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 PBSKids.org 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 Education.com. 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!