How to Get Along with Others

You may wonder, having just read the subject line, what the heck being a nicer person has to do with learning a foreign language! It turns out that in a 2010 study by the National Institutes of Health, bilingual children were generally found to get along more harmoniously with other children, whether in the school environment or at play.

The human brain is still a vast and mysterious frontier, but researchers believe there is a direct correlation between speaking a second language and expanding one's emotional perspective.

It's all about adaptability. As you stretch and expand your mind to embrace new ways of saying things, you are also developing new ways of seeing things. You learn that there is often more than one way to say the same thing, but perhaps more importantly, more than one way to do something or to understand a particular situation.

To quote the founder of an organization I used to work for, simply put:

Different is not wrong.

This simplistic statement actually packs a powerful punch! It can free us of dogmatic and narrow thinking and open our eyes to whole worlds and other perspectives.

So next time you sit down to study that foreign language, just remember that the more you're able to express yourself in another language, the greater chances of your becoming a more flexible, adaptable, and, hopefully, kind person!

As you stretch and expand your mind to embrace new ways of saying things, you are also developing new ways of seeing things.

Raising Children to be Bilingual

World to the Wise Podcast

Statistics show that about 43% of the world's population speaks at least two languages. Before you get even more intimidated, however, realize that much of this is by necessity, often because of geographic location or the ethnicity one is born into. In this episode, we sit down with two moms who are teaching their children a second language by choice, although not necessarily for all the same reasons. You'll meet Merry MacIvor Anderson, a Caucasian from Tennessee who speaks only Spanish with her two boys. And Daniela Ciliberti Nichols, an Italian married to an American, who is teaching her three children Italian in the midst of an English-speaking culture.

If you're a parent (or grandparent) interested in exposing your young children to another language, here are some articles I think you'll find helpful and encouraging:

Raising a Bilingual Child: The Top Five Myths

Raising Bilingual Children

Raising Bilingual Children: The First Five Steps to Success

How Your Child Can Benefit from Being Bilingual

As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated! Just leave a comment below or email me at

On Being a Polyglot

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polyglot [pol-ee-glot] (n). A person who speaks, writes, or reads a number of languages. If this podcast is about crossing cultural bridges, learning other languages has been a major vehicle that has helped me cross multiple bridges. Find out here why this is not something to boast about, but, like all gifts, is intended to serve and inspire others.


Be sure to comment! Either here or by email to

Coming next week: being a biracial couple in the American South.

The Unfinished Bridge

Photo: Andrea Schaffer
Photo: Andrea Schaffer

I've seen it so many times.

As I'm sure you do, I know quite a few people who are second generation immigrants to the US. Many are Hispanic, but there are lots of other ethnic and linguistic groups represented. And one of the saddest things I see is when the children speak only English. For whatever reason, the parents stopped speaking their native tongue with the children at some point.

Few would question, of course, the necessity of learning English in order to succeed in the US or any other English-speaking country. But how many parents have unwittingly deprived their children of an entire dimension of their cultural heritage by not raising them bilingually. A bridge unfinished. This is poignantly depicted in this story from PRI's The World in Words. I encourage you to take a listen.

Of course, it's easy for me to judge these people from the outside looking in. I've never felt the extreme pressure to fit in that prevents so many from speaking their native tongue. Many immigrants my age and older came over with parents who were determined that their children would assimilate into mainstream American culture as quickly as possible, so they even stopped speaking their native tongue at home. (In more recent times, it seems the parents tend to maintain their mother tongue more than in previous generations, in such a way that a native Spanish speaker can live an entire lifetime in the US without learning English. That's for another post.) Or sometimes it happened more naturally over a longer period of time. English began to replace the original family language because that's what was happening just outside the front door.

Take my sister-in-law, for example. She is a fourth generation Mexican American. Her parents were both perfectly bilingual and spoke mostly Spanish to the older children. But by the time the younger children came along, including my sister-in-law, the family conversations had morphed into mostly English, with only occasional Spanish words thrown in.

As a result, my sister-in-law was not confident enough in her Spanish to speak it with her own children, who she and my brother would have liked to grow up bilingually. Her two children, my nephew and niece, both look Hispanic, with piercing dark eyes, so many Hispanics address them in Spanish, only to be told they don't speak it.

But the PRI story doesn't stop there, laying the blame squarely on the parents for the fact that their children are monolingual. The child also has choices, as the narrator recognizes at the end. So he goes from saying, "OK, Dad, why did you kill Spanish in our family?" to "OK, I'm the one who killed it." So began his own journey to learning the language of his ancestors.

Do you have a similar story? Or a variation? Tell us about it!