Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The 5 Best Steps to Teaching Children Spanish

Congratulations! ~ ¡Felicidades!

You recognize the tremendous benefits and importance of your children being able to communicate in a language other than English. While many English-speaking parents desire for their children to have a bilingual upbringing, they struggle with questions of how to get started, how to keep it going, and how to get over the insecurities of teaching a language that’s not their native language. Today you’ll learn the steps you can take to teach your child Spanish as a second language.

1. Make a decision. Once you’re convinced that teaching your child a second language is something you want to do, commit to that decision. Teaching your child a second language comes with challenges as well as triumphs. But with ample preparation, heart, and a plan, you’ll be amazed at how much Spanish your child has learned from you.

2. Create a Spanish-English bilingual home environment. You want to offer your child as much Spanish-language exposure and interaction as possible. The following is a list of what you’ll need to accomplish this:

~Bilingual books. I can not stress enough how important reading Spanish to your child is. First of all, reading to your child is quality, interactive time between you and your child. Simply cuddling up on the sofa or sitting on the floor looking at the pictures will be an invaluable experience. And if your toddler/preschooler does not sit for the whole book, don’t worry. Just do a little at a time. Or, read the book aloud to yourself while she plays with blocks or something.

When looking for books to help your child learn Spanish, look for Spanish-English bilingual books with vibrant pictures and short, simple sentences. Also, you’ll need to get books that cover the common topics (ie. colors, my family, shapes) you’d like to do with your child.

Read the book in English a few times before reading it in Spanish. This will get her familiar with the pictures and words and help her make connections between the two languages. If you’re intimidated about reading in Spanish because you don’t speak Spanish, do your best. Perhaps you can read the vocabulary words that go with the pictures. Or, turn your books into audio books by asking a Spanish-speaking friend to record herself reading the book.

~Music and songs are an integral part of your child’s Spanish language learning. The catchy, upbeat tunes will help him remember the Spanish words and meanings and get him active and dancing. Not to mention, singing and dancing are always fun things to do. Playing instruments every now and then adds a fun dynamic to your child’s language learning time as well. Bilingual songs are a great choice. Spanish-only kid songs are great too provided that they come with the lyrics written out in Spanish and English. When deciding what music and songs to purchase, make sure the cd has song titles that cover a wide range of topics that you’d like to do with your child.

~Spanish kid-shows are another must in your child’s Spanish-learning quest. Children love cartoons and kiddie shows and even if they don’t totally understand what’s being said, they’re well able to put the story together from what they’re watching. I record some of the Spanish kid-shows that come on Saturday mornings on our local Spanish channels. One of our favorite Spanish kid-shows is Las Tres Melliza Bebés that comes on the Spanish public broadcasting station, V-me. I also recommend that when you purchase dvd’s make sure they have a Spanish-language audio track.

~Charts, posters, and labels help transform your home into a bilingual environment. Their colorful presence will serve as instant Spanish-teachable moments. In a spur of the moment, you could point to the chart and say, “Show me the color that is rojo.” And of course, during your Spanish-learning time charts, posters, and labels are excellent teaching aids.

continued in next post


s said...

Hey Jessica,

I think another great tool for any child today is to use the internet to learn a new language. Using sites like eduFire.com, livemocha.com, myngle.com, etc...will help advance their skill sets. They grow up with the technology everyday as it is so mainstream that I think having them use a tool they are familiar and comfortable with is a great resource.

Jessica said...

Yes, it's amazing how much study and practice the internet enables people to accomplish.

Thanks for mentioning those resources.