Category Archives: Language

Keep in Touch By Meeting Grandkids Where They Live

Are you living a distance from your grandchildren and communication is less than optimal? Do you call your teenage grandchildren and it takes them forever to call you back, if they call back all?  It can be frustrating and disappointing to say the least.  You remember when they were little.  They would run up to you filled with glee every time you walked into the room. And now that you aren’t living close to them it makes seeing each other difficult. You wonder what they are doing. Are they happy? You miss that connection. Keeping connected with grandchildren can be a challenge, especially if you don’t live close enough so that you can see them once in a while. So, what are you to do?

Consider The Trends

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest are the main social network sites that teenagers and young adults are using today to keep in touch, communicate and share information. Many seniors use social networks as a means of capturing snippets of the lives of family and friends and staying in touch with old classmates and past co-workers. According to a Forbes report, “For Facebook, the trend was clear: User growth is fastest in the oldest cohort. Among survey takers 65 and older, 45% identified themselves as Facebook users in the new survey. That’s up from 35% a year ago.” It is clear that social networks are one of the preferred means of communication for the younger generations, while the older population is jumping on the band wagon and catching up.

With the onset of smart phones, communication has become more technologically based and from looking at the younger population you can see they are almost always attached to their phones, communicating constantly through social networking and texts.

Recognizing A Cultural Shift

I am so fortunate to have a lot of younger adults in my life that I interact with on a daily basis.  They keep me young, informed and fill me with joy and laughter.  There is one curiosity though.  Frequently, I have shared a meal with them, only to find that when there was a pause in conversation, or when that buzz or vibration calls out to them in urgency, their phones are immediately lifted from the table where they had been safely kept within reach, and what follows is an abrupt end to conversation.  It reminds me of the 1960 movie, The Time Machine, where the alarm goes off and all the young beautiful people in a trance are drawn into the open doors of the sphinx.  Maybe that movie was a prediction of things to come.

During those meals, I noted that once one person broke from the face-to-face conversation into the world of technology, others quickly followed suit, until all, except myself, were face-to-phone, mesmerized by the latest post or tweet or text. I find this behavior so curious. I use to find it rude and annoying, and I guess on some level I still do, but then I began to think about cultural shifts that take place from generation to generation, be it in fashion,  music, language, or communication style. And in that moment, it occurred to me that what I was observing was a cultural shift of this new generation.  I didn’t want to place judgment on this shift that I was observing,  so I just made a mental note of it. The question I asked myself was, did I find benefit from participating and meeting them where they live, deep in their world of technology?

The simple recognition of this cultural shift may be the beginning of a solution to the communication challenge.

One in three teens sends more than 100 text messages in one day, or 3000 texts a month. 


~ Pew Research Center

According to Pew Research Center, “text messaging explodes as teens embrace it as the centerpiece of their communication strategies with friends.” The frequency with which they text has now overtaken the frequency of every other common form of interaction with their friends, including face-to-face conversation, calling on the cell phone, social network, instant message and email.  Statistics say that 58% of teens contact their friends through text on a daily basis vs. 38 percent who call on the cell phone.  Texting wins overall.

So, if you having trouble connecting with your grandkids, and the phone or social networks don’t work, try texting.  It appears that is where they live.

What other solutions have you found that increase communication with the teenagers and young adults in your life?


Ordering Chocolate Cake With Ice Cream…Sort Of

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.”


“Caca con helado, por favor.”

I remember, back in the late summer of 1999, sitting in a small restaurant in the jungle city of Iquitos where I had recently moved. I had just successfully ordered lunch in Spanish. Everything had arrived perfectly, as requested.  Un vaso de vino tinto, sandwich de queso bien caliente, y papas fritas.  I was doing good!  My chest was all puffed out with pride.  I was learning the language!  Well, why not have some dessert, I thought.  And, so, in my very best basic Spanish I asked for chocolate cake with ice cream.  Yum!  A perfect ending to a successful dining experience. The server looked at me with a quizzical look and, in that moment, I knew my limited Spanish had taken a nose dive.  “Caca,” I said.  “Caca con helado.”  After a little chuckle, the server smiled and said, “postre?”  I realized immediately what I had been asking for, and it wasn’t cake! Together, we shared a bit of laughter and created a fond memory of my first days there.

Don’t be afraid to try out the language.

It’s the way you learn, make friends and can create some pretty fun memories. Talk to the locals. Put your embarrassment aside. The locals are thrilled to have you try, even if it’s not perfect. I found that many times they are as interested in practicing English as I was their language.  They would speak English and I would speak Spanish.  Somehow, we found a way to communicate and both had a chance to practice the language we were each learning.

Try some non-verbal communication.

A smile, hand gestures, facial expressions and a look of general confusion. a little humor and a few words in their language will get you a long way.  People in other countries want to help you.  They appreciate your attempt to communicate.

Try not to fall into the “Do you speak English” trap?”

It’s easy to do.  You are feeling a little awkward.  You don’t know the all words to communicate clearly.  You are not wanting to feel embarrassed and finding out if they speak English seems a lot easier that struggling through a bad conversation.  Just remember, if you don’t try, you won’t learn, and it shows respect to the person and their culture.

An in-country extended stay is a great way to learn the language.

I found that living an hospetaje in Peru, when I first moved to Iquitos, was a perfect way to learn the language.  I would sit with the cook in the kitchen after dinner and she would talk to me and talk to me and talk to me.  I would listen and think, I have no idea what you are talking about. I had arrived to Peru knowing only a few words in Spanish and and couple of verbs.  I thought I was doomed in the language department until Salina made me her language project.  She talked to me every night after dinner for the 6 months that I lived in that house and, as a result, I became somewhat conversational.  During the 18 months, when I lived in my own place, I was able to sit with local families outside their homes in the evening and talk about life.  Not always sure what the other was talking about, we always seemed to somehow understand to have the best of times, sitting under the stars in a city called Iquitos, in the heart of the Amazon.

Signup for a language immersion class.

Look for an immersion classes near you at a local language school or college or university.  If you want a more authentic experience you can go to a program in another country where you have the opportunity to practice speaking with the locals.  Antigua, Guatemala and Cuenca, Ecuador a two cities that offer language immersion programs. There are many programs around the globe. If experiencing the culture while learning the language appeals to you, research the programs in the country of your choice.

Take a class at your local college or online.

Purchase an online or computer language course.

There are number of excellent online language courses available and also lessons on CDs/DVDs that guide you through the process of learning a language.

Translator Program and Apps

There are language translation apps for both iPhone and Adroid phones, as well as electronic translator devices that provide you with phrases in the language of your choice.  Initially, these can be useful when you are just learning a language by helping you to say a complete phrase or sentence when you want to use more that a few disconnected words. This option can be useful when it is important that your communication is clear.

Have you learned a second language?  What worked well for you?  Do you have any fun stories about trying to communicate in a foreign country?  Please share below.