Holidays are such a great time to have some foreign language Christmas fun. You can enjoy studying other languages and cultures. Nobody’s in the mood to do regular work, so it can help keep everyone motivated and working hard when they know you’re doing something special.
My children study two foreign languages (Chinese and French), but I don’t limit our holiday fun to just those languages. There’s too much fun to be had in this area, and too much opportunity for cultural appreciation. Exposing them to many different languages increases their intrinsic motivation to study foreign languages.
3 Ways to Have a Merry Christmas in Other Languages
FIRST STEP – BACK AWAY FROM THE LANGUAGE VOCABULARY LISTS
The three biggest foreign language holiday fun killers are vocabulary lists, tests, and grammar drills.
Nope. Don’t do it.
Let’s pick Food, Crafts, and Music instead.
There’s no need to worry about measuring how much your kids are learning from these activities. If they’re having fun, they’re learning with these activities.
I’ve picked activities with lots of pictures and video, so there’s no need to worry about understanding most of the words. Or really, any of the words. Just go with it and listen to the rhythm and sounds of a foreign language. The more you listen, the more your brain begins to realize that it’s useful language, and the more your brain wants to remember it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about teaching language, it’s that children are a lot more motivated to learn language when they see the reason behind it. And, seriously, passing a vocabulary test is not motivating. Read and translate what they’re interested in. Create a fun bilingual environment.
#1: CHRISTMAS RECIPES – Pick up your spatula
There’s probably going to be food involved during Christmas, and the food is probably going to involve some sort of dessert at one point, which means I’m all over it. Incorporating a food activity isn’t even any extra work, because we eat every day anyway.
Can you think of any favorite Christmas foods? Make ‘em, bake ‘em, and eat ‘em. Or, take your dishes to friends if you’re feeling generous.
Christmas-Inspired Recipes from Other Cultures
German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)
You can watch a video about this in English, or German. This is a side dish, so it’s not like anyone has to eat a lot of it if they don’t care for it. Personally, I love this stuff, and so do a few of my kids. It looks kind of weird to an American, I suppose, but there’s just something about it that tastes great in the middle of winter. I grew up eating it at Christmas as the Danish version, Rødkål, but there are probably as many variations as there are grandmothers. Bonus: It’s super healthy. I think. I don’t know, I’m not a dietician, but it’s certainly colorful, and cabbage is a vegetable, so, I’m assuming it’s got to do something for you.
French Christmas Cake Recipe
I love to watch French cooking shows in French, even though I’m a total beginner. This coconut Christmas cake looks so delicious, and the instructions are simple enough once you make the kids convert metric measurements to imperial. If you don’t like coconut, there are a bunch of alternatives.
Mexican Tamales Recipe
How much do I love this Abuela who makes like 1000 tamales and talks to you in Spanish and English? As much as I love tamales. And that’s a lot. It makes me want to make tamales for Christmas.
Jengibre (Gingerbread) Recipe
One of my favorite Spanish words ever is jengibre. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I don’t ever want to call it gingerbread again. Just jengibre forever. Watch this jengibre-man video. It’s ¡Súper fácil! I’m totally just going to buy pre-made gingerbread houses, but we’ll watch the video just to hear the word jengibre.
Guess what? You’re sneaking math into these food-related activities. Measuring! Counting! Spacing! Estimating! Multiplying! Dividing! Budgeting! Temperature measurement! Time! And you’re sneaking in reading! And planning!
And it’s all wrapped up in a flaky crust!
#2: HOMEMADE CHRISTMAS CRAFTS – Get out your stack of construction paper
There’s no need to spend a bunch of money on craft supplies. I keep construction paper, yarn, popsicle sticks, and cheap paper plates on hand, and I try to limit our crafts to those materials.
Make Danish Paper Hearts
These are a Christmas tree decoration in Denmark. They’re much easier to make than you’d guess just by looking at them. These are so cute, and so easy once you know the trick, that there are many tutorials on making them. You can find a free printable Danish heart pattern here. I like using the printed pattern with elementary-age children, but this craft is good for all ages because you can make complicated patterns if you’d like. Here is a video in English that shows how to weave a Danish Paper Heart (Julehjerter). But of course, you’d like to see a more complicated one in Danish.
Spanish Language Christmas Cards Craft
I love PaperPop’s Spanish language YouTube Channel so much. I speak Spanish, and I find the host’s accent easy to understand. I’ve never heard any foul language, and the crafts are usually easy and end up so cute. There’s a fun video to watch in Spanish, plus free printable Christmas cards.
German Christmas Woodcraft
Ok, so this craft isn’t exactly practical for your home, but it involves power tools, so if you’ve got a boy of any age, it might pique his interest. I love watching craftspeople at their work. If you want to do a simple German craft afterwards, you can always make these beautiful folded paper German Christmas Stars (simple, no narration). These are another paper craft that can get very complicated, and there are videos with German language narration.
Guess what? You’re sneaking math into crafty activities. Measuring! Proportions! Symmetry! Scale! Counting! Patterns!
And it’s all wrapped up in homemade wrapping paper and covered with glitter!
#3: CHRISTMAS MUSIC – Put on your dancin’ shoes
Did you ever stop to think that people in other countries listen to music in English all the time? Even though they don’t speak English?
Why don’t you try listening to non-English music a little more often? You might find some songs your kids love. Christmas carols are great non-English songs to learn because you already know the gist of what the song is about. For those of you who started sweating when I told you to put down the vocabulary lists, you can start feeling better here, because you can totally pass out music lyrics and have your kids sing along with them until they know the songs. They won’t even know you were teaching them vocabulary if you don’t tell them.
There are many Spanish Christmas Carol playlists available with lyrics on the videos, and you can print out the lyrics separately, too. Did you ever notice how much easier it is to rhyme in Spanish compared to English?
When you get together at a family holiday gathering and your distant relatives start quizzing your kids about what they’re learning in that crazy homeschool, your kids can break into a rousing chorus of Jingle Bells in Chinese.
Did you know Silent Night is available in 30 languages on YouTube? It’s nice background music to your other Christmas activities. There’s another one in 52 languages, but it’s over two and a half hours long. I guess you could put it on when it’s time to get rid of the relatives who keep asking your kids who the 34th president was.
Guess what? You’re sneaking in a lot of skills related to language arts. Rhythm! Rhyme! Syllables! Poetry! Prose! Poetry vs. Prose! Vocabulary!
You can find more Christmas activities and spend the month of December enjoying the season together in your homeschool.
Lisa Yankey is a regular contributing writer for HomeschoolSuperFreak.com and the author of the upcoming book, “The Homeschool Path to Foreign Language.” You can find her at www.highenergyhomeschool.com, on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on YouTube.
Bilingual Children’s Christmas Books / Books About Christmas in Other Cultures
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