BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA- The Corbisiero family is celebrating and carrying on their Italian heritage through one of the most elemental facets of any culture: the language.
“My husband, Sebastian, speaks Italian, I speak a little bit of Polish,” said Kristen Corbisiero.
Sebastian’s mother and father immigrated to the United States from Naples, Italy and although Sebastian was born in the United States he said that his family still spoke Italian.
“I can understand it pretty well, but speaking it well is the next level. . . that’s the goal!” Sebastian said.
However, the couple has most recently been focused on helping their children to learn the language.
“Since nearly his entire family speaks Italian, we wanted to immerse the kids in the language early on to not only help them learn it but to keep the culture and heritage of our family history alive,” said Kristen.
Their two children, Raffaele (age four) and Sebastian (age three) have been taking Italian immersion lessons over the summer, with a Club Z! Tutor, Cristina Sabia.
Sabia shares the Corbisero’s passion for carrying on their Italian heritage and with good reason.
“I came to the USA from Italy when I was five. I am passionate about my culture and I believe that acquiring a second language should begin early,” Sabia said.
She has young children of her own and Sabia is interweaving Italian into their vocabulary so that they will grow up speaking it.
“I speak Spanish as well and it is important to me that they learn that as well,” Sabia said.
With Sebastian (jr) and Raffaele, Sabia had them create flashcards to start off learning Italian.
So far, colors have come easiest to the kids, but numbers are not far behind. The two also know a few general phrases for ‘good-bye’ and ‘hello’.
The two were hesitant at first to translate and go through their flashcards during an interview, but they helped to encourage one another and soon the practice seemed more like a game to them.
“I’m learning as they do too,” Kristen said.
She practices flashcards and works with the tutor to make sure that the kids get the practice they need to retain and use the language.
“We feel very lucky to be able to provide this opportunity to our children. She (Cristina Sabia) has been focusing on making learning the language fun – a necessary component of teaching young children. We started tutoring July 1, and so far, we’ve been using a lot of hands-on/active activities like coloring and matching to learn colors, physical counting of objects to learn numbers, songs to learn the alphabet, and puzzles and flashcards to incorporate and reinforce learning,” Kristen said.
The family plans to keep Raffaele and Sebastian in Italian lessons throughout their school years.
Their tutor, Cristina Sabia, is from Italy and has three children of her own.
“She’s great. The fact that she is from Italy and is very comfortable with the language and with little kids on top of that has been perfect,” Kristen said.
Beyond the language, the Corbisiero’s are also carrying on a few other traditions that harken back to their heritage.
“You can also tell we’re Italian by the fig trees we have out front,” Sebastian (sr) said, “They’re actually from a cut of a tree that my father started growing years ago.”
The family also has a few grapevines growing in the backyard, but that is only a small piece of the Italian traditions that the family is keeping alive.
“We have a big family and we are very close with them. Whenever we have birthday parties, everyone comes over and we like to stay close,” Kristen said.
“I would really like my children to be able to speak with their grandma in Italian someday,” Sebastian said.
With the early start that Raffaele and Sebastian are getting, it seems that the two are well on their way to keeping family traditions.