Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


How Visuals Can Support Students of Non Target Culture Heritage to Share Their Traditions

WITH THE DEARTH OF MATERIALS CONNECTING JEWISH, MUSLIM, AND OTHER HERITAGES IN SPANISH OR RUSSIAN, I have sometimes found it hard to incorporate traditions, celebrations and other perspectives of my students of these faiths without resorting to using English (as in, maintaining 90-100% in the TL is challenging). Over the past few years, I have been slowing trying to remedy this by creating illustrations and resources that bridge this gap. As I work towards broadening the horizons of my classes, a tweet by Rebecca Blouwolff in response to a request I made on Twitter helped me put into words what my heart was feeling but couldn't articulate well out loud... in asking her how to help me translate the foods on the Passover Seder plate, she mentioned that it was hard to find them in French, that "they are always referenced in Hebrew"...

Visuals for Sharing of Traditions like Passover in Target Language

THIS WAS THE KEY COMMENT I NEEDED, because of course this is true. Traditions, celebrations and the like have names in Hebrew, in Arabic, in Japanese, in Hindi, etc which are used even if the celebrant is not fully proficient in that language. And if a student was interested in sharing about a particular holiday or tradition, it would be natural for them to use that heritage language rather than the target language or even the common language of the group. HERE'S WHERE MY VISUALS COME IN.... my purpose in creating visuals in the target language for these traditions is to allow the sharer to connect the vocabulary of their heritage with the target language being taught in class, without having to resort to using the common class language (in many instances, English). After all, this is what visuals do-allow us to avoid translating to English (or class language) by representing the meaning we are trying to convey. However, for this purpose, I actually envision translation occurring BUT from the heritage language to the TL with the support of the visuals!

SO, FOR EXAMPLE, TAKE MY SEDER PLATE foods.... rather than a student sharing about the traditional foods eaten for Passover in English, he/she could use 'beitzah' in Hebrew and explain in the target language that this means 'huevo' or 'яйцо', and show the visual for a hard boiled egg-without having to say 'egg' in English. :))) (You can find this resource by clicking here!)

THE SECONDARY, AND AS IMPORTANT, purpose of the visuals I am creating is to provide representation, a presence, for ALL our students-even in the small town, close to rural, school I teach in has diversity of ethnicity, background, and heritage. Much like we say that our students should see themselves in the books we provide, too we need to have visuals and resources available for students so they see themselves in the regular flow and interaction of our classes. When a student can reach out and grab a set of cards representing Passover, imagine what that feels like to her or him!

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and perspective-my goal in these endeavors is to use my rudimentary artistic abilities to fill a gap I see, honoring all of our friends who come through our class doors :)

Side note: While you may not need/ want to teach 90% in the target language, I do think it’s important to honor the TL by using where possible, rather than the common class language, which frequently is Englishin the US. Hence my mention of a 90% classroom :)