Language Challenge 101 – Week Twelve

by Corey · 5 comments

¡Hola, amigos!

Welcome to week twelve of Multilingual Living’s Language Challenge 101 – learning a language over the course of 101 days. If you missed our first few weeks, just click on the Language Challenge 101 button on the very left of this website page and you’ll find everything we have done so far.

This Week’s Video Diary

I had hoped to make this week’s video diary something different.  When my bilingual homeschooling friend, Maria, called to invite us to join her and her kids at the Woodland Park Zoo today, I took my video camera along to document her and her children as they chatted away in Spanish.

However, as she and I had so much to catch up on (90% of which was about bilingualism and biculturalism) I totally forgot to pull out the camera.  Dang!  Maybe next time.

So instead of Maria and her kids, here is our week twelve video diary talking about what we did this week in our Language Challenge 101 adventure:

As you will see in the video diary, my laptop is back from the shop so I can catch up on things and respond to emails that I couldn’t access this past week.  Thank you for your patience!

Leave My Bilingual Family Alone!

I got pretty discouraged this week.  Not because we didn’t get in much Spanish language learning.  I was ok with that.  My husband is a Physics instructor at the community college and his classes started up again on Monday.  And my two weeks of vacation ended on Sunday (I work 30 hours a week for a software company testing software in different languages) so my work week started again on Monday.  It is always hard to get back into the swing of things after time off.

No, it wasn’t the busy work week that got me down.  I can handle that.

What got me down was the wave of endless bilingual junk that I was inundated with this week.  Or, should say, the bilingual junk that has been inundating us all more and more like an avalanche over the course of the past few years.  Today I let it get under my skin.  Big mistake!

What kind of bilingual junk am I talking about? This: Advertising targeting bilinguals, mainstream TV shows telling families they should make sure their babies learn a second language because it is proven to be good for them, sub-par bilingual products that are praised to high heaven because they happen to be bilingual, and on and on.  That’s the junk I am talking about.

And I know I am not alone in feeling this way. I have had enough conversations and emails come my way to know that others are disappointed as well.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ana Lomba October 1, 2010 at 9:35 am

Bravo! Very well put. It takes me years to think about and develop my products–not to mention the huge investment that goes along with it. It sickens me that people don’t even bother to send their texts to editors (yes, it costs tons of money, I know). It’s especially sad with children products, which are the worse in my opinion. Some materials that I see around don’t even make sense in Spanish! I guess they use online translation tools??? Hey, and what about the trend to use a Spanish word here and there? What does that have to do with learning a language?

The quicker to market the better… That’s the unfortunate trend in bilingual education…


2 Corey November 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Thank you for your comment, Ana. My family and I really enjoy your products – they are fun and engaging for more than just one sitting. That is key to me – if we are going to use our world’s resources, then let’s make sure they are worth it!


3 Susan C. H. Siu October 2, 2010 at 8:16 am

Hear, hear! I do sometimes buy products in Chinese for my children that are of lower quality than anything I would buy for them in English, simply because I have so many fewer choices. I even occasionally praise a product on my blog that has been an excellent learning tool for my children based on their current levels of proficiency in the language, even though I might not consider it particularly great if it were in English. However, I completely agree with you that the quality of many (most?) products purporting to help children become bilingual in this country are of abysmal quality–especially those with the biggest advertising budgets (including some award-winners). The flashy, hyperactive shows that throw in a Spanish or Chinese word or phrase here and there have no more value, in my opinion, than any other trashy television program, and the books based on the shows are even worse; if I’d had their writers in one of my freshman composition classes, I would have given them a D. (And I know a lot of amazingly talented, intelligent writers who can’t get published because they refuse to write the junk that apparently sells.)

I am gradually becoming less and less patient with nearly everything (there are a few exceptions) created especially to teach another language to English speakers and am leaning more and more towards buying products created for native speakers of the relevant language (French and Chinese, in my family, and also a little Spanish), which often means ordering from international sources.

My goal in establishing my publishing company, World’s Edge Books & Publishing, earlier this year, was to help provide North American bilinguals, multilinguals, and language learners with more high-quality products created specifically for them. We don’t have much in our catalog yet, and we are still operating on a very low budget, but we would love to hear ideas for future books from other multilingual families, and we would love to hear from aspiring bilingual/multilingual authors and illustrators who are willing to work for royalties only in order to bring excellent language and linguistics products to the market. What is your family’s situation, and what are you looking for? And what talents can you bring to the table? I don’t think that the major publishing companies, with their large overhead costs, mass-market mentality, and entrenched ways of doing things, are going to supply parents like us with the materials we need for ourselves and our children anytime soon; it is going to be largely up to us to create them for ourselves.

By the way, Ana, my four-year-old son adores your French version of Little Red Riding Hood. It is really well designed to reinforce new vocabulary, especially since he insisted on having it read to him every night for several weeks (and also listened to the CD in bed)! Your version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is on his wishlist.


4 Corey November 19, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Thank you for your comment, Susan! Yes, the mainstream publishing houses often are simply eager to jump into the market rather than offer quality products. What is sad, though, is that people often WANT these sub-par products and smaller, quality publishing houses can’t compete. I saw an article recently about how Latinos are far more compelled to purchase products based on advertising, especially when it is aimed at them. All a big company has to do is to include a second or two of Spanish and everyone is flocking to purchase it. I think that is unfortunate in that it perpetuates the problem of low quality products and educational materials.


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