The Mezzofanti Guild Language Learning Made Simple

Back To Work Finally But First… BIG News!


I’ve been receiving emails, private messages and social media comments asking where I am and why I seem to be so out of action lately.

Well I have been less present online sadly it’s true but for good reason/s! 🙂

The first reason being that last week I actually had my wedding here in California (remember this?).

It was an amazing day and still hard to believe that just a few short years ago, my stint in South Korea brought me and the woman I’m spending the rest of my life with into each other’s lives. Since then, it’s been an absolute roller coaster (we kept in touch while I was in Russia, Italy and Egypt, reconnected in Qatar and finally became official on my first trip to the US last year). Phew!

Thanks Korea! 😉

When in #Korea do as the Koreans do 🙂 Astro Boy couple outfit!

A photo posted by Donovan Nagel (@mezzoguild) on

Since so many of you have been following my language learning adventures for 5+ years now, I was excited to share the news of this milestone with you.

Solo adventuring is now officially over for me (a good thing)! 🙂

But it gets even better.

I have bigger news to share with you… ready…?

I’m also going to be a DAD. 🙂

Still feels strange to say that!

This is literally what I’ve wanted for pretty much my entire adult life (at 32 I’m starting very late) and admittedly, while travelling the world this past 12 years and through all the insane adventures I’ve had, I’ve never lost sight of the fact that starting a family is ultimately what it’s all about.

Meeting many single world travellers around the world who are 30/40/50+ years old and who see travel as the be all and end all of life has always depressed me greatly (no disrespect intended).

What’s the point?

Eventually, it all gets mundane and travel loses its buzz when there’s no one to share it with.

For me there came a time in my own vagabonding when I wanted to take all the incredible experiences I’ve had, cultures I’ve experienced and languages I’ve learned, and begin to impart them to the next generation.

So the good news is – we’re a travel family and always will be, especially being from opposite ends of the earth.

We’ve already begun to experience the benefits (and many challenges) of being a multinational family but it’s seriously exciting let me tell you.

This will be an entirely new dynamic for me: experiencing cultures and languages as a family from now on.

I’m sure that over the coming months and years I’ll have a lot to share with you on new travel and language immersion experiences from the perspective of a husband and father (rather than just a solo adventurer!). 🙂

 

A question for all you bilingual parents out there!

So… our baby isn’t even close to being born yet and I’m already trying to plan out it’s bilingual education 🙂

We’ve started discussing which second language we’re going to start them on (naturally I’m leaning toward Arabic!) but I’m also now taking a genuine interest in early bilingual education methods (here’s a great blog for parents trying to raise their kids bilingual BTW).

The weird thing is – it’s something I studied a lot during my Masters and felt very knowledgeable about but now that I’m actually going to have to apply it to my own child, it’s actually becoming quite daunting!

Here are my questions to you parents out there:

What approaches have you taken with your kids?

At what age did you start?

Was it a success or failure in your opinion?

 

Now… back to work and language learning! 🙂

Chat soon.

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  1. We started from birth and kept it consistent: mom spoke Spanish and dad spoke English. Mom read books in Spanish at night until our son was 7 or 8. These books included Moby Dick and The Lord of the Rings in Spanish.

    It was successful. Our 26-year-old son was evenly bilingual in early childhood. He can express himself in Spanish now but Spanish is the weaker language. He does enjoy being able to communicate with other Spanish-speakers.

    1. Wow. That’s great.

      I like that you read in the target language to your son. I’ll have to keep that idea in mind.

  2. Congratulations Donovan, very exciting!

    I’ve been a long time reader of the blog but haven’t commented until now – as this post really resonated with me. I met my Australian wife in Cambodia and we travelled a lot, living in Colombia last year and now settling in Australia with an almost-one-year-old son now.

    We wanted to share Spanish with him so I’ve spoken with him exclusively in Spanish from birth and his mum speaks with him in English. It works well as mum understands Spanish too so no-one feels left out. I do feel a bit awkward speaking Spanish with him in public as a non-native but it’s getting easier. Too early to tell how he is going to with speaking etc but I’ll report back later!

    1. Hey Michael. Great to hear from you and thanks!

      That must be tough exclusively speaking a second language to your son especially being in Australia where Spanish isn’t common. Good on you. I hope to hear back later on to see how it goes.

  3. First off, congratulations on both counts! Wonderful! As to language learning, cognitively normal children will learn just about anything you can throw at them; if they are learning multiple languages from birth, they will take a little longer to solidify and separate the languages (you’ll get some really cute hybrid words and sentences!). Babies can hear and discern all the sounds made by all the languages – this diminishes as they get older – so early exposure to the sounds of diverse languages will stand them in good stead for learning later on even if they are not the languages you concentrate on learning from the beginning. You could probably work with 2-3 languages at the same time with good results. For each language, you do need to make sure there is context and opportunity for practical usage of them. All the best.

  4. Congratulations with everything

  5. Congrats on your new adventures!! It is truly amazing that you are giving the gift of languages to your little one. I believe it is one of the most valuable gifts you can give a child. I’m a former Spanish immersion teacher and I know that the most effective way for your child to acquire 2 languages is for one parent to speak exclusively in one language and the other parent in the second language. I have many relatives who have done that and I am so amazed every time I see the two languages come to fruition in the child. One of my biggest regrets is that I did not do that with my twins. They were born premature and I was so concerned with their development that I just put language on the back burner and didn’t start with them until they were about 5. I now wish I had started at birth.
    The one parent, one language method does really work. I’ve seen it countless times. BUT if you are not comfortable with that then the next best thing is to at least expose the child to the language through kids’ books, music, activities at home. When I started with my kids at age 5 we did meal times in Spanish. We made simple meals together, learning the vocabulary of the food and utensils as well as polite table manners in Spanish. It really helped and they felt comfortable in restaurant settings where they could practice their Spanish.
    Best wishes! Happy thoughts coming your way!

    1. Thanks Celeste!

      Some great points there and it seems a few other people here have said the same thing so I might have to give it a go myself when the time comes. 🙂

  6. Donovan,

    “I’m starting very late”…hahaha, I’m still laughing at that. Our son was born a month after I turned 44. So I’d say you’re starting WAY early :).

    Congrats on both announcements, looking forward to seeing you somewhere in the US now that you’re here more.

    1. haha touché!

      That makes me feel better. 🙂

      Thanks for the well wishes and yea, hope to be down in Florida soon.

  7. Donovan,
    Congratulations on both news items.

  8. Congratulations to you and your wife.
    All the best! Mabruk!

    1. Thanks so much, Anne.

      Allah yubarak fiki 🙂

  9. Congratulations and wishing you all the best! 🙂

  10. Wow! Sounds like a real, exciting roller coaster as of late. Congrats on everything, truly! You might want to look into enrolling him/her in a bilingual school. I know near my city there are several. They provide bilingual instruction, so in a French/English school, they might have math class taught in English and science taught in french, with or without specific language instruction, depending on the school. The French school by me doesn’t teach french outright, you just learn it by being spoken to by your parents/teachers, etc. Might be worth looking into.

    Also, you might want to tell your doctor your plan. Bilingually raised babies speak later sometimes, so your pediatrician might want a heads up. Just so they know your baby is on track. They might even know how to adjust speech-related milestones for you. Good luck and congrats again!

    1. Some great things for me to think about there. A bilingual school would be great when the time comes.

      Thanks a lot for your well wishes and advice. 🙂

  11. Hi Donovan. Congrats on all your good news!

    My wife is a native Irish speaker and we’re raising four bilinguals. My wife only speaks Irish to them, I mostly speak English (my Irish isn’t great) and they are doing just fine, more than proficient in both languages.

    The key factors in promoting and nourishing their bilingualism was to have someone using each of the languages almost exclusively and sending them to primary and secondary schools where they are taught through Irish. Even then, the practice they get in English via their friends and TV is huge and has a tendency to have their minds compartmentalised: Irish for their Mother and her relatives, Irish for their School and English for just about everything else.

    And starting from day one is key: I thought our kids were doing great until I realised that my Spanish colleague’s two girls only speak English to their Mother, Spanish to their Father and are going to an Irish language primary school! And thriving in all three languages!

    For us, it has been a great success. My advice is to go for it.

    PS. Thanks for the review of Gaeilge gan Stró! I found it very useful. Go raibh míle maith agat!

    1. Thanks for all the advice, Eddie.

      Glad the review helped too 🙂

  12. Congratulations!!

    Since you’ve been interested in Irish, you might enjoy looking at ‘Gaschaint’ (http://www.siopa.ie/en/i-58-gaschaint_leabhar_agus_cd/i.aspx?ID=580) – a book (with 3 CDs) of phrases for parents whose school Irish didn’t prepare them for parenting, so it includes phrases like ‘Take that out of your mouth!’ and ‘Are you ready to get out of the tub?’

    I used phrases from it with our 2 youngest when they were quite small (as a parent you do say the same things over & over, so it’s great practice). They were fine with it, learned & understood from context, and occasionally answered in Irish. But be aware that from the age of 3 or 4 they may decide that the language is just Dad’s quirky hobby, and is not cool or practical with anyone else – unless you have, or can create, a community outside the home where they’ll hear it and can use it. Books & CDs may help, but there’s no substitute for interaction with people outside the home too. Best of luck!

    1. Grma!

      Awesome. I just had a look at Gaschaint and think I might order it.

      You raise a really good point there and it’s something I’ve considered a lot. I’d like to intentionally move to an area where regular usage is possible (ideally the country itself at some point :)).

  13. You make such a good point that is unfortunately not realized until too late, and that’s that you aren’t likely going to want to travel solo until you’re old. I have done my share of hitchhiking and world traveling by myself, and am now finding that when I go places, I’d like to share the experiences with someone whom I will talk to about it again, instead of these people I meet and know I’ll never see again once we part. We think that youth will be everlasting, but we all get old, and we just can’t hang with the younger travelers any longer. And I’m afraid with the declining amounts of people choosing to get married and have children, they are going to have a long, lonely set of decades during their “golden years.” With medical technology increasing, many of us will have plenty of time to sit at the nursing homes and think about how much we wish we had found another to share our adventures with, and also to bring another life into the world who can experience the joys we’ve felt too.

    1. So true, Artie.

      I think a defining moment for me was standing beside my grandmother’s deathbed a few years ago surrounded by her grandkids. I had just been vagabonding all over Turkey and Georgia, and raced home to say goodbye to her.

      I realized then that when I’m in that moment one day, I won’t care about the cool stuff I’ve seen, exotic food I’ve eaten or the languages I’ve learned. All that will matter are the family I love holding my hand.

      Thanks for chiming in.

  14. Congratulations on both!!

  15. As someone who grew up with bilingual parents who spoke different languages, they both spoke to me in their native languages but spoke to each other in English so English is my stronger language and I’m weaker in my parents languages. It’s really important for you to speak to each other in the language you want your kids to learn ^-^ the same thing happened with my friend whose dad is Chinese and mom is Korean. They spoke to her in their languages but spoke to each other in English so English is her native language.

  16. Hey man, I enjoy your blog, especcially because I am an Arabic lover as well. Live in Amman right now and have lived in the middle east for awhile now. I have two daughters both born in the middle east. Although, we speak English primarily in the house we do try to use both languages often. Because they are both young we try to give them simple commands in both English and Arabic. Also, when it comes to vocabulary we try to say those things in both languages to reinforce the words. Also, we put them in day cares where they only speak Arabic so there is several hours of immersion everyday. They are both young now, but can’t wait to see them fluent in both languages like native speakers!

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