Keeping Our Languages Relevant: 10 more activities!

What Languages Are The Neighbors Speaking?

The Modern Language Association provides a great tool on its website that lets you search what languages families are speaking in your neighborhood. When you access the website at http://www.mla.org/map_data, you can enter your state and your county, and it will show you the percentage of people, over the age of 55, who speak a different language other than English at home. For example, in the county we live in, there are 3,482 people who speak French at home.

With this information, parents can promote language clubs for kids in their communities. All it takes to start is a few flyers at the library, grocery store, and local churches. The meetings can take place weekly or biweekly, at a park, a community center, or at someone’s home. Like regular playdates, language clubs can be organized in any number of ways, but the only rule is that only the native language can be spoken! Language clubs allow children to forge meaningful friendships with other native speakers, which is important.

Meet Community Leaders

When you meet successful bilingual citizens in your community, invite them to speak at your children’s school about the benefits of speaking two languages and to discuss their personal experience of growing up bilingual. It’s important for children to see their languages valued and to hear the merits of bilingualism from someone else beside their parents!

World Languages Day

The Center for Language Education and Research, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, offers a free guidebook titled “Celebrating the World’s Languages: A guide to creating a World Languages Day event.” This publication provides a step-by-step guide to plan an exciting event for high school students to highlight the importance of cultural awareness and language skills. Teachers and community groups can download the publication here.

Historical Hotels

If you live near a historical hotel, you will surely find many languages and cultures represented by its staff. With some pre-planning, these historical hotels often offer tours to give visitors a sense of what life was like in the past when famous artists, writers, and politicians stayed as guests. You can check the Historic Hotels of America for more information. At some locations you might even get a ghost tour with stories of the hotel’s haunted history.

The National Guard

Contact the Public Affairs Office at your local Air National Guard to see if you can tour their facilities. There might even be an Air Refueling Wing, which offers tours of a KC-135, their emergency equipment, and a fire station. Ask if they have a staff member who speaks your native language. If they don’t, you can always serve as translator! When we did a tour of our local 157th Air Refueling Wing, I made a list of French vocabulary words that we now get to practice every time the girls take out the photo album we made of that memorable day. I picked up a few words myself, since I had never seen an avion-ravitailleur (tanker) up close before!

The National Museum of Language

The National Museum of Language opened in College Park, Maryland, in May 2008 to promote “a better understanding of language and its role in history, contemporary affairs, and the future.” They offer a wealth of information and resources, from podcasts to papers to online presentations at http://languagemuseum.org/. For children in particular, they offer free online activities in Gaelic, Polish, and Spanish, as well as computer games to practice German, Italian, Spanish, French, and English. Children can even sign up to join the organization Young Linguists of America, sponsored by the museum.

Sister Cities

Sister Cities International is a non-profit organization that brings together U.S. and international cities to increase global awareness, improve business developments, and exchange ideas in different fields including technology and the arts. You can find a directory on their website at http://www.sister-cities.org/2015Directory to see if your city has an international “sister city.” Many communities organize cultural events and exchanges, giving families a chance to practice their language skills with other natives, as well as spreading cultural awareness in the community. The Sister Cities website allows you to search your city and offers links to cultural programs in your area and contact information for your local “sister cities” chapter.

For example, Asheville, North Carolina, has six sister cities: – San Cristobal de las Casas, and Valladolid in Mexico, Vladikavkaz in Russia, Karpenisi in Greece, and Saumur in France. Asheville has welcomed international musicians, journalists, jewelers, culinary students, basketball players, among other guests.

Although not all languages will be represented at these cultural events, it’s also possible for a community to request a sister city in a particular country or to search through the existing list of international cities looking to make a connection with U.S. sister cities.

International Research on Bilingualism

There is a great deal of international research on bilingualism available, if you would like to read about the subject in your native language. If you have concerns or questions about raising a deaf child with a second language, for example, I would recommend François Grosjean’s research, which is now available in 31 languages at http://www.francoisgrosjean.ch/the_right_en.html

Current Events

When students start to show an interest in international news, check out http://www.bbc.com, which now offers its news program in 34 languages, complete with audio.

Free Online Language Courses

The British Broadcasting Corporation offers free 12-week online courses for beginners in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Greek at http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/. You can use the site to supplement your children’s exposure to the language. They even get a certificate at the end when they finish the course! The site also provides a “quick- fix” section with 12 “essential holiday phrases” in 36 languages. There are language tests, dictionaries, and learning games available as well. Children are invited to share their thoughts or personal anecdotes about their language experience in a section called “Your Say.” For most children it’s a great feeling of pride and accomplishment when they see their words on a high-traffic website such as the BBC’s. You can always find out more information by searching the keywords “free online language classes.” to find other options. For example, you can access free German Courses on Deutsche Welle’s website.

 

 

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4 Comments »

  1. Mrs. Raguenaud, greetings. First, I’d like to state I’ve purchased your book and read it cover to cover twice already. I found it very insightful and helpful. However, it seems to cover prominently OPOL where the heritage language parent was born on a different country.

    My wife and I are expecting our first child to be born in mid April 2017; a baby boy. We currently live in Brazil – no immediate plans to relocate. I have a very sophisticated proficiency level in English, scoring a 8.5 and 9 at the IELTS test on two different occasions (9 being the top score). Our intent is to raise our child using the OPOL method, having me speaking English only with the child.

    (My wife has an intermediate proficiency, but is fully supporting this plan)

    While there is vast media content in English out there, and a lot of English-spoken media availability on TV where we live (plus educational toys and books), we worry we are making the right decision. We still haven’t made that decision public to our immediate family, and we’re gathering all information we can.

    Have you seen cases like mine before, of parents who want to teach a second language since birth which is not particularly an “heritage” language? What advice can you share with us?

    Thank you VERY much.

    Ricardo

    • Virginie said

      Hello Mr. Leite. First, thank you for purchasing my book, and thank you for your kind feedback. I have to be honest, I initially wrote the book to help families who were moving or had moved to the U.S. and were trying to protect their native languages. I never thought that my book would reach Brazil one day! I’m so glad that you have found it helpful.

      There are many families who are able to teach a second language to their children, even if that language is not a heritage language. Absolutely. You seem very committed, which is half the battle. These are my questions: Is English a part of your identity? Did you learn it as a child or teenager? Do you feel an emotional connection to the language, that would offer you a close connection to your child? For example, when my daughters were born, speaking French to them came naturally. I couldn’t speak any other language with them. But when they started school, I started speaking more English to them. English and French are part of my identity. I’m fluent in both and I feel a personal connection to both. I wish I only spoke French to them,! But I’m a product of both cultures and both languages. Luckily I get a lot of help from family members who only speak French to them.

      When your child is born, you will find out which language feels the most natural. What are your worries specifically? I think you’ll find the right balance that works for you and your family. It’s a wonderful gift for your son.

      Take care,
      Virginie

      • First of all, thank you very much for the quick and detailed answer.

        You can thank Amazon’s reviews for your book reaching Brazil…!

        As for your questions; I’ve learned English as a child, starting at age 9, due to the commitment of both of my parents in getting me enrolled in private English tutoring classes and by purchasing me whatever material was available at that time, particularly by the BBC, such as the series “Follow Me”. I was competent enough to hold conversations in English by the age of 12, and I was fluent by the age of 17 – most of by pursuing development on my own (I consider myself partially self taught).

        As for an emotional connection, I find it difficult to answer. It is certainly part of my daily life for the past 12 years, as I work for a North-American corporation and have to speak and compose documents in English throughout my working hours. I don’t have any particular heritage from English speaking countries (my family’s background is Spanish, Portuguese and German), but it has been part of my identity of some sort. I am fascinated and quite knowledgeable of British and American history and general pop culture, so I have that additional element of cultural familiarity. I’m in the United States about once every couple of years for business reasons, and I must say I do feel more “at home” and at ease there then I feel at some more remote places in my own country.

        Now, I’m particularly worried that raising bilingual children can be more easily achieved by parents who either immigrated or have cross-nationality marriages, in which one of the parents was raised and spoke primarily the heritage language he or she wants to pass on to his child. I worry that our particular case might increase the chances of some of the negative aspects of attempting to raise bilingual children – some of which you described on your book, such as semi bilingualism or stuttering.

        I also worry a bit – although this is more of a personal concern than an “educational” one – about our family and friend’s reactions. If I had a particular cultural background with an English speaking country, perhaps that would be a bit more “acceptable”, but I do have the feeling our close family and friends (and even strangers in public) might think I’ve “gone mad” if I suddenly start speaking in an unrelated language to my child. While it might be understandable from the point of view of warrantying our child a better future – and far from the extremes of such cases I’ve read where one parent decided to raise his child speaking Klingon (the artificial fictional language from “Star Trek”) – I still worry a lot about what others may think. I also worry about the lack of support they may share with us, which may demotivate us.

        When doing research for your book, did you encounter any particular cases like mine? While I do understand you were focusing on immigrants living in the US, did you find cases there where one of both of the parents were teaching a language they dominated, but were not exactly part of their heritage? (Well, I do know George Soros was raised in Esperanto…)

        Thank you once again, and you may call me “Ricardo” if you want.

        PS: One of the episodes that motivated me to pursue this plan was a family we witnessed on a plane trip from Argentina to Brazil some months ago. The father was Italian, the mother (who was not accompanying them) was Brazilian, and they all lived in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. As the father explained it to the curious flight attendant (who was truly amazed to see multilingual children seemingly for the first time), we witnessed both boys, aged around 10 or 12, constantly switching between a perfect Brazilian Portuguese, Argentinean Spanish and Italian while loudly bickering about whose turn was to play a game on their iPad…

  2. vraguenaud said

    Snow day here! 🙂 No school for the girls or me. Perfect for getting some writing/emailing done. I’m working on my third book, to help kids navigate cultural differences in the classroom and when they’re traveling.

    When I was doing research for Bilingual By Choice, I came across a book called The Bilingual Edge: Why, when and how to teach your child a second language. The authors seem to write for families like yours who want to offer their child a second language but might not be native speakers. You might get some good insights from that book.

    As for worrying about other people’s reactions and concerns, I hear you. It’s tricky. I tend to stay flexible depending on who’s around. But if it’s something you decide is right for your family, you just have to stick with it. When you become a parent, everyone around you will have an opinion about everything that you do 🙂 You just have to hear them, and then take what you need out of the advice, or discard it if it doesn’t feel right for you.

    As for worries like semi bilingualism or language delay, those are issues that sometimes come up when a child doesn’t get enough exposure to a language or when the language environment changes too often at a young age.

    And yes, it’s so amazing to hear kids communicate in more than one language. You can just see their brain activity all fired up! Whether it’s English or Klingon!

    Take care,
    Virginie

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