I dipped into the library to check out a book, and there I found my friend Shirley Lea from the Family Book Clubs Project reading to a group of four year olds. The book she was reading was Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley and it inspired lots of movement activities.
“Does anyone know how to do a somersault’” Shirley asked? Hands flew in the air and little bodies began to squirm, eager to show Shirley what they could do. For many of these new English language learners, this might have been their first time to hear this word. But the hands were flying anyway.
First up was Jason, a curly haired little guy who positioned his body in an inverted V and struggled to get himself into a ball. Then, finally with some extra ummpf, he rolled over, and came up grinning from ear to ear. Now everyone was sure they could do a somersault. Shirley patiently let each person say their name and show how they could do one too.
That’s the fun of learning new words and playing with them—a lovely word like somersault will slip off the tongue and stick forever in the minds of these young emerging readers. Maybe they will practice with this new word on a patch of grass, or show how they can do a somersault to a younger sibling. Evocative of summer, green grass and the world spinning around them, this new word begins to take on meaning.
I have always loved learning new languages and after living in many different parts of the world, with fragments of different languages still clanging around in my brain, I am finally settling down to concentrate on Spanish. Like the children seated on the floor with Shirley last week, I too learn new words best by playing with them, rolling them around on my tongue and trying to use them in new and playful ways. This is also what drew me to the playful movement words in my new book, Ana’s Day/El Dia de Ana. It is the story of a young girl, who goes about the day running errands with her mother. While dropping her brother off at school, she sees girls a little older than herself playing hopscotch and jumping rope. While working on the book, I loved talking with friends about how to say hopscotch or jumping rope in Spanish, only to find out that people use different phrases in different parts of Latin America. The word for rope should be “la reata” says my friend from Nicaragua; one Cuban friend says saltar la suisa for jumping rope and jugar la tacha for hopscotch , but another says saltar la cuerda y peregrina. Still another says la rayuela for hopscotch. La cuerdo? El lazo? La reata? La rayuela? Learning wonderful new words like these is what fascinates me about learning Spanish!
On one level, this site is about my first soon to be published children’s book, Ana’s Day/El Dia de Ana and the events surrounding its writing, rollout and reception. On a more personal level, this blog is also about thinking in two languages, how hard it is to cross geographic and linguistic boundaries and ultimately to admit how much there is to learn. Join me on this journey when you can.