Dr. Rebecca Callahan on the Importance of Bilingual & Bicultural Education_Bilingual STEAM 2016

We were very delighted to have Dr. Rebecca Callahan, Associate Professor of Bilingual Bicultural Education at UT at Austin, as our keynote speaker to start-off our Bilingual STEAM event on November 12.  Dr. Callahan provided us with insight and data on why bilingual and multicultural education is important and relevant in today’s world.

For a recap of Dr Rebecca Callahan’s presentation along with a copy of her corresponding powerpoint file please see the video and PDF file line below.

Click here for the PDF file of the Bilingual STEAM Presentation by Dr. Rebecca Callahan.

For links to studies that back up the information presented, please read the following article written by Dr. Rebecca Callahan in the ConversationAcademic rigor, journalistic flair and click on the various links within.

About Dr. Rebecca Callahan

callahan_hs_2014Dr. Rebecca Callahan is an Associate Professor of Bilingual Bicultural Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, and a Faculty Research Associate of the Population Research Center. Her research interests and expertise to date have centered on the academic preparation of bilingual, immigrant youth as they transition from high school into young adulthood. This work has examined not only bilingual immigrant youths¹ academic experiences, but also their civic preparation, access to college-preparatory curriculum, and the relationship between their primary language development and young adult outcomes. Currently, as PI on Design Technology and Engineering education for English Learners: Project DTEEL, she directs the project¹s exploration of teachers¹ EL and STEM instructional capacity. She is excited to merge the findings from prior psychological and cognitive research on bilinguals¹ problem advantage with the design elements of engineering education to investigate elementary bilingual students¹ STEM achievement and integration through engineering design and problem solving. Dr. Callahan¹s work has received funding from the National Science Foundation, and the American Educational Research Association. She is co-author of Coming of Political Age: American Schools and the Civic Development of Immigrant Youth, and co-editor of The Bilingual Advantage: Language, Literacy and the US Labor Market. Her recently published work appears in American Educational Research JournalEducational PolicySocial Science QuarterlyTheory and Research in Social Education, and the Bilingual Research Journal

Educational programs that connect Spain and US

logo-horiz alfa (2)Contributed by Lisi Garcia, Founder of Infancia y Educación.  Click here for the Spanish version.

Spanish is the official language in 21 countries worldwide 


According to a new report “Spanish, a living language” by the Spain-based nonprofit Instituto Cervantes:

There are 559 million Spanish speakersthroughout the world.

Spanish is the second native language in the world by number of speakers.

More than 21 million students in the world are learning Spanish as a foreign language.

The United States is home to 41 million native Spanish speakers, with an additional 11.6 million who are bilingual, according to data collected from the U.S. census and other government sources.

By 2050, the United States will have the highest Spanish-speaking population in the world at 132.8 million, according to the report, citing figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Trying to connect the relationship between Spain and the United States, as far as learning Spanish is concerned, today we talk about different programs and organizations that connect both countries:

Spanish Visiting Teacher Program

Spanish teachers from Spain in US

This is an international cooperation program supported by the Ministry of Education/Embassy of Spain and several departments of education and school districts across the United States. This program offers U.S. school districts the opportunity to recruit highly qualified bilingual teachers from Spain to teach at elementary, middle and high school levels. At the same time it provides students, parents and educators with the opportunity to work with professionals who are native speakers of the target language, bringing a valuable international perspective to American classrooms.

North American Language & Cultural Assistant program

US students and graduates in Spain

The North American Language and Culture Assistants Program is an initiative of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain. The program is primarily devoted to providing US students and graduates -majoring in any subject- who are native speakers of English with the opportunity to assist foreign language teachers in a variety of schools in Spain and to learn about Spanish culture and society and also about its education system. Students will spend a full academic year in Spain from the beginning of October until May assisting teachers in the English programs in elementary, secondary or language schools.

cervanteslogoLearn Spanish in U.S.A: Instituto Cervantes

Instituto Cervantes is a not for profit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991. Its mission is to promote the Spanish language and to contribute to the advancement of the cultures of all Spanish speaking countries and communities.They have a Training program for teachers of Spanish in the United States, online Spanish Courses and many cultural activities in Spanish. Instituto Cervantes is in Nueva York, Chicago, Albuquerque, Seattle, y San Antonio.

Did you know…?

Although Castilian Spanish is the official language of Spain, it is not the only language used in Spain. The different regions of Spain also have regional dialects and co-official languages that are an important part of the Spanish cultural patrimony. Catalan, Basque and  Galician are just some examples of the regional languages that exist in Spain and contribute to the rich cultural diversity that the country enjoys.

Sources/ More information

Spanish Visiting Teacher Program

North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain

Instituto Cervantes

Los Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE)


Getting a job using your second language

Article Contributor: Lic. Vanessa Fardi, Team Leader US/ LATAM,  NEUVOO (An international online job search company)

Sigue abajo para encontrar el artículo en español.

Knowing other languages ​​in a world that, thanks to globalization, has forced people to be bilingual and almost makes them forget their mother tongue, definitely comes in handy when looking for a new job.

Numbers do not lie, today, nearly 60% of the job offers require the candidate to master a second language. English and German are taking the lead in the list for the most popular languages ​​required by employers, especially in the areas of engineering, finance, new technologies and health.

However, according to recent surveys from Adecco and the Center for Sociological Research (CIS) in Spain, five languages will prevail among job seekers in 2016. To our surprise, these languages are: Italian, Portuguese, German, French, and the ever-present English.

An astounding 89.5% of current job offers require a second language, so it is time to get enrolled in the language course of your choice. French is on the list due to the fact that it is the official language of over 30 countries and as one of the five official languages in the United Nations; it also stands out in the touristic and pharmaceutical areas. German — or Europe’s second most spoken language—, stands out in the tourism sector, as well as those languages mentioned above. Perhaps the most shocking fact about this list is to see the “nonna’s” mother tongue on it. Italian has had an impressive boom these last years in Europe, especially in Spain. Brazil’s peak as a first-power economy in Latin America led them to appear in this list, and the fact that it is the official language in six countries. The near future looks very promising for Portuguese.

Do we really need say something more to convince you to go ahead and learn a second language? If you need a little extra motivation, Laura Centeno, Country Manager for People Working, indicates that a bilingual person could earn 20% more than those who speak only one language.

Consigue un nuevo empleo gracias a tu segundo idioma

Saber otros idiomas en un mundo que, gracias a la globalización, nos ha obligado a ser bilingües y a prácticamente olvidarnos de nuestra lengua materna, es definitivamente una gran ventaja al momento de buscar un nuevo empleo. Los números no mienten, actualmente, casi el 60% de las ofertas de empleo exigen que el candidato domine un segundo idioma.

El inglés y el alemán siguen llevando la delantera en la lista de los idiomas más demandados por los empleadores, especialmente en lo que se refiere a los sectores de ingeniería, finanzas, nuevas tecnologías y salud. Sin embargo, según estudios recientes, cinco idiomas son los que reinarán entre los buscadores de empleo en el año 2016. Para nuestra sorpresa, esos idiomas son: italiano, portugués, alemán, francés y el omnipresente inglés.

El 89,5% de las ofertas de empleo actuales exigen el inglés como segundo idioma, así que llegó la hora de inscribirse en el curso de su preferencia. El francés llega a la lista siendo el idioma oficial en más de 30 países y como uno de los cinco idiomas oficiales de las Naciones Unidas; destacándose en el sector turístico y farmacéutico. El alemán, o el segundo idioma más hablado en el continente europeo, también se destaca en el sector turístico, además de los mencionados anteriormente. Quizás lo más sorprendente de esta lista es encontrarnos con la lengua materna de todas las “nonnas”, el cual ha tenido un auge impresionante en estos últimos años en Europa, especialmente en España. El apogeo de Brasil como primera potencia económica en Latinoamérica lo lleva a aparecer en esta pequeña lista, siendo además el idioma oficial en seis países, el futuro cercano pinta muy bien para el portugués.

¿Hay algo más que debamos decir para que salgan corriendo a aprender un segundo idioma? Si necesitan un poco más de motivación, un reporte económico indica que las personas que dominan una segunda lengua en Estados Unidos obtienen ingresos de al menos 10 mil dólares anuales por encima de quienes hablan solo una lengua.

Lic. Vanessa Fardi / NEUVOO

Team Leader US/ LATAM

Email: vanessa@neuvoo.com

Is Knowledge about Culture Really Necessary When Learning a Foreign Language?

By: Vanessa Fardi, NEUVOO, Team Leader for US/CA/LATAM

culture and language

The answer to this question is always going to be a big, fat YES. Whoever says or insists that culture is not an important and crucial factor when learning a foreign language, is completely and utterly wrong. First, trying to separate the two is going to be rather difficult, since they are linked in so many ways that is practically impossible to learn a language without taking into consideration the traditions, common sayings, proverbs, ways to address a person correctly and the cultural influence behind it. Second, learning about the country, its history, traditions, government and geography allows you to enrich the learning process and have a more meaningful context when speaking this newly acquired language. We could list a million reasons culture is connected to the language and we are probably going to do so in this article.

Each language carries with it all the history and culture of the area that it originated in. The political, social and economic conditions of the country will always influence its vocabulary and the different meanings of its words. For example, Spanish, being the official language in more than 20 countries, has such a rich vocabulary that most of its words have different meanings depending on the region where you are. Let us take, as an example, the word “apretar.” In Chile, the verb means to make someone keep their obligation; in Argentina and Uruguay, it means to kiss passionately; in Venezuela, it means to tighten –a screw, for example-; and in Mexico, used as an adjective, it means to have more money than others. You can call a thong “zunga” in many South American countries, but in Colombia, you would be calling someone a prostitute. In Japan, if you are not familiar with their –complicated- honorific speech, you could easily screw up a business negotiation. Starting to understand the importance of culture when learning a new language, are we?

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) has concluded that through the study of other languages, students gain knowledge and understanding of the cultures that use that language. The fact that teachers are being conscious about having their students learn both the language and the culture behind it is just another piece of evidence that supports the big, fat yes we used to answer the main question in this article. A student will never truly master a foreign language unless they also master the cultural context that it implies.

culture and language 2-2How can foreign language learners acquire this magnificent knowledge? Well, the best way to both learn a new language and its culture is to go to the country per se, but we all know not everybody can afford to do that. However, this would be the ideal scenario. Going to London, Australia or the US to learn English; learning Mandarin in Hong Kong; Spanish in Mexico, Buenos Aires or Madrid; Japanese in Tokyo; and Italian in beautiful Tuscany. Another option is to try finding a native speaker to teach you. He or she will probably have a good insight on what the cultural context is like in their country of origin. You can also try doing your own research or even finding friends who speak the language online, this way, you can also practice –free of charge- whenever you like! The Internet is a wonderful multicultural and multilingual world; do not hesitate to give it a shot.

Mid-March Bilingual News Roundup

shutterstock_110715653Debates over bilingualism, reviews of new studies on benefits and the evolution of bilingual education are some of the many ongoing topics you will find in the news this past month.   In case you have missed them, we have included them here for you in our bilingual news roundup.

shutterstock_81030148CNN reporter Anna Johnson writes this short but fitting article that encourages bilingual parents to raise their children to be bilingual.  She dispels a common misconception that raising a child bilingual could delay development.  Lastly, she also encourages monolingual parents to get involved and become bilingual with their children.


A great op-ed from the New York Times released this past weekend talks about the benefits of being exposed to more than one language in developing social skills.  The article centers on two studies that measured children’s ability to understand the perspective of other individuals.  These studies found that children exposed to multiple languages were more perceptive to other perspectives than were the monolingual children.


An article from a New Jersey radio news station 101.5 reveals important shifts in classrooms teaching of foreign languages by moving away from traditional instruction in English toward more language immersion.  It also touches on the important point of beginning a second language in the lower grades to master fluency by the time a child reaches high school.


While we recognize the inroads that bilingual education is having, we still have to remember that much work still remains ahead.  In this somber article from the Atlantic, we see how perverse incentives in educating  English Language Learners can have a long lasting detrimental effect on not only the lives of these individuals but also on society as a whole.


A recent article in Newsweek raises the questions as to whether or not more benefits are conveyed if the second language spoken is a minority language and whether or not a bilingual can learn a third language more easily than a monolingual.

In this entertaining PRI podcast, The World in Words, the host Patrick Cox talks talks about the varying perspectives on what a bilingual advantage means.


Lastly, this month in Education Week, acting Education Secretary John B. King Jr. addresses the value of English Language Learners in our education system in both Spanish and English by validating the importance of biliteracy.



Have you found interesting articles or news about bilingualism or bilingual education that you wish to share?  Feel free to include them with your comments in the comments section below.

What Music Do You Play In Your House?--Spanish Songs for Families

I’ve spent many hours listening to Pandora trying to find the right Spanish-language and bilingual music for my family. I recently discovered two artists whose music and musical message I highly recommend for kids — and for parents. Introducing Nathalia Music and 123 Andrés – and a video premiere!!

At my house, the music gets turned on after dinner for our daily dance party. It’s a great way to end the day laughing and breaking a little sweat. And because it uses rhythm, movement and vocalization, it turns out music is also a great tool for language learning. My kids love to move their bodies to the beat and sing along, never realizing they’re learning new Spanish and English vocabulary along the way.

However, in my Spanish language journey, finding music for my kids to enjoy that I also like has been something of a challenge. I’ve spent many hours listening to Pandora trying to find the right Spanish-language and bilingual music for my family. My kids have been obsessed with “Uptown Funk” and “Let It Go,” and I wanted to find something that would appeal to them just as much in Spanish. But every time I asked my Latin friends, I got recommendations that were great for me (Julieta Venegas, Bacilos, Juanes, and Manu Chao) but not so much for a 3- and 5-year old.Fortunately, I recently discovered two artists whose music and musical message I highly recommend for kids — and for parents.

I must have been hanging around the right online crowd, because I got a direct message from singer-songwriter Nathalia Palis-McLaughlinintroducing me to Nathalia Music — and it’s wonderful! Nathalia incorporates Latin beats that just make you want to get up and dance. And her music is not only for kids, it’s for adults, too.

Nathalia is originally from Colombia, and you can hear the influence in her work. In fact, the first time I heard her music, it reminded me of Shakira (and I happen to love Shakira). Nathalia’s music incorporates memories from her childhood in Colombia and memories she’s made with her own children here in the U.S. “La Iguana Pepa” recalls a story of an iguana that took over her mom’s garden in Colombia, and her mom’s daily attempts to get Pepa to leave. “Que Llueva,” a title from her latest album, is a song about her desire for rain in Los Angeles, where she currently lives with her family.

“Music has always been a part of my life,” Nathalia says. She talks about how her family used to gather around to sing and dance together. “My mom would play the guitar and my brother and I would sing together beside her. It was a family affair.”

Today, Nathalia incorporates that family focus in her music — her entire family is involved in the band. “I want families to enjoy what our family enjoys creating,” she says.

And even while she creates great musical entertainment, Nathalia has always used music as an educational tool. As a music therapist, she worked with children with special needs, using music to help expand their attention span and recall basic routines. The experience is what led her to use music to teach Spanish and Latin culture to her own children, and ultimately to launch her career as a bilingual performer. “I would sing about everything — brushing their teeth, getting dressed, setting the table — and I saw how much they enjoyed it,” she says. Now Nathalia’s music helps teach her kids about her cultural heritage and the person she is today.

To learn more, check out Nathalia’s three albums, which include a mix of Spanish, English and bilingual songs.

Just last week, I got an email from another musician — Andrés Salguero of 123 Andrés. Andrés is also from Colombia and based in Washington, DC.  In 2015, he was nominated for a Latin Grammy. I recently bought his latest album, Arriba Abajo, which I’ve been enjoying with my children.

What I like about Andrés is his ability to create songs that are both educational and fun. His “Arriba Abajo album has one of my favorite new songs, “Diez Pajaritos.” It’s an interactive song that teaches kids how to count and subtract, and it even features vocals from Nathalia. My eldest loves it because he has to keep up with the math and listen carefully. Andrés’ songs cover colors, numbers, vocabulary, love, and Latin culture using a diversity of rhythmic styles.

Andrés’ albums move from bachata to bolero to mariachi and vallenato. “I like to feature many rhythms and genres in my songs to represent the variety and diversity of cultures within the Latino experience,” he says. “My performances are a trip around the Americas, also borrowing elements from Africa, the US, and beyond!

Lucky for us, we get to see those performances on YouTube. My kids already love watching “Salta, Salta,” and today, we at MamaLingua are excited to announce the premiere of Andrés’ latest music video for “Diez Pajaritos.” Check it out! I can’t wait to put it on for my kids later today!

 My topmost favorite song by Andrés is “Hola Amigo,” from his first album “¡Uno, Dos, Tres con Andrés! en español y en inglés.” He teaches that it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you’re from, or what language you speak, but whether or not you’re a good person. As a mother, this is the kind of message I want to send to my kids — in Spanish or English — or both.

Nathalia Music and 123 Andrés offer albums with a mix of Spanish and English. The songs are catchy and easy to understand, which is key for language acquisition and a great way to embrace both language learning and cultural understanding. Give them a listen!


Why Learn Mandarin? - Parents Share Their Reasons

shutterstock_134522723Last month the Austin Area Chinese Language Speech Contest, held on April 23 at
 Doss Elementary, brought together 5 local Chinese Mandarin language schools. Mandarin language learners competed on preparedness, pronunciation and performance in Mandarin .  

The mere existence of such a contest for language learners speaks to the rapidly growing sector of Mandarin language learning schools in Austin and elsewhere in the United States.  Much of this growth is attributed to parents who want their children to learn Mandarin.

What was once considered a regional language in the Asian continent, Mandarin is now being viewed more and more as a global language with important properties of its own. To understand a bit more about this trend, we asked several parents why they chose Mandarin as a second language for their children.  



  • “Mandarin, because of its inherent structure and use of tones and pitch, complements and can facilitate learning in music and math.”
  • “I like that my child is learning a language that is so different from his native language.  It makes his mind work harder, which is good for his brain development.”
  • “One benefit is the logic in the language. I think it has helped us as a family when looking at life and the meaning in things around us.”
  • It develops “sensitivity to sound and tone.”
  • “I decided to have my son be exposed to a tonal language early so that he would not miss out on the opportunity to develop accurate tone and pitch which could be useful for him in later years.”
  • “We looked for a language that was complex and completely different from Western languages.”

Most answers strongly emphasized the benefits of the language itself and its contrast to Western languages.  Tonal languages like Chinese and Vietnamese use pitch to distinguish between a number of words that follow the same vowel and consonant sound.  A benefit of distinguishing pitch can also transfer to music; yet to develop accurate pitch, one must be exposed to it early in life. (Study Links Perfect Pitch to Tonal Language, New York Times).  The other key factor is the logical yet simple structure of the language.  Chinese, like Korean, Japanese and Turkish, can facilitate the learning of mathematical concepts more easily than do Western languages because they use fewer words and are able to convey concepts in a more simplified manner (The Best Language for Math, Wall Street Journal).



  • “The cultural influence in learning Mandarin pushes my child to do more and try a bit harder than do other current programs based in our Western society. “
  • “I like that my child is exposed to a culture that in many respects is so different from his own.  It helps him be aware of and open to multiple perspectives.”
  • “Since embarking on this journey it has and continues be an amazing one.  Our perception of the culture was blown out of the water…”
  • “The support is amazing! Meggie and her teachers are attentive to students’ needs and readily adjust to continue to challenge them at the same time making it fun.”
  • “The children in this community seem to really learn how to get along and respect each other; more so than children do in other programs I have seen.”

Every person we spoke to felt that they not only learned more about the Chinese culture after their children began lessons, but that they also came to greatly appreciate and value the culture and the positive impact it had in their own lives.  Many expressed feeling being part of a community that values mutual respect, growth, support and nurturing.


Global Presence

  • “My child will be able to speak to 90% of the worlds population by speaking English, Spanish and Mandarin.”
  • “We looked for [a foreign language] that was complex and factored in globalization.”

Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world with China home to roughly 20 percent of the world’s population (A Surprising Map of the World Shows Just How Big China’s Population is, the Atlantic).   In the U.S., the Chinese American population has long been the largest population within the Asian American population, (making up 21% of the Asian American population), and  is now also the fastest growing population in that community, growing approximately 38% between 2000 and 2010 (U.S. Census).

In global trade, China is the United States’ second largest trading partner and its largest importer.  Moreover, China’s integration in the supply chain of almost every global industry places an ever greater priority to have a population who can engage with businesses and leaders in China through an understanding of both language and culture.

What about other languages?

Before ditching other languages for Mandarin, realize that knowing a second language has great value in itself and other languages can even be of greater value to you than studying Mandarin.  Cognitive and social benefits from being bilingual are conferred regardless of the second language acquired.  Yet the ability to stay connected with one’s own culture and heritage through language is very valuable and should not be quickly undermined.  Additionally, the proximity to Latin America and the expanding influence of Spanish in American society still makes Spanish a number one choice for language learners (click here for an article by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times on this topic). Lastly, other important considerations include travel and other personal interests in learning about a region or culture.

Interested in Finding a Mandarin Program for You or Your Family?

You can find a Mandarin language program that meets your or your family’s needs in the greater Austin area by searching our directory. Type “Mandarin” in the box for “Search by Language or Keyword” and then choose a category.  You may also click here and then search by category only.