First, let me begin by saying I am not a native Spanish speaker. There are some amazing resources out there by mamas who are much more skilled in español than me. BUT, if you know nothing about learning another language in your home, then perhaps this will be a good article for you! So, check out what we do to learn languages in our home.
(The opinions on this post are completely my own. I bought these products on my own dime. I do, however, receive a small monetary compensation if you purchase products by using my links at no cost to you. Just my way of being able to afford more Spanish resources for my family!)
It’s odd to me that schools wait until late elementary or even middle school to begin teaching another language. And some home educators do the same. Now, I get that there’s tons of other great subjects to learn, but learning a language is much easier when you get started at a young age – birth if you can! You can teach colors, numbers, letters, and other basic words in multiple languages at the same time.
Those who are native speakers can teach their children both languages as they grow, so their kids are bilingual by age 2! What a gift that would be. We are not a bilingual family, so we all get to learn at the same time, but we’re still starting with our children at ages 1 through 7 years.
Starting earlier could impact their love of language. I’ve noticed a difference in my child’s affinity for language that was dependent upon when I began integrating Spanish into our lives. The child who was exposed earlier enjoys it more than the child who was exposed at an older age. Now that older child is learning more and understanding more; he does enjoy the language, but it was more of a challenge to teach him initially.
Speak what you can
When I was learning Spanish in elementary school, I was so nervous about speaking the language. Nervous about messing up, anxious that my classmates might make fun of me, and apprehensive because I didn’t know everything I wanted to say in Spanish. So, at home we throw out all the rules and just say what we know! If we know the word for milk (leche), then we can ask for milk:
“Can you pass the leche please?”
It’s ok to only integrate the words we know. In a matter of weeks, we have evolved to this:
“Puedes pass la leche por favor?”
We still haven’t learned “pass” but that’s ok! We can use as much or as little Spanish as we know. The more you speak, even the little that you know, the quicker it will become second nature for you. Which leads me to….
Integrate and immerse
Learning or teaching a language can be so fun and easy if you realize that you should start by talking, not writing or reading or seeing the words. Just start talking. Or, in many cases, listening. Listen to a native speaker using phrases or reading a book. Talk daily using the words you’re learning. You’ll need to read to be able to teach, but be sure to say the words out loud and encourage your children to do the same. The more they say out loud, the quicker they will learn and be confident.
We immerse ourselves by reading books. I have a small background in Spanish, so I know how to read even if I have no idea what the word means. (Spanish is so much easier to read than English!) I have a small collection of Spanish-only books, in addition to books in both English and Spanish, plus we check out 3 Spanish books a week from the library. Yes, even in Mississippi there are Spanish books in the library, so check to see if yours has any!
Learn what is relevant and helpful. Teaching numbers and colors is fine and wonderful, but actions and nouns that are used every day will be more valuable. Speaking new verbs daily is one of the many reasons why we love TalkBox.Mom. We learn common phrases as well as parts of the body and family members. I teach them numbers, but we place more of the focus on phrases and sentences we can actually use in daily life.
Now that you are speaking and immersing yourself, this is a challenge to put yourself out there! The next time you hear someone speaking the language you’re learning, go talk to them. Bonus points if you can get your kids to do the same (I haven’t been able to yet, so no bonus points for me). Yikes, I know! But, I can almost guarantee that it will bless them and you.
A while ago at the library, I overheard a mother with a baby speaking Spanish. Her husband and older child were with her, and it was apparent that they could speak some English and were translating. I boldly went over to her and asked her how old her baby was in my broken-not-so-great Spanish. She replied, “Ella tiene cuatro meses,” (She is four months old) along with a big smile and a look of slight shock. Then she proceeded to ramble off so quickly that my head was spinning, but I explained that I only knew a little Spanish and we continued our conversation for a bit longer.
While I can’t say that I made her day, it was evident that she enjoyed speaking to me, a non-native speaker, in her own language. I can imagine it’s exhausting not understanding a country’s language – I’ve been to Nicaragua four times, Kenya, and flown through Germany – and while those places’ native language isn’t English, they still have many signs and resources available in both their native language and English. So, I only had a glimpse of what it might feel like to not know the world around you because of a language barrier. So, be brave and offer how to those speaking the language you’re learning. Plus, you never know when they might befriend you and offer some amazing home-cooked meal from their home country!
We love to learn and play games in our home. So, if we’re learning a language, why not play a game while we’re at it? KLOO Spanish was given to us as a gift and we love it. Right now we have the eating and drinking pack and will be playing that one until we are confident in translating it without help. My son and I play at least every other day, and his Spanish skills are increasing very quickly.
If games aren’t your thing, find something you love and figure out how you can integrate language lessons into it. Perhaps you love movies – watch them with the subtitles in Spanish. Or if music is your jam, listen to Spanish music. Find a way to learn a little more by loving how you learn!
Resources we love:
KLOO Spanish Language Card Games Pack 1
And there’s a board game too, what?!
KLOO’s Race to Madrid – The Learn to Speak Spanish Language Board Game
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (Un Pez, Dos Peces, Pez Rojo, Pez Azul)
Green Eggs and Ham (Huevos verdes con jamón)
The Cat in the Hat (El Gato Ensombrerado)
Are you My Mother? (¿Eres Mi Mama?)
Ve, Perro. Ve!: Go, Dog. Go!
¡Corre, perro, corre!
Snowy Day – Un Dia de Nieve
Abuela (English Edition with Spanish Phrases)
Perro grande… Perro pequeño (Big Dog… Little Dog)
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear (El Ratoncito, La Fresca Roja Y Madura Y El Gran Oso Hambriento)