How do you know when you’ve really touched someone with your product, with your personality, with your teaching style or whatever it is that you bring into this world as your ‘gift?’
I remember being at a woman’s event a couple of year’s ago and one of the exercises was to write our own obituary. We were asked to focus on what contributions we had made in life for different people. I volunteered to read mine aloud to the group and received (from what I recall) a huge round of applause. (How very weird it felt to have total strangers clapping for what was to be read during my funeral service!)
My point is, we all want to feel we give somehow, someway to people as we spend our precious time here on Earth.
When I did my live event this week at a local library to celebrate the Day of the Child/El día de los niños, I had one of those truly “Aha!” mornings that helped me realize how very much I am touching people’s lives with my Boca Beth Program. The Youth Services Specialist from that branch was thrilled to have me, Boca Beth, presenting a fun, interactive children’s class for her normal group of story time families. The moms, grandparents, kids kept entering the room … until, to this Youth Specialist’s delight, we had 45 people in the little library community room! (Turn the air conditioning down because we are going to ¡baila, baila, baila! dance, dance, dance!)
And dance we did, and sing and play and use puppets and instruments to bring Spanish to life for these young children. “Rojo/Red” “Ojos/Eyes” “Uno, dos, tres/One, two, three” We were all having fun being introduced to Spanish and English in a fun and non-threatening way! It felt great! The kids were smiling, the moms, preschool teachers and family members were all so proud as their children belted out new words in a new language. And the little Latino children (who normally don’t witness such Anglo affection for their native tongue) now were feeling swelled up with pride/orgullo.
I love that the local Spanish TV station was there filming – Bay News 9 en español had Sandra and Bernie there. I tell you – Bernie, the video tech, had to have had some sore knees that night! He kept getting right down to the kids’ level to film their interaction with BOCA our puppet, our musical shakers and all of the child sized fun! He and Sandra were terrific sports during a very busy, very edutaining, very spirited Spanish fun time with Boca Beth!
Later, Sandra (who like many of my amigas here in the Tampa Bay Area – she was born here in the United States and have parents from Columbia) wanted to conduct an interview in Spanish only with me. Her Spanish was beautiful so my Gringa-fear disappeared! (For those of you who are so embarassed by your accent from one language to another, you need to lose that baggage and speak away! It’s the only way to get better at that language, and the native speakers of that country whose language you are trying to speak love the fact that you are attempting to communicate in their native language. So go for it!) The interview went well, and even though I am not a native speaker my amigas/amigos tell me my accent/mi acento is beautiful. (In fact, my first husband’s mom who hailed from Cuba and her husband from Spain used to say to me, “Beth, tu hablas mejor Español que mi hijo./Beth, you speak better Spanish than my son.”)
Something that comes up often as I introduce children to Spanish as a second language is the question or comment on my being a non-native speaker. Many experts say the optimum experience for a child to be raised bilingually is to have one parent speak one language and the other parent speak the other target language. Sounds good, right? But we all know that is not the reality of our lives. Most of my Boca Beth customers have only one language in the home. Those who have both Spanish and English available to them admit that they default to one language the majority of the time due to various reasons.
So, here’s the deal (and I have wanted to address this for a long, long time and now with personal blogs I can do it!) …my speaking Spanish the way I do in our DVDs as BOCA’s voice and singing on our CDs is done purposefully, methodically and in a teaching manner. When I speak with Jorge (my neighbor/vecino from Ecuador who tells me daily how beautifully I speak his native language!), and I am engaged in a conversation, I speak with native and very near native in my pronunciation. When all of these children are introduced at a young age via my Boca Beth products they are learning mainly textbook Spanish/Castilian Spanish (though I do not speak with that thicker Castilian accent).
With over 69 dialects within the Spanish language I am bound to ‘offend’ some Hispanics, Latinas, Latinos but those friends who can get through their own personal baggage of how dare she think she can do this when she is not even from a Spanish-speaking country most often pat me on the back and say, “God Bless You. You have spent who knows how much money, time, energy and passion on creating something that shares with the general English-speaking communities my native language of Spanish. Beth, you make me happy because now my little boy feels proud that his mommy and daddy speak Spanish and when we insist on him replying to us in Spanish, you have made it ‘cool’ to speak Spanish in a very English-dominated society.”
All I ever wanted to do with this Boca Beth Program was to make it fun to learn Spanish at a young age for the English speaking child and give their parents and teachers fun, easy and affordable products to make the learning start early even if those parents did not speak Spanish and even if they did not have a teaching degree. And then I wanted to make it easy and fun for the Spanish-speaking children to get a jump start on learning English with their native language of Spanish next to it as they learned new words. I wanted every Spanish speaking child who owned one of our CDs and DVDs to feel so proud of their heritage, their native language so that I would never again witness a Latina friend of mine refusing to answer her five year old son unless he spoke in Spanish to her. I never intended to teach any of these children conversational, let’s-go-travel-in-a-country-and-be-fluent new language! Goodness! I would have to charge $279.99 for THAT program!
So, let’s be real. Boca Beth was born in Florida, lived in Chile as an exchange student for a Summer, lived in Mexico for a Summer and married a Latino guy (that lasted 7 years before the ‘Oh-Oh’ moment!!!). She stayed fluent in her reading, writing and speaking of Spanish by working and traveling within her community – proud to be bilingual and not ashamed to speak (no matter who might attack my accent – which no one did until I started this Boca Beth Program).
I think what has happened is I have offended those Spanish speaking people who really feel they should have been the ones to create this line of products. (I have had two Latinas over the past 5 years actually raise their voices to me at an Educator’s Conference where I was exhibiting and say something to the effect of, “How dare you! This was my idea. I have been thinking about doing something just like this for years.” I felt like saying, “Then you ask your husband to max out the home equity line of credit to the tune of more than $148,000 and you lose sleep working from 2 am – 5 am even when you have to be ready to get all three kids off to school each day with a smile and you learn all there is to learn about not only creating the idea but putting it into a real, tangible product but also about how to take that product to market, how to get some PR for it, how to network and build relationships and how to maintain your integrity and love and passion for what started it all in the first place.”)
But I have recently accepted Jesus into my life, and I am too Christian in my ways now to come back at them with that reply. For I know deep down they need to deal with their own selves while I need to just keep walking with the Lord as he guides me on this journey to be a fantastic mom who is raising three children to be respectful of others and appreciate every day (especially since their Grandma just passed on to the Lord one month ago tomorrow), to be a great partner and to share my gift of teaching with families worldwide.
Technorati Profile“>NOW BACK TO THE END OF MY LIVE EVENT…….By the end of the Boca Beth fun session every child had a BOCA BETH sticker, most had a high five/cinco or a hug/abrazo for me, Boca Beth, and most every parent thanked me with sincere appreciation for the effort they realized I have put into creating a program that brings together these two languages. It is so often about being an entrepreneur and the business side of things lately as I enter my fifth full year of doing only Boca Beth. I gave up big bucks in the restaurant industry to follow my passion, my dream. It’s been challenging living on one income when we were so used to two with a family of five (and Molly the calico cat!). We have had to say “no” often to the kids for things (the 17-year-old still can’t believe we won’t HAND a car to him and pay for insurance to boot! In your dreams buddy!). We have had to skip family vacations because mom was producing ANOTHER CD that year. We have had to put up with my cooking lots more instead of Chilis!
But then there’s been the up side of it . . . the time we got the order for NetFlix.com, the phone call from the Associated Press journalist who wanted my thoughts on raising bilingual children when both parents speak only one language, the article in Scholastic/Instructor Magazine and so much more. We always hear – take the highs with the lows! All of us do that – it’s just the juggling act of making certain we never get too low, nor too high! (Oh, but I love those really high moments and so dislike the lows – even though I try to learn from them all.)
Man, I guess I really needed to get that native vs. non-native thing off my chest (and after nursing three kids I really can’t afford to lose any of that chest!!!). I welcome your feed back on this – those of you who own my CDs and DVDs as well as those of you just stopping by. I might have hit a ‘cord’ with some of you and then others who have known me since the beginning may be so surprised that I even have to deal with this aspect of the production.
Either way, bottom line, it is truly all about the children…
Happy Educating! ¡Sea feliz educando!