Our world is shrinking. Companies have gone global; e-commerce is moving into foreign consumer markets; people are on the move, taking up residency in foreign lands for both personal and professional reasons.
We all must prepare our children for the world they will inherit. Some of it may not be so pleasant. But one thing we can do as they grow and adjust is to assist them to become global citizens.
They must be exposed to other cultures from a very early age and learn to appreciate that humans in all parts of the world have the same aspirations, many of the same values, etc. In fact, we members of this human race have far more in common than we do differences.
One of the ways that young children can begin to understand and appreciate other cultures is through holidays and the languages that are associated with them.
Enter the amazing technology we have at our fingertips today. And that technology has been incorporated into classrooms all over the world. Children in America can have virtual meet-ups with children in any other part of the world, provided their teachers are willing to occasionally disrupt their own personal lives due to time zones.
One of the things children love to share is their holidays – the traditions, the gifts, the food, and more. And one of the ways that they can do this, while also facilitating language study, is through holiday greetings.
Here are six ways in which holiday greetings can promote language and cultural awareness.
Sending Greeting Cards
Students in elementary and middle school classrooms (even high school, actually) may have already set up “partnerships” with similar classrooms in foreign lands. They have been engaging in video sessions.
As the holidays approach, there is a perfect opportunity to use the more traditional methods of communication, that is, regular mail, to send handmade holiday greeting cards.
These cards can show visuals of holiday traditions as well as typical verbal greetings. And if the students in that foreign classroom do the same, cultural awareness is obviously enhanced.
There may not be enough language proficiency for students to share their holiday traditions verbally. But here is where creativity can come into play. Students can create small skits to simulate what happens during their holiday celebrations.
These can include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, July 4, etc. for American students and such things as Kwanzaa in East African countries, Diwali in India, and, of course, Chinese New Years’ and Dragon Boat Festival – nine major holidays in all celebrated in China.
As students create their skits, they can use their language to describe things that are going on. Or, in some instances, online human translation from a volunteer can be used. This might be a parent, a local resident fluent in the target language, or an online translation service that offers public service translation for free.
Make and Send Special Ornaments
Greeting cards are not the only thing that can be sent to others to represent special holidays. All holidays have special images and symbols – a turkey for Thanksgiving, a Christmas tree, stockings, or ornaments, fireworks for July 4, etc.
Other cultures have their ornaments too – a dragon or a dreamcatcher, for example. These can be made of paper, with descriptive words, and sent to students in foreign classrooms. It is a great way to learn a new language as well.
Food – Always a Winner
One of the great things about video conferencing software is the ability for individuals and groups of individuals to get together virtually for all manner of reasons.
Holiday food traditions are in all cultures. A great holiday greeting between children of two cultures would be to cook special dishes during a virtual meet-up.
If there is also the benefit of language apps that allow instant translation, all the better. Teachers can tell groups of students, “choose yourself a favorite holiday dish and bring in the ingredients to prepare it.” As they prepare the dish for their foreign audience, an app can instantly translate the preparation instructions.
Going Local with Holiday Greetings
All holiday greetings need not be digital. All over America, there are places of worship for those of foreign cultures. A teacher can easily contact a member of leadership and make arrangements for children to get together to exchange holiday cards, small handmade gifts that depict some of their traditions, and to provide brief explanations of those traditions.
With an in-house translator on board to help, if necessary, such events can become regular occasions as holidays from both cultures are shared. Lifelong friendships might just develop.
We Must Come Together
If our planet is to survive, then we must prepare our children to become global citizens, ready and willing to cooperate to solve the major issues we face as a civilization.
While holiday greetings and gatherings certainly don’t qualify as “cooperation” per se, they are a start point for understanding and honoring one another within the larger context of our humanity.