I am sure that some of you are already making summer plans. How time flies! With that in mind, for parents and/or students seeking a fun and educational language camp over the summer, I highly recommend Concordia Language Villages. Languages offered include Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish for pretty much every age, but there are also family camps as well as adult programs. While the prices are on the higher end, the program is highly renowned, 100% cultural and linguistic immersion, and well worth the cost. There are also scholarships available and virtual village experiences (TBD). Please visit their site for more information.Continue reading “Summer Language Camps”
My Dear Friends, Fellow Linguists, and Citizens of the World:
The holidays are a time for family, friends, and much merriment. Hopefully, amidst the frantic shoppers and bumper-to-bumper traffic, you are able to relax and find some peace and joy in the season.
That said, learning does not stop or stagnate just because there are no classes; we learn constantly throughout our lives, and these breaks remind us that education takes many forms. While vacations are definitely for relaxing and spending time with loved ones, 20,160 minutes [two weeks] is a long time without a language, and parents frequently ask me what they can do at home to supplement their child’s language study. With that in mind, I have curated a list of cultural and linguistic activities that you and your children are welcome to explore over the break. Feel free to pick and choose what works for you and your family, but know that all of these activities are 100% optional.
CULTURE: Holiday Traditions from Spanish-Speaking Countries to Try
1) Cuba: For New Year’s, many Cubans mop their houses from top to bottom, and fill up a bucket with the dirty water. Next, they dump this water in the street, as a symbolic gesture to “throw away” all of the bad stuff from this past year and begin anew. Later, they walk around the block with a suitcase, waving goodbye to their neighbors. This is meant to ensure a trip abroad in the coming months. A staple Cuban event is the pig roast (click on the link, if you dare), but they also will eat black beans and rice, plantains, and buñuelos for dessert for the Christmas Eve meal. A pig roast takes a long time, but the water-dumping and suitcase jaunt seem manageable!
2) Venezuela: “For locals in the capital of Caracas, it is customary to strap on your roller skates and glide to Christmas mass. As legend has it, children go to bed with a piece of string tied round their toe and the other end dangling out of the window. As skaters roll past, they give the string a tug and children know that it’s time to, well, get their skates on” (source). The streets are actually blockaded off each year so that families can roller-skate to Midnight Mass safely. People say this began as an alternative to sledding, since Venezuela is right on the equator and therefore quite warm in December. While I would not recommend roller-skating in the middle of the street in this country, you could go to a rink to skate!
3) Spain: Eat twelve grapes at midnight on December 31, to welcome in the New Year and for good luck for each month of the coming year. People also wear red clothing (and underwear!) for extra good luck. There is also a highly anticipated, three-hour long Christmas Lottery called, “El Gordo” that Spaniards watch on television December 22nd. Children from the San Ildefonso School practice all year long to announce the winning numbers in song. THIS is what it looks like. (Note: The grape-eating tradition has been adopted in many other Spanish-speaking countries as well, and not just Spain.)
4) Mexico: “Families begin the nine-day observance of las posadas by reenacting the Holy Family’s nine-day journey to Bethlehem and their search for shelter in a posada, or inn. In some parts of Mexico, for the first eight evenings of las posadas two costumed children carry small statues of Mary and Joseph as they lead a candlelight procession of friends and neighbors from house to house. They sing a song asking for shelter for the weary travelers. When at last they find a family that will give shelter, the children say a prayer of thanks and place the figures of Mary and Joseph in the family’s nacimiento. Then everyone enjoys a feast at the home of one of the participants.
For the children, the piñata party on the first eight evenings is the best part of las posadas. The blindfolded children are spun around and given a big stick. They take turns trying to break open the piñata with the stick while the piñata is raised and lowered. Everybody scrambles for the gifts and treats when the piñata shatters and spills its treasure” (source). Here, you could act out las posadas and make or buy a piñata.
Oaxaca, Mexico also hosts a very unique radish-carving festival called, “Noche de los Rábanos” (Night of the Radishes) every December. The radish carvings are extremely detailed, intricate sculptures–see pics HERE and HERE–which wilt quickly; timing here is everything. See if you can carve a miniature radish sculpture at home with your parents.
5) Guatemala: Here, “Guatemalans use colored sawdust to construct their nativity sets, and create characters with indigenous features to represent their ancestors” (source). While these nativity scenes are very beautiful, perhaps even more impressive are the sawdust carpets Guatemalans create for Holy Week (Easter). Check out a few pictures HERE to learn more and read about the 6,600 foot long sawdust carpet–a world record. It might be fun to create a miniature sawdust carpet model, but using colored sand and a stencil outline instead. Take a picture so that it lasts forever!
People in many Latin American countries also prepare Christmas tamales, although the recipes differ from place to place and culture to culture (e.g., Mexicans tend to wrap them in corn husks and Guatemalans in banana leaves).
LANGUAGE: Spanish Language Activities
1) Watch a movie in the target language, with Spanish voiceover and English subtitles. If you have not seen Coco or Ferdinand, now would be a great time, but any movie works! NOTE: you are welcome to change the voiceover AND subtitles 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 confusing 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) Find a Spanish radio station on your car radio and listen to it either driving around town or on a long road trip. Dance along to the songs and try to pick out a few words you know!
3) Schedule a family night out at a local Mexican/Cuban/Venezuelan/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. Be courageous and try something new you have not had before. If you go to multiple restaurants, make a photo slideshow of Food from Different Countries!
4) 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. Tortilla Española? Bocadillo? Churros? Flan? Dulce de leche? Tamales? Guacamole? Patacones? Tres leches cake? Gallo pinto? Horchata? 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) Not traveling this vacation? Plan an imaginary trip to a Spanish-speaking country. Pretend you have $10,000. But wait! Other countries do not all use the dollar. Google what type of money your country has. HERE is a currency converter to play around with. Then, decide where you want to go in said country. If you type in the search bar, “points of interest Spain” [or the country you are interested in], you will get photos and names of landmarks, palaces, monuments, beaches, etc. that may be of interest.
6) Find a Spanish language-learning app that you like, and then level-up three levels to complete this challenge. Grades 3&4 have been working on Duolingo this year, so they are welcome to ‘level up’, or explore another app for fun. Here are a few suggestions: MindSnacks, Duolingo, Memrise, FluentU, and/or Epic. Or play the Guess the Language game and see if you can beat your score. Please note that the latter is highly addictive!
7) It is very common in many part of Mexico to eat, well, bugs. Really! From worms and creamy winged-ant salsas to stink bugs, chapulines, and 88 species of beetles, “Mexico is the country with the greatest variety of edible insects: 549 species, according to the 2013 report Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security.” To test your courage, visit the Candy Store locally (ask me where!) and buy a few fried crickets, or try Amazon. There are even fun flavors to whet your appetite, such as: Bacon & Cheese, Salt & Vinegar, and Sour Cream & Onion.
8) Start looking for fruits, vegetables, boxes, cans, clothing, etc. that come from Spanish-speaking countries, and try to collect stickers and/or clothing tags from all 21 countries (e.g., clothes “Made in Guatemala”, bananas from Costa Rica, avocados from Mexico; that is, imports/exports). This was a Spanish Challenge, but many Lower School children (grades 2-4) can already name a majority of the Spanish-speaking countries**, and are encouraged to keep their eyes open.
**Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic (La República Dominicana), Puerto Rico (technically a territory), Spain (España), and Equatorial Guinea.
You’ve read this far and still want more? First, thank you for taking the time to read it; it is greatly appreciated. Second, feel free to check out my Summer Packet 2017 and Summer Packet 2016 for more ideas. For any fellow linguists, the Articles drop-down menu and corresponding pages have enough links to last a lifetime. In between your Google Rabbit Hole/Alice in Wonderland virtual searching, enjoy the time off, “sprinkle kindness like confetti“, and have a magical and very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays. See you in 2021!
The flakes fell fast and heavy, quickly transforming the city skyline into an incomprehensible, wintry blur. She stood still inside the moving tram, watching silently; there were no words in her mind; she was absorbing the scene into her being.
Icelanders called this, “window-weather” (gluggaveður)—beautiful from a distance, provided the distance was indoors, adjacent to a fireplace, and within arm’s length of a hot mug of cocoa, of course.Continue reading “Winter in Brussels”
My Dear Friends, Fellow Linguists, and Citizens of the World:
This year’s summer packet for Spanish is a list of 50 ideas—both online and offline–that you are welcome to reference when your child invariably complains, “I’m bored!” during the summer months. Have them choose their favorite number (or use the Random Number Generator LINK –> input a range of 1-50), and then do the corresponding activity on the list.Continue reading “Summer Packet 2020”
Deep in the Amazon Rainforest lives an indigenous tribe called the Hi’aiti’ihi, who speak the Pirahã language. This language is unique in several ways, but primarily world-renowned in linguistic communities because it contains no numbers. Not a single one. Not even one.
Can you imagine such a world? I look at the clock, and see digits. I do my taxes, and write numbers. I use an iPad, cell phone, desktop, laptop–essentially any device–and know that somehow, “01010101” and an enormous amount of coding lets me communicate with nearly anyone in the world. A world without numbers? What about synesthetes? What about birthdays? What about money? Or addresses? What about time? Does no time means no past or future? How many jobs would not exist if there weren’t numbers? I am speechless, wordless, number-less…
To clarify, these hunter-gatherers** do have smaller or larger amounts (the concept of more or less), but no numbers. I have read before that in order to barter, one might turn a palm skyward to indicate more, and downward for less–but there are no numbers, either to quantify what is being bartered or to exchange currencies.
If people without numbers are not enough for you today, the Moken Tribe–living near Thailand and Burma–will fix that. They do not have a word for “want” in their language (details on page two of link). Likewise, “worry” is not a concept in their language. This is the same tribe that knew a deadly tsunami was coming in 2004 and saved themselves. Aren’t languages fascinating? What we understand as reality is not always the case for the rest of the world. No numbers, no wants, no worries…
**Some have suggested in recent years that our cyber habits closely parallel hunter-gatherer societies and thought, in the sense that we skim information quickly, only searching for what we want to catch, or gather. Hmmm.
Nowadays, the song Despacito is probably as well known as Dr. Seuss. What you might not think about are the translation jobs that allow this information to circulate worldwide. People dedicate their lives to adapting and translating books, songs, and more into other languages, which takes time. For example, they say that Red Fish, Blue Fish took over a year to translate into Mandarin Chinese, mostly because Dr. Seuss had a habit of making up words: how do you transfer fictitious phonemes into another language? How do you make lines rhyme, when two words–directly translated–do not rhyme in another language?Continue reading “Despacito and Dr. Seuss”
Students have been talking about translation (written) and interpretation (spoken) in Spanish class recently. This week, they focused more on translation, after taking a moment to differentiate the two. You see, translation and interpretation are often confused and used interchangeably. However, they are two very different professions. In a nutshell… Translation is written. You translate documents from one language into your native tongue, and have time to write multiple drafts of a document. Interpretation, on the other hand, is spoken. You interpret on the spot, and there is no going back. Precision in the moment is key. Interpreters often work in politics, and thus must be informed about current events, slang terms and new expressions. Today, we will focus on the job of a translator and the unanticipated ramifications of poorly translated signs and documents.Continue reading “Translations Gone Wrong”
I have a very strained relationship with technology. On the one hand, and in light of the current circumstances, we are very fortunate to have this tool with which to communicate and share information around the world. And in general, I enjoy blogging and researching, and appreciate having an infinite number of resources at my fingertips. It is amazing what humankind has been able to accomplish.
On the other hand, there are several serious societal ramifications that keep me up at night. I put them here in list form to pose questions, not solve the world’s problems. They are simply to consider.Continue reading “Privacy & Tech”
Radio Broadcast- Summary
CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN!
NOTE: It is in both Spanish and English!
This week, I will give a variety of options for grades JK-5, to ease into the idea of continued learning. While students are required to complete the Spanish language assignment below (independent work), they are also encouraged to try one of the optional mini culture projects. The latter are fun, hands-on, offline activities that families can work on together.
This is not meant to be a burden on you, but rather to emphasize the importance of family in the Hispanic community, and to remind us to be grateful for this extra time we have together.
**Students in JK-2 should watch two 4-7 minute cartoons in the target language this week–preferably on separate days. HERE is a list of links, including Pocoyo, Perro y Gato, and Caillou in Spanish. Listening to SONGS in the target language counts, too. Just make sure you don’t sing the English lyrics over the Spanish if it is translated!
Note that it would be beneficial to build into your home schedule that children watch these shows at a specific day and time, for example, 2x per week, when you are preparing breakfast or dinner and need a few minutes alone. The more predictable the routine, the better.
**Grades 3-5 should continue working on Duolingo at least three times per week, for 10 minutes a day. Students– there will be prizes for anyone who has earned more than 10,000 XP when we return back to school!
Advanced students who want a challenge may do any of the “Native Speaker” work below as well. Be sure to add English subtitles on BrainPop and “Pollito Tito” (CC/closed captioning in bottom right hand corner).
**NATIVE SPEAKERS in ALL grades can watch the “Pollito Tito” video below for pura diversión. In addition, native speakers in grades 3-5 should watch a BrainPop video in Spanish on a topic of their choice this week. (Be sure to add subtitles to read along.) In their Spanish notebook, students can journal about the video they saw, or do a free write (e.g., continue a story they were writing, write about how they’re feeling, etc.).
Each week, I will highlight a few different Spanish-speaking countries in my posts, with accompanying facts and mini-projects. Read through the ideas, see what materials you have on hand, and have fun! For all culture projects, be sure to find a good song on THIS PAGE to listen to while you are working/playing!
If you want to “create a country” in a corner of your house–bedroom, playroom, part of the living room, your closet, etc.–like I have in my classroom, make sure to add a big sign with the country name, and check out THIS PAGE for more cultural ideas. Post on Seesaw (grades JK-3) or email me a photo (grades 4-5) if you want to share.
Project #1: HAMMOCKS!
The Yucatan in Mexico is known for its hammock culture. Here, 2/3 of children sleep in hammocks instead of beds, and there are even hammocks in hospitals! For this challenge, string up your own DIY hammock with a sheet and twine/rope. Attach it to your bedpost, a chair, or even a tree outside. Be sure to ask your parents first so that you choose a safe place.
Project #2: AMATE PAINTINGS!
Amate bark paper is a traditional folk art and beautiful type of paper made from the bark of fig trees in Mexico. An easy way to create one at home is to crumple up a brown paper bag and use colorful paints to create something like THIS. Scroll down here for step-by-step instructions. If you have any figs to chew on, eat some while you are painting!
Project #3: GROW CRYSTALS!
The Giant Crystal Cave is a cave connected to the Naica Mine in Mexico with massive crystals. The average person can only stay inside for ten minutes because there is 99% humidity, whoa! For this challenge, grow your own crystals at home with Epsom salts, food coloring, and a bowl. Turn off the air conditioning if you want to enhance the cave simulation, haha! Skip to 5:23 in the video below to learn more.
Project #4: MAKE TAPAS!
An exciting part of traveling is getting to see and try different types of foods. What is “normal” to you is “strange” to others, and vice-versa. In Spain, tapas—also called pinchos when pierced with toothpicks—are found in many restaurants. They are snacks arranged in small dishes, and have an interesting history: a long time ago, many people were illiterate, so travelers going from one inn to the next could not read the menus; instead, they were given little plates to sample different types of food before ordering their meal.
Pretend you are in Spain and recreate tapas in your own kitchen. There are countless options, so find a few that you like, and have a little fiesta, or party. Some ideas include mixed olives and cheese; skewers with pickles; fried baby squid; mushrooms sautéed in garlic and oil, etc.—see more options HERE. Enjoy!
Project #5: BUILD A FORT!
La Alhambra is a famous fort/palace with beautiful gardens in southern Spain. Many students enjoy trying to build this fort during class time out of cardboard, so why not make one at home? Build a huge fort tent out of blankets, pillows, and chairs, based on La Alhambra. Ask your parents where in your house would be a good place to build it (so that you don’t have to take it down right away or get in trouble).
Draw or print out a Spanish flag to wave, put on Spain’s National Anthem or your favorite song in Spanish, and get to work! This could become a really comfy place to watch Spanish cartoons or study Duolingo. NOTE: The video is historically-based, and more for older students.
Project #6: GO ON A HIKE!
The Camino de Santiago is a 500-mile hike across northern Spain. It takes about 30 days to complete on foot. You carry everything you need in a backpack, and follow the arrows and shells so you don’t get lost. For this challenge, put arrows and shells all over the house, leading to your learning space or bedroom, like it is the Camino de Santiago. Feel free to pack a bag and go on a mini-hike with your parents walking around the block, if you feel like it. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes!
Thank you so much for reading! Hope you are having a great week.
As a child, I played “school” a lot. My mother says that in kindergarten, I would coerce others to be my students and scribble lessons on a Raggedy-Ann chalkboard. Even as a teenager, I lived in a world of ideas. I remember wanting to figure out how to convert the human body into pure electrons so that I could travel over the phone wires (circuit) to visit my friend in a town twenty miles away. For the record, I never figured that one out, but school was rarely boring; there was always more to learn and do. If anything, I felt overwhelmed at times with the quantity of information available and a serious surplus of interests. Suffice to say, teaching has always been in my blood.Continue reading “Just Play”
I love that learning about other languages and cultures always gives us new perspectives. It is like when you stand on a chair: the room is still the same room, but you notice different things about it. As we deepen our language study, we will begin to notice new perspectives embedded in other languages and cultures. The Aymara and Quechua languages (spoken in South America) introduce us to a new perspective this week. What? Keep reading!
In other words, everything we can see is considered the past, and therefore in front of us; everything we cannot see and is therefore unknown, is the future and behind us. This is actually very logical when you think about.
Until next time, remember that, “We should learn languages because language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly” (-Kató Lomb, hyperpolyglot).
There is an endangered language in the US called Wukchumni, that only has one living speaker remaining. Intent on preserving her language for future generations and documenting it for linguists, Marie Wilcox is working on writing a dictionary to compile all of the words in her language. Can you imagine such a task? Our challenge is ‘merely’ to download all of the words in a language into our brains; her job is upload them, eek! For more information, see the video below and this Ethnologue link.
The current political/media state has brought to the world’s attention how incredibly dependent and interdependent we–along with millions of people–are on other country’s products and services. An Apple iPhone does not just magically make its way into our hands: the physical hardware comes from somewhere, along with the intelligence, coding, encryption, and software inside the device. And what about the box it is shipped in? Or the paper label on the box? Where was that paper made? What forest did it come from? Which tree? How long ago did this process begin?Continue reading “Imports & Exports”
OVERVIEW: Students in Lower School have spent a good chunk of time this trimester immersed in cultural projects and ideas. Some projects have spanned multiple levels and lasted several weeks, while others have been grade-specific and only taken a day or two to complete. These projects emerge due to student interest, but also when a visual product (painting, tower, image, etc.) in the room sparks a conversation.
While I initially fell in love with Spanish via linguistics (and philosophy)–you can’t get much deeper into words and language than that–I have come to value culture just as much in recent years. After all, as the saying goes, you don’t learn to speak a language; you learn to speak a culture. ASIDE: The tricky part with Spanish is that we are not talking about one culture here, but rather myriad cultures and subcultures of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries.
*I would love for everyone to read through everything that I’ve written below, but I realize that is not realistic. As a result, I have added headings per grade level to facilitate in the scrolling process. I recognize this is a lengthy post.
Junior Knights- Many of these cultural projects you have already read about on Seesaw: folding abanicos/fans out of regular and then very large paper (Spain); making miniature güiros with toothpicks (instruments from the Caribbean); watching a video on how a wooden molinillo is made (the thing you use to stir the chocolate in Mexico); and, much earlier in the year, making Worry Dolls out of felt and Popsicle sticks (Guatemala). Most recently, students are fascinated by our Freeze Dance song from Wreck-It Ralph/Rompe Ralph.
In the linguistic realm, students have tapped into their classroom project on expression, whether or not they recognize it on a conscious level. You see, every new word or phoneme they bring home carries with it a new set of sounds, another way to express something (an object, action, or idea) with which they are already familiar. “Duck” in one classroom setting becomes “Pato” in another.
They have also been exploring storytelling in the target language. Here, Pato and friends play with language to create a scene in students’ minds. One day, for example, the famous (infamously mischievous?) stuffed animal came to class soaking wet. The obvious question was, “Why?” To answer that, we begin: “Una noche…” (one night)–here, I model turning off the lights with comprehensible language, and by the third class, I can ask students in Spanish to do this independently. We proceed to sing our goodnight songs and whisper “Buenas noches” (good night), when ALL OF A SUDDEN! a loud crash of thunder awakens us from our sleep: there is a storm outside! Oh no, ¡qué problema! (What a problem!) Students volunteer to play various roles (e.g., sitting on a barco/boat made out of chairs in class) and/or assist with sound effects (e.g., la lluvia/the rain).
Eventually, Pato gets to the point and answers the question–or doesn’t, and wants to reenact the “how I jumped into a pool” part of the story with students just for fun. One of the most adorable moments of this past month was when one class started chant-whispering [unprompted], “¡AG-UA, AG-UA, AG-UA!” (Water, water, water). Gracias for a great term.
Kindergarten- Trimester 1 ended with a conversation about Day of the Dead in Mexico. Students were so interested in this that we continued our ‘culture trip’ around the Spanish-speaking world. When, for instance, students signed up for the ‘volar/fly’ center, I made them paper airplanes, on the condition that they brought me the color paper and size they wanted, and told me where they were going.
Initially, the options were only España/Spain and Mexico, and they had to draw the flag colors on their planes, but we branched out after that. Where will you be flying today? Argentina? We added Bolivia after a brief cultural lesson on the largest salt flat in the world there, Salar de Uyuni, and to clarify to Olivia (as opposed to Bolivia) that I was not making fun of her name! Venezuela was added to the list when students wanted to contribute something to the LS Spanish museum; that day, we went outside and collected pebbles, leaves, and sticks, and made a mini replica of Angel Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the world. The other class wanted to print out pictures of lightning for a center (imprimir/to print), so I showed them Catatumbo Lightning in Venezuela. K.A ended up seeing the images, and asked about it the following day.
Costa Rica became a fad after classes contributed to the rainforest simulation in my closet. All of these countries are labeled and have specific locations in my room now, so students can ‘travel’ to Bolivia to paint (pintar) or simply fly their airplane/avión in said direction and shout out key words like, “¡Mira!” (Look!) or “¡Ayúdame!” (Help me!) when it does something neat or lands up too high to reach. Granted, not all students have taken to plane-flying, but there is a high percentage of both classes that participate and/or have participated this trimester. These countries are all sight words as well.
While kindergarteners do not necessarily have a conceptual grasp of what a country is, they do know that people in faraway lands like Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia speak Spanish. This is the overarching goal. Any extra facts they recall or bring home are icing on the cake. (NOTE: As a bonus, many also know that they do not speak Spanish in Polonia/Poland– thank you/dziękuję, Alejandro, aka Alex!) Last but not least, and at some point back in the fall, students also made their own piñatas and abanicos (fans).
In the linguistic realm, it should be noted that as a group, students’ reading and writing skills are improving daily. They read to me in Spanish on a regular basis, and most can write at least several words in the target language now without consulting any reference materials, i.e., sight word cards. Kindergarteners enjoy pointing out similarities and differences between English and Spanish, especially with regards to phonetics. Great work this term!
First Grade- As many of you know from SLC’s, first graders have become Map Masters. Their country-name recognition skills and ability to locate these places on a map are excellent. Currently, students are comfortable naming the majority of the following countries: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. Students have had mini-lessons about many of these cultures–from Worry Dolls (Guatemala) to making natural chewing gum (Mexico) and tracing Mola designs (Panama)–as well as a week of assigned centers for first and second grades, where they chose a culture project of interest.
The assigned centers looked like this: 1) Argentina, set up, buy, and sell items at an outdoor mercado/market with Argentine pesos: no American dollars accepted!; 2) Peru, build one of the highest cities in the world out of blocks; 3) Dominican Republic, play dominoes, a national pastime; and/or 4) Bolivia, paint the beautiful sky reflections of starry nights and sunrises and sunsets over the largest salt flat in the world (and also taste more salt!).
A memorable day was when students tried selling their artwork (paintings of Bolivia) at the outdoor market in Argentina, but listed a painting as 20 pesos. I suggested that we look up how much that was, and when the student learned that 20 Argentinian pesos was only equivalent to $0.32, she changed the price, adding a few more zeros (2000 ARS = $32.00).
A few students could not decide where to go, so I gave them an alternate project: recreate a textured model of La mano de Punta del Este in Uruguay with paint and sand (it is a famous sculpture of a hand on the beach).
Both classes were also introduced to and acted out the most famous windmill chapter of the 900-page world-renowned novel, Don Quijote, back in the fall. Picasso made a sketch of the two main characters (Don Quijote and Sancho Panza) to commemorate the novel’s 350th anniversary. First graders put a photocopy of this up to the window, placed pastel-colored paper on top of it, and then trace-scribbled the drawing with a Sharpie to create a two-tone replica. The class joke and icing on the cake was to cross out Picasso’s name and replace it with their own!
Because first graders are becoming so knowledgeable about the Spanish-speaking world, and also because they were wholly inspired by the second graders’ iMovie about the Camino in Spain back in October, students are currently making their own pasaportes/passports. Passports are necessary to visit the Costa Rican rainforest in my closet. Obviously. Great work this term.
Second grade– Second graders have done an excellent job this trimester of combining language and culture. For starters, the majority can write and say the following:
“Hola, ¡buenos días! Yo me llamo ______. Yo quiero _____ y _____ [jugar y colorear] con mis amigos. Yo necesito ________ [marcadores, cobijas, peluches, comida, ropa, libros, etc.]. Yo voy a _________ [Chile, España, Argentina, etc.].”
(Hello, good morning! My name is ______. I want to _______ and __________ [play and color] with my friends. I need ________ [markers, blankets, stuffed animals, food, clothing, books, etc.]. I am going to ________ [Chile, Spain, Argentina, etc.]).
The phrase, “Yo voy a _______” (“I’m going to ________) came about for two reasons. First, there is a Señor Wooly song called, “¿Adónde vas?” (Where are you going?) which became a major hit among second graders, so obviously we needed to take that and run with it–and learn how to answer the question. Second, the class wanted to create a pueblo/town, and well before we began designating certain parts of the Spanish room as different countries (our current reality), second graders had divided the space into sections–el gimnasio/the gym, el teatro/the theater, la fábrica/the factory, el hotel y restaurante/the hotel and restaurant, el cine/the movie theater,etc.
When students signed up to jugar voleibol/play volleyball, they would have to explain that they were going to the gym to do said activity. Likewise, the factory was for arts and crafts, or building pretty much anything; the theater was for singing, playing the piano, dressing up, and performances; the movie theater was for watching Pocoyo shows or Señor Wooly songs; and the hotel & restaurant were for sleeping and eating. As time went on, we began saying that the gym was located in Argentina, the hotel in Peru, the theater in Colombia, etc. It was actually a very neat (and unforeseeable) evolution of a project!
Moreover, all of these activities recycled and built on vocabulary from last year–e.g., jugar/to play, pintar/to paint, construir/to build, tocar el piano/to play the piano, comer/to eat–and students began expanding their sentences. It was no longer just “I want to play”, but rather “I want to play soccer with my friends outside” (quiero jugar al fútbol con mis amigos afuera), or “I want to build” became a little more polite: “May/Can I build a fort? I need blankets and the clothes and books.” (¿Puedo construir una fortaleza? Necesito cobijas y la ropa y libros.)
As a final linguistic note, second graders also integrated their suffix and prefix study from their regular classroom with the target language, learning that there are “boy” (masculine/el) and “girl” (feminine/la) words in Spanish, and that this can be determined by studying the suffix. The class had fun discovering which words were on the “boy team” or “girl team”. We get ice cream (el helado)! But we get cake (la torta)! And so on… The point here is for students to begin to notice details about Spanish. This will help their study later on.
In as far as culture goes, second graders truly outdid themselves. They saw what older students were doing, jumped on board the train, and then, in addition, proposed their own projects. Here are a few examples.
- Students noticed an image of the Noche de los Rábanos/Night of the Radishes festival (Mexico), and then took a day in December to carve actual radishes into beautiful creations, copying what they saw.
- Second graders made a truly outstanding iMovie of the Camino de Santiago 500-mile hike through northern Spain.
- Several students helped cover a soccer ball with gold paint, and then built a trophy stand for it out of Popsicle sticks and hot glue, for Messi and to represent the importance of fútbol/soccer in many Spanish-speaking countries.
- Other students contributed to the fourth grade project of sunken Spanish treasure, dying paper with coffee and blowdrying it to make it look old, and drawing treasure maps on it.
- Others were inspired by the third graders’ presentation on instruments made out of trash in Paraguay, and made their own maracas, drums, and more for the LS Spanish Museum.
- Second graders were VERY EXCITED about minerals and gems for a long time. Here, they spent time learning which minerals come from South and Central America, and then painted rocks to create amethysts and lapis lazuli look-a-likes. Several filled little cups of water and dyed the water various shades with food coloring.
- 2B began ‘selling Cuban coffees’ (café cubano), made by filling mini cups with jabón/soap and water, and then painting rainbows on top of the soap bubbles. When the business started taking off, we would stop the soccer game across the room for halftime, so that the players could come ‘buy’ and ‘drink’ the Cuban Coffees from the café.
- Second graders learned about Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua, and declared whether or not they would be brave enough to participate in such an extreme sport. Eeek! Not me!
- Last but not least, students were given assigned centers one week, along with first graders. The choices were as follows: 1) Argentina, set up, buy, and sell items at an outdoor mercado/market with Argentine pesos: no American dollars accepted!; 2) Peru, build one of the highest cities in the world out of blocks; 3) Dominican Republic, play dominoes, a national pastime; 4) Bolivia, paint the beautiful sky reflections of starry nights and sunrises and sunsets over the largest salt flat in the world (and also taste more salt!); and/or 5) paint a famous Xul Solar Argentinian painting, mural-style, on the bulletin board outside of the Spanish room (*in progress!).
Second graders have also traveled outside several times to play Policías y ladrones/Cops and Robbers (a la cárcel/go to jail, no quiero ir/I don’t want to go, libertad/freedom), in addition to a Freeze Tag version of queso, helado (cheese, ice cream). Bits and pieces of these games and cultural projects may have made their way home, so hopefully this gives you a bigger picture and panoramic view of what students have been learning in Spanish class.
Third Grade- This trimester, third graders in 3B chugged along steadily with their Duolingo work, while 3A decided to take a break from the app back in December (but picked it up again in February).
3.A CHAMPIONS: Aylani, 694 XP; Celia, 507 XP; Marijka, 500 XP; 3.B CHAMPIONS: Kaden, 1197 XP; Zafirah, 1127 XP; Sebastian, 871 XP.
Culturally speaking, third graders divided into groups based on student interests. Here is a list of both class and individual projects they have worked on this trimester.
- Third graders inspired all of Lower School by transforming my closet into a Costa Rican rainforest, complete with green vines galore, Christmas lights, photos of animals that actually live there–and currently, REAL plants in the campus greenhouse. That are growing! In real life! Whose seeds third graders planted!
- Students in both classes were given the opportunity to eat a fried cricket. They had a mature class conversation about other cultures, perspectives, and traditions. In Mexico, there are 549 edible insects, and it is common to eat them and see them in markets.
- After watching this clip of the Landfill Harmonic documentary about a town in Paraguay, 3.B decided to make their own instruments out of trash and recyclable materials, and proceeded to share this information with the community at FMM.
- Third graders made a Popsicle stick model of the Train to the Clouds in Argentina (skip to 3:45 in video), for the LS art/science/history Spanish Museum.
- Students learned how natural chewing gum/chicle is made from the Sapodilla tree (Mexico), and then considered opening their own business; here, they tried melting Starbursts to create a similar, gooey chicle-like substance. Several students even painted criss-cross x’s on real bark to replicate how chicleros slash the trees to let the sap drain down. Ultimately, copyrights, patents, and other legal practices got in the way of an actual start-up–but it was fun while it lasted!
- Two students made a diorama museum exhibit of Yungas Road in Bolivia, one of the most dangerous roads in the world, out of natural materials.
- Another group got very excited about Worry Dolls, after listening to THIS short story, and not only made their own dolls to bring home, but also created houses and furniture for them!
- One student made a model of the Popocatépetl volcano in Mexico, and had fun creating eruptions with baking soda and vinegar.
- Three boys learned about the Boiling River in Peru. Afterwards, to see if water actually boils at 100*C (212*F), they used a tea kettle and glass thermometer. And yes- it does.
- Students tried to create a life-sized model of the Galapagos turtles (Ecuador). The turtles are HUGE!
- Third graders also talked about different currencies, and used an online currency converter to see how much their American dollars were worth in other countries.
- Back in November, students also looked at clothing tags and food labels, to see if they were made in a Spanish-speaking country. They found bananas from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, avocados from Mexico, shirts from Honduras, apples from Chile, and more. Feel free to keep the conversation going whenever you are grocery shopping or in your kitchen cooking. It is fascinating to note how global we really are.
Finally, third graders focused on team-building skills and building a stronger class community, by participating in both the Marshmallow Challenge as well as Policías y ladrones/Cops and Robbers games outside (from last year). While learning a language takes a tremendous amount of grit, strength of character, and independence, it is always more fun with other people!
*ASIDE: As you may already know by this other post, native speakers were recently given a list of ideas to supplement their language study. They also have personal journals/diarios in which they are aiming to write a page entry each class day, in lieu of the regular written work. So far, they are doing really well!
Fourth Grade- This trimester, Summit students began with a “News Show” in Spanish–“En vivo, desde México” (Live, from Mexico)–where they took turns being reporters, working tech, and dramatically presenting the weather (¡El tiempo!/the weather). Each week, they added a new commercial, which was usually a translated slogan of a well-known brand (WalMart: save more, live better/ahorra más, vive mejor; Nike: Just do it/Sólo hazlo; McDonald’s: I’m lovin’ it/Me encanta; etc.).
Once fourth graders felt comfortable with their script, each class transitioned to a more in-depth project, that was going to make national news. Well, that was the plan, anyway! Let me explain.
4A voted that they wanted to travel to and focus on Spain, while 4B chose Mexico. Both classes brought their backpacks to Spanish class; removed their shoes when passing through security; boarded the airplane; graciously accepted Cheez-Its and water from their stewardesses; took advantage of the in-flight entertainment (iPads); and after a long flight, finally landed.
Next, wearing backpacks, they followed a QR code hunt around campus, learning about famous monuments and cultural tidbits. Right when they thought things were winding down, their teacher hailed a taxi and they drove around the neighborhood, seeing the sights of [either] Madrid, Spain or Mexico City, Mexico from a cab. [Note that your children were safe at all times here–Ms. Berry was the “cab driver” of the school van!]
Students in 4A drove past the Prado Museum. El Prado in Madrid, Spain is one of the most famous museums in the world, housing over 27,000 objects and artworks. In fact, it was the Google Doodle [the week students learned about it], which celebrated the museum’s 200th anniversary! For this project, students took an 8.5×11 copy of a well-known painting and transferred it by eye to a large trifold, trying to imagine how artists filled such massive canvases. For images of their work, please visit THIS LINK.
During the painting process, one student learned that the Prado was actually robbed in 2014— of a shocking 885 artworks. As a result, more than several classes were spent trying to merge their Spanish news show with an iMovie green screen breaking news “robbery” of their paintings in the style of Oceans 12. Ultimately, the project lost steam, but it was fun while it lasted! Here is the soundtrack we used.
Students in 4B drove past the Museo Soumaya, a Mexican museum with completely different exhibits. Here, fourth graders learned that in 1715, a fleet of Spanish ships sank off the coast of Florida, en route to Spain and loaded with treasure from the new world. Modern treasure hunters have discovered some of this lost treasure–one family made $4.5 million dollars in 2017!–but much still remains on the ocean floor. Students acted out this story as a class (with Spanish dialogue, of course), and then created artifacts for a faux museum display. After painting the Spanish crest and flag on them, students broke a few of the plates intentionally to make it seem more realistic!
Both classes tried to make a green screen iMovie for their News Show, but meeting only once or twice a week caused the process to lose steam. That said, they ALL did an amazing job with this! I wish we could have had a final product, but… c’est la vie!
Throughout these projects, students worked on Duolingo (or Memrise) every day. At some point, they became über-motivated and completely addicted to the app. This was and is great to see. The top scores right now are as follows:
4.A CHAMPIONS: Ilaria, 4879 XP; Audrey, 2800 XP; and Gabby, 2077 XP. 4.B CHAMPIONS: Adam, 13902 XP; Jai, 5717 XP: Lyla, 5635 XP.
Additionally, fourth graders had several conversations about language on a more philosophical level this trimester. They learned about hyperpolyglots, or people who speak an extreme number of languages; explored books from my personal collection that are in multiple languages; and discussed several statistics, such as 1) that there are 7,000 languages in the world, but that it is hard to define what exactly a language is, especially when compared to something like Spanglish; and 2) it is funny that we think of the internet as so ‘global’, when 52% of its content is in English (1 out of 7,000 languages). In that light, the web seems pretty limited, in terms of perspective taking.
As the trimester came to a close, students requested center work again. Here, they sign up via letters for what they want to do each day. While this is remarkably similar to last year and what other grades do from time to time, I have to emphasize here that their written work has grown tremendously as a group. Last year, their letters were all the same, very uniform. Now, I am reading all different types of letters–some are serious, others silly, and others a combination of the two. They are a delight to read each day. Keep up the excellent work, fourth grade!
Fifth Grade- This trimester, Summit students began with a “News Show” in Spanish–“En vivo, desde México” (Live, from Mexico)–where they took turns being reporters, working tech, and dramatically presenting the weather (¡El tiempo!/the weather). Each week, they added a new commercial, which was usually a translated slogan of a well-known brand (WalMart: save more, live better/ahorra más, vive mejor; Nike: Just do it/Sólo hazlo; McDonald’s: I’m lovin’ it/Me encanta; etc.). The goal here was mostly to work on basic facts, such as days, dates, weather, but also to recognize how many things in our world have been translated.
The bulk of time leading up to winter break, however, was spent on museum exhibits. Here, fifth graders proposed an idea to research re: a cultural aspect of a Spanish-speaking country–and then got to work. Here is a list of sample projects. For student work, see THIS LINK.
- Alebrijes– Mexico
- Bullfighting– Spain
- Vinicunca/Rainbow Mountain– Peru
- Andean Condor– Andes Mountains, South America
- Marble Caves– Chile
- El Morro– Puerto Rico
- Nazca Lines– Peru
- Basilisk Lizard– Costa Rica
- Underwater Museum– Mexico
- Catatumbo Lightning– Venezuela
- New Year’s Eve– Spain
- Joan Miró artwork– Spain
Following this independent work, fifth graders came back together as a class and were introduced to a play in the target language. Here, they rehearsed lines, worked on expression (both stage placement as well as intonation), and practiced presenting to the class. One class, they even tasted Yerba Mate, a special tea from Argentina, because it was mentioned in the play. The goal each day was to work on Duolingo, split into groups for quality rehearsals, and then play “Spanish Soccer” outside, where students are only allowed to shout/speak in the target language (instinctive response). This rhythm was interrupted with field trips, assemblies, and more, however, which disrupted the class’s general flow and progress. As a result, fifth graders requested center work similar to last year.
It is not clear whether the plays increased their confidence with the language in general, or if they have just started working on Duolingo much more frequently at home, but regardless, something has clicked! Their letters to sign up for centers are beginning to show personality and expression and voice; this is wonderful. Students are learning to mix and match language, to play and manipulate it to say what they want.
Last but not least, students spent some time playing with accents and sounds. While 5B saw THIS VIDEO back in the fall, 5A watched it only a few weeks ago–and were blown away (Santa Anas winds, anyone?!). Since then, many have been working on improving their ear for language in general and becoming linguistic chameleons. Keep up the great work!
5.A CHAMPIONS: Jake H., 5720 XP: Abby, 5012 XP; Jack, 4914 XP; 5.B CHAMPIONS: Kawika, 3656 XP; 2728 XP; Amina, 2391 XP.
To sum up, it is clear that we have made significant progress this trimester. Thank you SO MUCH if you have taken the time to read through all of my rambling. I know it is a lot, but hopefully it gives you a better picture of the program in general. Thanks again and have a great day.
In what seems like a lifetime ago, I used to take ballroom dance lessons. This “phase” lasted for close to seven years. While my dance journey began gracias a mi padre—“You really need to know how to Salsa if you speak Spanish!”–my takeaways were much more than just proficiency in rhythm and smooth dances. What I remember most, perhaps more than gliding around the floor in a Viennese Waltz or sweating profusely from an impossibly long eight-minute “Proud Mary” Jive, was the poise and class of it all. I appreciate and admire everything classy, from the wisdom of our elders and ages gone by, to black and white Audrey Hepburn/George Peppard films and Jane Austen novels. As much time as I have dedicated to this site, I also long for those pre-Internet days where life had a much slower and enjoyable pace.Continue reading “Memoir Excerpt”
For the 100th Day this year, we wanted to see if students in Lower School represented 100 or more countries, by heritage. By “heritage”, we mean any country in your bloodline: where are you from? Where are/were your parents or grandparents from? What about your great-grandparents?
While we did not reach the 100th country, the results were staggering: as a Lower School, we represent 58 countries. Wow! Thank you so much for responding. Please check out the interactive map (link above) and pie chart (below) for a more visual representation of the survey results.Continue reading “Heritage Survey Results”
Recently, I have had several questions about native (and heritage) speakers and how to improve their reading and writing skills in the target language. In list form, here are a few ideas:Continue reading “Native Speakers”
*To see the digital collection and your child’s work, please visit THIS LINK.
Students in Lower School have been working for the past few weeks on creating a Spanish museum with a wide variety of science, art, and history exhibits in preparation for GGD. In some classes, children are working individually or with a small group, while in others, the entire class is working together towards one goal.Continue reading “Museum Exhibits”
Week #5: Numbers
Learning a language is not an overnight project. It is not even a project where there is a clear telos, or end point. You just keep chipping away at your own pace, and the graph naturally swings up and down: you make a lot of progress, a little progress, plateau, and then make more progress. At some point, you are able to communicate the bare minimum to survive in another land. Later on down the road, your thoughts drift into the target language. Your confidence improves, and you start to feel good, really good, about your proficiency level. Fluency is somewhere out there, but it is not easily defined (see this post).Continue reading “Language Challenge”
Since you cannot see your child’s digital portfolio (Seesaw) for another few weeks, I thought I would give you a brief update about the goings-on in Spanish class so far this year. For an explanation of the photos, keep reading. And to learn about La Tomatina, the tomato-throwing holiday festival in Spain this past week, check out the following. La Tomatina DownloadContinue reading “August Update”
My Dear Friends, Fellow Linguists, and Citizens of the World:
Welcome back! I hope you are having (and have had) a wonderfully adventurous summer. As we look forward to the start of another school year, there are a few things I would like to share with you. For any new families, I am Señorita M., the Spanish teacher for grades PK-5.
- First, you may have noticed the image at the top of this page. It is of The Temples of Mount Fanjing in southwestern China. If there is any conversation that you have with your child(ren) about Spanish class before school begins, please remind them that–much like the 8,000-step trek to the top of this mountain–language-learning is a journey. Fluency does not occur overnight. It is a process where, after many successes, failures, and moments of uncertainty, coupled with much determination, grit, and hard work, progress is made. If your child can learn just one new thing each day in class, they will be well on their way.
- Second, I will communicate with you through Seesaw and my website. I have spent a good deal of time this summer revamping my site; please take a look when you get a chance. There are numerous language-learning and cultural resources there, Language Blog articles, a slideshow of last year’s Spanish class at the bottom of the Photo Gallery page, as well as photo collages of my own travels overseas on the “About” tab. If there is a linguistic topic you would like to see addressed, please do not hesitate to contact me via email.
- Third, if your child will be in third, fourth, or fifth grade and does not have a Duolingo or Memrise account, please have them open a free account for Spanish before the first day of school. We will be using these accounts throughout the year. PLEASE NOTE that if your child is a native speaker and already very fluent, they may either choose a different language to study, and/or wait to meet with me individually. For younger students, check out this page for 20+ games and apps.
- Fourth, Hispanic Heritage Month begins September 15th, and to that end, I would love to continue the Parent Speaker Series from last year. Please read THIS POST for more information and if you have any connection at all to one of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries in our world. I would love to hear from you!
And last but not least, for anyone wondering why you should learn another language, please read the following for a hearty laugh.
Why You Should Learn Another Language Download
Enjoy the rest of your summer and see you soon!
My Dear Friends, Fellow Linguists, and Citizens of the World:
WE LIVE in a World of Words, where every conversation, every interaction, everything we read and hear is, ultimately, a story of our lives.
Some are stories of heartbreak, others of adventure, wonder, or joy; some are apathetic, others filled with purpose and intention. Our stories change course frequently, and expand from the microcosm of our personal selves and family histories, to the stories of our world. Our identities emerge from the stories we tell ourselves and hear, and the words we use frame these stories, to create the essence of who we are, as individuals and as a human race. Our stories have a past, present, and future. Whether or not we realize it, we are all storytellers—because in the end, our lives come alive in and through language.
With all of this in mind, and instead of sending home worksheets or grammar packets this summer, I have compiled a list of ideas to weave the Spanish language and culture into your own personal story. I want you to make your story powerful, adventurous, and loving, but most of all, to make it yours, and remember who is telling it. If you are bored with your day, your story, then change it. The world is your oyster! We must remember that we are the superheroes of our own narratives. As the saying goes, “When something goes wrong in your life, just yell, ‘Plot twist!’ and move on”. Move on to a new chapter, a better story…
Below, please pick and choose what fits in your story. Some ideas might resonate, and others might not. As always, though, know that every activity outlined below is 100% optional. Each one is meant to enhance your own story.
1) For a GLOWING story: Try a Bioluminescent Kayaking Tour. Bioluminescence is a natural phenomenon caused by algae that makes the water light up when touched (or “disturbed”). A land example of this would be the light emitted by fireflies. While lightning bugs are found around the world, “water” bioluminescence is much more scarce. It is famously found in Puerto Rico (Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay, on the Island of Vieques), but can be seen in other places as well, especially when there is little to no moonlight. Check out this video HERE if you have never seen it before–and let me know if you take the tour!
2) For a MUSICAL story: Let’s continue jazzing up your summer story by adding some new music. For starters, visit the link below* for pop songs translated/ adapted from English to Spanish. Visit this page for more songs in Spanish, and here for songs in languages that are not English. Also, if you have any translation requests or song suggestions (clean lyrics only), please let me know.
A few favorites:
Sounds European – pop music by country, updated daily!
Pop Songs Playlist* – songs translated/adapted from English to Spanish
Señor Wooly – please contact me if you do not have an account
Moana, Frozen- 25 languages & Frozen- Spanish, Wreck-It Ralph, Hoy es domingo, This Is Me, High Hopes, Madre tierra, Spain’s National Anthem, La lista/Aldrey, Vivir mi vida, No tengo dinero, Call Me Maybe, Perfect/Ed Sheeran, La vida es un carnaval (Salsa), Cielito lindo/Canta, no llores
3) For a MESSY story: There is a special montaña/mountain in Peru called Vinicunca, or Rainbow Mountain, located near Machu Picchu. The mountain has a unique mineral composition that makes the range appear like the inside of a jawbreaker! For this project, the goal is to make a piece of artwork to represent Vinicunca, using THIS amazing video as a guide. If you have a lot of paint lying around in the garage, put down a big tarp on the floor and start pouring! Make sure to ask your parents before you start this very messy project. And if you end up covered in paint with a product that did not turn out exactly as you planned, do not despair: at least you got a good story out of it!
4) For a FAMILY story: Ask your parents if they have ever traveled to another country. If they have, see if you can find tickets, receipts, foreign currency*, brochures, postcards, magnets, or anything else from their trip. If it was a long time ago, this might turn into a TREASURE HUNT type of story! After you collect a few souvenirs, either decorate or buy a small decorative box to put them inside. Ask your parents to tell you stories about their adventures overseas. If your parents have NOT traveled, use the same decorative box as a “Vision Board”, where you put names and photos of places you would like to travel to inside.
*ASIDE: I never know what to do with foreign coins–and after 13 or 14 countries, I have collected quite a few! To get cash for your change, check out THIS link. Or, read THIS ARTICLE for a few more ideas.
5) For a HISTORICAL story: Visit the Henry B. Plant Museum in Tampa to explore their exhibit on the Spanish-American War and Its Tampa Connection. It will be around until February of 2027, so do not worry if you can’t get there right away!
6) For a DELICIOUS story: Try visually documenting a Food Tour of at least FIVE Spanish-speaking restaurants. In other words, visit a Cuban restaurant one day, have a meal, and take a picture of your plate. Next, visit a Venezuelan restaurant, have a meal, and take a picture of your plate. Next, visit a Mexican restaurant, have a meal, and take a picture of your plate. Do this five times. Try a food, drink, or dessert you haven’t tried before at each place, and make sure to write down what it is called (in case you really like it and want to order it again someday!). Any authentic restaurants (no Taco Bell!) from the 21 Spanish-speaking countries are game here. Have fun!
7) For a DIGITAL story: Change all of your devices to Spanish (go to Settings –> General –> Language and Region –> Spanish)… and keep it that way for as long as you can. How long can you last? An hour? A day? A week? A month? All summer? If you are feeling especially motivated, sign up for (or continue working on, if you are in Summit) Duolingo or Memrise, and see how many days in a row you can keep up with it. The first day or two is easy, but after that, you might be tempted to quit. Remember, consistency is key when learning a language; the more frequently you keep at it, the stronger and smarter your brain will get! Make it a game, choose a goal, and then reward yourself with a prize when you stick with it for five or more days in a row, or three times a week, etc.
8) For a TRAVEL story: Check out Universal Yums!, where you order snacks from a different country every month. The fun part is, you never know where they are coming from next, or what you will get in a box–every country has its own ideas about what are tasty snacks! Please note that this website includes countries from all around the world (and not only Spanish-speaking cultures).
10) For a DIFFERENT story: Take a break and consider someone else’s story. Choose from this list of Spanish Movies for Kids, with G and PG rated titles and a blogger’s commentary on the films.
For more linguistic-oriented activities, check out THIS LINK. And if you are interested in my story, please read THIS POST. Have fun, be safe, and see you in August! I wish you happiness wherever your story takes you.
Today, kindergarteners and third graders had a special presentation about Mexico [from Regina and Isabella’s mom and grandmother]. In it, students learned that the Aztecs were warriors, or guerreros, who needed to eat very good food to keep them strong. Corn tortillas provided just the strength they needed, and this food acted as their main source of energy, especially when combined with chili, meat, beans, and vegetables. They also saw a short video about Mexico that you are welcome to revisit at home.
Students learned that making homemade tortilla shells is very easy. All you need is warm water and ground corn (flour) to create the dough/masa. Knead it together into small rounded balls, press it flat in a tortilla press, cook it on a cast-iron skillet, and… time to eat!
During the presentation, childen ate quesadillas, and then balled up the dough and put it in the press (one at a time) to make (and eat) their own Mexican tortillas. Later, they were given a surprise treat of Mexican candy, Paletón de Cajeta (a goat milk caramel lollipop). What a lovely and informative presentation–thank you so much for your time! ¡Mil gracias!
This morning, first graders heard a special presentation about Honduras [from Marcelo’s mom]. She intertwined authentic realia and artifacts, photos of the colorful guacamayo and orchid (national flower), and videos of Tegucigalpa and Lenca weaving to give insight into this beautiful Central American country. She also told a Mayan legend about the hummingbird; explained the flag’s significance (blue represents the water on each side of the country; the five stars are for the five original Central American countries); talked about the Mayan calendar (see photo of glyphs below); and ended by teaching a Honduran folkloric dance to students. There was a brief Q&A as the class came to a close. Thank you so much for your time! ¡Mil gracias!
Yesterday, Junior Knights had a combined art and Spanish class so that they could hear a special presentation about Venezuela [from Eva’s mom]. Class began with a brief discussion about, “What is culture?” and children deduced on their own that they speak Spanish in Venezuela (quote: “I think they speak Spanish there because Eva speaks Spanish, and that is Eva’s mom!”). Excellent! In the presentation itself, students learned about animals native to Venezuela, including the cabybara and the most poisonous snake in the world; saw a video emphasizing how tall the famous waterfall Angel Falls actually is; made arepas; heard about the water balloon fight tradition for Carnaval; folded their own paper hats and reenacted a parade to celebrate their own mini Carnaval; and received a goodie bag of Venezuelan treats. Thank you so much for your time. ¡Mil gracias!
This morning in Spanish class, third graders started a cooking project that first graders ended up finishing (because Señorita overloaded the electrical circuits… whoops! and had to restart, ahem). As serendipity would have it, the end product was even better than planned: a beautiful mix of first and third graders working and cooking side-by-side.
As a result, both classes learned about plantains and how even though they appear very similar to bananas, they are not the same food at all–starchy and much harder (cannot be eaten raw). Students then made tostones or patacones (plantain chips) to taste, which are a very popular snack in Spanish-speaking countries.
If you would like to make this delicious snack at home, HERE is a recipe. Another way to prepare them is for breakfast, as mangú (eaten especially in the Dominican Republic)–recipe HERE. See below for the etymological origin of this word and a fun story. Happy Thursday!
This morning, one first grader came to class excited about the idea of bulls/toros and bullfighting (Ferdinand influence?). As enthusiasm quickly spread to the rest of the class, Señorita recalled that she had a video of the “Running of the Bulls” down the city streets of Pamplona. Somehow, she was able to locate said file deep in the digital archives, and shared with children that she had been in Spain during this holiday of sorts a few years ago. Because children are only in first grade and it is a controversial topic, they were only exposed to the following information: 1) bulls are very large animals; 2) they run in the streets to the bullfighting arena; 3) the police set up two layers of VERY heavy duty, wooden fences to keep observers safe; and 4) this takes place in Spain.**
With this information, the class transformed the Spanish Cave into the streets of Pamplona and a bullfighting ring arena! One student found a sheet of reddish paper, named herself la torera, and took it upon herself to lead the bulls down the streets to the arena. Another student waved Spain’s flag to the beat of Spain’s National Anthem playing in the background. Amazing!
**NOTE: That real people actually run alongside the bulls (and can be badly injured) was not mentioned. Students were much more invested in pretending to be toros/bulls, anyway. That said, if you would like to continue this discussion at home, please feel free to watch Ferdinand the movie, and/or visit THIS PAGE for more information
As the year has progressed (we are already in the third trimester!), I have learned that many families have a connection with one or more of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries in our world. Some of you speak only Spanish at home with your children, others speak a mixture of Spanish and English, and others have a strong cultural presence, in the sense that you celebrate certain traditions, play childhood games, tell stories, sing songs, or make recipes from many of these places.
I love learning about different cultures and adore the Spanish language, but I did not grow up speaking Spanish at home; therefore, I would love to hear from those of you who have, and feel that it would be valuable to our student body if you were able to share some of your wisdom and experiences. That said, I am now formally inviting any of you who feel passionate and knowledgeable about some aspect of Spanish and/or Hispanic culture (e.g., music, food, games, sports, holidays, traditions, etc.) to come speak and present to a class or classes, to be scheduled after spring break.
If this piques your interest, please let me know by the end of March**, so that I have time to work on a schedule. If there is a lot of interest, perhaps we could schedule some sort of assembly or have weekly speakers. And if you are interested but have not decided on a topic yet, just let me know the country and we can figure out the details later. Thanks for reading and have a great week. ¡Muchas gracias!
**For 2019-20, the invitation to present is open and ongoing throughout the year.
Happy New Year! It is a new year, and a new you. Fifth grade is a fabulous class, but because we only meet twice a week, there is a lot of time during the week without Spanish (boo hoo!); so we are going to level up and try to change this for 2019.
That means that for all of January, I would like you to
1) find a Spanish language-learning app that you like;
2) sign up for it on the device of your choice; and
3) spend three times a week leveling up and learning Spanish at home on the app. It is much better to spend five or ten minutes each day learning a language than two hours on Saturday… so think more in terms of baby steps–five minutes a day is plenty.
We will beta-test these apps as a class, and vote later on about which one is the best and why. However, for January, I would like you to choose only one of the following. In February, you will have the opportunity to switch to a new app, if you so desire. Here are your choices:
*Guess the Language is also a really fun and highly addictive game, but it is not just Spanish and therefore does not count for this homework challenge. Maybe it could be a prize/reward activity at the end of the week when you log three days in a row. Just a thought!
PLEASE NOTE that if you already speak Spanish at home, you are welcome to spend the five minutes a day, three days a week watching cartoons, movies, news, sports games, YouTube videos, etc. in the target language. Apps may not be developmentally appropriate here, as they are geared more towards beginner language-learners and not native speakers. The goal is to enrich your Spanish study at home and learn at your own pace.
If you have questions, we can talk more tomorrow. In the meantime, have fun exploring! I am excited to see what you choose. And one last note, please do NOT pay for any of these apps. We are beta-testing the free versions!
Language-Learning Is Hard: True or False?
We live in an ‘instant-gratification’ society these days. In a way, the time it takes to pronounce the word ‘instant’ is counterproductive to the actual definition of the word. When people claim that language-learning is hard, they tend to mean that they have to wait for what they want. We can’t instantly download every aspect of a language–grammar, syntax, vocabulary, intonation, tones, etc.–into our brains [at least not yet], so the language-learning process becomes frustrating. We have to wait for these linguistic pieces, or ‘documents’, to load and then synthesize… which gives the impression that language-learning is ‘hard’. In reality, it just takes more time to ‘download’ than many are willing to wait. But we all accepted dial-up at one point in time, so just wait it out. It will be worth the tried patience.
How We Learn Language
When friends or relatives hear that you are learning a foreign language, the first question they invariably ask is, “What can you say?” Unfortunately, and although usually well-intentioned, this is the wrong question. As you stammer and mutter about what you are learning in your class, instead of producing actual language, mortification settles in and you ask to be excused. What a pity, right? You know you are learning, but you can’t say anything.
Stop for a second now and think about how you learned language as a baby. Did anyone ask you on Day #1 what you could say? What about Day #200? If you are the student, give yourself a break. Babies must hear a lot of language before they begin speaking; the same is true for you. Likewise, if you know someone who is learning a new language, give them a break. Show your enthusiasm and encouragement, but avoid pressuring them to produce language. Keep in mind that the emotional connection grows deeper and more profound as you grow older (and spend more time with a language). The same is true in your native tongue. You gain more insight and knowledge of cultural nuances every day. Fascinating, isn’t it?
*Update: For photos of my Camino adventures, visit THIS PAGE.
My Dearest Friends:
As most of you know, I will not be returning next year. I have loved teaching here, but I also love learning and traveling and exploring, and need to go see the world. That said, I care deeply for each and every one of your children, and would like to leave a final Spanish Summer Packet Challenge that parallels the first part of this new chapter of my life.
My adventures will begin in St. Jean-Pied-du-Port (France), where I will start walking El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). El Camino is a 500 mile walk or pilgrimage across northern Spain that begins by crossing the Pyrenees Mountains (France/Spain border). It typically takes pilgrims thirty days to complete the walk on foot and arrive in Santiago de Compostela, España. To that end, students will have the opportunity to walk “with me” over the summer by completing specific challenges that correspond to mileage and geographic locations. (Pato will obviously be coming along—but primarily for the food and to post selfies on Instagram.)
1) Preparation: It is strongly recommended for anyone walking to have a special passport book specific to the Camino. The albergues (hostels for pilgrims) stamp your book each night so that you have a personalized record of where you stayed; it is also a nice memento, as every stamp is unique. Your first challenge, then, is to create a small passport booklet with five or ten pages to keep track of where you travel this summer. After you visit a place—local or overseas—design a miniature sticker/stamp/little picture to represent that place, and copy it into your passport booklet. If you are going to travel out of state, make one per state or country. If you are staying put, make one for each town you visit!
2) Preparation: Imagine that you are going on this walk for real: what would you pack? There are restaurants and stores along the way, so you do not need to carry much food, but water is a necessity during the hot summer months in Spain, and you must fit everything you need into a single backpack. Make a list and then… get packing! Encourage your family and/or friends to participate, and to complete this challenge, go on an actual hike with your bag and a friend. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes!
3) Week 1 (Crossing the Pyrenees Mountains from France into Spain): Play this Language Game online at least three times. Here you will learn to recognize the world’s languages, one language at a time. Around 8,000 people walk El Camino during July, so I will be surrounded by many, many languages. This challenge is meant to mimic jumping into this incomprehensible but delightful swirl of linguistic happiness. High scores do not matter here; just have fun guessing!
4) Week 1: Pamplona, Spain is perhaps most famous for its celebration of San Fermín and the annual Running of the Bulls. This tradition, although a huge part of Spanish culture, is highly controversial. This challenge asks you to read a Wikipedia or Scholastic article and watch a short YouTube video about the Running of the Bulls, and thendebate the topic with your family with Paso Doble music playing in the background. Do you see the nobility of the beast and the elegance of the bullfight, or do you see animal cruelty? Whatever your stance, start a conversation and try to understand both perspectives.
5) Week 2: An exciting part of traveling is getting to see and try different types of foods. What is “normal” to you is “strange” to others, and vice-versa. In Spain, tapas—also called pinchos when pierced with toothpicks—are found in many restaurants. They are snacks arranged in small dishes, and have an interesting history: a long time ago, many people were illiterate, so travelers going from one inn to the next could not read the menus; instead, they were given little plates to sample different types of food before ordering their meal. This challenge is to pretend you are in Spain and recreate tapas in your own kitchen. There are countless options, so find a few that you like, and have a little fiesta, or party. Some ideas include mixed olives and cheese; skewers with pickles; fried baby squid; mushrooms sautéed in garlic and oil, etc.—see more options HERE. Enjoy!
6) Week 2: The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino, and represents the many paths pilgrims travel to reach one destination, namely, Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims attach a scallop to their backpacks, and follow the shell symbol on the Camino to stay on the right path. While I do not care where you purchase your petrol, I like seeing the Shell gas station signs around town, and pretend that when I see one, I know I am on the right road. This challenge asks you to go to the beach and see if you can find a scallop shell. If this is not an option, Bed Bath & Beyond (among other stores) also sells them!
7) Week 3: Typical walking hours for the Camino are usually 5am-1pm (due to the extreme summer heat). After that, pilgrims find a place to stay for the night, eat together, and rest their tired, blistered feet. Many people take a book along with them to read in the afternoons and later exchange with other pilgrims. Don Quijote de la Mancha is the main character in a very famous, very old, 900-page novel that takes place in Spain. While the literary masterpiece is probably too heavy to carry in book form, and the language the Spanish equivalent of Elizabethan English, it is world-renowned and well worth learning about. This challenge is to watch three chapters about Don Quijote on YouTube. What is your “impawssible” dream? “One day or Day One?”
8) Week 3: Did you think you were going to be able to survive only on tapas for 500 miles? Think again! This challenge is to cook a more complete meal: either una tortilla española or un bocadillo. The tortilla española is similar to an omelet, but much thicker and a very hearty breakfast. A bocadillo is an inexpensive and simple but delicious sandwich—I like to add pickles on mine! Note that “boca” means mouth in Spanish. If have some time on your hands and are interested in dessert, flan and churros (dipped in chocolate or dulce de leche) are also eaten in Spain. Yum!
*“History is divided on how exactly churros came to exist. Some say they were the invention of nomadic Spanish shepherds. Living high in the mountains with no access to bakeries, the Spanish shepherds supposedly created churros, which were easy for them to cook in frying pans over fire. Lending credibility to this version of history is the fact that there exists a breed of sheep called the ‘Navajo-Churro’, which are descended from the ‘Churra’ sheep of the Iberian Peninsula; the horns of these sheep look similar to the fried pastry.
Another story says that Portuguese sailors discovered a similar food in Northern China called ‘Yóu Tiáo’ and they brought it back with them. The Spanish learned of the new culinary treat from their neighbors, and put their own spin on it by passing the dough through a star-shaped tip which gives the churro its signature ridges.” (source).
9) Week 4: There are lush, rolling forests of Eucalyptus trees near the end of the Camino to welcome you into the final city of Santiago de Compostela. It is said that “the popular Spanish name for the astronomical Milky Way is El Camino de Santiago. According to a common medieval legend, the Milky Way was formed from the dust raised by traveling pilgrims” (Wikipedia). It makes perfect sense, then, that “Compostela” would mean field of stars. Two of my friends who walked the Camino last year told me that the smell of Eucalyptus is incredibly strong here. This challenge is to find Eucalyptus oil at a store and take a whiff of one of the samplers. Now imagine that scent times five million, and that is probably what I am smelling right now.
10) Week 4: There are hours upon hours to talk to people on the Camino, but when you get tired of that, many play music to pass the time. In northern Spain, five languages are spoken, namely, Spanish, Galician, Basque (Euskara), Aranès, and Catalan. For me, listening to languages I do not understand acts as a “brain break” and feels refreshing somehow; it helps to clear my mind. This challenge is to listen to a few of the songs below, and think about what makes you happy. Then, do something nice for a family member or friend—in other words, make someone else happy! If they want to ‘repay’ you with a gift, tell them to pay it forward. Regardless of the language you speak, always remember: “Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see” (Mark Twain).
a. Flamenco, Zapatos de baile (Spanish)
b. Aldapan gora, Huntza Band (Euskara)
c. Boig Per Tu, Shakira (Catalan)
d. Galician Folk Music (Galician)
e. Renata Flores Rivera (Quechua**)
f. Vivir mi vida, Marc Anthony (Spanish)
**Quechua is an indigenous language spoken in the Andes Mountains and highlands of South America (and NOT Spain), but this young girl with a powerful voice is revitalizing her mother tongue through music; read the full story HERE.
My hope is that this Spanish Summer Packet reinforces the fact that language-learning is a journey. Do not be overly concerned with arriving, or that magical destination called Fluency. With hard work and passion, you will get there, I promise. Just never ever give up, ever! And in the meantime, revel in the magic of the present moment: enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures along the way… and “hashtag happiness” wherever you go (#happiness). We are all on this journey together, and I am grateful to have met each and every one of you. Be well, have a wonderful summer, fall, winter, spring, and life—and please keep in touch!
Peace, love, and hugs,
IMAGE CREDIT, @Trevor Huxham
With all due respect, this question and its answer are not as simple or black-and-white as some would want to believe. Let’s consider its three main flaws.
1) This is not an immersion school. While its language classes may be taught 95-100% in the target language, these classes are language-specific, and not the medium of instruction for other subjects (fluency as such is possible at a much faster rate when the bulk of the day is spent in the target language). Language classes at this school are similar to Math or Science or Music classes in that there is an allotted time for each one. Specifically, Spanish classes meet twice a week (1st-5th) for 45 minutes each class. While this is impressive compared to many other elementary language programs out there, it is also misleading for both students and parents to claim that “Joey has been taking Spanish for seven years now”–meaning he began in PK and is now in fifth grade. Why is this misleading? Most people are highly disappointed upon discovering that “Joey” is not yet fluent in the target language, most of all, Joey himself. However, has he actually been taking Spanish for seven years? Let’s be realistic here and tally up the minutes, just for kicks and giggles.
PK: (15 minutes/day)(3 days/week)(35 weeks) = 1575 minutes/year
K: (30 minutes/day)(3 days/week)(35 weeks) =3150 minutes/year
1: (45 minutes/day)(2 days/week)(35 weeks) = 3150 minutes/year
2: (45 minutes/day)(2 days/week)(35 weeks) = 3150 minutes/year
3: (45 minutes/day)(2 days/week)(35 weeks) = 3150 minutes/year
4: (45 minutes/day)(2 days/week)(35 weeks) = 3150 minutes/year
5: (45 minutes/day)(2 days/week)(35 weeks) = 3150 minutes/year
TOTAL: 14.22 days (not including snow days or holidays)
Conclusion? In reality, students spend about two weeks with the target language over the course of seven years, or the equivalent of an extended vacation in Mexico (i.e., full immersion, or 24/7 in the target language, and this is assuming you are not speaking to your child in English on the trip). As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, does a baby speak two weeks out of the womb? Why are you pressuring your child to produce the target language so soon? This is discouraging for all parties involved. In doing so, you implicitly emphasize that the product is more important than the process, or journey, and moreover, that language learning and acquisition ought to happen overnight; but quite frankly, this is not the case. This sets up your student to buy into the ‘instant-gratification’ mentality; instead, let’s encourage our children and students to develop the strength of character to persevere in the long (but worthwhile) process of language acquisition. Inspire and motivate, but remember that linguistically, even as a fifth grader, your child is still an infant…
2) Now, let’s talk about fluency. Online dictionaries define fluency with increasingly vague terms, “the ability to express oneself easily and articulately” or even better, “the ability to speak or write a foreign language easily and accurately”. Well, which is it? Does fluency encompass speaking or writing–or both? There are many translators out there who very precisely transfer highly technical, written documents from one language to another with tremendous skill, yet who do not speak the language. Can they claim fluency? What about oral cultures? Are people whose languages lack a written form not fluent?
Even if we concede on the “the ability to speak OR write a foreign language”, the question of “easily and accurately” still poses a great deal of ambiguity. In what venue, exactly? I would be lost at sea in English at a medical conference (borborygmi?), just as many would fare poorly at a philosophical one (solipsism?). In general conversation, perhaps a majority of English speakers–[as evidenced through close observation with people of all education levels, and even in television shows and Hollywood blockbusters]–use “there is” or “there’s” with plurals on a regular basis. In some regions of the Midwest, people eliminate “to be” altogether (“the paper needs turned in”, “the house needs painted”). Yes, I may be a language prude, but in terms of fluency, those are both grammatically incorrect. And what about slang? Who is fluent in their native tongue, anyway?
Obviously, someone who can only ask, “Where is the bathroom?” is not fluent in that language, but when exactly are they? It is not an easy question. Consider a four-year-old: “The typical four-year-old child will have about a 1,500-1,600-word vocabulary. […] By the time a child is 12 years old, he/she will understand (have a receptive vocabulary) of about 50,000 words” (Vocabulary Chart). A ninth grader will not learn the same 1,500-1,600 words in a language that a four-year-old learns on the playground and at school, and each four-year-old’s vocabulary differs as well (though understandably and at a certain point, they do share a common pool). That said, how can we compare these ‘common pools’ of vocabulary from school to school, when each teacher and school focuses on different words and teaching methodologies? “Fluency levels” are eventually determined and assessed on the national AP exams, but until then, we remain in the black hole of, as Saussure so elegantly phrases it, “a vague, uncharted nebula”.
3) Lastly, intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors definitely play a role. And yet, I have heard numerous times, “Why does my child not speak to me in Spanish at home?” Let’s be honest: do you speak the target language to them? I ask the question not to be rude, but rather as a reminder of what is logical. General politeness mandates that you speak to others in a language they understand. Therefore, it would be wholly nonsensical for your child to blabber to you on a regular basis in the language they are learning, as they do not associate you with the target language. Vocabulary recall in your presence is oftentimes more challenging simply because it seems out of place. The brain constantly networks and categorizes knowledge, information, and sensory input. Think about it: how many times has SEEING someone jogged your memory? So visual associations actually play a legitimate role here. Students remember vocabulary in their teacher’s presence, but at home or in a restaurant, it proves more taxing for the brain, if not practiced consistently.
Extrinsic factors, then, include you pressuring your child to translate words at unexpected times and in unexpected places. Putting him or her on the spot to produce the target language is 1) having unreasonable expectations (see fluency above); and 2) not being considerate of the fact that you probably aren’t associated with the target language amidst your child’s cerebral gray matter. That said, do you encourage their study? Do you encourage them to have fun during the process? Do you talk about languages and multi-lingual people in a positive light? Whether your child speaks another language at home (besides English) is yet another contributing factor…
Intrinsic factors are simply motivation-related: does your child have an interest in language(s)? Do they want to spend time outside of class reviewing, practicing, prancing around the house or running up and down the stairs reciting vocabulary and shouting creative, ridiculous sentences in the target language? As a language teacher, my hope is YES!, but I am highly aware that this is not the case for everyone. This is, however, definitely a factor and can accelerate the language-learning process by leaps and bounds.
To sum up, then, no–I cannot give you a date and time when your child will be fluent–or even conversational–in the target language, just as you could not predict the moment when your child would stutter or stammer their first word or complete sentence in their native tongue. This treatise is not meant to lower your expectations of what your child will learn here, but rather to give a more realistic assessment of and appreciation for the process of learning/acquiring another language. It is not as simple as ‘downloading vocabulary’ and then ‘outputting’ a random combination of sounds or letters. Consider, then, Lower School as the ‘formative years’ [input], or ages 0-2: their brains are receiving a great deal of information re: language rhythms, cadence, vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and intonation, coupled with gestures, culture, and meaningful contexts. It will take a while for their neural matter to sort out everything. So please refrain from pressuring your child to speak, unless he or she wants to: children are wildflowers, and will bloom when they are ready.
As there are new students in nearly every grade level in Lower School this year, please be assured that your child is not the only one adjusting to being immersed in a brand new language three times a week. Several of you have expressed concern and inquired about extra work that your children can do outside of class to ‘catch up’ to their peers, hence this blog entry!
To begin, I believe strongly in cultivating a love for learning–and specifically, language-learning–which means that I would like any extra work outside of class time to be more enjoyable than not. Therefore, just jump in, as the image above illustrates. My number one suggestion for new students is to check out this website and spend time watching cartoons in the target language, so that they feel more comfortable being immersed in the language (see “Cartoons” on the sidebar). The goal right now is for your child to overcome his/her discomfort with not being able to comprehend everything. Aside from that, new students are also strongly encouraged to be proactive during class time, both by watching when I point to bilingual signs as well as asking their classmates questions (“How do you say…?”). I am going to reiterate to ALL classes next week (in English!) the importance of teaching one another, particularly since we have a lot of new students this year. I believe in building a classroom culture where students learn not only from me but also from each other.
As far as specific suggestions go, many students in Lower School are familiar with and adore the show Pocoyo. Have “Spanish Saturdays” or “Taco Tuesdays”, where your child spends twenty or thirty minutes listening to and watching Spanish cartoons. (If any links don’t work, please let me know; I have to update them from time to time. Or, if your child has a favorite show not on the list, email me and I will try to find a translated version.) Your child does not need to ‘do’ anything here, just sit and be with the language; his/her brain will begin internalizing the rhythm and cadence of the language on its own, unconsciously. For more ideas, please see the “Summer Packet Letter” on the sidebar.
While it is true that other students have been taking Spanish for many years now, I have repeatedly seen new students at every grade level exhibit tremendous success in the past (this is my ninth year teaching). Give it some time (it is very early in the year!), and encourage your child to be patient, ask questions, and practice being ‘okay’ with not understanding everything. The vocabulary will come. I do not pressure students to produce language until they are ready, and remind them that babies do not speak on Day #2 out of the womb; language takes time.
A Conscious Effort: Use Spanish as much as possible, wherever you go. Make it a game. Are you waiting in line? At the mall? At the grocery store? Online waiting for a website to load? In a traffic jam? Train your brain to use those ten second blips of nothingness to be productive and stay mentally active. Try to remember a word or phrase–or several–in the target language while you are waiting. A minute here or there will prove much more effective in long-term retention than an hour or two of studying. When your skills begin to advance, work on translating what you hear in your head. Learning a language might be a challenge, but it should be a fun challenge! Make a conscious effort to incorporate Spanish into your daily life.
Bilingual Technology: Fiddle around and change your iPod, iPad, iPhone, Facebook page, laptop, email or any other gadget you may have to Spanish. You can usually find the languages under “Settings”, “International”, or “Control Panel”. Note: Only change your technological devices to Mandarin Chinese if you have some spare time on your hands and a lot of patience–sometimes it can be tricky finding your way back to English. (And yes, I do say this from experience.)
Spanish Channel: Find the Spanish channel on your television. For that matter, find the Portuguese and Italian and Russian and Mandarin Chinese channels, too. See if you can hear the different cadences/rhythms/intonations between the languages. Most importantly, have fun guessing!
Number Challenges: Count to twenty in Spanish when you’re brushing your teeth every morning. Too easy? Count backwards. Still too easy? Skip count forwards and backwards (0-2-4-6-8-10-12, 11-9-7-5-3-1, etc.). Do mental math. Don’t just memorize numbers in order; make them meaningful. How do we use numbers in the real world? Count change in Spanish, say the total of the restaurant bill in Spanish, jump rope or play hopscotch in Spanish. Numbers are everywhere…!
Three Levels: 1) Recognition: you can’t remember the word, but when you see or hear it, you know what it means; 2) Production: you remember the word in both English and Spanish, and can translate it on the spot; 3) Emotional connection: you not only know the word in English and Spanish, but you also understand it…when you say it, you mean it and aren’t just translating (example: please = poooor faaaaaavvvoooooooor)
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 in Willoughby is labeled in English and Spanish. The doors to—and other directional signs throughout—J.C. Penney’s at Great Lakes 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! Morley Library in Painesville has a huge Spanish section. Half-Price Books in both Mayfield and Mentor also have 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.