Foreign language fun at home

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child


Last weekend while reaching into the refrigerator for some of our leftover shrimp and asparagus pasta, I noticed something had changed.

The label on the plastic container proclaimed "6/11: Langostino y Esparrago."

It was as if the digital TV conversion folks were still in our house and thought we needed a Spanish translation. For a while last Friday, Spanish programming was all we could get. The kids had the TV on while I was making dinner. It was frustrating because I couldn't understand much. (I studied French in high school and college.)

My son was in his glory, though. He turned up the volume to see if he could understand the words. If there had been a speed control, he probably would have adjusted it to turtle speed. That way, it would have been easier to pick up on some of the words he's learning in Spanish class.

At the time, I thought it was nice to see him make an attempt at applying what he learned in school.


This memory came back while I was holding the pasta container. Apparently, my son decided to take his language training to another level and placed his own label on the leftovers.

An explanation is probably in store here. We label and date our leftovers. Anything that hasn't been touched in a week gets tossed. My son put his Spanish label over top his father's English one.

His language capers continued. He started muttering words in what sounded like German, French or Greek.

These antics mostly go back to the language converter he recently bought at a local bookstore. This little electronic device converts English words into Spanish, French, German and Italian. Likewise, it converts those foreign languages into English.

It's almost like those little boxes many of us bought for the digital TV conversion process. The language converter translates characters. The TV converter transforms pixels.

At our house, it seems that the language converter has been working harder than the TV converter this past week.

My son assured me that he's not overdoing his foreign language studies: "I'm not studying Italian, Mom."

Oh, what a relief. I'm trying to cut back on carbs anyway.

He is, however, studying Greek just for fun, thanks to a book he was able to find through inter-library loan.

After dinner one night this week, we were quizzing both children for the National Bible Bee competition, which is in September. The answer to my daughter's question was "The Word." She wasn't sure what to say, so her brother gave her a clue.

He cast her a sideways glance and said, "ho logos," which means "the word" in Greek.

She told him she had no idea what he had just said.

I looked at him and said, "En anglais, s'il vous plait."

(Using French, I asked him to say the words "In English, please.")

I'll never be able to beat him at his own game, but at least I can make him smile.

If you have a child who is interested in studying other languages, you may want to check out the classes for third- through sixth-graders being offered this summer by Washington County Free Library. My son took several of these when he was younger, and he thoroughly enjoyed them. For information, call 301-739-3250, ext. 132.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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