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

10447038_554286741350706_1070844807270731272_n

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!!

 

Advertisements

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?  

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day Parade – A Family Tradition full of All Things Irish

Our family lived in NYC for several years before we moved right outside the city limits, but we still go to NYC parades that celebrate our heritage such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The Kilt

This type of event is always a great segue into conversation about history, geography and immigration as well as the arts, food, world cultures and languages.

Sometimes children need to be reminded that they are not the only ones who are learning to speak and/or speaking a second language. When they come to events like these, their eyes are opened and they see that so many other children celebrate their family’s culture and language, too. Children also typically go out to eat a traditional Irish dinner after the parade with their clan. Nowadays, you could find a little more than fish & chips and corned beef and cabbage on certain Irish menus. There is such thing as Irish cuisine! The language and cuisine of Ireland are not always in the spotlight, so what better time to bring it up?

The Irish Language:

Granted, I have never met an Irish-American family that speaks Irish to their children at home, but I do personally know parents who take the time to teach their children about the Irish language, sometimes referred to as Gaelic, and to teach them certain words and expressions along with some history.

Although Irish is not formally included in our family’s language plan, we do read Irish tales and myths at home with our boys.  We listen to Irish programs on the radio in the car from time to time. We also listen to children’s Irish audio books which do a grand job of exposing our sons to the correct pronunciation of certain Irish words and names such as Oisín (ush-een), Niamh (nee-uv), Cahir (care) and Aoife (ee-fuh). I had to look up the phonetic pronunciation to include in this blog post, but if my boys were home right now they would have been able to recite those names and pronounce them correctly without flinching. I attribute this skill of theirs to their exposure to world languages and speaking at least one other language from a very early age.

Irish Cuisine:

Did you know that Kinsale, a town in County Cork, Ireland, is the culinary capital of Ireland? Kinsale has some of the best seafood in the country and hosts an annual Gourmet Festival which attracts people from all corners of the globe. Irish cuisine has come a long way and Irish chefs have come to the States to participate in culinary exchanges. They have introduced some of their new Irish gourmet dishes such as poached paupiettes of lemon sole and fresh trout and poached darne of sea-fresh brill. If your children enjoy seafood, fine Irish cuisine could be a great addition to your dining repertoire.

The NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade abounds with entertaining, child-friendly, Irish stimulation. Bagpipes, Irish Step-Dancing, Irish Fashion: Irish Wool Sweaters and Caps, and of course Shamrocks, Gold Coins and Bright-colored Emerald Beads to add to the festive environment.

What a brilliant way to sprinkle children with a little bit of culture, cuisine and history!!!

25169_1359498556550_3341258_n

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Spontaneous French Lesson About Crêpes!

A quick trip to France for breakfast!

A quick trip to France for breakfast!

Although I had my first crêpe in Argentina followed by crêpes in France and Quebec, my children were first introduced to authentic French crêpes at the age of 2 and 4 in the luxury of their own home.

In order to complement my children’s acquisition of world languages and expose them to other cultures and customs, my family  has  welcomed several au pairs into our home for one-year stints. Our French au pair, Clara, proudly made crêpes for our family shortly after her arrival and voilà, our boys were hooked! After her time with us was over,  my sons continued their French lessons, but crêpes were sadly, no longer featured on our menu at home as neither my husband nor I mastered the “art.” Our subsequent au pairs were from Japan and Spain (more about the language experience with them in later posts).

We recently, and by default, re-ignited our passion for crêpes when my 6-year old son and I were making breakfast on a Sunday morning. He was pouring pancake batter onto the hot griddle when he announced that he wanted to have “one huge pancake”.  As we watched his creation take on the shape of what reminded me of a crêpe, I seized the moment and added “what you’ve made looks very much like what the French call a crêpe.” His eyes lit up as he started to feel that he wasn’t just making plain ol’ pancakes for breakfast any longer; he was making something with a little more flair!  He was still 2 years old when he stopped regularly enjoying authentic French crêpes, and I quickly realized his memory needed jogging.  To that end, a conversation about crêpes, France and Quebec ensued. We naturally transitioned into a simple French dialog about foods, colors and textures, and we “wrapped up” with selecting a local French crêperie we could all go to as a family very soon.  We injected a little French into our day by engaging in a spontaneous and relaxing conversation revolving around what started out as pancakes.

Moments like these are ideal for naturally engaging your child and reinforcing vocabulary learned in the target language. Have you had opportunities such as this to broaden your child’s horizons and help him realize that learning a world language is more than merely learning to speak it? Learning a world language is also learning about tasting, smelling and hearing the flavors, aromas and sounds of another culture. This spin on languages keeps the learning fun and exciting for children.  

Bon appétit!