Creating Beautiful Mundo: A Look Behind-the-Scenes
How can someone who is still working towards fluency in Spanish be writing a curriculum teaching it?
No one has asked me that question, but it's something I've been wanting to talk about. For me, it's about being transparent and vulnerable with you in the hopes that you will better understand what Beautiful Mundo is, and why it's never out of reach to learn a language yourself, or to teach your children a language that you're not fluent in.
When Beautiful Mundo was barely more than an idea, I had a different name for it. I simply called it "my project." It was a dream, a collection of hopes and beliefs I had gathered in my mind. The journey that creating this "project" took me on was so incredible, so unexpected, and so deeply touched my heart, that calling this project of mine Beautiful Mundo was the only name that felt right.
In the middle of 2020, during some of the most isolating times we have collectively faced in recent history, I couldn't help but be filled with a sense of connectedness, appreciation, and admiration. We truly do live in a beautiful world. A world full of beautiful people, cultures, and languages.
A big part of what so deeply touched me while creating Beautiful Mundo, was the people that I connected with, the intimate editing process we went through together, and the friendships that blossomed out of our work. I was connecting with people living in Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Spain, at a time when I wasn't even leaving the house to say hi to my best friend and closest neighbor! How lucky are we to live in a time when this is a possibility?
With each and every person I hired, I introduced myself, shared my vision for Beautiful Mundo, what I was hoping to create, and why. Beautiful Mundo simply wouldn't exist today if it weren't for the enthusiasm, joy, and encouragement that I received back in those initial messages. The incredible support and kind words I received continue to inspire me.
A few truly special working relationships have developed over the past year. Some people I work with only write to me in Spanish, and I only write to them in English, because we are both so dedicated to learning each other's native language. It's a truly incredible and meaningful process for me. This mutual respect and joy for language learning is what Beautiful Mundo is really all about.
On the Writing and Editing Process
Every line of Spanish in Beautiful Mundo was first written by me, and I've done all of my own translation work. Not perfectly, and at times, incorrectly. I write and do my best to express each and every thought and idea I have in both languages. Every song, every poem, every story, every source of information in Beautiful Mundo has been painstakingly and carefully translated and interpreted by me... sitting locked away in my home office, with piles of books and tabs pulled up on my browser to cross-reference, investigate, and learn. Each resource and recommendation I make is carefully researched, and thoughtfully considered to make Beautiful Mundo as diverse and inclusive as possible. Many books and songs haven't made the cut! Only once this process is complete do I send everything I have written and translated to my native Spanish-speaking editors.
Opening Todo es canción for the first time (the Volume One poetry book), or listening to four albums worth of Canticuénticos' wonderful music (without English translations), completely overwhelmed and intimidated me at first. I questioned whether or not I could ever finish writing these Volumes more than once. I can't tell you how many times I listened to people in videos effortlessly switching back and forth between English and Spanish in jealously. Inevitably, feelings of doubt would creep into my mind, and a voice within me would ask, "how can I possibly do this?"
How insufficient my time in Spanish class during middle school, high school, and college felt now!
On my own, my Spanish writing is flawed, in fact, so is my English writing! We all need editors to help refine our thoughts and perfect our grammar, native language or not. Every last box of text in Beautiful Mundo has been carefully reviewed by native Spanish-speakers, and native English-speakers alike. Two people editing in each of the languages. All of them, students, parents, and educators, from a diverse range of countries. Each with knowledge that only a native speaker of a language can have.
Here's the thing: listening, writing, researching... every part of this process has shown me that teaching is one of the best ways to learn. This process allows so many questions to be asked: What was the mistake I made? How can I fix it? Is this a mistake that other people might commonly make? Has this concept confused me in the past? Do I think others might benefit from an explantation? And perhaps most significantly, how could I best teach this to someone else? How could I teach this to my children?
I can't tell you how much I have learned since a little over a year ago when I began Beautiful Mundo. I am not the same writer, not the same person, and my confidence in speaking Spanish has improved immensely.
Sometimes during my research process, I hear a song so beautiful I know I need to include it in the curriculum, even before I have a deep understanding of the meaning. I read the Spanish lyrics, work my way through an English translation, and the next time when I play the song, my eyes well with tears.
I realize this might sound a little dramatic, but it's the truth. I think the tears are there because I can actually feel the meaning of the song for the first time.
These small little moments are what drive my passion for language learning.
For me, the boxes that fill the pages in the Beautiful Mundo curriculum represent little keys unlocking meaning and understanding. Connecting two equally beautiful languages.
With every edit and correction, a conversation begins.
I still get so excited when a good thread starts going between me and one of my native Spanish-speaking editors. I am overcome with the kind of excitement that makes me jump out of my seat, sometimes quite literally, with a giant grin on my face.
Something in my translation wasn't quite right, they send me their English translation, I send it back with another small change because it doesn't quite make sense to me that way either. An exciting moment of learning happens right there, in real time, thousands of miles away from each other, on a shared Google Doc. We are each teaching one another the language we know best, and what could be more meaningful on a language learning journey than that!
The Beautiful Mundo Volumes are a way for me to share this learning journey with others. To take my children with me on all of these amazing paths I've been walking, and hopefully for other families to do the same. I wasn't sure what to expect when I first released Volume One and I have felt so welcomed by everyone in so many different spaces. It is an honor for me and I am truly so grateful.
Learning a new language, especially past early childhood, can feel challenging. Especially if you are living in a monolingual country and have limited opportunities for exposure. It takes dedication and determination. It requires small efforts repeated day after day. It means consistently choosing to put energy into our own learning.
When I pick up Beautiful Mundo's Volumes and hold them in my hands, I am holding something that feels like a part of me. It represents a collaboration created between friends, some of whom I would likely never have met without Beautiful Mundo.
I believe language learning brings the world closer together. I want everyone to be able to explore the Spanish language, and all of the places and cultures where Spanish is spoken, through beautiful music and authentic children's literature. I truly believe this experience can forge powerful connections; both with loved ones in our own homes, and with those far away in other countries.
I hope that by sharing the things in my heart here on this page with you, you will feel more empowered in your own language learning journey.
I am not perfect. Beautiful Mundo is not perfect. Language learning is a lifelong journey for me, and I am so excited to continue sharing that here in this space.
What I've really been hoping shines through all of this, is:
Bilingualism is within the reach of each and every one of us!