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Jun 26 2014

Mr. Mayor, Please Don’t Translate Government Documents Into Russian

By at 1:44 pm

BillDeBlasio

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio recently kicked off Russian Heritage Month by proclaiming that, “it’s about time government and municipal agency forms and documents be translated into Russian.” He added that NYC is the ultimate city of immigrants and that Russian immigrants keep the city strong.

When my family and I emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1977, I was 7 years old and didn’t speak a word of English. No, that’s not true. I knew two words: “apple,” because it was on the first page of my English alphabet book, and “the,” because, for the life of me, no one could explain what it meant. And no one around me could pronounce it correctly.

In 1977, it was believed that the best way to learn a new language was through complete immersion. I was put into second grade, into a class where I was the only kid who spoke Russian. (I was one of just two Russian-speaking students in the entire school.) Read the rest of this entry →

May 27 2014

I’ll Need to Learn Some Hebrew Quick To Keep Up With My Daughter

By at 2:24 pm

dictionary2

“MAAAHHHHHMMMY! HOW DO YOU SAY TRAIN IN HEBREW?!”

“Um, I’m not sure. We can ask Daddy when he gets home.”

“WHAT ABOUT SOAP? BUBBLES? PRINCESS? BABY DOLL? BROCCOLI? HOW DO YOU SAY THOSE IN HEBREW!?!” Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 12 2013

Sometimes, Bribing Your Kids Just Works

By at 10:00 am

kids singing in russian concertHello and welcome to another exciting episode of: Alina Tries to Make Her Kids Speak Russian. (To learn why I want them to speak Russian, read my previous post here.)

I thought I’d found the answer when I discovered JAR-Ptitsa: Judaism Through the Arts (the J.A.R. stands for Jewish American Russian and the word jarptitsa in Russian means firebird; clever, no?). All three of my kids are very artistically oriented, so I figured this was perfect! They’ll do the stuff they love, they’ll speak Russian, they’ll meet other kids who also speak Russian, and they’ll even learn about Judaism along the way. What could be better? How could this fail?

I’ll tell you how.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 28 2013

How to Teach Your Kids Hebrew

By at 5:03 pm

hebrew alphabet blocksI grew up in New York speaking Hebrew with my Israeli mother and at my day school, Spanish with my Argentinean father and grandparents, and English everywhere else. I enjoyed being able to talk to lots of people, but it wasn’t until I became a developmental psychologist that I fully understood what a wonderful gift my parents had given me.

Bilingualism has tremendous benefits, and not just when you are trying to find a bathroom in Tel-Aviv. Bilingual children are better at problem solving, planning, and self-control. A lifetime of bilingualism may even help delay the onset of dementia in old age. Read the rest of this entry →

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