One of my biggest wishes for my children is that they would know the world and how to navigate themselves in it with grace and confidence. Part of this is teaching them to be comfortable, both in their own skins and in the presence of those that may be different from them. But the other part of the equation entails equipping them with the tools that they need to actually engage with different cultures; like a sense of geography, cultural etiquette and language skills.
While the prospect of teaching them 10, 15 or 20 languages may be a stretch, I am absolutely dedicated to raising bilingual and biliterate children in my second language, Spanish. I try to expose them to Spanish at every opportunity; I speak Spanish in the home, I read to them in Spanish, attend Spanish language playgroups, and expose them to Spanish language music and movies in our down time. However, despite my efforts I still can’t help but feel like our English dominant culture in the U.S. smothers out the Spanish in terms of frequency.
Being raised bilingual myself, I do know that there are certain activities and experiences that can have a more lasting and profound impact on the language learning process. I recall the experiences that really helped to solidify my language skills and heighten my connection to my Latina roots — those were the summers spent in my home country, Costa Rica, and the year I spent in a Spanish immersion school in elementary. My mother sent my sister and I to Costa Rica as young children during the summers to attend school and solidify our language skills. My sister was 5 years old on her first trip, and I was 7. My younger brother never traveled there as a child and does not have the Spanish language fluency that both my sister and I have today.
I attribute my bilingualism mostly to an unrelenting mother, but also to having had the opportunity to spend months navigating a different country, in a different language, without the aid of my parents. When you are there you are forced to adapt, and at that age the language really sticks. In addition to the language, traveling to Costa Rica as a child taught me valuable life skills that have enabled me to travel all over the globe without shaking my sense of wellbeing.
I make an effort to go “home” every year to reconnect and stay up on my Spanish. Now, having kids of my own, I want to create the same opportunities for them to be in an immersive Spanish environment and connect to their roots. Last summer, as I was posting about my trip to Costa Rica on my blog, TheCulturedSeed.com, I got several requests from readers and friends to take them with me on my next trip. This summer I will be doing just that! We have created a spectacular itinerary for families that want to experience Costa Rica and expose their kids to an immersive Spanish language environment.
Our bilingual guides will take you on a spin around the country that combines some touristy “best-of” activities, like a Jungle Tour and Zip Lining, with local flavor and off-the-beaten path experiences that only the locals know about, like Doña Isma’s “Run-Down” soup and Caribbean Lobster in Manzanillo.
We will visit beaches on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, explore volcano’s and rain forests, as well as cultural institutions like the capital’s Children’s Museum. The tour has been designed with kids in mind and has just enough activity to keep the kids busy, but enough down time for kids and parents to relax. We are even planning a “parent’s night out” where you leave the kids to be entertained by our qualified babysitters while you get to enjoy a peaceful dinner alone. Talk about Pura Vida!
This 10-day tour has stops in San Jose, Rincón de la Vieja, Guanacaste and Puerto Viejo. It includes basic activities, private transportation, bilingual guides, hotel accommodations and breakfast. Dates for travel are July 25th through August 3rd, 2013. If you are interested in joining us in Costa Rica this summer please visit www.theculturedseed.com/costarica and fill out the interest form, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for the full itinerary and cost details. See you in paradise!