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Dr. Doris Baker's Guide into Learning a New Language

Dr. Doris Maria Luft Santos Baker was born in Brazil and migrated twice before coming to the States, learning 4 languages and experiencing many cultures.

Currently, she is the director of Master's in Bilingual education at Southern Methodist University or SMU looking into developing tools and assessments in English and Spanish to improve and monitor the academic performance of English learners with or without a disability. As a researcher and a published author with many publications and books, she shared many insights during our interview. Below are some of my take away:

1. As an expert on second language acquisition, she has many tips for immigrants with young children. In our interview, she addresses what language to speak at home, how to support kids as they expand their English language at school, and ways to interact with the teachers.

2. There are many myths around when it is a good time to learn another language. The career growth of many immigrants depends on this essential skill that some cannot initiate or improve. In our interview, Dr. Baker shares her colleague’s research on the topic and how the adult learning can be achieved much faster.

3. When I ask Dr. Baker about her accent, she shares her difficulty in pronouncing certain words and how her kids made fun of her. But she believes that her accent rarely harmed her life. Rather, not knowing the proper words or the communication skills created misunderstandings that affected her career.

4. Do you feel a little guilty as a working parent or as a child living far away from your aging parent? While the guilt can be present in many immigrants to a different degree, Dr. Baker suggests evaluating your options and finding a solution instead of dwelling on guilt. For example, rather than searching your schedule to find an enormous block of quality time, find many short blocks (sometimes as short as few minutes) to maintain your connection with your loved ones.

5. Lack of belonging is a common issue felt by immigrants. Dr. Baker advises our listeners to embrace the past and learn from it.

“Even if you’ve had a very unfortunate or difficult situation, see it also as a way to learn from it and grow. Make it part of your self instead of forgetting.”

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