An Easy Guide to Learning Second Language Home.

I met my wife Julia while teaching English in Saint Petersburg, Russia. We married and soon learned she was pregnant with our son Jack, and upon my in-law’s request, he was delivered in Sayanagorsk, Siberia – my wife’s home city. Two years later, now living in California, our little guy is halfway through his English alphabet, pointing out and saying words like apple and airplane, egg and juice, and he has a selective appetite; hence, we have boxes of Costco Spanish rice, peanut butter, and blueberries stalked like a Soviet armory in our pantry.


Jack, however, is developing his language at a slower pace than other kids. His cousin Declan, with lighting moves of some agile, jungle primate has managed full sentences like here you go, catch! before hurling a whiffle ball at your head. Jack watches in subtle amusement, and we can see in his eyes the desire to communicate well. We’ve been told this is due to processing both Russian and Engish. For us, it was important that he spoke both languages and be able to communicate with his family on both sides of the world. There’s also a richness in the inflection of Slavic languages: it suggests an old and enduring culter. This, in turn, will give him not only a fascinating backstory but two languages to tell it in. Watching him absorb and process and go on to repeat language has intrigued me. Children seem to learn a language much better, much faster, like little computers.

Don’t feel bad, they’re just smarter than us

In the midst of sippy cups, tickle-me-Elmo,  Tayo the friendly bus, and discovering the inherent power in the word no, we’ve begun to interpret his delay in speech as a friendly reminder that an amazing process is occurring in our little boy’s brain due to both languages swiveling his attention from mommy’s voice to daddy’s. The process of learning language is best suited for children. As we age, we lose this characteristic. We also become self-conscious and less proud to open our mouths and make a mistake.

I myself have taken stabs ( too many) at learning Russian, listening, speaking, cramming in the grammar, and even living Russia itself. But for children, absorbing language is a subconscious act. Their little brains are built in the early years for corralling information, much the way we retain rhymes and rhythms without wanting to. According to Be Brain Fit, “children can easily learn additional languages due to their heightened neuroplasticity, the brain’s capacity to form new neural connections and new brain cells throughout life.” If only I was aware of this at age 2!

There are benefits 

If you’re raising your child bilingual or considering it, understand that it benefits them in ways other than remaining close to their cultural background. According to a study, there are social benefits including a strong sense of empathy. This allows children to put themselves in other’s shoes and communicate more effectively. Additionally, learning a language early will allow for an easier experience in the future. The process involves memorization of vocabulary, internalizing grammar, listening for hundreds of hours to dialogues, and constant setbacks.

Knowing the process ahead of time is like traveling a road you once viewed as unfamiliar, but manageable the second go-around, as children will detect reemerging patterns during their subsequent experience. Cognitively, there’s much to gain. “Research on executive functions such as working memory, perception, and attentional and inhibitory control, has suggested that bilinguals can benefit from significant cognitive advantages over monolingual peers in various settings.” Other strengths include, but are not limited to, better discipline, focus, and logical reasoning.

How do we put this into play?

As I mentioned above, my wife speaks Russian in simple, persuasive terms. I speak  English with him, and so far, he responds to both languages. In an article produced by Cornell University Its best to surround a kid with “more than one language through conversations and social groups using different languages; the earlier the better.” When at home, try to speak with your main heritage language if a second language is being learned outside of the house.  “Expose children to multilingual settings and give them plenty of opportunities to play with children who speak the second language.”

The basics of learning language that apply to us apply to children. Begin with vocabulary- cat, dog, mommy, and daddy. Point them out to your child and ask what is this? Avoid giving commands like say orange! Instead, incorporate he/she in conversation. Talk to them instead of at them. Remember, “one parent, one language,” according to Raising Bilingual Kids. Each parent should stick to their own language. This is hardly a problem for me, as my Russian is limited to mere babble.

Keep your child’s miraculous capability in mind when searching for the right method to introduce a second language: they absorb in more information than we can imagine. Much of the tedious work, as it is for us anyway, of learning to speak a second language comes naturally to them, and they develop a sense of pride even upon making mistakes as they learn. Having bilingual skills will not only benefit them cognitively but socially, instilling a sense of pride in a rich cultural heritage.











The Top 6 Pieces of Survival Gear For The Home.

By Jason Kaefer


Let’s face it, none of us are REALLY prepared for an emergency. Whether you live here in California with the earthquakes, or in Florida with gale-force winds, we all live in a dream world where nothing bad happens. Well, take a moment to consider what you would do to protect your family in a time of crisis. Do you have the necessary things to last hours, if not days? If you answered no, don’t worry, you’re not alone! I began thinking about these things after experiencing the earthquake simulator at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences, where they bring you back in time to both the 1989 and 1906 earthquake.

First, understand that the threat of disaster isn’t necessarily impending, but you should still consider the possibility. Where do you live? Know the threats in your area ie tornado, floods, earthquakes. Plan for specific events. Also, consider your plan for either escape or shelter in place. Basically, if you shelter in place, you stay in your home and ride out the problem. Escape…. well…… let’s not slide too deep into that scenario!

But there are a few essentials that every family should have in their home, as well as in the car. Consider storing them in a pack in an easy to access place. Those apply to every family in every country.

  1. Water 

One gallon a day per-person is essential for hydration and bathing. Use containers of the size pictured below and store it away from light and any pesticides. Try to avoid plastics that will contaminate the water.


2. Food 

In the aftermath of an emergency, power could be out for days. Store non-perishable food up to three-day supply. Consider canned food that your family will eat. Examples of this would include canned fruit, peanut butter, dried cranberries, granola, food for infants, and high energy foods. Remeber to keep an eye on the shape of the can; swollen or dented cans should be discarded. Also, remember to keep a trusty can opener in the house.

3. Medication 

It’s the last thing you would think of! But if you’re sheltering in place for days, you should have an extra supply of prescription medication.  There is no telling when you’ll  visit a pharmacy again. Have at least 1-2 extra bottles stored in your home.


4. Flashlights 

Keep at least four flashlights in the house. Our home is 2-bedroom 2-bath with an office. I like to keep a flashlight in each room, as I might be in one of the rooms during an outage. Its also good to have a flashlight handy for simple outages. And to be on the safe side, know where your breaker box is.  It may seem tempting to light candles during an outage, but trust me, you’re better off using artificial light from a flashlight. Candles up the risk of fire, and for us, our little 2-year-old Jack adds to that risk, being that he hasn’t entirely learned the dangers of fire.

5. A first aid kit 

Keep a first aid kit in an accessible part of the house. This may seem like common sense, but a lot of families don’t have them, and those who do likely don’t know what it consists of. You should have a kit stocked with bandages for scrapes and cuts, antiseptic spray or lotion, 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch), 1 instant cold compress, Scissors, 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches), and Tylenol. This is just to name a few items. Visit your local fire police station for more information on emergency preparedness.

6. Dust Masks 

One over-looked piece of survival gear is the dust mask. Damage from your home or building could stir up clouds of unknown particles. Visit a Home Depot or hardware store near you and pick up a box of these things, their cheap and come in large quantities. These are good to have for reasons other than emergencies.


As I’ve said, the last thing we want to imagine is the thought of a catastrophe at our home, but once you’ve acquired the above listed, you’ll feel more comfortable knowing you have a plan in place. Also, you can use these items in your car.