Context Is Key!

Post by Aileen Passariello-McAleer with Christia Hoffman, Founders of Mama LinguaMamaLingua_Header_1200

As my daughter stepped out of the shower the other day, I wrapped her up tightly in a towel and said “Acurrúcate!” I was telling her to get cozy and cuddle up in the towel.

Mi hija stared intently at my mouth as I spoke, so I continued to repeat the word as she snuggled into her towel. After she’d heard it a few times, she said, “Mami, acurrúcate!” For the next five minutes, we acted out what “accurúcate” means and practiced how to say it. I never needed to translate the word into English, because the meaning was clear through the context. (See what I just did there at the beginning?)

Later that day, my little one began singing “Los Pollitos Dicen,” a song about a mother hen who cuddles her chicks to sleep. “Acurracaditos… duermen los pollitos.” That was an aha moment — for both of us. I realized my daughter had learned the meaning of a new word and connected it with a song she already knew. Immersion at its finest.

Teaching through context is a great tool when immersing your child in a second language. You can utilize as many props as needed to communicate the meaning of the word and to set the stage for learning in the target language, rather than learning through translation.

For my daughter, learning “acurrúcate” in context made such an impression that she now uses the word anytime either of us gets out of the shower. Routine and context have made this word a permanent part of our vocabulary and her comprehension.

My Tip: Use this concept to teach some of those keywords to your little ones, your spouse, and yourself — and to make the most of your daily routines.Use “Vamanos!” as you walk out the door, and your kids will know they should be going with you. “Despiértate!” as you open their shades so they can get ready for the day. “Quien quiere helado?” as you prepare to serve up some ice cream. Context is key!