Friday, August 29, 2008

How Children Can Learn Spanish - Developing Literacy

Goals and Literacy For Your Multilingual Child

If you're raising a multilingual child, what proficiency are you expecting? What does he need? Considering the particularities of your own child, you can figure out what is practical. Are you aiming for full literacy skills or merely speaking the languages? Consider setting some goals both for your child and yourself.

Different levels of multilingualism

What is multilingualism? What is fluency? Actually, no clear-cut definition exists, only degrees of proficiency from rudimentary to native skills. Many parents don't have explicit goals, but here are some examples:

* 'I want another language for my sons so they will be one step ahead in school.'
* 'We want to share the culture and heritage of our native country with our kids.'
* 'We'd like her to be able to play and talk to her cousins and Grandma when they visit.'
* 'Spanish is necessary if you're going to live in the USA, and the children may as well learn it now.'
* 'The best job opportunities are always for those who have can both speak and write in both languages.'
* 'We hope for her to be able to read and write in two of the three languages, but we'll see what happens.'"

The article goes on to discuss:
  • what is fluency
  • moving from verbal skills to literacy
  • and tips for developing literacy
(Read more)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is French Being Left Behind?

Is French Being Left Behind?

Are schools bidding au revoir to French classes for children? The New York Times reported in March 2006 that thousands of public schools are bending to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind by cutting resources for non-mandated subjects like foreign languages. Meanwhile, trendy Chinese has become the language du jour, and Spanish classes are enjoying a new surge in popularity as the nation grapples with immigration issues. Where does this leave French for children?

Most parents considering French for their children need no convincing of the language's merits. High above the inane cries of 'Freedom Fries' and 'English First,' French has retained its allure of sophistication, impeccability and culture. It is also the only other language besides English to be considered an official working language of the United Nations Secretariat. From truffles to François Truffaut, and the Little Prince to Camus - learning French, for children, may be the best thing to happen since they outgrew their terrible twos." (Read more)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Develop Your Spanish Listening Skills

Five Easy Steps to Develop Your Spanish Listening Skills
by Steve Dimeck

The second largest problem that a Spanish language student faces is to develop his or her listening comprehension. If you are like most people studying Spanish, you can probably comprehend a good portion of what you read and are able to write at least a little bit in Spanish. But you get totally lost when it comes to understanding what a native Spanish speaker is saying during a regular conversation.

So, if that sounds like you, here is an easy five step exercise that you can use to practice and develop your listening ability.

For this exercise you will need a recording of a short text that you can have a native Spanish speaker create for you. Or, you can just record one yourself from a Spanish movie or Spanish speaking TV or radio station.

Step One - Now that you have your recorded Spanish text, go find a nice quiet place where you won't be disturbed for the next forty-five or so minutes. Once you are there listen to your Spanish recording three to five times straight through without stopping. Each time you go through it, write down how much you felt you understood on a scale of one to ten.

Step Two - Listen to the Spanish recording a couple more times. But this time, pause about every fifteen seconds. At each pause think about what you heard...the sounds, pronunciations, intonations, and make note of those parts that seem to give you the most trouble so you can come back to them later. Then move on. Don't waste a lot of time here with what you don't know yet. It will only frustrate you.

Step Three - This time you will listen to the Spanish recording again, but do so with a transcription of the recording in front of you as you follow along. This means that however you obtained your recording, you need to have it in written too. So, think about it before you make the recording. While listening it, pause every fifteen seconds or so, and underline the sections that you noted earlier. See if you can understand the text now that you have seen it written out. Note the sections where the Spanish speaker seems to jumble words together so you can later ask if that is really how those words are pronounced...or if the person who spoke was just a sloppy speaker and slurred his or her words together.

Step Four - Listen to the whole text a few more times while following along with the transcription. This time, however, do not pause the recording. Just let the recording roll, and keep up with it as best you can. Keep doing this until you feel comfortable listening to the recording and following along with the transcription at the normal rate.

Step Five - Once you feel comfortable with the text, and have a good grasp of what the Spanish speaker is saying...put away your transcription. Now listen to the recording several more times and make note of how much you now understand each time on a scale of one to ten.

Finally, to wrap things up...ask several people that you know speak Spanish well to read the text out loud to you. This will develop your listening skill as each one person's voice is different. They may even have different accents, pronunciations, intonations, etc.

Do this everyday...or as often as you can. You will soon notice a large improvement in your Spanish listening skills.

I also like Karen's suggestion of listening to

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Learning Spanish Memory Tricks

I came across this blog post and was quite amused at some of the associations they came up with to help remember Spanish words and meanings.

Easily Remember Dozens of Spanish Words and Meanings

Is this is another magic memory trick?

“I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t at times come up with a similar-sounding word or phrase when thinking of something completely different– like can’t elope and cantaloupe” writes memory expert Harry Lorayne in The Memory Book which inspired this article.

So how can you use this to remember Spanish vocabulary?" (Read more)

excerpt from
David's post at Tomí

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dual-Language Instruction: Coming to a School Near You?

Way to go, Public Schools!

Every month or so I get news alerts about public schools introducing in kindergarten dual-language or immersions programs in Spanish or Mandarin.

There are still many issues for school districts to work out--the how-to, funding, resources, bilingual teachers--but hopefully, with demand from parents, it will continue to catch on.

I've provided links to some most recent articles.
  • Elementary School Starts New Bilingual Program - (Washoe County, NV) When most of the students started kindergarten in Gisela Daniel's class they hardy spoke any English. "These days speaking two languages is so important. It has opened so many doors for me."
  • Moms Proposing an Immersion Language School - (Denver, CO) Two Denver moms tired of driving their young children to Aurora are proposing the city's first public Chinese and Spanish language immersion school. "We're trying to build this program from our kitchens," Camilla Modesitt told Denver Public Schools board members on Tuesday.
  • Dual Language Session Draws Crowd - (Palo Alto, CA) Hundreds of parents packed a Palo Alto school on Wednesday night to learn more about enrolling their children in the district's new Mandarin immersion program. After a year of divisive debate over whether to start dual immersion classrooms in Mandarin next fall, the crowd of between 200 and 300 parents at Ohlone Elementary School on Wednesday night attested to a strong base of interest in the fledgling program.
  • School District to Expand Dual Language Program - (Blaine County, ID) After seven years of providing a special curriculum to help students become proficient in two languages, the Blaine County School District plans to double the size of its Dual Immersion Program beginning next fall.
(Some news sites archive their articles after 1 or 2 months. So, sorry in advance if the articles are no longer available after this post gets old.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Non-Native Speakers: Teaching Children Spanish (or a Language Not Your Own)

This interesting article doesn't totally reflect our family's situation because we're still learning to speak the foreign language, but it's still a good read.

Raising Your Child in a Language Not Your Own?

Many parents speak a foreign language well but are non-native speakers. Yet, they wish to raise their children with that language. Is it realistic, or even practical, to attempt to raise a multilingual child in a language that is not your mother tongue? Tim from London, shares his concerns:

'My partner is bilingual French-English, whilst I am an English native speaker. My French is really quite good, but we speak English to each other. We are now expecting a baby whom we would like to bring up bilingually. My partner is committed to speaking French to him, but what do I do?

What I like about both of us speaking French to him is that it helps to cement the minority language; on the other hand, I know I would make mistakes, and, at times, be at a loss for the right word. I also -- and perhaps more importantly -- imagine that I would feel rather unnatural communicating with my son in what is not my native tongue.'

Why would you speak to baby in a language not your own? My answer would be -- why not? Maybe it is the only option you have for raising a bilingual child, you may simply like the language, or as in Tim's case, you'd like to reinforce the second language. All of these are completely understandable and valid reasons; (Read more)

excerpt from the Multilingual Children's Association

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Spanish Time! Lesson Plan: My Family ~ Mi familia

Spanish Time! Lesson Plan: Family Portrait

Vamos a Cantar – Let’s sing
Song: "Canción de Saludar/Greeting Song"-Track #6 Boca Beth’s My 1st cd
Song: Spanish Vowel song Bonus #1*
Song: "I Love My Family" - Track #9 Mas/More Boca Beth cd

Vamos a jugar –Let’s Play
Game/Activity: Family Portrait ~ Retrato de la familia
Talk about your family with your child. Then go over the Spanish word for various family members. Tell your child that she's going to draw a picture of her family. While looking at your child’s family portrait, you could ask:

¿Quién es éste? (kee-AYN ehs AY-stay) Who is this?

madre (MAH-thray) mother

mamá (mah-MAH) mommy

padre (PAH-thray) father

papá (pah-PAH) daddy

hermana (ehr-MAH-nah) sister
hermano (ehr-MAH-noh) brother
abuela (ah-BWAY-lah) grandma
abuelo (ah-BWAY-loh) grandpa
(TEE-ah) aunt
tío (TEE-oh) uncle
(PREE-moh) cousin (boy)
(PREE-mah) cousin (girl)
mis primos
(mees PREE-mohs) my cousins

Visit my PDF of more family words in Spanish and to see a Family Tree activity.

Check out 123 Teach Me Spanish to hear how family words in Spanish are pronounced and used in conversations.

Showing love to family

abrazos = hugs
, besitos = kisses
dame un beso
= give me a kiss
te amo, te quiero =
I love you
te quiero a tí
= I love you too

te quiero tambien = I love you too

Es la hora de decir adiós (It’s time to say goodbye)
Song: “We are Little Friends” – Track #2 We are Little Friends cd

Try to use 3 Spanish words of praise and encouragement today and throughout the week. Fill in the third one. (You’ll find the list in Bonus #2*)

1. Déjame verLet me see.
2. ¡Qué bonito/a!How beautiful!

The Spanish-Engli
sh family book that we have at home is My Family and I/Mi familia y yo by Gladys Rosa-Mendoza.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Backyardigans "Boinga" in Spanish

Are your kids into the Backyardigans?

After watching several episodes of Pocoyo, my girls found clips of the Backyardigans songs in Spanish. They were so amazed that the Backyardigans can speak Spanish.


Hazme un favor, por favor. If you any of you, our Spanish-speaking friends, have a moment, please give us some Spanish keywords and phrases in this song to listen for. While my children enjoyed watching these clips, my eldest exclaimed, "I can't understand a word they're singing. I want to understand." She said this after we listened only once. I told her that I'm sure she'll recognize many Spanish words when we listen to the songs over and over again. But your help with specific keywords would help.



Friday, August 8, 2008

Juggling Career, Family and Learning Spanish

With all the focus on my children's learning Spanish and other family things, I find myself neglecting my own Spanish learning. I learn a lot of Spanish just from teaching my kids, but I want to step up my speaking and listening comprehension. I've even started to record a telenovela to watch. Now, it's carving out the time to watch and study them.

Juggling Career, Family and Learning Spanish

by Steve Dimeck

Finding the time to do it all at once - career, family, study Spanish ...? Having trouble juggling? These problems that people face are very similar to those of the beginning juggler. According to "The Instant Jugglers' Manual", four common problems are: handling two areas of focus at the same time; moving forward while you try to juggle instead of standing still; not being able to juggle in a third area of focus; and keeping all three areas from bumping into each other or overlapping.

Translate this to the everyday human life, and you would get: handling multiple areas of focus at the same time; moving forward with your life while you try to juggle your work, family and all other daily tasks instead of standing still, finishing them and then moving on; not being able to juggle in a third area of focus, such as studying Spanish; and pulling a miracle of keeping all three areas from bumping into each other or overlapping.

How are you going to fit your Spanish learning project into your daily commitments? It's easy to become overwhelmed and lose focus. Losing focus will cause you to take no action. And, action is essential to moving on from where you are now, to where you want to be. Here are a few tips to stay focused on your "learning Spanish language" project.

1. Chunk down

If you have a large task to tackle, it is always easier when you break it down into smaller components. You'll find it easier to focus because you won't feel as overwhelmed. Also, a large task would take all of your time to undertake, while smaller tasks would give you more time in between to fit in your Spanish language project.

2. Keep a 'to do' list

Once you've broken down major tasks into smaller ones, make and keep a "daily 'to do' list". In your "daily 'to do' list" always or as much as possible have the Spanish Learning time included.

3. Schedule your time

Every evening, decide on three to five tasks along with your Spanish studying time that you wish to accomplish the following day and put them on your 'to do' list. Stay focused on these tasks and only add new tasks once these have been completed.

4. Say no

Be assertive and carve out more time for your Spanish Study project. Saying 'no' to that extra demand by your boss every once in a while, can get you home one hour earlier a couple of days a week. How about cutting back on the amount of housework or side activities that you do? Imagine how you could channel that extra time into your Spanish learning task.

5. Once you get to your study time, organize your Spanish learning project to gain maximum results:

- First of all, you will want to set aside certain hours that are designated "Spanish Study" hours. Not that these study hours need to be rigid, but the times when changes are made should be the exception, not the rule.

- Have a certain area which you set aside as the "Spanish Study area". This doesn't mean that you have to have a special room that is set aside with a desk etc., but it does mean having one spot, such as the dining room table, or the basement, or even the attic. This will help you develop a mind set of thinking of this as a time for learning as separate from a time for other activities.

- Try to make sure that there are as few distractions as possible so you can maximize your focus.

- Engage your family and friends in this. Maybe ask them to test you, or assist you in reviewing your material, or ask them to do something for you while you are on your study time as a mean of helping you along. Making them feel a part of this can go long ways towards avoiding hurt feelings.

- If you are used to having a regular telephone "gabfest" with a friend or family member at a certain time each day, maybe you can rearrange it. Most important, be sure to communicate to others the importance of you learning the Spanish Language.

- Perhaps someone likes to stop in and get you to go on a little spur of the moment trip with them. Explain beforehand that you won't be able to do this as regularly as before.

- Plan ahead. Have your study planned. Don't just sit down at the table with your open book to see what you will be studying next. Respect the study hours the same as you would if you were doing something else. You can accomplish much more when you take your study time for serious and not just a minor thing.

If you put these few tips into practice, you'll definitely find it easier to focus on and achieve your ultimate goal of learning Spanish.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Teaching Children Spanish Even When You Speak Only One Language

Five Easy Steps To Help Your Child Prepare For A Global Future
Even When You Speak Only One Language

by Beth Butler

How often have you found yourself thinking that perhaps you should have asked for a class on parenting in college? And how many times have you and your friends, who are also parents, commiserated over how many times you skipped Spanish II in High School? We all see it coming. That is if you have not already felt its presence in your current daily existence. Speaking more than one language is truly a necessity.

Hopefully you realize it is never too late to pick up a second or third language. No matter what you read you must believe that even if you have passed that well publicized window of opportunity age, you are still capable of learning and becoming fluent in a new language. Just like getting back into good physical shape takes commitment and regular exposure to good eating habits and exercise, so too does the challenge of mastering a new language.

There are five simple steps you can take today to help your child prepare for tomorrow. It is going to take you some time to get even the basics of your new language and, if you have children now, you really should get them started on their bilingual journey as soon as possible. Remember, you do not have to have a degree in teaching. You do not have to have command of the new language you are trying to introduce to your child in order to give them the daily exposure they need to get a sound foundation.

Step One is to show your child you have respect for fellow human beings, no matter the race, no matter the language they speak. Children listen to everything we say, do they not? Little ears hear big thoughts! So be aware of the messages you send as parents about those people from other countries, about other cultures around the world and about the more than six thousand languages that make up the communication of our world. You are the best role model your child has in the early years. Make certain you show how much you value the acquisition of more than one language.

Step Two is to choose a language that will be practical for the child to use in his future. If you are going to reside in Europe due to job relocation, then choosing Mandarin might not be the wisest choice. Flip side of that scenario would be forcing your child to learn Latin because you have always heard it is the root of most languages while you know you will be residing in California where Latino population growth is explosive. Make a good decision, not based on political feelings you might have about immigration or border control or even bilingual education. Make the decision based on the future of your child.

Step Three is to decide to introduce the new language as early as possible in the life of your child. It is so true what continues to be reported. Experts say the sooner the better when it comes to introducing a second and third and fourth language to little children. A study out of Texas reported only a few years ago that up to the age of five a child can learn five languages simultaneously and not be confused or language delayed or experience speech problems. In fact, the studies prove bilingual children read sooner and experience advanced cognitive development.

Step Four is to choose a method of introducing the target language in a format that your child will embrace, that allows native language placed alongside the new language, and that teaches to all types of learning styles. More than 68% of the population must see it to learn it. While we all witness how much children love learning through and with music. Then there are those children who are tactile learners and want to feel something physically to connect with the lesson at hand. Music, movement and creativity should be major components of any language learning program you choose for young children. Experts also advise that you choose a program featuring a true bilingual format where the native language of the child is placed right alongside the new language. Think about it. While your child is still acquiring skills in his native language does it really make sense to totally remove that comfort level and language out of the picture as a new language is introduced? Some still try to force immersion on our young children while others have embraced the benefits of higher self esteem and the strong point of reference for both child and parent that are evident in the bilingual programs available.

Step Five is the final and easiest step once you have given some thought to the first four. Daily exposure to the new language is necessary if you want to provide your child with the best jump start on learning a new language. Once a week classes are helpful. Yet experts agree that repetition on a daily basis, if even only for a few minutes at a time here and there throughout the day, will truly link those neural pathway connections in the brain of the young child. This type of regular reinforcement of the new language placed right alongside the native language is the key to a lifetime of language learning skills.

Who knows? You might even be giving besos to the baby and toddler before the month is done! Make it a commitment today to get these five steps on your radar and begin the second language journey with a positive attitude, a can do mentality, and a we are all in this together campaign!

Beth Butler is the founder of The Boca Beth Program Scoop your child up onto your lap and sample the Boca Beth bilingual music for free now! Order online or call toll free 1.877.825.2622 today!