Hello and happy almost summer friends!
I’m excited to introduce the first part of our summer blog series today where we will explore language and its role within ABAR.
Language learning is something that is close to my heart. Before I started Ditto Kids, I co-founded a small business where kids and their caregivers learned French or Spanish immersively through play. So I was so excited when I came across a brand that centers language learning in an accessible and sustainable way - Habbi Habbi (also mom-founded) is a brand that helps kids learn Spanish and Mandarin Chinese with the help of easy and accessible Reading Wand; more on that later!
My love for language learning is something that has been somewhat of a theme throughout my life and in many ways has sprung from the core understanding that language holds the power to break down barriers and to expand empathy, solidarity, and advocacy across cultures and countries.
Because of this belief our family has always centered language learning and we have spoken to our children both in French (and for about 4 years, Mandarin Chinese) from birth.
Now don’t get me wrong - I’m not particularly gifted with languages or anything like that, in fact my kids now correct my many mistakes when I speak French, which is the larger goal even if it’s funny at the moment!
So when we were looking at our editorial calendar this year I knew that I wanted to start a conversation with you guys our Ditto Kids Community about language learning, the deep ways it intertwines with ABAR, and how as parents we can equip ourselves to navigate this learning experience with our kiddos in a way that is respectful, authentic, and also accessible.
This is why we decided as a company to put together a small blog series spread throughout the summer, to help illustrate and showcase the importance of non-native language learning in different forms and iterations and particularly as it relates to anti-racism.
Throughout our series we will also share a few small businesses that are helping non-native speakers and heritage speakers pass languages onto their kids in ways that align with our company values.
Whenever I speak of non-native language learning I always encounter many people who say to me, “I could never do that- I’m terrible at languages.” and I’m like “trust me, I get it!”
I’m average at best with my language abilities. But, you wouldn’t not let your child watercolor just because you feel like you don’t know how to paint, right?
We live in a culture where people feel so discouraged from doing anything unless they’re highly skilled at it but that’s so constricting and frankly such a disservice to ourselves and our communities. We’ve got to push back against the mentality that things aren’t worth doing unless you excel. Language learning is one of those things!
One of the biggest reasons language learning is so closely related to anti-racism, diversity and inclusion is that your child’s world suddenly expands exponentially when they learn another language.
For example if your family is natively Anglophone, they are able to communicate with about 1.5 billion other speakers in the world. When you learn Spanish, you are able to speak with 500 million more people in the world. If you learn Chinese, you’re able to communicate with about another 1.5 billion. Language connects, language expands, and language empowers.
Isolation can lead to unintentional ignorance. It’s natural that when we don’t have an ability to communicate with others, we don’t have the opportunity to learn about them and our collective world culture. When we learn more and feel more comfortable in a language and cultures that are not our home culture, we have the opportunity to develop greater understanding for others. We also have the opportunity to use that knowledge to better advocate for others.
These are just some of the ways that language learning can impact our homes, our children and our communities and we will continue to explore these issues throughout the summer but we also want to tackle the fears and anxiety that non-native language learning can bring and help you as parents and caretakers navigate that very natural and common fear.
As I mentioned, we spoke Mandarin Chinese with our kids part time for the first 4 years of motherhood. Eventually, I dropped teaching it immersively because I didn’t have the resources to handle my kids' expanding vocabulary needs as well as their need to hear from native speakers. And so, I was pretty excited to find Habbi Habbi and am really thrilled to share them with you today because they’ve empowered me in this wild wild year to find a way to bring language learning back into our home.
Habbi Habbi is owned and operated by two wonderful and inspiring moms, Hanna and Anne-Louise, who reside on the West coast of the United States. They are moms to collectively 4 children and founders who not only share my love for language and belief that language is a tool to broaden our childrens and our own world view and experiences but I also admire the way they run their business and do this work.
Habbi Habbi books use a Reading Wand to give the kids the chance to see and hear Chinese or Spanish from a native speaker on demand. As a lower screen-time household, I also love that it is screen free! Every single inch of the books is tappable which is just a dream because all of my kids were clamoring to use it.
Each book explores a different subject and has been meticulously translated by a team of native language translators and a thoughtful process of translation to best represent the language in an accurate and authentic way. One thing I especially love is that one Wand works across all of the Habbi Habbi books and can work across all languages that Habbi Habbi teaches. Another thing that really stood out to me was the way that each book not only serves as a vehicle for language learning but each book also focuses on a specific theme so not only are kids learning a language but they are also learning about big ideas like body positivity, global celebrations, and spoken affirmations for kids (and their adults).
I’m a big believer that language learning is best started when kids are under the age of 6 and it’s interesting to see that my younger children are actually reflexively remembering what they’re hearing more seamlessly than my oldest child. Habbi Habbi leaves the choice of age and pace up to you and your needs but they do break their books down by section which makes it really easy to navigate for families who like ours may have a large range of ages and levels of development in their home.
Habbi Habbi also holds play and intention at the core of all that they do and it shows in each of their books which is one huge reason why when kicking off this series I knew I wanted to share Habbi Habbi with you. Because learning and anti-racism don’t have to be daunting or tedious. These things can and should be fun, accessible, and joy-filled.
I hope this little blog piece got your brain thinking about languages and the power that they hold and that you’ll continue to join us this summer as we explore the connections between language and ABAR.
We’ve linked Habbi Habbi’s site below along with one of my kids personal favorite sets in case you want to check them out and maybe set a summer intention of language learning in your home.
Do you speak multiple languages in your home? Let me know! We want to hear from you and how language has changed your worldview.
We've also got a really different and fun collaboration going on over on our Instagram so go check it out and give us your feedback we're trying a lot of new and perhaps untraditional things in our social media approach this summer and would love to hear your thoughts.
As always stay safe and healthy out there and thank you for sharing this space with us.