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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discover 3 ways to Achieve Family Balance For Better Homelife.

By Jason Kaefer


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Part of being a parent is finding quality time together as a family and simultaneously making a marriage work. In other words, how do you find the balance? My wife and I have our little boy of two years, and he requires most of our energy being that my wife is a stay at home mom and he hasn’t begun preschool yet. We couldn’t be happier with what we have, but it’s difficult finding the balance for ourselves. There are steps I’ve noticed that benefit our family. Consider the following:

1. Do things together

The ocean is nearby for us. For my wife especially, collecting shells on the beach is therapeutic. We bring our little guy so he can play in the tide pools ( the safe, shallow part). Both my wife and I both have reported feeling less tension after spending time in the sand. Even our little guy appears happier on these days. If you’re not located near the beach, consider an activity you all would enjoy. Try getting outside. Hiking is a great way to get exercise and generate happiness. The time will reinforce confidence in your kids that you are there as a support, together.

Additionally, having dinner together strengthens family relationships. Try to set at least 3-4 nights per week for dinner together.

2.  Date Nights

Set time aside, whether it’s once a month or once a week, and spend time together on a date without the kid(s). The time together will serve as a subtle reminder that you’re both in it together and allows you both to appreciate one another’s effort. Keep it light. Somewhere local and quiet that allows you both to talk freely and just relax.

3. Glass of wine and a movie 

When the kid(s) are asleep, make it a point to spend time together watching a movie or just simply talking. By doing this, you will not only go to bed with a positive, fresh start for the following day, but it helps to summarize your thoughts and feelings for the week. My wife and I are movie fanatics, so we’ll discuss the details of a film with a glass of wine. But as I’ve said, find a balance that is right for you. 

The balance of work, marriage, and family is a complicated one that takes a while to find. The above suggestions work for us but don’t have to apply to everyone. Find your own balance in a similar routine!

Sharp Park, Pacifica

By Jason Kaefer 

My family and I moved to Daly City (The Gateway to the Peninsula) and nestled into the hills beside the 280 Freeway. From this location, San Francisco is a 10-minute drive North and San Jose – 40 minutes South. Between these two regions are a great amount of Bay Area hot spots. One city glossed over by the noise of San Francisco is Pacifica.

My wife and I experienced Pacifica our third day living in North County. Ironically, I’ve lived in the Bay my entire life and traveled to Pacifica only twice. A Bonfire (first occasion) and a girl dragging me along (second occasion). I never thought this out-of-the-way spot held any hidden gems. But to my surprise, Pacifica has a beaming charm.

In case you aren’t familiar with the region, let me give you a brief background. The city spreads over six miles of coastal beaches and is popular in the region among surfers and fisherman. It also offers local hiking (good for bikers) around the green, winding trails encompassing the city. Local restaurants are a must for anyone looking to dine near the calming waves (I’ll review some top choice restaurants in a later post.) For now, check out below the uniqueness of Sharp Park, Pacifica.

 If you were thinking of white sand, think again…..

Sharp Park is one of the few beaches in California with black sand.

Don’t be turned off by it, it’s perfectly clean and enjoyable. This dark color comes from a high concentration of iron oxide magnetite. In the summer, Sharp Park feels almost like Southern California as you stroll down the levee’s promenade ( pictured below) which separates the beach from the protected marshland, or as you dig your bare feet into the warm, charcoal sand.

Sharp Park Promenade Northbound

 

Sharp Park Promenade, heading South down the charcoal beach.

The Pacifica Pier is a popular fishing spot in San Mateo County. The pier stretches several hundred feet where, on a good day, one catches Salmon, Striped Bass, and Crab. The summer months are best for Salmon and Striped Bass, while the Winter brings in Dungeness Crab. But try and avoid the pier during storm season. TRUST ME. The waves pictured below are nothing compared to what goes down in a wind storm.

Pacifica Pier

I would recommend heading to Sharp Part at dusk to the promenade mentioned above when the sun burns into the clouds in a melting of red and pink and orange. My advice, dress warm, particularly between August and January. Remember, its Northern California, and just South of the State of Oregon, so don’t expect to jump head first into turquoise waves and swim with dolphins when you arrive.

Sunset at Sharp Park

Dress warm, as pictured below. If you have a toddler, sweatshirt with a hood and a warm vest. Parents, consider the wind. The hoodie blocks the cold from your toddler’s ears and the vest keeps them insulated. Our little guy loves the ocean.

Jack and Julia