To My Fellow Linguists and Citizens of the World:
Learning a language is a beast of a project to undertake. In addition to reading, writing, speaking, and listening—with countless vocabularies, dialects, and accents to untangle—you also have cultural layers and sublayers to sort through. It takes time and patience, and a willingness to understand that learning a language does not happen overnight. You must surround yourself with the language and culture every day, keep your study at the forefront of your mind, and use those blips of nothingness while waiting in line to try and recall what you last studied. An impossible task? No. Challenging, yes—but impossible, never! *For inspiration, read Why I Taught Myself 20 Languages, by Timothy Doner.
In metaphorical terms, then, you must slay the dragon. This summer, Lower School students are encouraged to keep their language study alive by ‘slaying the dragon’. Below you will find a series of language-related challenges. Upon completing each challenge, students may color in a section of the dragon. The dragon is slayed when all sections are colored in. Please hang the dragon picture in a visible or high-traffic area of your household, to remind students to continue their study. The challenge commences on the first day of summer, so if students have already done something on the list, they are asked to do it again.
1) Watch a movie in the target language, with Spanish voiceover and English subtitles. Note: you are welcome to change both to Spanish, but quite often, the translations are done in different countries: what you are hearing is not what you are reading. This can be incredibly confusing and frustrating for a beginner; it is more important right now for students to listen to the language: input, input, input! If your family does not want to watch the movie in Spanish with you, ask to invite some friends over. ¡Fiesta!
2) Label ten things in your house in Spanish. Use WordReference or Google Translate to look up the correct spelling. Make sure to include the “el” or “la” word–for example, la mesa/the table. Listen to the pronunciation so you know how to say it!
3) Prepare a traditional recipe with your family from a Spanish-speaking country. Make it interesting and try something new that you have never had before. Guacamole? Patacones? Tres leches cake? Gallo pinto? Horchata? Churros? Enjoy the process of searching for a recipe (appetizer? drink? main course? dessert?), buying ingredients you may have never heard of before, and then preparing it as a family. There tends to be a big focus on family and community in Latin American households, so make sure that everyone helps out. The more, the merrier!
5) Ask to schedule a family night out at a local Mexican/Cuban/Spanish-speaking restaurant. Then, either order in Spanish (if you already know how), or ask the waiter a few questions and learn how! Most people are more than willing to share their linguistic knowledge. To complete this challenge, take a picture of the food you ordered. (Note: there is no way for me to know with 100% certainty that you actually ordered in Spanish, so I am trusting you to be honest with yourself on this one.)
6) #10daychallenge: practice counting backwards or skip counting in Spanish whenever you brush your teeth for ten days in a row. Do NOT count aloud, or else you will spit out the toothpaste foam and get in trouble for making a big mess! Instead, count in your head—cero, dos, cuatro, seis, ocho, diez, doce; uno, tres, cinco, siete, nueve, once. If you don’t know the numbers very well, ask your parents to help you look them up on the computer so you know how they are spelled and pronounced. The point is to challenge yourself, so if 0-10 is too easy, work on something a bit more difficult. (100-200-300-400-500, etc.)
7) Go with your parents when they run errands or go shopping, and look for signs in English and Spanish. When you see one, write it down or ask your parents to take a picture of the sign with their phone. Find five signs, and you get to color in another section of the dragon! If you are not sure where to start, everything from the plumbing section to the magazine rack at Lowe’s is labeled in English and Spanish. The doors to—and other directional signs throughout—J.C. Penney’s at the mall are bilingual. Caution signs for wet floors are often in multiple languages. Airports have a million signs. Keep your eyes open!!
8) Listen to a Spanish radio station (87.7 FM) or podcast for twenty minutes and write down five words you understand. Don’t stop listening when you get to five words—you have to listen for the whole twenty minutes! Keep in mind that this could be five minutes a day for four days; it does not have to be all at once. What does Spanish sound like to you? Rap music? Raindrops?
9) Visit your local library and/or bookstore, and ask where the children’s foreign language section is located. Spend at least ten minutes flipping through the books and trying to find words you know—be a word detective! The local library has a huge Spanish section. Half-Price Books also has decent collections, but they are mixed in with other languages, so you really have to pay attention to know what language you are looking at. Tip: look at the copyright page to find out where the book was published, and then ask your parents what country that city is in. If it’s a Spanish-speaking country, the book is probably written in Spanish.
10) Make miniature weather signs in Spanish (with pictures!), and be a meteorologist: post the appropriate weather sign on the window every day for a week. See AccuWeather in Spanish for vocabulary, or use the guide below:
a. Hace sol: it’s sunny (“ahh-say soul”)
b. Está despejado: it’s clear (“es-TAH dehs-pay-HAH-doe”)
c. Llueve: it’s raining (“you-A-bay”)
d. Está nublado: it’s cloudy (“es-TAH new-BLAH-doe”)
Now hang this on your refrigerator or bookmark it on your computer before it gets lost. Your support and enthusiasm for the foreign language program are greatly appreciated. Have a wonderful summer, and be happy.