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!


EuroMadrid said...

These are all helpful tips and great encouragement to parents who think there's not much they can do if they themselves aren't bilingual. Not true. Where there's a will, there's ALWAYS a way. :)

Also, a great book on this topic is by two Georgetown University linguistics professors who are raising their children to be multilingual. It's called "The Bilingual Edge" and it's written in a pragmatic, conversational style with very detailed tips on how to structure a bilingual environment for kids. I recommend it to anyone who has interest in the topic.

Diane said...

Yes! Si! Oui! Ja! I agree 100% with everything I just read. Now if only we could get every school offering languages beginning in preschool and kindergarten. I've taught languages to children and to high school teens. Kids are a breeze to teach. So open, so ready. Outstanding post.
Diane from

We are Little Amigos said...

BRAVO!!!.... to this article. "Parent friendly" bilingual programs and product are the way to go for monolingual (or bilingual)parents. Parents need not to feel intimidated, but rather comfortable enough to use the new language as regularly and naturally as possible. Bravo to all parents and teachers making the effort, we are giving our children and students a gift that will last a lifetime!

Jessica said...

I remember being somewhat discouraged when I first started looking into raising bilingual children (6-7 years ago.) Much of the advice assumed that at least one parent already spoke the target language or required heavy money commitments like hiring a Spanish-speaking babysitter.

The amount of help available today for monolingual parents is so encouraging.

Also, every month or so I get news alerts about public schools introducing in kindergarten dual-language or immersions programs in Spanish, Chinese or French.

Way to go, Public Schools! 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.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.