This was a guest post written by an anonymous author.
Creating a multilingual kitchen – translating cooking into language learning
Cooking is an important cultural activity. Almost every region of every country has its own local flavours, speciality dishes, cooking techniques and more, just as it has its own regional accent, dialogue or even language. As such, translating cooking into a language learning activity to engage children is an exciting way to get them learning. Not only will they pick up
words, but they can also develop an appreciation of the wider culture of the country in question, through its food.
Why translate cooking into language learning?
Raising multilingual children provides them with a range of benefits. Being able to speak a second, third or fourth language brings practical advantages when it comes to choices over where to live and work in later life. Language learning also helps to broaden children’s cultural awareness and world view, and there is a range of opportunities when it comes to the best languages to learn in 2020 in this respect. Given the deepening global awareness of systemic racism in many countries, and the fact that children in those countries have been found to show racial bias by the age of
five, there are societal gains to helping to expand cultural awareness from a young age.
Cooking and translation – the perfect pairing?
How many recipes are there in the world? Over five trillion, by some calculations. That means that there are dishes out there to suit absolutely every palette! Just as foods vary hugely, so too do languages, with different regions and dialects making a fascinating study (and translation and localization a fascinating future career).
If you’re starting with the basics though and engaging young children with language learning in the kitchen, you can forget the finer points of grammar and get ready to have some serious fun. All you’ll need is basic translation to help them pick up a few words each time.
Children love to dress up and pretend, so don a traditional costume from the country you’re teaching them about and get them dressed up too. With the scene set, you’re ready to put your acting skills to the test. Assume the character of a chef who speaks your chosen language and get baking!
Use translation to help your youngsters absorb vocabulary as they cook. For each ingredient, present it in the foreign language first and ask your little sous-chefs to copy the word you say and them to translate it. As well as ingredients, you can name everything from utensils to the oven in order to help boost their vocab.
There are plenty of other ways that you can through translation into the mix while cooking. How about an ingredient treasure hunt with clues written in the foreign language? Or what about stocking up on ingredients and conducting a taste testing session while still ‘in character,’ letting your children discover new flavours at the same time as new words?
Tea parties (or a traditional local equivalent) are also an excellent way to combine translation and taste. Get your children involved in discovering how people eat in the country in question, then recreate the atmosphere in your home, peppering the whole experience with relevant new vocabulary, of course.
Kitchen translation and older children
It’s not just young children who can find kitchen-based learning a rewarding activity. Taste tests work just as well with older children, as can themed meals or even different days dedicated to exploring different cuisines and languages (or meals from different areas of one country, if you’re learning just one additional language).
Older children could, for instance, engage with pen-pals in the country whose language they are learning (pen-pals in and of themselves can also be a superb way to encourage language learning). There are plenty of websites dedicated to connecting youngsters with pen-pals around the globe. Encourage recipe swaps with pen-pals and then share photographs of the resulting dishes to keep the food-based momentum going.
Connecting individuals from different cultures with food in this way is a great way to encourage engagement with learning. Why do online recipes have stories? Because cooking is a very personal experience and it’s a way to share cultural and personal information, memories and emotions. And that’s a strong foundation for making learning interesting. With older children, you can spill kitchen-based language learning into other areas of study as well. There is plenty of information on dietary biodiversity available online. Why not supplement Spanish learning with research into biodiversity in Ecuador, for example?
Or how about a cooking competition where the children are the contestants and you prepare scorecards to rate their work? The only catch is that the children have to present and describe their dish in the foreign language.
Older children might also like to experiment with mixing different flavours and cooking techniques. Why not task your children with coming up with a fusion recipe? What is fusion cooking? It is the blending of foods and techniques from different cultures into a single dish. Your children can write out their fusion idea in the foreign language, then cook and present it to family or friends. How does their idea translate onto the plate? Give them feedback in the foreign language as well to bolster the overall learning experience.
Ultimately, using the kitchen as a basis for language learning is an approach that can be enjoyable for the whole family, regardless of age. It can blend translation with cooking skills, allowing creativity to flourish in each respect and meaning that children can absorb everything from culinary abilities to an enhanced appreciation of countries and cultures around the world, as well as plentiful vocabulary!
The other key benefit of creating a multilingual kitchen is the low cost of doing so. Regardless of whether you use your kitchen as a translation hub or not, you need to cook three meals a day in it. As such, switching out your regular meals for exciting new dishes that come complete with learning opportunities is unlikely to cost much more, if any more at all.