Monday, July 30, 2012

Reason to Attend Spanish Camp #10

Spanish camp is finally here!!!  Here is a look back at all of the reasons Spanish Camp is going to be awesome, plus one more.
#1--Language Learning is Fun and Good For You
#2--Making Friends
#3--Cultural Competency
#4--Learning Awesome Songs
#5--Bilingualism Linked to Brain Health
#6--You Get to Meet My Friend Pin-Pon!!
#7--You Can Use Spanish As A Secret Language
#8--You Can Help Others
#9--You Can Impress Your Relatives

and finally, Reason #10. . .
Job Security
One thing my Spanish camp attendees are probably not concerned with is getting a job.  For one, it is summer, and for two, they are too young!  But how awesome is it that their parents are helping them invest in their future by giving them the opportunity to learn a second language.  Knowing a second language--especially Spanish for this country--will give job seekers an advantage in the job market.  In a globalizing economy and world, speaking more than one language makes you a great resource for companies--you will be able to interact with a broader scope of businesses, you will be able to travel for your job if necessary, you will be the international representative for your company.  Right now, you kiddos just have fun being a kid, and have fun learning Spanish.  And parents, kudos to you for recognizing the huge opportunity you can offer your kiddos for the future by encouraging them to learn a new language!!  Here's to Spanish Camp 2012!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Reason to Attend Spanish Camp #9

You Can Impress Your Relatives At Your Next Family Reunion

We'll make our family trees on Friday, so you can impress all of your relatives at the next family reunion by telling them about your family tree IN SPANISH!!

Practice these family names for next week!

prima--(girl) cousin
primo--(boy) cousin

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reason to Attend Spanish Camp #8

You Can Help Others
One of the things I love best about knowing the Spanish language is that it allows me to help other people.  I used to work as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking families at a local Early Childhood Center.  Sometimes the Spanish-speaking children would get hurt or sick and did not know how to talk about it in English, and I was able to help them.  Other times teachers needed to make phone calls about important things but could not speak Spanish, so it was my job to make phone calls and help the teachers and parents communicate.  Every once-in-a-while a new family would come into the office hoping to enroll their children in our school so that they could learn English.  It gave me the best feeling when I came up to the front desk, introduced myself in Spanish and asked how I could help, and then a smile would come over there face followed by a sigh of relief and then lots of questions and conversation. I remember that feeling when I traveled abroad when I found someone who spoke English in my times of need or crisis.  Being in a foreign place, in an unfamiliar situation, if you find someone who speaks your native language, it is like being home.  I love knowing Spanish and being able to use it to make other people feel at home--even if they are far from it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Picados de España (September 11, 2006)

Six years ago this fall I left my home in Kansas City to live abroad in Madrid, Spain for a semester.  I thought it would be fun to resurrect my blog from my time there to peek back into my observations of the culture and life in Spain.  I have grown and changed and matured a lot since then.  Then I had just turned twenty-two; I was in my senior year of college at William Jewel; I was living at home with my parents on their sixty acres in a log house; and I transplanted myslef to the capital city in Spain.  That semester I was a girl trying to find her way in a big city, and trying to find her way in life.  I hope you enjoy re-living those adventures with me and getting a glimpse into the way of the Madrileños.  Here is my first blog entry that I made--six years ago to this date.

**Disclosure: I have edited a few things to make these enries appropriate for all ages; however, I tried to keep everything as close to the original as possible so as not to lose that first-impression-of-a-college-girl-abroad-far-from-home feel.  So please do not hold me to every opinion as I have changed a lot since then.**    

Monday, September 11, 2006
Picados de España

1. In Spain, nobody tips when they go out, therefore the waiters/waitress don't have to work for a tip, therefore they can be as rude or as pleasant as they like. It's been about 50/50 for me. One day I was eating in a cafe with Odalis my roomate. Odalis ordered, and as I was about to order, the waitress just walked away. Yesterday, we were at a chocolateria, and as I was ordering--like actually speaking, our waitress walked off. Nice huh?

2. Spainiards don't eat breakfast. A normal breakfast for them is a glass of warm milk. And maybe a piece of toast. I'm starving by eleven o'clock. But at school, we have a break about then--because everyone is starving because they don't eat breakfast!! (to me it makes more sense to eat a heartier breakfast so that you don't have to pay for more food later!)--so for instance today I got a little bocadillo (sandwich) in the cafe at IES. And when I say little, I mean little. It was (cuesta) 80 centavos. Not too bad. But then I had to eat lunch later! They eat lunch here around 2 or 3pm. That is their biggest meal of the day. Then at night they go bar hopping hanging out with friends relaxing and eating tapas. Tapas are various foods in small portions that go well with vino or cerveza (wine or beer).

3. Spaniards are very formal. They have a very set way of doing things. For instance: in the house, they don't walk around barefoot. They have house shoes and a house outfit. My host mom wears a knit dress as she cleans or watches tv or cooks, etc. My host brother has this pair of plaid shorts (like the ones that are popular in the US now) and a t-shirt. He wears slippers too! Then they get dressed to leave the house--like nicely dressed--slacks, button-up shirt, dress, heels, perfume/cologne, etc. I feel very frumpy around the city! I just don't think I can walk around in heels! Although, the university students, whom you can spot are a little more casual--a mix of punk, emo, preppy--I can't explain it. Kinda of like Urban Outfitters style . . . yeah, that's it! They even have a system for when they go out as a group. One person is selected to collect money from each person, they are called la encargada (the one in charge). Then they pay at the end and re-distribute the money.

4. Madrid is not like cities in the US where kids are rarely to be seen. Neighborhoods are not really distinguished from a downtown area. There are many central spots that have developed for whatever reason (e.g. the Palace is there, the Parque del Retiro is there, or Puerta del Sol for example is the middle of town, etc.). Family seems to be very important here and kids are a large part of what goes on. It is so amazing to hear a little kid speaking better Spanish than me. But there is a very lax feel with the kids; parents do not restrict their kids from running off or playing far away from them even though they are in a busy neighborhood in the city. For example, Odalis and I saw a woman the other day pushing her baby daughter in a stroller. She was a beeeUtiful baby! The woman stepped into a panaderia (bakery) and left the stroller outside--with the baby in it!!! And she was like IN the store. Loco!!!

5. Spainiards stay up late!!! Restaurants don't open until 9pm or so. Street cafes, are always full--tables on the sidewalks have people sitting, eating, drinking, all the time. Odalis and I went for some cafe con leche the other night, and we sat there and talked with tons of people around until 1! We didn't even realize it was so late because, there was still tons of people going here and there. If people are going out, to a discoteca, the don't leave until like 1 or 2 am!! The discotecas usually stay open until 5 or 6 in the morning, when the Metro starts running again. It's hard to keep up with the Spainiards! Especially on their slim diet! I guess they take it slow in the mornings, with less food, then pump it up in the late afternoon until evening to keep going. Somewhat opposite of what I'm used to. For example, the mornings (when I say morning I mean like 9-10 not 7-8 like in the US) are very quiet with not many people around, but the afternoon (2-5) and nights--whew! People everywhere!!

6. Not many people are friendly here. They are cordial, yes. But not extremely loving or helpful. I think some are more open to foreigners than others. Some though, have a radar for the stench of new people and won't give you a second thought. If you open your mouth to let out that Spanish with an English accent--well, all I have to say is, enter that area at your own risk.

It Reminds Me of the Time I Watched "Heidi" With Laurie and Cried the Whole Time (September 17, 2006)

Want to know what I was thinking six years ago to this day and where I was?  Yes?  Then keep reading...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

It reminds me of the time I watched "Heidi" with Laurie and cried the whole time . . .

9. Bocadillos. If I never eat another bocadillos when I get back to the states, it will be too soon. First, let me explain what a bocadillo is--it's a sandwich. What's so wrong with that you might ask? Well, let me tell you. Everyday for lunch, that's what I eat. It's a staple of the Spaniard's diet. Bread for breakfast; bread for lunch; bread for dinner. Today, on the way home from Asturias, we stopped to get lunch. What were the options? Bocadillos. Don't get me wrong. They taste fine. They're just white bread, hard bread, just bread! You can get a bocadillo with queso (cheese), jamon (ham, that's cured, not cooked or whatever, like the ham we eat on sandwiches [by we I mean american]), chorizo (sausage), or tortilla (the eggy-potato thing. Yes, that's right, potatoes on bread--can you say starches-that-constipate-you-galore? Actually, for all the walking they do around here, starches don't stay around long enough to be turned into fat for energy storage). And do you want to know how much this cute little bocadillo (don't let the name fool you, they're not that cute) cost me? 3 stinking euros. That's right folks, a piece of cheese between to hard pieces of white bread cost me about five dollars. Give me some rice and beans please!! Or a salad (with GREEN leaves). Or even a cheeseburger (not from McDonald's or Burger King--I haven't gotten that desperate yet)!! But I mean, hey, I was prepared for this. I knew before coming here--since Cottey was so kind as to bring us here for a week--that the Spanish don't really know how to cook.

On a lighter--and more tasty note--my trip to Asturias was great. We left really early from IES, and stopped a couple hours later for breakfast at a hotel restaurant. It was reeeeaallly good. It was a buffet, with tortilla de Espana, meats, eggs, yogurt, fruit, bread (of course), and cafe con leche (the best!!). Then we drove to Leon, where we took a tour of the Cathedral there--Carmen was my tour guide again (she's great)--and walked around the town. It was a small town, which was a nice break from the crazy city of Madrid. We ate lunch there in the sidewalk cafes, then got back on the bus and headed toward Posada de Valdeon. Let me explain a little. Spain is made up of lots of different autonomous communities like states. Castilla y Leon is one of them. Posada de Valdeon is a town in the National Forest of Spain which is between Leon and Asturias. We stayed at a cute little hostal in the mountains of the National Forest. They call the mountains "Picos de Europa." The hostal had A-mazing food! There was a creamy vegetable soup with--yes--bread, then some macaroni thing with clams and mushrooms, then a salad, then chicken and french fries, then desert. The soup was the best part--one of those soups that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like a hug to your stomach or something.

Anyways, the next morning we went for a hike through the mountains which was actually more like a walk down the road. It was SOO beautiful, I can't even begin to explain. But the sky was so clear, with perfect picturesque clouds. At the end was a little pueblo and then a taxi ride--more like a ride of death, skidding ever-so-close to the edge of the road that gives way to cliffs all the while Marc Anthony blasting from the radio (okay, so not Marc Anthony, but you get the idea--some pop music in Spanish)--to the top, where the bus was waiting for us to take us to our next destination. (By the way, if you navigated your way through that sentence, you are a pro.)

From Posada de Valdeon, we went to Asturias. Where there is ocean!! I believe it's the Bay of Biscay, but I could be mistaken. We checked into the hotel, then headed towards the beach. It was a small little beach with just a few people. We set up camp and pretty much just relaxed. I ate the rest of my--you guessed it--bocadillo from lunch, then laid there, then sat there, then laid, then walked to the water, then laid and sat some more. The boys played frisbee games and such, and some people were brave enough to actually swim. Later that night we wandered through the streets a while, until dinner. Llanes--the town--is a cute little fishing town that was actually built in like the middle ages. We went to the oldest part of the town, and by the architecture, it really felt like I had taken a step back in time. That night, there was a Potato Festival going on. The town has it every year, and the main even is a dance of partners who have to dance with a potato pressed between their foreheads. And they can't just move, they have to dance to the music, to the beat.  It was great to get a taste of the local culture. The music was an interesting mix of Latino music and Polka. Not my favorite, but . . . So, we stayed around and danced for a while, then went to bed. Our hotel provided a nice Spanish breakfast in the morning, then we left for a 7-hour bus ride home.

Elephants In the Street (September 13, 2006)

Here is another throwback post from my blogging abroad.  Enjoy!
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Elephants in the Street

Spanish culture is saturated with a history of royalty and in a sense all Spaniards hold themselves with an air of being part of that rich legacy. Just as well, Spain is a very colorful culture. People dress in vibrant, showy clothing not lacking in any hue. It is completely normal to see women tossing air about with abanicos (hand-painted fans, like the Chinese kind, but Spanish). The heat seems to boil the Spaniards and accentuates their colors. They are not afraid to express themselves--whether it is with clothing, hand motions, hairstyles, or boisterous voices. They take life seriously but as something that really must be lived with great expression and precision. Spaniards like to taste, smell, see, hear, and feel life to the fullest extent--like grapes are squeezed and fermented to get the strongest, fullest flavor--that is how Spaniards live. And I have a feeling that if I stick to it they will be more than willing to add me to their tapestry of color--as long as they know I'm serious about it. None of this standing on the sidelines stuff.
I have more to add to my list of observations . . . (am I on 7??)

7. It's been an adjustment living in an apartment. It's very confining feeling not being able to take one step out of the door to the outdoors. My room here is dark like the one at home, but they're into enerygy saving, so I only have one little lamp on my desk. We do have a flourescent light, but you know how I feel about flourescent versus incandescent light! We have a window, but it faces other apartments, where everyone hangs their laundry, so the sunlight is indirect sunlight that filters in from the top of the building. If I really wanted to, I could lean out of my window and hold hands with my neighbor, or ask them for a plate of food. Not a bad idea actually . . . they are always cooking something that smells pretty good.

8. Speaking of energy saving, Spaniards are very concerned about saving water. They actually are in a drought, and the water reserve is down by 40%. So they are serious about not using too much water. I have to turn on the shower to get wet fastly, then shut it off to suds up. Same with brushing teeth, washing hands. Basically, you better not be running water unless it is in a glass to drink it. Yesterday, Odalis and I were exploring the Old Madrid, where the palace is. Somebody was watering flowers on their balcony, but they forgot the hose was on, or poured too much water and it was leaking out of the planters, down three floors and watering the sidewalk. You should have seen what a spectacle it was!! People were coming out on their balconies, peeking their heads out from the shops, stopping on the street, yelling at them to quit wasting water. It was probably the equivalent of an elephant wandering around the streets by itself--that's how much it stirred up the neighborhood.

Reason to Attend Spanish Camp #7

You Can Use Spanish As A Secret Language
Everyone has a different reasons for wanting to learn a foreign language.  Some people learn Spanish so they can use it at work--like nurses, doctors and teachers.  Some people learn Spanish so that they can speak the language of the Spanish-speaking countries they travel to.  Some people learn Spanish so they can teach their children.  Others have friends that speak the language, and so they want to learn it too.  As a teach of Spanish I have heard many different reasons why people take my classes.  One of my favorite reasons I have heard so far was from a young student who said she and her sister wanted to learn Spanish so that they could have a secret language they could speak at home that their parents did not know.

If you were to learn Spanish what would you use it for?  Where would you use it, or with whom?  If you already speak Spanish where do you get to practice using it on a regular basis?  Do you have a story to share about a time that you got to use your Spanish-speaking skills to help someone?  Please share! And don't forget to sign up for Spanish Camp coming July 30-August 3!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reason to Attend Spanish Camp #6

You Get to Meet My Friend Pin-Pon!!

He is going to teach us how to say our body parts in Spanish, how to sing Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes in Spanish, and we will play Pin-Pon Dice (it is like Simon Says) with him.  Say, "Nos vemos el 30 de julio, Pin-Pon!"  (That means, "See you July 30, Pin-Pon!")

Here is a list of vocab if you want to start practicing your Spanish body parts now . . .


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Reason to Attend Spanish Camp #5

Bilingualism Linked to Brain Health
Did you know that "students who have studied a foreign language perform much better than their monolingual peers on many standardized tests, including all sections of the SAT"?  Read more here.

Studies have also shown that bilingualism can improve "cognitive reserve" abilities in the brain, which is "believed to slow the onset of symptoms in those suffering from dementia."  Read more here.

Also, bilingual people are better at multi-tasking.  Compared to monolinguals, they are "stronger at prioritizing tasks and handling multiple projects at once."  Read more here.

But besides all that, learning a new language is fun!  Here is a sneak peak at some fun books we will be reading at Spanish Summer Camp!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reason to Attend Spanish Camp #4

Learning Awesome Songs

Of course you can watch YouTube videos at home...and I hope these are among the ones you watch!  But we will be watching these, and others, at Spanish camp and using them to learn and practice new vocabulary, phrases and pronunciation.  Here's a sneak peak at a few of the videos we will use to learn Spanish at Spanish Summer Camp--do not miss out on the fun!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Reason to Attend Spanish Camp #3

Cultural Competency
If you had asked me in my younger years to tell you about my culture, I would have said I did not have one.  I always looked to other cultures and envied them for their cool traditions, yummy foods, and ethnic variety; I looked to my own culture and life as boring, plain, unexciting.  However, after traveling abroad in my older years I began to realize what a rich and delightful heritage and culture I have.  Sometimes we do not understand or appreciate what we have until life enables us to compare it to an alternative.  After studying abroad for a couple of months in Spain I began to see what I loved about home, family and life in the United States of America--that is not to say that I did not also appreciate and enjoy the culture I was experiencing in Spain, it is just to say that "absence makes the heart grow fonder." 
Learning a new language develops Cultural Competency in two ways.  First, children learning a foreign language have opened to them the culture from which that language comes.  When you learn Spanish, you then have the opportunity to engage with people from Spanish-speaking cultures, listen to Spanish-language music, read literature in Spanish, travel to Spanish-speaking countries, or attend plays, concerts, or movies in Spanish.  Learning a foreign language gives you an inside perspective to that culture, which in turn leads to a better understanding of people from that culture, which leads to more respectful and beneficial relationships.  In other words, you can be a better neighbor.  Secondly, learning a foreign language and engaging in new cultures deepens the respect and understanding you have for your own culture.  Any child development experts will tell you, a healthy understanding of family heritage and culture means a healthy child.  Encourage your children to learn a foreign language even if it is only a few phrases--it will enable them to be a friend to someone who does not speak English as his or her first language, and it will engage their curiosity of their own language and heritage and give them a better understanding of (and love for) who they are.  See below for some great resources on encouraging cultural diversity and unerstanding.

Where are you from?  What do you love about your culture and the language you speak?  Do you speak a second language, or have you traveled to a foreign country?  What have you learned from those experiences?  What is something you enjoy about a particular culture that is different from your own?

Our family found a great online resource at in the Arthur section.  It is called Arthur's World Neighborhood: Building Global and Cultural Awareness.  You can download the PDF guide full of activities and lessons to help expand the horizons of your child's cultural landscape. 

Here is a link to a list of articles on the topic of cultural diversity and kids from  I found the one entitled Cultural Competency for Kids to be helpful.  Let me know which ones you found to be helpful.  In what ways does your family already practice cultural diversity?  I would love for you to comment below with any ideas you have for exploring different cultures and languages!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Reason to Attend Spanish Camp #2

Making Friends

In the same way that learning a foreign language makes new pathways in your brain for more knowledge (Reason Number One), it also opens up new pathways in your life for friendship. 

Meet Jose and Teresa.  They run a pensión out of their house in Cuzco, Peru.  The summer that I taught English in Cuzco, Peru, Jose and Teresa hosted my friend Lauren and I for the month.  Teresa, like a little queen bee, busied herself around the house cleaning, cooking, conversing and warming the house with her presence and welcoming spirit.  She was full of opinions, stories, questions, advice and wisdom.  Every morning we woke to a beautiful breakfast table that she had set--fresh fruit, juice, pan tostada, and of course, cafe. 

Jose kept just as busy, but with less to-do and less words.  Always with a smile on his face, he tended the plants on the patio, made sure our room always had everything we needed, drove us where we needed to go, helped us plan sight-seeing trips, and constantly made sure we stayed safe. 
The two made a perfect pair--like tortoise and hare, Bert and Ernie, peanute butter and jelly.  They wasted no time welcoming us into their home and their life, like we were their very own grandchildren.  On a buffet table in their dining room sat a collection of frames with pictures of past students and volunteers that had stayed in their home.  Teresa could pick up each frame and tell a story about the people in the picture with the warmth and pride of a grandma telling of her grandchild's life and accomplishments--yet they had only stayed with her and Jose for a month or maybe a summer at most and had been gone for years. 

Being a student of their language enabled me to converse with Jose and Teresa, get to know them, and become a part of their daily life in a way that I would not have been able to if I only spoke English, for Jose and Teresa only spoke Spanish fluently. 

I am forever indebted to Dr. Brown at Cottey College, for telling his own stories of travel and adventure that inspired me to be committed to learning a new language.  Because of this inspiration I was able to meet new friends like Jose and Teresa, and all the children and teachers at the school Khipu where I volunteered teaching English that summer.  Speaking Spanish allowed me to learn about these people and their lives, to interact with them, learn from them--engaging with them in their language taught me about their lives and culture in a way that deepened my understanding of myself and the world around me, an experience I cannot fully explain and one I hope you get to have for yourself.
Some of the awesome and energetic children we taught
English to at Khipu.

Fani, the English teacher for the High School students.  She
was so sweet and quiet, a constrast from the students she taught,
yet she never had trouble getting them to quiet down and learn.

Cecilia, out host in Lima, Peru while we were going through
out voluneer orientation and training.  She introduced us to the
city lifestyle of Peru, a little bit different from the small town
rythym of Cuzco.
Manuel, a taxi driver that also served as our tour guide while we
were in Lima.  He had a dangerous job, as Lima is a big city with crime.
When we stopped back through Lima on our way back to the states,
we found that Manuel had been robbed while working, yet he
was still driving his taxi, still smiling.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Reason to Attend Spanish Camp #1

I love teaching children, and I love Spanish.  Naturally then, putting the two together for an entire week makes me want to explode with anticipation.  Let me share that anticipation for Spanish Summer Camp with you by having a countdown: Top Ten Reasons to Attend Spanish Camp for Kids!

Language Learning is Fun and Good For You
Kids live for fun.  I know this first-hand from learning to raise a two-year-old; if I am having trouble getting my son to cooperate all I have to do is find a way to make the task at hand fun and he immediately responds in a positive way.  That is why kids make great learners--they seek adventure and discovery, which is exactly what learning is: an adventure of discovering new things.  They come by learning naturally: "Children understand intuitively that language is something to explore, to play around with, and to enjoy.  Their enthusiasm is both infectious and effective.  The quickness with which they pick up their first language is mearly miraculous--and such a joy to watch as a parent" (Top Ten Benefits of Early Language Learning,  I see this playfulness with language in both of my children.  My two-year-old loves to make silly rhymes and thinks it is so funny; my ten-month-old enjoys so much playing the game where he makes a sound and I repeat him or vice versa.

Kids also like learning because it gives them self-confidence and makes them feel good about themselves.  Anytime a child can try something new and feel successful at it, it boosts their overall confidence and self-esteem, positively affecting all aspects of their life.  According to the article mentioned above, "For children, the feeling of accomplishment that comes with their first steps toward a second language can spur them on to a deeper and broader passion or learning in general.  And because children are at a special 'window of opportunity' in which language learning is intuitive and natural, the ease and pleasure of the experience may boost their confidence and their desire for new discoveries."  Encouraging your children to learn a second language then, encourages them to learn in all areas of life, helping them to be healthier, happier, and well-rounded little citizens.

Not only is language learning healthy for children's self-esteem, but it is also keeps their brains healthy.  Our brains need to be challenged and used in order to grow: "Research into the effects of bilingualism on children suggests that exposure to more than one language is an excellent way of flexing those brain muscles . . . Bilingual children in one study reported in Nature showed a significantly larger density of 'grey matter' in their brains.  And those who had been exposed to a second language from an early age proved to have the most grey matter of all" (Top Ten Benefits,  Learning a foreign language broadens the learning capacity of our brains, excercising a larger part of it, expanding our language and language learning horizons.

To read more about benefits of children learning a foreign language, click here to read Top Ten Benefits of Early Language Learning in its entirety.