your feet together and your arms by your side.  Take a deep breath.  Ahh!

  1. Sun – El Sol
    Extended Mountain Pose

Stand tall, reach your hands up to the sky, and look up.  Hello sun!

  1. Waterfall – La Cascada
    Standing Forward Bend

Bend forward at the waist and reach for your toes.  Whoosh!

  1. Frog – La Rana
    Garland (Squat) Pose

Come down to a squat with your hands between your feet. Then jump up like a frog.  Ribbit!

  1. Snake – El Serpiente
    Cobra Pose

Lie down on your belly, place your palms flat on the ground next to your shoulders, lift your head and chest, and look up.  Hiss!

  1. Dog – El Perro
    Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Press back to your hands and feet, then bark like a dog.  Ruff!

You can say the instructions in Spanish to enrich the language experience.  Also, ask questions as your children move through the poses.  How do they feel?  Can they imagine being that animal?  Can they think of other animals to act out?  Encourage their creativity and exploration.  Focus on having fun, not on perfectly aligned poses.  Model the poses with enthusiasm.  Play Spanish music.  Wear comfortable clothing and practice barefoot.  Enjoy yourselves.  Allow for spontaneous learning moments.  Follow their passion.  Yoga and language learning are lifelong journeys, so embrace the experience.

A picture of our daughter practicing the Tree Pose while “counting” to ten in Spanish.

 treepose all rights reserved

The yoga poses in another language

For older children, yoga is an opportunity to be exposed to yet another language. Below are the yoga poses along with the Sanskrit (ancient Indian language) translations.

Mountain Pose – Tadasana

Standing Forward Bend – Uttanasana

Garland (Squat) Pose – Malasana

Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana

Downward-Facing Dog Pose – Adho Mukha Svanasana

 

Are you teaching Spanish to your children or practicing yoga?  Have you tried combining the two together?  I would love to hear your story!  We are learning as we go along…