When travelling home to the minority language (ml) country, you might want your child to be able to communicate in the ml with locals, but also for them to understand what people are on about. Being from 2 countries means being bilingual but should also mean being bicultural to be able to truly relate to what one is being told.
Introducing your child to a bit of ml folklore -preferably in a fun way- can help them discover and learn about their other culture and relate to what .
Such an opportunity presented itself to me in an unexpected way last
weekend… as I was tidying my daughters’ wardrobe! My eldest noticed her age 2 Sevillana dress (dress worn in Southern Spain -where I was brought up- to dance flamenco) sitting on a shelf. We took it out, it was obviously too small for her now, but perfect for her little sister who happily tried it on for the first time, feeling like a “Spanish princess”. I showed flamenco dances on YouTube to the girls, to show them what that kind of costume was used for. My eldest was fascinated by the beauty of those colourful, frilly dresses and the grace of the dancers. She expressed the wish to have another dress her size. This comment was in fact the one I had been desperately waiting for! Having eyed a flamenco costume for her for the last 2 months, wondering whether or not my eldest would be interested in it, it only took a couple of clicks to order it.
After putting her sister to nap, I returned to the living room and my eldest was just a delightful vision: watching the flamenco video in a loop, imitating the dancers with the age 2 red and back, frilly dress on, dancing to the sound of the music flooding the room! I discreetly walked away, put on my flamenco skirt from my younger days when I used to take flamenco classes, and clipped a large flower in my hair, quickly tied back in a bun. It made an impression on her to see me dressed like this! She asked for a flower in her hair too and loved being styled like one of the dancers. We then browsed the web for online flamenco basics classes, spent 30 minutes training together, and a bit more after a little break. Needless to say she kept the undersized dress on the whole afternoon!
The new dress came through the mail the following day and enabled to build on the previous day’s enthusiasm and make her excited about flamenco. She wore her costume right until bed time, and the day after! She even asked if one day she could wear it to school! It also gave us the opportunity to talk a bit more about our ml culture and introducing her to the less well-known folkloric dance from her dad’s region through music and videos.
The dresses also got us talking with our Spanish relatives on FaceTime, as we had sent their ml grandparents pictures of the girls in their costumes. This enabled creating a cultural connection with the girls’ grandparents.
This experience was a rather special and rare moment of complicity with my eldest; sharing something I particularly love, that she allowed me to teach her, and letting her discover more of her ml culture.
From this experience, I drew the following tips to introduce the ml folklore home in a fun way:
- Regularly play a bit of ml folklore music – it does not have to be hours on end, but maybe 15-20 minutes on a regular basis from early on, so your child feels it is part of your home and can identify this kind of music.
- Get a folkloric costume – some costumes can be quite expensive, but if it is feasible try to get one and organise a “dress-up” session. Though folkloric costumes are not a fancy dress, the idea is to use the fun spirit of fancy dresses to incite the child to try it on and experiment their culture. Remember: kids learn better through fun experiences!
- Dance! – Young children love dancing so this is a great opportunity to turn the folkloric music up and dance! It does not matter that you do not know how to dance yourself (I don’t! My last flamenco class was a beginner one before I had my children!), use Internet to find a video or explanations about the basic steps. If you feel uncomfortable about this, look it up beforehand and try it out on your own. 😉
- Snap it! – children generally love having pictures taken, so here again make the most of it!
- Get the grandparents and relatives involved – send the pictures to relatives, or Skype them with the costumes on. ml grandparents might enjoy seeing their bilingual grandchild sharing their traditions, and sharing their enthusiasm in a conversation might also make your child more aware of their other culture and bond with it.
- Get talking –
- Show little videos of their traditions, preferably involving children as your child will relate more to them.
- Some books for children might integrate some of that folklore in their story. Personally, I have been eyeing “La Feria de Abril” by Nuño & Calafell, and there are quite a few others in the series I am also interested in.
And you, what do you do to introduce your ml culture to your children? Please share your experience and tips in the comments section.