web analytics

Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Holiday Terms, ESL Style

2515menorahAs homeschoolers, we can have fun with spelling vocabulary around this time of year.  Christmas and Hanukkah bring up terms and ideas with which many new English speakers may struggle, not the least of whom are our Russian children.

We practice three ways to spell Hanukkah, with two k’s, or two n’s, or with Ch instead of H.

“But which is the real way?” they ask me, and I share with them that some say there ist2_4572182-hanukkah-presentsare 16 different forms.  The fact that the word is spelled in Hebrew doesn’t change their desire to know the “real” spelling.

“And what is the holiday of Hanukkah about?”

“Eight days of presents!”

“The festival of oil!”

“The Revolt.”

“The festival of dedication.”

T_WithoutZoomThey were on the right path.  We moved on to Christmas and I tried a few terms on them.

“All decked out,” I tossed their way, “what does this mean?”

“Passed out,” one said, obviously referring to inebriation.

“Tired,” another replied.  Apparently, too much shopping and eggnog.

“Decked means decorated.  You might get ‘all decked out’ for a party, as well,” I explain.

I quizzed the four children on “handmade for the holidays”, a “winter wonderland”, winter-wonderlandand “tartan plaid”.  Each, in their own unique English, came out twisted and funny.

“What is a tree topper?” I asked.

“Someone who works on top of a tree,” one daughter shrugged.

“Doing what?”

“I don’t know….”

“It’s whatever people choose to put on top of their tree—the star of Bethlehem, an angel, a big cone with a tassel,” I revealed to their oohs and aahs.

“A personalized gift?” I wondered.

“Underwear, you know, personal stuff.”

Which leads one to consider what might happen if they were chosen as an office spokesperson to buy the boss a personalized gift… and ended up with… underwear in a box!  Not knowing English could be dangerous, cute accent notwithstanding.


“It’s put under a door,” our younger son ventured.

“Under a door, or under a doorframe?  It could be hanging from a chandelier, also.  What does it mean?”

“Two couples must kiss!” our older daughter exclaimed.

“Four people?  How many people are in a couple?” I probed.

“Oh….  That’s right…” she paused, while the younger piped up.

“Mama, do you have to be married to kiss under the mistletoe?”

“Well, it’s a good idea,” I agree.  “I mean, technically, you might want to trick 5682167-a-pile-of-christmas-gifts-in-colorful-wrapping-with-ribbons-against-the-wall-on-a-beautiful-hardoow-somebody into standing under the mistletoe, but really, very few strangers would kiss….  Did you have someone special in mind?” I ask the 12 year old.


“Just checking.  Okay, how about ‘the more, the merrier’?”

“The more gifts, the better!”

“Um, that would be no….”

christmas-cookies-istock_000004698457xsmall2“The more you drink, the happier you are?” we end on the note upon which we began.

Inebriation.  Old images from Mother Russia die hard.

“No, it means that the more people who come to an event or gathering, the more fun it will be.”

And with that, we concluded our holiday discussion, enlightened, sober, and full of anticipation.  As we heard news of a blizzard passing through the Midwest, the children spoke of a “Winter Wonderland”, yet another term, as they pondered their “New Year’s resolutions”.

It was a lot to digest, helped along by Christmas cookies and carols.



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar hoonew says:

    I think you are just doing a great job with the kids, Alexandra. Can’t imagine anyone else better suited for all the things you are teaching them. I know they were adorable for the party too!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.