And…I’m back, amig@s!!
Although I normally blog on Tuesdays and Fridays, I was unable to write this past Friday due to an unexpected emergency with a dear friend from El Salvador (all is well now!). Thanks for sticking with me.
Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Elena Bertocco, author of several bilingual Italian/English children’s books. In my conversation with her today she shares a bit about her journey from working in the fashion industry to writing stories about the Broccoli family. She also shares her own adventures in bilingual parenting with her husband and three children Down Under (Australia).
Lastly, she has graciously agreed to participate in a GIVEAWAY of one of her bilingual children’s E-books. So, be sure to participate by clicking on the Rafflecopter link BELOW! The giveaway runs from today until this Friday at 12am., and it’s open to ALL OF MY READERS, NEAR AND FAR!
Let’s start with you, Elena. Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself, your background, where you’re from?
It is my pleasure to be here and share with your audience a bit about myself and my experience in bilingualism! I am originally from Padua (Italy) where I studied fashion and worked in some of the finest fashion design companies. I loved my job, creating glamour, beautiful dresses and most of all to have the pleasure to wear them!
Well, my life has changed a bit since then … I have been living abroad for about fifteen years, thanks to my husband job! We lived in the fascinating and hospitable USA. Then we moved to the sweet and enchanting United Kingdom where I graduated from the University of Reading with a degree in History of Art and Architecture. Art makes me alive! Now we’re in the wild Australia, where Canberra is our home. I live here with my three small children: Edward (ten), Jacqueline (seven) and Charles (three), and a busy husband.
Australia has shaped my life quite a bit! I enjoy guiding at the National Gallery of Australia where I share my passion for art and history with visitors from all over the world! Living on this side of the globe inspired me to reconnect with writing and drawing! And now I write and illustrate bilingual children books!
Your books & writing!
What inspired you to write a book for children? Why bilingual?
My muse are my three happy bilingual children: they provide me with constant inspiration to write my bilingual books. And they are also my reviewers and supporters. We all know children do not become bilingual by magic, they need continual support to get confident to embrace the challenge! I spend a lot of time with them playing, cooking or just talking and one afternoon after reading a bilingual book we decided to write our little bilingual picture book! We loved to play with the words in the two different languages! Their response was great because with the double text they could read by themselves without any help. Thus like in all good stories … once upon a time a very busy Mamma was reading a book and thought: ‘I can combine my speaking skills, my journey in bilingualism and my artistic creativity’ … and so The Broccoli family meets the kangaroo-La famiglia Broccoli incontra il canguro (age 6+) was born.
How did you decide on the title, and the story?
This is very funny! The title The Broccoli family meets the kangaroo reflect a bit of our family story! My husband’s last name is Troccoli and it can be easily mistaken for Broccoli! So people sometimes call us the “Broccoli family”! When I was planning the story I visualized the characters immediately! For the theme of the story I drew inspiration from our move from England to Australia. Then my older son was about four years old and, as with Papa Broccoli, we had to tell him that we would be moving to a far away country and leave our home! We did not dress up as kangaroos but we bought a little fluffy koala and started to read about koalas’ lifestyle!
What is the mission, or vision, behind your work?
With my bilingual books my wish is to provide an opportunity for children to have fun with languages. Learning a language is not always easy and sometimes it can be overwhelming for a child! My hope is that my books will make children smile! With this in mind I tried to give a new look to bilingual books! I illustrated the story using simple cartoon style drawings so as to make the Broccoli family look funny and cool! For the text I combined interesting fonts with bright colours for select keywords to better engage with the reader! I think this is a great way to visualize and remember words! Also, I investigated quite a bit about how to engage with children (age 6+) when learning a new language. I believe I developed an effective formula for young readers to learn a new vocabulary by asking questions regarding facts. Australia native animals are a fantastic example! My personal experience taught me that enjoyment is the most important ingredient to successfully learn a new language and I hope my books will contribute to such enjoyment.
Can you walk us through your creative process of planning for, writing, publishing, and selling your work?
My books are not translations of (more famous/classical) stories: for this reason planning and writing a story is a big challenge for me but also lots of fun! Particularly the learning journeys my bilingual children have gone through help me effectively plan my books. I also strive to write simple and engaging stories. Children get overwhelmed if they bump into long and difficult words; also they do not connect with a complicated and heavy story plot! I know that very well!! The fun aspect is the visual part! I love to draw the characters, making their faces sad, happy or select the special fonts for some key words. I am so proud to say I self-published them! All my books will be available, at least for the time being, only in electronic format on Amazon and iTunes.
What future plans do you have as an author?
My plan is to write more bilingual books. My second bilingual book is the continuation of the first and it will be out in October! Keep checking my website.
Being bilingual & raising children bilingually:
Tell us a little bit about bilingual journey growing up.
Bilingualism was not a common word for me until my first child, Edward, was born! But my husband and I felt strongly that our children should be raised bilingually. When leaving abroad, it is very important to connect with your heritage! No matter where you live! I must admit I did not have any ambition in terms of how in depth they should learn a second language! I only had one simple basic plan: I will speak with them only in Italian no matter what! Over the years it became clear that my simple basic plan worked. Luck? No!!! The trick was to be consistent with the use of the Italian language! Now, the three of them speak Italian at home and the English language comes from the outside such as their school and social life! I think in the future the secret will be to maintain this balance! My husband and I never forced our children on their bilingualism! I think it is very important to support them on the learning aspects such as writing, reading and explain the beauty and the benefit of being bilingual.
What does being bilingual mean to you? What do you love about knowing more than one language?
For us, as an international family, it is very important to be able to speak Italian and stay connected with our culture. On the other hand, this helps our family appreciate and respect other cultures! I am very surprised about my children’s curiosity when we meet people from different cultures. They are interested in how they live, their history and whether they are bilingual too! I think to be bilingual is like a discipline: you have to keep it up and enrich it otherwise as with any other thing it will get lost! For us it has been a very positive journey and we are very proud of them! I hope one day they will pass their Italian heritage to their children.
Grazie to Elena for today’s interview! Please click on this link to participate in today’s Rafflecopter giveaway! By entering, you have a chance to win a FREE E-book of one of Elena’s bilingual children’s books.