Language is a core part of most societies. The circular relationship of language to culture is unique because culture helps shape languages, while language is developed and shaped by culture.
Learning another language can serve as an introduction and further study and appreciation of other people, places, beliefs, and traditions, thereby increasing our cultural awareness of others while offering a greater understanding of one’s own culture.
Suppose we begin at an early age to understand that there is a world much more extensive than our immediate home and family. Add to that an environment that encourages learning and exploration of people outside of our culture. In that case, we broaden our ability to see cultural differences as unique and wonderful. We are also able to appreciate any similarities as a place of common ground.
WHAT IS CULTURE? The word culture stems from a French term that originates from the Latin word “colere.” Colere means to cultivate and nurture, or to tend to the earth, to grow. Culture includes a set of beliefs and values that influence standards within that society. It also encompasses language, music, art, religion, and basic social norms.
WHAT IS CULTURAL AWARENESS? Cultural awareness is an unbiased capacity and aspiration to explore and understand cultures and societies. This includes the examination of our own culture and how it has developed over time. An essential aspect of being culturally aware is the desire to engage in and learn about people, communities, and belief systems to appreciate and effectively engage with others in a meaningful way. It is a skill that requires nurturing and continual development.
At Rayito de Sol, we begin the journey into language acquisition through an immersion process that includes meaningful learning experiences specific to the many cultures and countries we explore. We provide our Rayito kids with the foundation to speak the Spanish language, appreciate a multitude of cultures, understand, and respect differences, and appreciate a world that is becoming more globalized each day through enhanced communication and technology.
Our educational platform strives to create an environment that allows young scholars the opportunity to experience all of the required curriculum and fundamental learning concepts, along with our more expansive skills that include language immersion and acquiring an appreciation for diversity and cultural awareness. Weekly exploration of other countries and their people, traditions, foods, clothing, and music provide ample opportunity to understand how people from different backgrounds and cultures live.
Having the ability to speak another language is also a tool that augments communication competencies and facilitates general relationship building. As bilingual children continue developing their linguistic skills, they can effectively communicate with a broader range of people providing additional ways to make connections, enhance awareness, develop friendships, and embrace diversity.
How Parents Can Encourage Cultural Awareness in their Children:
- Be exemplary by promoting dignity, respect, and appreciation for others. Take a stand against injustices, biases, stereotypes, and racism. Be thoughtful in explaining the importance of respecting cultures different from your own in a way that they will understand. Reinforce the ideas from your conversations by the actions you take and by leading by example.
- Discover holidays and traditions from other cultures with your child. Attend different local social events or festivities from various communities and backgrounds.
- Food is an excellent and tasty way to explore other cultures and create awareness. Have your child help in the kitchen while you cook a family recipe and verbally share your family traditions and history. It is also a great way to explore your child’s love for cooking by enjoying creating unique recipes from other countries and communities!
- Tour museums and local cultural centers that may be age-appropriate for your child.
- Read books or watch movies with your child that share the beauty of diversity.
- Explore your ancestry and genealogy with your child. Make a scrapbook with a family tree that includes pictures of relatives, fun facts, places your family members have lived, and details regarding your extended family history.
- Promote learning another language at home and revisit the activities and lesson plans provided by our teachers.
We hope that our work at Rayito de Sol will help build future community leaders who have a heightened sense of cultural awareness. They will be instrumental in creating a world free from negative biases, disparity, exclusion, and division. They will have the skills and willingness to embark on a call to action in a manner that insights positive change for generations to come.
Luisa Fuentes, CEO of Rayito de Sol, states, “I am a firm believer in education, development, family, culture, relationships, and supporting individuals throughout their life’s journey. I believe that these institutions help us achieve goals for the common good and prepare new generations to live in the most comprehensive, tolerant, and borderless world where the future is promising.”