Teens and Tweens – Goal setting – a tool for success in language acquisition

In my experience teaching world languages, I have taught children, teenagers and adults. I began teaching world languages, by default, as a young adult. Sharing my passion for languages has always been a rewarding experience for me. I have enjoyed teaching adults because they are always motivated and dedicated.  I believe that their motivation and dedication stems from having a goal, such as a business trip, a promotion, a dream to work abroad, etc. It appears to me that learning a second language is “easier” when there is a goal or purpose.

I have noticed that children starting at about the age of 10 and 11 are more similar to adult language learners as opposed to younger children who are usually excited about learning a second language simply because it is fun and different. Tweens and teens, typically need to have a personal goal in order to be motivated.  They do not relate to a generic goal, such as: “if you speak a second language, you will have more opportunities” or “you will be successful if you are bilingual.” Tweens and teens need to make a personal connection with the language they are learning or mastering in order to find the motivation that will enable them to follow through and become fluent or proficient.

I will share four examples in this blog post of how teens and tweens can turn their passions into the motivation needed to master a second language.

The artistic child – a child who expresses an interest in the performing arts would benefit greatly from recognizing the relevance of mastering a second language.  This realization will aid the child in developing the  motivation and dedication that I have seen in adults with language learning goals. Universal musical terms are mainly in Italian, opera libretti have been translated, but reading and confidently singing an opera in its original language (typically German and  Italian) is an astounding achievement. Choirs or choral groups typically sing in languages other than their official language such as Ukrainian, Latin, Russian, French, etc. Learning a second language will most likely help a child’s musical experience by perfecting his pronunciation, facilitating the ease in picking up the new vocabulary, boosting their self confidence, and improving their ability to read music more naturally. What artistic child wouldn’t want to have this advantage?  Learning and mastering a second language becomes more relevant to children in this context.


Children’s Cathedral Choir


The international or exchange student – A teen or tween who is interested in studying abroad either in high school or college can work towards fluency in a second language in order to enrich his experience while studying abroad. A world language is not just another school subject or a “chore” to practice at home in this context. A world language becomes the key to a more fruitful and enjoyable future experience. A world language becomes relevant when the child understands why he is trying to become proficient in the second language. The child with a goal to study abroad, will develop the motivation necessary to help him reach his goal.

This child was me. In hindsight, I strongly believe that both of my study abroad experiences were priceless and shaped me into the person I am today. Having had the goals really paid off. It was a true  adventure in self-discovery! This Forbes.com article highlights how studying abroad makes better leaders.

The international Formula-1 driver – I have used this scenario jokingly but successfully with my 8 year old. He wants to be a race car driver when he grows up. This goal is what motivates him at this stage of his life.  “Well, if you plan to travel around the world racing fast cars,” I said to him, “don’t you think it would be wise to speak some of the languages of some of the exciting countries you will be visiting?” He looked at me skeptically, smirked and said, “Yes – you are right, it would be good to know the language to communicate with people at the race.” Gotcha!

The international chef/restauranteur – my older son, who loves to cook, believes there is a future for him in the realm of international restaurants. He loves food, he loves resorts and he loves world languages. Why not combine all three of his passions and pursue his dream of being a chef at a luxury resort?  My son is only 10, and it may be too soon to tell what path he will ultimately take, but if this is what motivates him to keep up with his world languages, we support him and his goal.

My childhood friend and world-renowned restauranteur, winemaker, author, and television personality, Joseph Bastianich, is a more concrete example of this scenario. Joseph and I were classmates during our tween and teen years. We shared a few commonalities. We were two American children who grew up hearing, speaking and learning the heritage language of our family, Italian. During our tween and teen years, we practiced our Italian by speaking to one another. We were proud of our language skills at that early age and I would venture to say, that we still feel that same pride, respectively.  At first, he pursued a career in finance, with little to no need to speak a second language. Over time, Joseph followed in his parents’ footsteps and became a highly successful restauranteur. Most recently, he has displayed his eloquent language skills on Italian television on MasterChef Italia (the Italian version of a culinary talent show) as a regular judge on the show. It is fun to think back to our childhood conversations in Italian and then watch him speak so confidently, in his second language on Italian national TV. His love of the Italian language has helped him in his current career although, not necessarily in his first career.

As parents, we should help our children make a personal connection between their passions and the target language. We should help them see how mastering the target language will help them achieve what they might want for themselves in their future. Their personal goal could be as whimsical as being a Formula-1  driver or as specific as being an opera singer.  In the end, whatever route they take, their languages will always be with them. If you would like to read a fellow blogger’s Tips on Motivating Pre-Teens click here for some additional advice and creative tips. Enjoy!

What are some of your children’s career goals and how can you help your children relate their goals to a world language or second language?





Exploring Spain With Kids

Many of us are planning our summer holiday around this time of year. So, I am featuring Spain in this blog post as well as information and tips that will complement your children’s language acquisition as well as make your family’s language endeavor a bit more fun and memorable.


When I think of Spain, I think variety. Variety of scenery, language, ancestors, architecture, food and the arts.

Scenery: Spain is perhaps Europe’s most geographically diverse country ranging from the near deserts of Andalucía to the green countryside and deep coastal inlets of Galicia. From the sun-baked uplands of Castilla-La Mancha to the rugged, snow-covered Pyrenees. From the Balearic Islands to the Canary Islands. Spain is made up of 17 Comunidades autónomas (autonomous regions) that are divided into provinces. Spain is the second biggest country in Western Europe.

Language: Although castellano (Spanish or Castilian) is spoken throughout Spain, three other regional languages are widely spoken in Spain. Catalán is spoken in Cataluña, the Balearic Islands and Valencia. Gallego (Galician) is spoken in Galicia, and euskera (Basque) is spoken in Pais Vasco and Navarra.

Ancestors: Spain’s various inhabitants over the centuries have influenced the art, architecture, music and so much more throughout the country. When you travel around the different regions, you can not help but be transported to the period in which the particular peoples were inhabiting the location you find yourself in and can not help but wonder what it was like when… The various Spanish ancestors include Phoenicians, Jews and Arabs from the Middle East, tribes from Morocco and Visigoths from the Balkans.


Roman aqueduct in Segovia

Architectural styles throughout the country represent the various historic inhabitants and their influence. Magnificent old buildings dot the entire county and remind you of the rich multicultural history of Spain. You will observe the variety of architectural styles as you visit Roman aqueducts, Islamic edifices, Gothic cathedrals, medieval castles and Gaudi’s buildings and structures in the style known as Modernismo Catalán mostly located in Barcelona.  Click here to see one of my favorite Gaudi Buildings that always attracts children’s attention.


Gaudi’s modernist architecture in Barcelona

Food. Spanish cooking reflects the Roman, Arabic, Jewish and French influences in Spain. The Spanish are known for cooking with spices such as saffron and cumin and they also use fruits and almonds in their dishes, as well as enjoy honeyed sweets and pastries – all of which are Arabic contributions and hail back to the Muslim era. You will savor a variety of the typical Spanish foods as as you travel around Spain. You will quickly discover that the same dishes are prepared differently in different regions. For example, paella, gazpacho, tortilla de patatas (a.k.a tortilla española), pinchos (a.k.a. Moroccan style kebabs) will taste and possibly look different depending on your geographic location. So, my advice is to “go for the gusto” and compare and contrast these dishes as you travel around Spain and enjoy the food with your children!

“Spanish Food For Kids” in Family Travel Scoop.com provides an acurrate list and description of Spanish foods that kids typically will try and may enjoy – (depending on their palate, of course)!! Some of my children’s favorites are: empanadas, albondigas, sautéed squid, tortilla de patatas, paella, and one of Spain’s best kept secrets –fideuà. Fideuà originated in Valencia and is similar to paella, but is made with short strands noodles (instead of rice) and seafood.  It is a colorful and flavorful dish and it is an ideal seaside meal to enjoy  as a family while on summer holiday on a Mediterranean beach.

Preparing Spanish dishes at home such as paella and tortilla de patatas has become a fun-filled and regular event in our family and has contributed to the broadening of their palate as they discover new flavors and textures.


Preparing Paella at Home


Tortilla Española For Everyone!


Now, that you have enough general background, let me take you on a quick tour of a few of our favorite places in Spain:

Madrid is the capital city of Spain. If you find yourself in Madrid you will want to visit Museo del Prado where you and your your children will enjoy viewing the works of Spain’s greatest masters: Velazquez, Goya and El Greco as well as other Spanish artists. The museum offers Family Programs throughout the year (in Spanish). If and you and your children are comfortable speaking Spanish, plan ahead and sign up for one of their many family programs that include children’s theater, gallery visits and seasonal events.

If modern (1900 – 1960s) art  interests you, then a stop at Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is warranted. There are plenty of works by Miró, Solana, Gris, and Dalí to see on your way to Picasso’s Guernica.   Children’s Weekend Workshops are offered throughout the year for children to explore different ways to interpret and interact with the museum’s works of art.

A third museum worth visiting in Madrid , if you have time, is the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza which houses a prestigious collection in the former Palacio de Villahermosa. Family activities are offered in English on alternate Saturdays and Sunday. Click here for more information.

If your children enjoy music, theatre and history, then consider adding the Opera House (Teatro Real) and the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) onto your list of places to visit in Madrid. Teatro Real is located directly across the street from the Royal Palace and it offers programs such as operas, puppet shows and workshops tailored for children of all ages. Click here for Teatro Real 2017 schedule. Walk across the street and take a tour of Palacio Real and walk through the Palace Gardens (Campo del Moro) for a relaxing stroll.

Madrid can be an excellent launching pad from which to take day trips to nearby locations such as: El Escorial, Toledo and Segovia.

A trip to Spain or other country where your family’s target language is spoken is a sure way to reinforce your children’s language learning! Click here for more immersion tips from a fellow blogger at Kid World Citizen. However, if you are not traveling abroad any time soon with your children, remember you could take your children on a vicarious trip to a far away place any time you are in any big city. The Metropolitan Opera House, for example, offers a rendition of a different opera tailored for children once a year.  The Barber of Seville was a fantastic and fun way to infuse a little of Spain without boarding a plane!

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A taste of old world Spain at The Barber of Seville, Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center

Spain is a family-friendly, stimulating, yet relaxing place for families to explore and make memories. A word to the wise: seasoned travelers have been known to say: “The more you travel in Spain, the bigger it seems to get.”

Tell us which places you and your children have enjoyed in Spain.

Hasta la próxima, amigos!

Yoga – Expanding the Boundaries of Global Children’s Minds, Bodies and Vocabulary!!


Yoga brings to mind relaxing, serene and healthful thoughts. Although I am not a yogi, I felt compelled to introduce my children to yoga when they were just toddlers. They both took to it instantly at the age of two. They attended Elahi Yoga Studio for infants, toddlers and kids in NYC.  It was a fun and playful way for them to explore and exercise their minds and bodies. It was an environment in which they felt at home, played, imagined, learned, relaxed and were plain happy. They practiced their breathing and poses and learned to concentrate in the most natural, soothing and supportive setting. Thanks to the non-competiveness of yoga, they understood it was alright to make mistakes or not be able to keep a pose as long as their friends. It was all about fun and self-discovery. They quickly discovered that their bodies could easily do some poses and with practice, their bodies could do other more challenging poses. Ergo, self-discipline. With every new pose, their self-esteem was boosted and their self-confidence was increasingly evident.

Yoga was great for their minds and bodies, and in hindsight, I can say that yoga was a way for them to learn more about other languages and cultures and gain a broader understanding of the world they live in.

An added bonus: yoga helped them excel in other physical activities and sports.

Mind, Body and Family Fun:

The animated poses such as tree, dog, cobra, windmill and table helped them understand their own strength, flexibility, coordination as well as body awareness. They learned how to focus and concentrate at an early age. Yoga is a family-friendly activity and much fun can be had. If you are a yogi parent, you can enjoy your portable passion with your children everywhere you go. If you are merely a “spectator”, you can celebrate your child’s progress everywhere they go.


Family Fun – Mother Daughter Yoga

Vocabulary in the Target Language

The  child-friendly names of all the poses lend themselves to a fun and interactive way to learn words in a target language. For example: cat, bridge, table, waterfall, butterfly, bird, tree, squirrel, hero, candle, frog, dog, windmill and airplane are all words in a toddler and pre-schooler’s vocabulary.  We practiced these poses regularly AND practiced the words for the poses in French, German and Spanish – and still had fun!!! This is an easy way to complement your children’s language acquisition and reinforce vocabulary!!

They also learned to say a few words in languages they did not know, such as the Hindi words “namaste” “om shanti” and “chaturanga” and the Persian word “elahi.” Learning words in a different language typically  motivates children to learn more words and to stay onboard their language endeavor!!

World Instruments:

The Singing Bowl was one51teCzagt8L._SY450_.jpg of their favorite instruments. when they went to Yoga. It is an intriguing instrument with an unusual sound that undoubtedly captures children’s attention. They learned that it originated in Tibet – which in turn, piqued their curiosity as to geography.   Available on Amazon.com31VS1EYiEHL._SY450_ (1).jpg

The Rain Stick sparked interest in geography as well.  I have had multiple opportunities to stop with my children and listen to an Andean group of musicians play at major NYC subway stations. My little ones were always able to quickly identify the Rain Stick as one of the musical group’s instruments. Making the connection between their Yoga class and the Andean music made the experience so much more memorable for them.  Also available on Amazon.com

Physical Activities and Sports 

Yoga became the precursor to Tae kwon do for my older child, while my younger child has expressed an interest in taking up Fencing. Both Tae kwon do and Fencing require, the flexibility, strength, concentration, balance and coordination they already bring to the table. I find it interesting how they both gravitated to activities that require the skills they have already keenly developed.

The physical flexibility that children develop while practicing yoga, allows them to endure the challenges to the various muscle groups involved in learning Tae kwon do, Fencing and Gymnastics. Yogi children will be aware of their bodies and understand how their muscle groups function which are key elements in physical activities and sports such as Martial Arts, Fencing and Gymnastics. Balance and coordination are fundamental in yoga as well as other physical activities and sports. Accordingly, the cute balancing poses yogi children proudly display as preschoolers actually promote the mental and physical poise necessary in future physical activities and sports.


One proud yogi/martial artist!

It is said that yoga helps provide building blocks for the future. In fact, in our case, it did very early on in my children’s lives. I never imagined all of the exciting benefits yoga would offer my boys when I signed them up for their toddler yoga trial class!!!

My blog is dedicated to providing inspiration and resources to and for parents, caregivers and teachers when looking for ways to complement a child’s language learning. To read some of my many blog posts that discuss this topic, please click here, here , here and here.  My tips are applicable in any target language, so I welcome you to read the various tips I have provided for the various World Languages I blog about.  Enjoy!!




“S” is for Sports – The A to Z of Raising Global Citizens

I am very excited to be taking part in the A to Z  of Raising Global Citizens – a series that began on June 1st and will run through June 26th on a multicultural blog called: Creative World of Varya’s. 

My topic is Sports. There are many sports children can try out for fun or watch while learning about the world.  I have found that sitting down to watch the World Cup, The Olympics, Rugby, Golf and Tennis have always led to stimulating conversations with our sons about geography, flags, languages, government, even world economy. There are also sports you can seek out in your town, state or country that can be watched or played first-hand and can broaden your children’s horizons and help them become world citizens.


One of my family’s favorite summer spectator sports is Polo.  Don’t get me wrong, although Polo may sound intimidating and more like a sport for the jet-setting type, I am happy to report that  there are plenty of public polo grounds and State Parks which welcome the general public and go as far as educating and encouraging hands-on fun for children.  There are many aspects about Polo that captivate children’s attention. Let’s start with the most obvious: it involves horses (Polo Ponies) a ball and mallet, and it is played outdoors. How can you go wrong? Polo is also fun, fast and exciting. In the U.S.A., in my experience, most Polo teams typically include at least one international member. This fact usually sparks conversation about other countries and languages. A great historical tidbit you could include when introducing Polo to your children is the fact that Polo is arguably the oldest recorded team sport in known history, with the first matches being played in Persia over 2500 years ago. Polo is a fantastic way to expand your child’s knowledge of the world and discover yet another fun and exciting sport.


End of the Match High Fives at “Polo in the Park”, Bethpage State Park

If you like to expose your children to unconventional sights and experiences while on holiday, I recommend attending a Polo match during your travels. Polo is an international sport played in at least 80 countries around the world. A list of playing countries can be viewed on the Federation of International Polo website.

My husband and I took our boys to see a polo match in Argentina. Everybody knows that Argentina is famous for soccer (fútbol), but Polo is another very popular sport in Argentina. It has a long history there. The game arrived in the 1800s with British settlers in the Argentine pampas. Argentina has since become internationally renowned in the sport, making it the perfect place to take in a match. It is a family-friendly event and attracts locals as well as European royalty. We purchased tickets at the gate for about $25.00 per person and saw an amazing match with some of the best players in the world. Campo Argentino de Polo in downtown Buenos Aires is the most important Polo Stadium in the world.  Their high Polo season is mid October to mid December.


Croquet is believed to have been first played by thirteenth century French peasants who used crudely fashioned mallets to whack wooden balls through hoops made of willow branches.The hoops are often called “wickets” in the U.S.A. It is a much more accessible sport for children to try at home or in their  home town at a picnic or while on holiday. Our family enjoys croquet when we are on summer holidays as it does not involve running, getting winded or perspiring  (in other words, it is a “parent-friendly” sport to play with your children). One of the fun things about croquet is that it pops up throughout the year when we read new books or watch certain movies. Croquet always seems to be in the background of a museum painting, or an illustration in a book or a movie. My boys tend to catch these “croquet cameos” regularly. It is a wonderful way for them to feel like members of the global world we live in. If they play croquet at home and later observe others in different parts of the world playing croquet – albeit in books, art or movies, then, unconsciously they begin to  feel like global citizens who share interests with the rest of the world!

Croquet sets can be purchased at most sporting goods stores and on Amazon for a variety of prices.


Bocce is also a ball sport played at many American backyard picnics. This sport shares a common ancestry with the ancient games played in the Roman Empire. Bocce was developed into its present form in Italy and it is played around Europe and also overseas – including Australia, North America, and South America and other places that received Italian migration.

The sport is also very popular on the eastern side of the Adriatic, especially in Croatia, Montenegro and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Southern France where the sport has taken on different names.

Bocce is still played regularly in many New York City neighborhood parks by the descendants of the original Italian immigrants. My sons used to stop and watch the senior Bocce players for a good 20 minutes at our local park before making their way to the playground. It was always a treat for them to watch the Italian members of the community play Bocce.

CampItalia, a summer camp in Long Island, NY, conducts an Italian language and culture program that includes Bocce as one of their many outdoor activities. The kids always enjoy this part of their day.  They have tons of fun and learn a little more about the world they live in as they become world citizens.

A fun-filled game of Bocce at CampItalia, Long Island, NY

A fun-filled game of Bocce at CampItalia, Long Island, NY

Remember to seek out sports such as these in your communities or while on holiday. It will most likely enrich your day and overall travel experience.

Which sports do your global children enjoy?

Buon divertimento!!

Global mini
In these Series 24 bloggers of Multicultural Kid Blogs Community got together to share ideas and tips on Raising Global Citizens. Follow us from June 1st to June 26th as we share a letter of the alphabet and an idea associated with it over at Raising Global Citizen Series page!
Creative World of Varya = Bilingual Avenue = The European Mama = Melibelle in = Smart Tinker = Good To Be Mom = Marie’s Pastiche = Third Culture Mama = Tiny Tapping Toes = All Done Monkey = Russian Step By Step = Multilingual Parenting = In The Playroom = Rue Du Belvedere = Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes = La Cité des Vents = Faith Seeker Kids = World Languages = The Piri-Piri Lexicon = Healthy Child, Global Mind = Mama Smiles = The Art Curator for Kids = Words n Needles = Multicultural Kitchen

Italian Culture for Global Children – Carnevale, Easter and other Holidays and Events

You may have noticed from reading my posts, that although I have spent time researching and procuring books and innovative materials to help support my children’s interest in languages, I am also a firm believer in regularly immersing them in cultural activities. I strongly believe that language learning should be relevant for children. You can make their language acquisition relevant by engaging them in fun, interactive activities and giving them the opportunity to practice their “new” words and expressions during different times of the year and in varied environments. You should also provide them with historical background and a framework to help them remember their “new” words more easily.

Columbus Day

Columbus Day Parade

One way to go about this undertaking is to keep your finger on the pulse of annual cultural events that take place around certain holidays or during certain seasons. Although my children do not speak Italian, continuous exposure to one of their heritage countries’ customs is high on our list of priorities. Accordingly, whenever we have an opportunity to attend an Italian cultural event, we do. We have marched in the NYC Columbus Day Parade on 5th Avenue, attended  language lessons at our public library co-hosted by CampItlalia and New York Italians (See Fun Events that Complement Language Learning) and participated in UNICO’s Italian Heritage Summer Picnic. These types of events are great venues for children to learn about history and geography; language and customs; and foods and desserts.

Fun and friendly children's competitions at UNICO picnic

Fun and friendly children’s competitions at UNICO picnic


Kids learning Italian in a fun CampItalia lesson at the public library! Photo courtesy of CampItalia









Carnevale in Italy

This year, I also attended a “Carnevale” event hosted by Long Island Italians, a chapter of New York Italians. This non-profit organization kicked off the Easter season with a social and informative event. Although the event was too late in the evening for my children to attend, I shared with them what I observed and learned that night and spoke to them about the history of Carnevale.  They were intrigued, more so, because of the timeliness of the “lesson”. Some of the tidbits they enjoyed hearing about:

Carnavale Masks

Carnevale Masks. Photo courtesy of Long Island Italians

  • Origin of the Word – Carnevale comes from the Italian “carne’ (meat) + ‘levare’ (to remove or take away).
  • Carnevale was first celebrated in the 12th century in the northern city of Italy called Venezia.
  • The entire city becomes a stage and residents, visitors, actors, acrobats, and musicians wear elaborate masks and elegant costumes.
  • Carnevale was especially fun because the masks allowed all people to be equal: a poor peasant could be mistaken for royalty when faces are covered by masks.

Easter in Italy

In Italy, on Palm Sunday, one week before Easter Sunday, many children create gifts for family and friends made from the palms brought home from Palm Sunday services. Italian children, like children in America, also dye Easter eggs. They make their own natural dye from red onion skins. Rather than placing the eggs in baskets, they are placed in or on bread braids to add color to the Easter desserts. Some of the dyed eggs come out after the Easter meal for children to play games with.

Children in Italy are not familiar with the Easter bunny, as the concept of the Easter Bunny that American children know was actually brought to the United States by the Germans in the 1700’s. Italian children, like their American counterparts, also receive elaborate chocolate Easter eggs with treats inside as gifts from their parents and family members.

If your children are studying Italian, are of Italian heritage, or just want to learn more about Italy and its culture, seek out these types of free and fun events in or near your community.  Below are some places you could begin:

  • CampItlalia continues to host additional free library events in neighboring communities in Long Island, NY  and is partnering with other Italian organizations in the Northeast Region to promote the Italian language and culture. CampItalia also offers an enriching, lively, well-rounded Italian summer camp program. Children practice speaking Italian and learn about aspects of Italian life, traditions, music, and history. This program is structured according to age groups and is ideal for children between the ages of 4 and 12. Click here for program details.
  • UNICO has 20 active chapters across the United States, and
  • New York Italians is branching out and developing chapters across the United States, too!

Buona Pasqua a tutti!!


Global Children Learn about the German Influence in the USA

German American Heritage Museum of the USA

The German American Heritage Museum of the USA, located in Washington D.C., celebrated their 5th year anniversary on Saturday, March 21st. I recently discovered this museum, and if your children are German speakers or German students, and of course if your heritage is German or you are raising world citizens you will likely make this museum a stop on your itinerary the next time you visit D.C. 1000px-Flag_of_Germany.svg

During the festivities on Saturday, children were entertained with live music, fun and games and snacks. Adults participated in events such as viewing the museum’s documentary, “100 Years of Hollywood” that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the opening of Universal Studios in Hollywood by German-American, Carl Laemmle. Click this link for a sampling of the schedule of events on March 21st

Fun Ways to Teach Children the German Language and Culture 

Although the German influence in the United States is not as prevalent, as let’s say the Irish and the Italian, it is quite easy and fun to highlight German themes to our budding world citizens. Fun, child-friendly, family events such as last weekend’s Märchen-Festival at NYC’s Galli Theater is another example of how children can participate in activities such as face painting, enchanted crafts and a “Mini-Theaterkurs” and learn about the German language and culture in a an authentic learning environment.

Other fun ways to teach global children about Germany include:

1. Telling your children fun trivia stories.  I told my boys, early on, when they started wearing Adidas and Puma athletic wear, the story behind the German-born, innovative brothers Adi and Rudy Dasler. Adi named his company ADIDAS after his own nickname and last name (Adi Das). His brother, Rudolf, named his company RUDA, after his own name and last name (Ru Da) before changing it to PUMA. Also interesting, is that  “puma” is the word for cougar in German, as well as other languages, such as Spanish, French, Russian, Romania, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Czech, Swedish, Bulgarian, Danish, Norwegian, Serbian and Slovene. (according to Wikipedia)

2. Talking about German cars as you drive on the highway and the origin or meaning of the company names. German sports cars such as Porsche (a character on the Disney-PIXAR’s movie “Cars”) and German Formula-1 race drivers will always capture a boy’s attention.

3. If your child is familiar with classical music via the Disney Baby Einstein and Little Einstein series, or just because classical music is appreciated  at home, then they will enjoy discovering that Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and many others were German.

Kaffe und Kuchen

Kaffe und Kuchen – Lecker!!

4. Enjoying “Kaffe und Kuchen” with good friends and their children. This ritual also referred to as  Kaffeeklatsch is still quite common in Germany on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Our very gracious, German-American friend likes to explain to her own children and guests the names of the German cakes and cookies she serves as well as play engaging word games and guessing games with the kids at the table for an authentic German experience.

5. Finding and highlighting some English words and expressions that are German or akin to German. (i.e. hound, rectangle, Gesundheit, kaput, Wiener, hamburger, and Fußball). Children find these relationships between words and languages “funny” which will help them remember vocabulary words and roots more easily.


Always remember to keep your language endeavor fun. What do you and your family do to keep your language plan fun?  



National Women’s History Month – Maria Montessori and Language Learning

March is National Women’s History month. Before the month of March is behind us, I would like to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of a woman I only became familiar with shortly after I had my first child.  She is the Italian physician, Maria Montessori. She was the first woman to graduate in medicine from the University of Rome. I would like to acknowledge not only her achievements but, also the challenges she faced in the field of medicine and education. As a result of her passion and perseverance, she has helped shape the world with her contributions to education and made a significant impact on childhood experiences. Her theories have directly impacted my children’s multilingual development as well as my perspective on language learning.

This year’s theme “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives” presents the opportunity to weave Maria Montessori’s story of her achievements and challenges into what so many of us consider significant in our children’s lives: the ability to become bilingual and/or multilingual.


How I Discovered Maria Montessori 

A book titled: BASIC MONTESSORI- Learning Activities for Under-Fives, by author David Gettman, caught my eye after I had my first child. It seemed pertinent and practical as well educational since I had heard of the Montessori method but had never taken the time to learn about it.  I bought it, and although the book does not directly address the acquisition of a second language, it proved to be an invaluable tool for me in raising my boys multilingual. This book explains Montessori’s theories regarding language acquisition and learning as well as her revolutionary ideas about early intellectual development. Before I knew it, I found myself applying Montessori’s theories and ideas to the acquisition of a second language. I got most of my ideas, tools and tips from this book. Maria Montessori became my family language coach by default!

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori lived from 1870-1952. Although women in Italy were granted very few educational opportunities during her life-time, Montessori was given special opportunities because of her proven intellect.  She was permitted to attend an all-boy technical school which ignited her interest in pursuing a career in engineering. When she encountered obstacles in such pursuit, she settled for becoming a doctor instead. During her first year in medical school, she was shunned for being a woman. When her colleagues discovered her brilliance and insight, she became a welcome addition to the student body. After graduating, she practiced surgical medicine for 10 years, she helped other women through their higher education challenges, and campaigned for equal rights for all women. She studied psychology and began working with young children in mental institutions. She ultimately turned her thoughts and efforts to the education of the ordinary child. After 2 decades of working with young children, she developed her theories.

She encountered additional challenges in the field of education when “at the zenith of her public acclaim, in the United States of America, Montessori’s theories and method of education rather suddenly fell out of favour among some leading professors of education [in the USA] as well as elsewhere in the English-speaking world.” Shortly after her death,  however, there was a resurgence of popularity of Montessori schools in the USA, that continues to date.

Maria Montessori’s Theories

Very early in chapter 1, the author emphasizes that the most basic principle in Montessori’s theory of education is that the learning capacity of a young child is fundamentally different from that of an adult. To demonstrate this difference, Montessori used as an example, a learning task attempted by both adults and young children – learning to speak a new language. This is not news to any of us, but as soon a I read this passage,  I began reading the text in a different light.

My spin on Montessori’s theory was: if a young child effortlessly learns his first language so perfectly by living in and absorbing the surrounding cultural environment, then the same must apply with respect to the acquisition of a second or third language. I chose to follow Montessori’s recommendations with respect to materials, practical activities and environment and never looked back.  I purchased the recommended materials outlined in the book for the appropriate age and developmental stage of my children and presented the activities in the first target language (Spanish). Later, when we participated in the Au Pair Program, the au pairs did the same, but in the second target language (German). The Montessori activities intrigued and engaged my boys and since we carried them out in target languages, they effortlessly acquired their language skills in their second and third language very early on. My take on Montessori’s theory proved to be successful for us!!

Highlights from the Book

Some of the take-aways from this book that became part of my family’s language plan are listed below. As you will note, I have mentioned these points in my previous posts: Tips and Top 10 Tools Part 1 and Part 2 and have already provided my readers with examples of some non-Montessori tools that I used to involve the senses, incorporate music, and make language connections.

  • Learning occurs physically, mentally and sensorially
  • The contribution of music to mental growth is as crucial as that of oxygen to the brain
  • Learning is essentially connecting; children learn concepts from working with materials

In upcoming posts, I will share my kids’  favorite Montessori toys and how we utilized them. Stay tuned for My Montessori Favorites!


Have you used Montessori materials to teach your children a second or third language? What was your experience? 


All of the information about Maria Montessori I outlined in the blog post above is from Desmond Swan’s excellently written Foreword and from Chapter 1 of David Gettman’s book titled: BASIC MONTESSORI  – Learning Activities for Under-Fives.