In my 14 years of mothering, I’ve discovered that it’s NOT EASY to teach your own kids anything that isn’t just naturally happening in the home.
We attended Mariella’s Italian Immersion class yesterday, and really enjoyed it. By "we" I of course mean my two youngest kids, aged 3 and 1, my partner Josh, and myself.
It was great practise to roll out my my rusty Italian. More importantly, the kids all LOVED it! My main takeaway is this: the class is fast and furious and fun! The fast and furious part means that 100% Parent/grandparent participation is a MUST. You have to leave your inhibition at the door and not be afraid to make mistakes or to speak and sing loudly and clearly! (Make sure you’re pre-caffeinated. I wasn’t, and it showed.) If you aren't on the ball Mariella will call you out!
Petrified? Don't be. The class is a gem, and Mariella is Intense In A Good Way.
It was not possible for me to fully understand her method before participating in this pilot class....and I totally get it now. You will work in this class, yes, but it’s worth it!! I think you’ll be inspired to do the hard work of passing on the Italian language to your kids in an English-dominated city. In my 14 years of mothering, I’ve discovered that it’s NOT EASY to teach your own kids anything that isn’t just naturally happening in the home. Maybe your partner doesn’t speak the language at all (ahem), making it doubly difficult to really naturally teach them Italian (or any second language).
This class with Mariella is an excellent starting point to work from if you're into the idea of teaching them Italian! Her idea is that parents and grandparents also attend, to bridge that gap where we are maybe speaking to our parents or the child in English. It’s a way to flip on the “Italian switch” in family communications to keep from losing the language, or to strengthen it if it’s already there. The songs and rhymes are both new and traditional, gathered from young mothers and grandmothers and old records and books alike.
In order to encourage partner and grandparent participation (the true goal of the class being to get the family speaking together in Italian!), and to allow for tots to attend in a way that makes sense for the pace and delivery method of the course, the January session is moving to Sundays, 11:15am starting on January 13th. It is a four-week course. A 1:1 adult to child ratio is necessary for the style of class, which demands that each child be in the parent’s lap or arms, or in their immediate proximity (meaning that you can bring multiple adults, but a minimum of one adult per child is needed.)
Teaching your kids Italian is an all-in affair! You will need to have your wits about you and your hands ready to work. The class runs something like this: Mariella sings or says a line, the parent enthusiastically repeats it to the child, to their face, sometimes accompanied by lifts or bounces, sometimes accompanied by hand gestures, tickles or pats. Sometimes everyone holds the child and follows Mariella as she sings and plays the tambourine. Sometimes she's reading from a storybook (which means everyone is repeating every line from the book back to the child.) Each line may be repeated multiple times, to help it sink in, and to get the pronunciation just right.
If you're curious and want to get more information on this class, OMNI TV's Italian News team will be airing some footage from the pilot at Evymama as well as an interview with Mariella on Saturday December 1st.
Image: My partner Josh, who speaks not a word of Italian- just because it's his birthday week and because he's pretty good at Dadding.