D is for Directions (A–Z of Raising Multicultural Kids)
A series launched by Varya, of Creative World of Varya.
Raising multicultural kids often means you, yourself, are not in your country of origin. Or perhaps you are raising kids whose own origins do not mirror your own, whether through adoption and/or starting a family with a partner of another culture, ethnicity, or language. Any of these scenarios are fun, yet sometimes daunting.
Maybe you need to stop for directions once in a while. Maybe it feels like a flurry of snow in your eyes. Maybe you’re still mimicking your needs, like I first did, like a real-life, holy cow gave of charades. And sometimes, Pictionary. You need the library, need the pediatrician, need to know where the store stocks their darn toilet paper.
Don’t ask me all the things and destinations I’ve mimed (cough cough pregnancy tests). The point is you need help sometimes and your kids benefit from seeing you keep your cool, not lose it. Confidence, beyond finding whatever the place, is gained.
D, my friends, is for Directions.
All this discombobulation sounds like a Talking Heads song. Cue David Byrne!
Asking for directions is two-fold, I think.
First, I was thinking about literacy-extending activities for our multi-lingual kids–to illustrate and draw simple and complex directions. If kids are invested in a project or fulfilling a need, they will fully put that soul, that voice, and skill into a task, seen in this post, Writing to Help in the Home.
Isn’t this life in a different culture/different linguistic landscape? Working to figure everything out, staying true to yourself, using your own voice, and having a ball, no matter how tough, no matter the run-around and extra work!
Before we enter a more academic, nuanced wing of the culture, we must communicate basic needs.
So we use maps, we chart the new words, we make a plan.
There is the very real need for directions. Especially, perhaps, when you like in a city like this, concrete extending forever-high and wide, visibility permitting.
(I teach English courses at a private Japanese middle and high-school. This past week’s vocabulary included phrases for asking and providing directions. Many/none the students have never ever given (asked for) directions in a language outside of Japanese. In fact, though English will be learned fairly intensely in grade school and into upper-levels, a hefty portion of society is superbly hesitant to use their English in conversation, to let it escape their lips. If the learned language or study is not to perceived perfection, no one wants to throw themselves out there to possibly fail or feel embarrassed.
Today, there is a real move to awaken the country’s English with more conversation. Tokyo is gearing-up for the 2020 Olympics, after-all, when gobs of foreigners will ask directions).
So we practiced. I introduced the phrases and words–nothing amazing, just words like, “Can you tell me where the station is? How do I get to the post office, please?”
They readied for replies such as, “Let’s see…it’s not too far from here. Go straight down this street, make the first left”, that kind of thing.
Then came the good stuff, a type of trust walk, led by directional words. Each young lady created her own picture and label, a sign for some site, shop, or whatnot needed and enjoyed in the community. They hung ’em up, wherever. You could totally do this with your kids, in a multitude of languages! Make a map of your home and town! Learn languages, develop the ones you have!
And don’t let anyone off the hook who solely wants to use their Google Maps app! The fun and challange lies within interpersonal communication. No app can substitute a stranger’s language or the appreciation garnered when a friendly person directs, even respectfully escorts you to your destination. D is for directions and daring to look up from a screen.
Here’s how it went down ⇓:
Partner A asked where something was located (the beach, the flower shop, hospital, you get the picture).
Partner B answered with a friendly reply and began to direct a now eyes-closed A.
They giggled and shuffled and found their way to Tokyo Disney Land and Sea, to a karaoke room, bakery, and so many other sites in our room our living map.
In their enjoyment, I’ve got to think they are that much more confident to provide directions. We’re only just started the chapter, too!
Let me know how your own asking and giving of directions go! To raise multicultural kids, you’re by now, not too shy about asking for a push in the right direction, and another way to engage within your community.
In fact, one of the best practices my mother did was refuse to be our speaker. We, my sis and I, were the ones who had to speak with the librarian, ask clerks for help, stop and politely ask for directions. We learned to trust our voice and trust “going out on a limb”. There is excitement in sitting in the driver’s seat, for sure.
Additional Ideas and Extensions:
→→ Create a family or solo-scavenger hunt, using vocabulary for the region in which you are traveling or now live.
⇒∗ If fairly new to the area, designate each family member to help find important community buildings and settings (library, park, emergency evacuation area, family-friendly cafe, bus stops, garden, fire station, supermarket, etc), using a wealth of resources.
→⇒∴ Compile all of the area’s best to create one map…using all of your family’s languages and the local language. Color-code, make it rock!
So long, adventurers. Keep up with this amazing alphabet for global citizens! Some of the most beautifully diverse and knowledgable people make up this community and have taken part.!