La Loteria & Vocabulary Learning

I won the lottery. No seriously I did! Of course it was at the expense of my two girls 6 and 3.5, and my mother-in-law. Somehow the victory just wasn’t as sweet as I expected. And instead of money I got to eat a caramelo.

We’ve just come back from two months in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. This trip was two-fold. First we wanted to introduce the girls, now of an age where they will remember the trip,  to their grandmother. Secondly, we desperately needed to jump-start their Spanish.

Living in Thailand, it has been difficult to get them the exposure they need. Their father, the only fluent person in our house, works insanely long hours. My Spanish had been stalled at an advanced beginner level since forever. Without loads of spanish-speaking people around, or access to telenovelas, I found it hard to motivate to learn and get past that present tense barrier. And of course the distance and cost meant we haven’t been able to get back as often as we’d like.

This trip was the moment for Mama and las niñas to finally really immerse ourselves in Español! The first thing I figured out is that they learned vocabulary best by playing games and doing every day projects and crafts vs. ‘learning’ the language.

Our Abuelita, who was beyond excited to see her nietas, was well prepared with various games including La Loteria. The girls loved playing the game, except when I won. Maybe my happy in-your-face dance was a bit too much when I shouted “Tabla llena!”.

Of course some of the cards were a little questionable: El Borracho? Ok well technically that applies to my father so it could come in handy. El Negrito? Is it just me or is using a diminutive here -well racist?.  But fear not, I was able to find other Loteria games that focused on the alphabet, numbers, baby items, you name it!

Loteria sheet Borracho y Negrito

Another big win were the mini Tortilla Makers. One was the traditional square wood shape and the other the round metal one. Both made small delicious tortillas de maiz.

Tortilla makers wood and metal

Kids know when you are trying to teach them something. One of my girls initially refused to speak to her teachers in Spanish at the local kindergarten they attended. On the other hand, she happily chatted with Anna, the young woman who came to clean the house. The girls love to do chores and the only way to help Anna was to speak Spanish.

This applied to me too! Learning as I made my way around the city or learned to cook new dishes was way more effective than sitting down reviewing conjugations. And it goes without saying that little shot of tequila also did wonders for my fluency.

 

This blog post was written for the August edition of  Multicultural Kids Blogs Carnival hosted by Multilingual Parenting. A huge thanks to Rita for hosting this month’s Carnival.  Please check out the many other wonderful contributors.

Language Learning Barriers: This Month’s Multilingual Blogging Carnival!

blogcarnival gif

Summer time and living is easy… or is it the lovin? I am not sure, I can say that the bloggin’ definitely hasn’t been easy, in fact it’s been non-existent.

Why’s that you wonder? Well for starters, I have been the equivalent of a single mum in Mexico for two months. That’s right, so desperate am I to get my kids to speak Spanish –and to finally master it myself– the girls and I took an epic* trip from Thailand to Mexico.

Once again, I plonk many eggs in the travel/immersion basket. Spanish has been my trilingual family’s Achilles heal. And this trip was meant to be our orthopedic surgery.

I’ll leave the analogy for just a bit. This post is my favorite yearly post when I get to host the multilingual carnival. It’s a small one this month – too many Pims or micheladas in my case – may be keeping bloggers occupied. But as I tell my girls, quality not quantity and the handful of posts we have are stellar. So sit back, get your specs on and enjoy the wealth of language learning advice below!

This month’s multilingual blogging carnival was inspired by the steep pyramid-like hill that is my Spanish journey; I asked contributors to share their biggest multilingual challenge and how they resolved it.

pricken All Rights MultilingualParenting

First off, one of my favorite experts Rita Rosenbeck from Multilingual Parenting. She shares her novel approach to breaking down her five-year-old’s resistance to Rita’s attempts at switching languages.

 

Ute from Expats Since Birth sent in a wonderful 2 part-post on how sometimes we need to change our path when faced with linguistic barriers. It’s short and sweet and gives me hope. Part 1 & Part 2 of Which Language to Choose.

Next up we have Leanna from Frenglish Learning. Leanna has a kid who thinks too much on her hands. I remember hearing about these before I was a parent. I couldn’t help but think that would be a great problem to have. Never tempt fate! I too was blessed with a perfectionist over thinker and it is tough! So how do you help a child who doesn’t want to say a word or sentence unless it is perfect? Leanna shares some wonderful ideas here

I am so grateful Sarah from Bilingual Baby for sharing a post about her own language learning. It’s a real gem from her first experience abroad studying French for a year in France. This post had me laughing out loud.

Our final post isn’t about linguistic hurdle but more a top tip on how to minimize future hurdles. Galina from  Trilingual Children shares a post on the importance of speaking to your baby in the languages you want them to acquire. This isn’t to say kids can’t learn languages later but you have an incredible and helpful foundation if you’ve started from day one.

I’ve included it because it really supports the experience we had during this trip. So back to my Spanish Mountain…or steep pyramid. I am now sitting in a LAX airport hotel waiting for my delayed plane to take us back to Thailand and have a bit of time to reflect on our two months in Mexico.

Even though we knew the importance of early exposure, we didn’t manage to sustain it for both kids. J and I were really good about only speaking Spanish and French respectively with sweet P our first daughter. When Little C came along, we were living abroad and J was working much longer hours and French was spoken much less and Spanish nearly non-existent.

Both girls had similar apparent levels of Spanish when we arrived but P started speaking Spanish in a couple of days while C continued to resist, struggle to understand, and essentially revolt every time we dropped her off at school.

I’ll write a post with more details later, but I just wanted to share that even taking into account age and personalities that could affect language learning, it was clear the strong foundations Sweet P received as a baby were a huge advantage and catapulted her to a level of fluency far beyond her sister.

In any event, the trip was an incredible gift. Not only did it permit us deep immersion in a Spanish-speaking environment, it really allowed the girls to know, understand, and connect with their Mexican heritage and their Abuelita!

All Rights Reserved

All Rights Reserved

Thank you again for joining me on this summer time light Carnival. Please don’t forget to put it in your calendar and check out next month’s carnival hosted by Head of the Heard!

For more information on the carnival to host or subscribe please check out The Piri-Piri Lexicon’s carnival page.

*Unless you are Kiwi/Ozzi or from some far-fetched Pacifique isles, in which case my trip was just another day in the park.

That Night by Chevy Stevens: My Spoiler-Safe Review!

Book Cover That Night, by Chevy Stevens

I hate spoilers so much that I systematically stay clear of all fiction book reviews. I like going in totally blind and usually just rely on friend’s recommendations. Expectations are a pleasure killer.

So let me just say this: one chapter in, I couldn’t put the book down. Seriously. I was in Mexico and I was supposed to be looking after my kids. By chapter two, I knew a small sacrifice had to be made to ensure I could lay in bed reading all day. I did the unthinkable for a gringa and brushed my teeth with tap water. BINGO! Totally sanctioned bed rest for two days. Had I not been ill, I probably would have finished the book in a day.

That Night is about a young woman named Toni and her boyfriend Ryan who are locked away for 15-20 years for killing Toni’s sister. The book travels between the past and the present, retelling the story of her youth, along with her release from prison and what comes next after losing half her life for a crime she claims she hasn’t committed.

The writer captures the horrors of high school clicks so familiar for those of us who never really fit it. She also skillfully portrays the misunderstanding between the protagonist and her mother; how the mother can only see a young girl spinning out of control under the perceived bad influence of her  boyfriend. The daughter is frustrated of being seen as the black sheep vs. her angelic sister. As a former rebellious daughter and a mother of two little girls, my heart simultaneously ached for both mother and daughter.

I won’t say much more except that this is a thriller which is more than just a page turner. This book does tells a rich story with engaging and often infuriating characters. And it has an ending I am willing to bet you won’t guess!

I am relieved to be done with the Aztec two-step. It’s a dance I must partake in every time I come to Mexico. If you are coming here soon, I highly recommend you pack a copy of Chevy Steven’s That Night. It will make an otherwise difficult time fly by!

A huge thanks to Raincoast books for sending me a copy of  That Night to review. If you want to know more about the author, the book, and what other readers are saying, check out the #thatnight on twitter!