5 Celebrities You May Not Know Are Bilingual

Need some inspiration for your bilingual journey? Look to the stars! Seriously. All the cool kids are doing it.

I had no idea some of this folks were rockin' the language skillz, but a little research taught me a few things. Pretty cool.

Sandra Bullock

Who knew Sandra's mom was a German Opera singer? She passed on the language to her daughter. Check out her acceptance speech at this German awards show.

Mila Kuis

She moved to the States at the age of 7, knowing no English. Mila learned quickly, though. (Aren't kids amazing?) But she's still fluent in Russian!

Charlize Theron

Charlize is South African, which I did not know. Here's a video of her speaking in Afrikaans, including the correct pronunciation of her name.

Ben Affleck

At age 13, Ben spent a year in Mexico filming a children's TV show. He learned Spanish, and can still use it.

Natalie Portman

Natalie has dual American and Israeli citizenship. She was actually born in Jerusalem. Listen to this girl rock some Hebrew!

A little celebrity fun this Friday. Who else surprised you with their bilingual-ness?

Brazil, We've Got Your Back-Ups {#WorldCupWives}

Image credit: Wally Gobetz

June 12 is getting closer. And you may have heard that some of the construction in Brazil has experienced delays. 

The World Cup Wives always want to help! So we've got 3 ideas to offer FIFA if they are scrambling for some back-up plans.

(Note: If you're reading this via email or RSS, you may need to click here to watch the video.)

What do you think? Viable options? Which one do you think FIFA should consider? What do you propose if things aren't ready quite in time?

When Do You Say Something for Immigration?

I was wrangling my kids into childcare when I vaguely registered the signs on the wall. Is immigration the theme this month? I asked myself. Wait. That doesn't make sense. 

After dropping them off, I looked more closely. Several street signs lined the walls, including one I recognized from California as an immigration caution sign. It was opposite an actual "Caution: Children Playing" sign.

At first, I laughed to myself. They have no idea what this sign is.

Minutes later, though, I felt convinced I needed to say something.

Nothing makes me quite as nervous as speaking my mind to stranger in an employee/customer dynamic. Why? No idea. It has made for some... "interesting" hair cuts, clothing alterations and other experiences.

I approached an employee and started over-talking about how that's a sign on the highways in the Southwest to warn people about hitting immigrants crossing the border illegally. I mumbled something about how I used to live in California and we're an immigrant family... well, not me, but my husband.

She basically looked at me like I was crazy. I don't think she was sure if she should believe me or not. Then I started to doubt myself because, you know what... that sounds ridiculous.

It was a strange immigration encounter when I least suspected it. And it was a surprising reminder to me how few people are aware of immigration issues if it doesn't affect them directly. In our African American context, it simply wasn't recognized.

The employee was super gracious. She immediately took it down and simply said what I already understood, "They didn't know."

I'm not saying my conversation was a big social justice move. I just realized after my initial amusement that the signs presence could alienate or hurt one of the few immigrant families that may come through the door. I figured I should say something when the opportunity presented itself.

What do you think?

World Cup Dance-Off {#WorldCupWives}

How did I not know the World Cup came with such fun music?

In fact, each year there's an official anthem. "We Are One" by Pitbull holds the honor for 2014. But this week Shakira released her World Cup-themed song entitled "La La La." It includes wildlife, face paint and cameos from her soccer boyfriend and their one-year old.

Here's our take on the battle of the anthems:

(Note: If you're reading this via email or RSS, you may need to click here to watch the video.)

Which song do you like better?

Let's Skip “I Love Your Accent”

Source: Listas Locales 

I know, I know. It’s meant as a compliment. I mean… I’m married to a Latino. And his accent makes me swoon.

But I still recommend you by-pass the accent compliment upon first meeting someone.

Mainly because this opener is like walking up to someone and saying, “You’re different.” While you may truly appreciate their uniqueness, that person may not relish being different. They may want to blend in. And the comment can make them feel that they never can.

It also draws attention away from what you may have in common. Similarities tend to draw us to new friendships, so it’s more welcoming to focus on those characteristics.

If I hear that someone does have an accent and it seems plausible that English is the second language, I try to employ the “Golden Rule” and offer what I appreciate in my second language. I make extra effort to look directly at someone so they can benefit from lips and facial expressions (especially in loud environments).

I speak clearly and pay attention to how fast I’m speaking. There’s nothing more challenging than trying to understand a second language when the speaker is mumbling at rapid fire speed… or with food in the mouth!

I try to be conscious about nontraditional words, slang or cultural expressions. I want to do my part to create a reciprocal conversation where the other person does not feel confused or left out. I know I appreciate it when people stick close to the “textbook Spanish” when I’m trying to communicate.

Of course, those efforts may turn out to be totally unnecessary. When I first met Billy, I completely underestimated his ability to banter in English. He quickly made me step it up to stay on my game. Finally, I offer as much grace as I possibly can and never tease someone about their language skills.

What do you think about accents?

The Bilingual Smackdown

Yes. We have dropped the proverbial hammer on bilingualism at our house. Naturally, it was me, the monolingual one, leading the charge.

After listening to a younger kid speaking Spanish and English, I of course began uttering panicked phrases like “the window is closing!” (I work best under pressure… even if only self-applied.)

So Billy and I had a strategy meeting. It included the following three resolutions:

1. Solo Español

Billy and our rockstar nanny discussed re-amping their commitment to Spanish only. It’s totally harder than it sounds when Ella speaks non-stop in English and often responds with “I can’t hear you!

Ironically, this is now starting to involve me doing translation. Poor girl. I’m totally winging it!

2. Read To Me

Ban on English books. Well, not for me. I still read them to her. But Billy is making the extra effort to find those Spanish books for the bedtime routine.

3. Talk to Me

We’ve started gently encouraging Ella to respond back in Spanish. Usually, Billy has to provide her the words and have her repeat back her responses.

We’ve been doing this for a couple weeks now, and the changes have been dramatic! Ella has definitely started speaking more in Spanish… even to me.

It’s totally hard not to squeal out in glee when she looks at me and says “Quiero este vestido.” But I know if I show too much excitement, she’ll stop immediately. (Did I mention she’s 3 going on 16?)

An unexpected twist, however, is her babytalk. She has started speaking a ton of garbledy gook. Billy told me that he and our nanny have determined that’s Ella trying to speak Spanish.

It feels strange to hear your incredibly articulate (in English) child return to muttering non-sensical sounds. But she appears dead serious, so we’re listening politely and responding as we can.

And inside I’m doing a tiny little happy dance!

I won’t pretend to assume it’s all over now. If there’s anything we’ve learned in this bilingual experiment, it’s the importance of recommitment. But it’s certainly nice to be experiencing some small victories and seeing the beauty of what will come.

What are some of your small victories?

Oh, English, You Crazy Friend

Image credit: Emma

You've probably heard jokes about how challenging it is to learn the English language. And, of course, if you've ever spent time trying to help someone learn... it doesn't take long before you hear yourself saying, "I have no idea. That's just how it is."

Oh, no? Well, if you haven't said that, you're probably a much better tutor than me.

But English spellings continue to bring great joy and laughter to our house. 

It all started in Las Vegas (as every good story does...). Well, I guess technically it started with "do you want to grav some coffee?"

But in Vegas, we pulled into a parking garage before a wild day of buffet-perusing and poolside basking.

Trying to remember where we parked, I pointed at a sign "Ah, okay. Aisle 2." (Note: It actually wasn't the sign in the picture above... although that would be cool, right?)

Billy started at me. He pointed at the same sign. "That," he said. "That is how you spell 'aisle'?!"

He then proceeded to pronounce it as though it were a Spanish word: Eye-eeez-lay. To this day, that's how I remind myself how to spell it!

More recently, my sweet husband wanted to show us #WorldCupWives some love on social media. When I saw his post, however, it was the #WorldCupWifes.

He wanted a lot of explanation why that "f" becomes a "v." I could offer little. I just decided to be content with the fact that my husband is unfamiliar with pluralizing the word "wife"!

Finally, here's an example that just cracked me up:

Image source: Adult ESL Jobs

Okay, one last humorous share for you today. Because let's be honest... text messaging and autocorrect are making spelling a daily joke.

Twice this week, I've typed the word "excellent" only to have my phone change it to "eccentric" and "excrement". Seriously? And also, my dear Galaxy, can we just assume I'm never using the word "abd" and always change that to "and"? Gracias.

So here's one of my favorites. Enjoy!

What word spellings do you find amusing? And also... how much did you lobe that video???

How Soccer Made My Mother’s Day {#WorldCupWives}

Image credit: Ana Fuji
Today's World Cup Wives post is written by Katie!

Saturday morning after my daughter’s soccer game, I overhear my husband and another dad/coach talking.  It goes something like this:

“So are you watching the games tomorrow.” (It was the end of the season for the English Premier League and they play all 10 games at the same time on a Sunday morning).

“Um...not sure, it’s Mother’s Day.”

“Yea, I know...I can’t remember this ever happening before - with the games on Mother’s Day.”

“Do you think they celebrate Mother’s Day in England?”

“Not sure...and not sure how I’m going to watch the games.”

At this point, I decide to join in the conversation.

“You know, if you take the kids with you to watch the games, I could have the entire morning to myself.  That’s the best Mother’s Day morning I could wish for.”

Joy spread across their faces.

And that, my fellow World Cup Wives, is how I got a wonderful Mother’s Day morning - alone wandering the aisle at Barnes and Noble, sipping my iced coffee, followed by mani and pedi.

Sometimes this soccer obsession can really work in our favor.

(My husband came home and said that the bar was full of kids this morning without a mom to be found.  Sounds like some other World Cup Wives thought like me!)

How did you celebrate Mother's Day?

Good 'Ole Game of Grocery Charades

This conversation is an exact reenactment of what goes on in our house. Imagine me, sitting on the bed, talking to Billy as he prepares for a post-kids'-bedtime run to the grocery store.

Me: “Can I add something else to the list?”

Billy: “Yes, one more thing, but that’s it. I’m not trying to be there all night.”

Me: “I just need some biscuits.”

Billy: “Which kind?”

Me: “Not in the deli. The kind you twist.” I start demonstrating with my hands, pantomiming like I’m wringing out an old washcloth.

Billy: [blank stare]

Me: “You know… you pop it with a spoon!” I press my imaginary silverware in between my stationary hand and the empty place where my now spoon-wielding hand used to be.

Billy: “Why am I popping these biscuits with a spoon?”

Me: Out of words, I just continue hand twisting and spoon popping like an animated gif sitting on the bed.

Billy: “Oh, these?” He proceeds to poke himself in the stomach, hunch himself around the self-inflicted poke and giggle.

Sarah: “Yes! Those.” I laugh. “Did you just pretend to be the Pillsbury dough boy?”

And this, my friends, is an example of how our cross-cultural grocery shopping goes down. 

Of course, any time I add limes or lemons to the list, I always include “yellow” or “green” next to it!

What item do you have to explain to your spouse?

Love Story Round-Up {#WorldCupWives}

Photo credit: Katie Brady

You may remember that a few weeks ago, Katie and I shared our first video post, introducing ourselves and getting this #WorldCupWives party started! We told the stories of how our loved ones have engaged us in their love of soccer.

And we asked you to share your stories. We've already heard some pretty funny scenarios from Facebook comments and in-person conversations. Anecdote gold, my friends!

A few other bloggers did us the honor of telling their fútbol love stories online. I wanted to highlight those here. They are stellar, and you should definitely check them out.

Chicharito and the #WorldCupWives at Latinaish

This post includes some amazing videos in honor of the Mexico footballer Chicharito (nickname meaning "little pea"). And Latinaish is super funny, so you'll enjoy her perspective! Read it here.

#WorldCupWives (AKA How I Got Introduced to International Soccer) by Abby Fahmi

"To say that soccer is a part of our lives is like saying the water is where fish live. MLS takes up about 30% of my husband's time, between being a photographer for a website that covers the Columbus Crew, to running a 90 minute a week podcast for said website, even in the off season." Read Abby's post.

A Fútbol Love Story by Michelle

"He says {our first date} was when he invited me to lunch at Rainbow Cafe. We ordered soup and grilled cheese and made small talk while we watched the Brasil game during the 2010 World Cup. Really, he watched and wondered, why does that team have such ugly uniforms? We paid separately. The verdict is still out on what really counts as our first date." Read Michelle's post.

Becoming a Fan of Fútbol by Carrie

"I quickly came to realize what a big role fútbol played in Guatemala. It was the game of choice for kids at recess and on the street, and you could always find a game or two to watch on T.V. As an ESL teacher, I found out a great way to get kids talking was to throw out the all-important question, "Sos Barca o Real?" (Do you cheer for Barcelona or Real Madrid?) Read Carrie's post.

We are counting down for the actual fun to begin. The World Cup is coming soon!

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.