Do you love setting goals, taking ownership of your language learning and building a following? You need to keep a language journal. A simple record of your progress in Spanish class can be the difference between attending class and rocking it.
Even if the thought of a daily journal doesn’t appeal to you, there is a way to make this practice work for you. HSA wants to see you succeed, so here is a quick guide to help you set up and use your new language journal.
Designate, Decorate and Design your Journal
Your journal practice should be easy and fun, so keep your habits in mind. Think of how you record items for yourself or your work and let that inform your journal. Don’t force yourself into something new; keep what you like at the forefront to help you stay active in your practice.
Here are three fun choices:
Invest in a notebook with a beautiful cover, nice heavy paper and maybe even a bonus like pre-written dates, room for images or a calendar at the top. Get yourself a nice pen you love to write with and some good pencils for extra notes. If you live for office supplies, go for highlighters, organizational tabs or stickers to use as you like.
If you live to draw or paint, go for an unlined book or choose a large pad that can handle heavy ink, charcoal or paint. Turn your entries into comics, illustrated images or fun doodles to help you record what you want to save.
A Journal App
Note taking apps have become more popular because they help people do more than write; they can add photos, audio, and video to what they want to remember. If you love music, you can record live performances in Spanish and notes about where you heard it, your favorite lyrics or what the song reminded you of as you listened. If you live on Instagram, you can recreate your posts in your journal and caption them in Spanish.
For phone journals, you can try several apps. Google Keep is good for lists and adding images. Penzu is an online, private diary you can access from your phone and can share with a teacher. Microsoft OneNote is a nice choice for longer entries with additional media attached.
Find one you like and keep it on your home screen to remind you to update it often.
A Published Blog
A blog is a set of articles written in first-person about your real progress as a Spanish learner. It’s an interesting twist on a journal because with this option you can gain followers and get comments on your writing.
Not for the faint of heart, a blog can be a great tool, but only if you’re prepared for it. It requires maintenance, special tools to block spammers and regular updates. Good bloggers post at least once a week and only fully-developed, polished pieces.
The benefit of publishing your journey is that you can interact with readers. You can ask for comments on a theme, (in Spanish), share it with a classmate and even use it to share other parts of your life. Be ready for the critics and enjoy the fans. If it’s your goal to improve as a writer, a blog is a great place to start.
What to Write and Why
You have your journal of choice. Now, you need to write something.
The more organized learner will want to create sections within their journal. They can Reflections on class, Vocabulary, Progress and Beyond. If you aren’t much for organizing or subsections, use these ideas to get you started.
The reflections section is to help you cement in what you learned at your last lesson. The idea is to find a place to journal right after class and then note down things you remember. Get out your workbook or class notes to help you along. What joke did the teacher make about a certain phrase? If in a classroom setting, which classmate had the best pronunciation that day? Did you speak up in class or hide in the back?
Don’t judge yourself here. Record what happened so you can look for patterns. Maybe you’re more open to language lessons on Tuesdays rather than Fridays or you perform well in class if you switch out your morning coffee for water. It’s easier to notice these things if you keep a record of your own experience.
Vocabulary is where you can take note of words to ask your teacher about, words you’ve heard but don’t understand or confuse with similar words. This is also a great place to practice verb conjugations and tenses. Building words is a valid practice that many language experts recommend, so add it to your regular entries.
Track Your Progress
Personal progress is an important section. This is where you can set goals for yourself like Order an entire meal in Spanish or Joke to José over the phone. If you write your goals down, you are much more likely to strive for them. When you achieve one, write about it. Show yourself that you can speak Spanish. Remember, confidence is half the battle – build it with your journal.
The beyond section is where you can go further than the learning in class. Translate a song to or from Spanish and record yourself singing it. Illustrate vocabulary words into a beautiful story. Do anything you like that helps you stay excited about Spanish.
The Benefits of a Language Journal
Journalling alone is great – it helps you keep a clear head, organize your thoughts, develop ideas. However, a language journal has a laser focus that empowers you in your language acquisition.
- It helps you remember new words to ask your teacher about or to look up later. This builds your vocabulary faster and easier.
- Take notes on what kind of exercises are your favorites and help you remember. When you analyze these reflections you will see a record of your learning style. Once you have a written record of what works best for you; songs, readings or something else – you know how to practice on your own and optimize your homework time.
- Your journal is a physical reminder of everything you learned in class. When you have off days and feel frustrated, you can look back at all of your accomplishments. That’s enough to motivate you on any day.
- Record your mistakes. This sounds negative, but it’s an effective way to avoid repeating the same mistake over and over. If you throw an s into deporte or switch the number tres with trece, write it down. Once you record that mistake and see it on paper, you’re less likely to make that flub again.
No matter how you keep a language journal, the key is to use it in a way that feels natural and helpful. Make it fun, keep it personal and a true expression of your linguistic journey.
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We all dream of speaking Spanish at full-speed and hope that all of the studying will result in new friends, exciting travels, and maybe even job opportunities. Many students spend the bulk of their time learning a new language just reading and writing it in hopes of fluency. Unfortunately, this is not the most effective way to learn Spanish or any language. We all have to gulp down our fears, open our mouths and speak.
Passive Versus Active Learning
Speaking Spanish fluently involves four areas of learning: listening, speaking, reading and writing. The first two, when you pay attention and respond, are the active parts of the language. The other two sections are important but fall under the passive subheading.
Passive study techniques have their place and they are absolutely necessary to master a new language. As we learn new vocabulary, the list of new words can overwhelm us. As we read, we can take our time, look up and double-check meanings, take notes, etc. It’s a comfortable, slow-paced way to absorb new vocabulary.
The same goes for writing. We can relax a little more, help ourselves out with a dictionary or a tutor if desired. This is also a good chance to practice accents, spelling and sentence structure.
What happens when we’re in conversation? First, we have to navigate around words we don’t know, which is frustrating. That ignorant feeling can raise a student’s stress level and keep him or her from speaking at all. When we do know a word, it doesn’t always make it out in time. A new Spanish speaker may experience that tip-of-my-tongue sensation. The “I know the word, but I can’t put my finger on it…” feeling.
These are all stages of language learning known as Going Public. Students fear speaking out loud because they might accidentally say the wrong word, offending someone or embarrassing themselves. However, making mistakes in Spanish is just part of the learning process and essential for mastering the language.
Say it Wrong, then Say it Right
Teachers know the best learning opportunities exist within student mistakes. A falter in a sentence, a missed part of speech or an incorrect conjugation are all good opportunities for students to reflect and learn from these mistakes.
Staring at a dictionary or writing a sentence one hundred times to memorize it can appeal to a language learner who will give anything to avoid speaking. However, working through that fear is what will seal the correct phrase in their mind. This emotional journey, while scary and intimidating, is what students need behind the language. Good teachers know pushing past a mistake and through the embarrassment means something as simple as the Spanish word for bread can internalize the lesson and make it part of a student’s permanent bank of knowledge.
What to Look for in a Class
A good Spanish class will have a balance of active and passive learning activities. The teacher needs to encourage individual students to speak to him or her and to classmates. One-on-one lessons should also be a lot of speaking and listening, but texts should be a part of the lesson.
If you feel your child is spending too much time in a textbook or watching movies in Spanish and not enough in conversation, consider looking for a program that offers a more immersive, conversational curriculum where actually speaking Spanish is at the core.
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Using the 5 human senses can be extremely advantageous when learning something new, like Spanish or another foreign language. Teachers can use experiences, meals, and experiments to get students excited to use their new language. Want to try some sense exploration at home? Here are some fun activities you can do with things you already have at home.
Sight or Vista
There’s no question that some learners are more visual than others. For those that are, there are plenty of ways to explore the sense of sight to aid in learning Spanish.
You can start by playing a sight-word game with your child. Sight words encourage students to memorize and recognize the way words look and how they are spelled. Jump for the Words is a fun sight word game that also spends some energy. First, write 5-10 Spanish words on paper and attach each word to a piece of yarn hanging from a doorway (or entry way). Make sure the words are just out of reach for you child and start calling out the Spanish words. Your child will have to listen to what word you’re calling out, recognize that word on paper, and jump to grab it. You can take this game to the next level by adding a friend or sibling for some friendly competition.
If your learners are younger, try using a prism for some fun visual effects. Hold it in the sunlight to make a rainbow on the floor. Use them to warp your view of patterned paper or to inspire a work of art. Have your little learners point to and call out the colors they see in Spanish.
Smell or Olfato
The human nose is amazing. There are so many ways to explore our sense of smell can be that it’s hard to choose just one. Here are three to get you started.
Try painting with spice paints. Before you start, let your child decide which colors should go with each spice. This is a great chance to smell everything in the spice cabinet and learn the names of the different spices in Spanish. Then stir one spice into each color, take the easels outside and paint in the sun. The air will bring out the scents in the paintings and make your little artist want to create all day.
You can also grab a blindfold and then collect different foods from the kitchen with distinct smells. Try onions, lemons, cilantro, cinnamon sticks and vinegar. The kids put the blindfold over their eyes, then try to identify each food through smell only. For each food identified, be sure to identify in one language, then the other. Switch up the order of identifying in English and Spanish to truly master each word.
Finally, you can add on to the smelling game by adding a matching challenge. Double up on your food samples and then see if your learners can find each cup’s exact match using only their sense of smell.
Hear or Oido
Listening activities are a chance to listen to new kinds of music, audio books and play games like “Marco, Polo” in the pool. These are all solid activities, but you can also play some fun games that explore the sense of hearing in a new way.
A fun way to practice a new language is playing a game of old fashioned tin can telephone. Use any clean, empty cans and carefully punch holes in the bottom. Connect them with a long string. Each person should stand just far enough apart for the string to be tight. Then tell a secret, riddle or joke (in Spanish!) into the can. Your kids will love listening with this low-tech phone. Have the listener repeat what they heard out loud in Spanish and then try to translate into English. Then, switch turns.
Feel or Tacto
Use this sense as a chance to run barefoot in the grass, splash in the pool or compare the feel of different fabrics. Exploring your neighborhood can be a good way to use the sense of touch (or feel) for learning. Design a Scavenger Walk using a list of Spanish words that describe how things feel. Then, go word by word and see who can find the most examples for each word. You can give points or make this more of a discussion.
Need to stay indoors? Try some homemade finger paints. Based on your student’s level of Spanish, make a list (in Spanish) of things to paint. Using Spanish, have them call out each color they use and write the word in a sentence below each picture before moving on to the next.
Taste or Gusto
There’s a big opportunity in using the sense of taste to promote learning. Whether it’s trying new flavors or enjoying a bite of our favorite foods, there are many memorable ways to practice Spanish while doing so.
Set up a taste test using 5+ foods with various flavors and textures that can be classified as any of the following. Sweet – sour -bitter – salty -spicy (stick to mild level) – dry – crunchy – moist – chewy. Have your student identify the food in Spanish, then try the food and identify the flavor and/or texture. You can use a blindfold and make this a blind taste test if your little learner is feeling extra adventurous.
You can also try baking one of your child’s favorite sweet treats or get together and cook a favorite family meal at home. Have your student translate the recipe from English to Spanish, then talk through each step in Spanish. For example, when it’s time to set the oven, your student should tell say, Poner el horno a 400 grados. If you’re not too familiar with Spanish yourself, be sure to check the translation before starting so everything turns out just the way you like it.
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Playing games can be a way for students to practice Spanish in a fun, relaxed environment. Some recess favorites from the US and Canada have Spanish Adaptations equals you can use for extra vocabulary practice whenever your learner needs time outside.
1. Red Light, Green Light becomes 1, 2, 3 – ¡Momia Es!
This game works the same way in Spanish as it does in English with the bonus of freezing in your favorite mummy pose. One child controls the game by standing with their back to the group of momias. He or she counts Uno…dos…tres and the players try to move forward before the counter spins around. Anyone caught moving, the lead player calls them out by name and says, “¡Momia Es!” to get that person out or make them the caller.
This is a fun game for all ages and ability levels as it doesn’t require a lot of vocabulary to play. You can add extra Spanish phrases like “I see you!” or “You moved!” to make it interesting. Also, try counting higher or switch to a different creature to act out.
2. Ring Around the Rosey becomes Pares y Nones
A game for young learners, this one only requires learning a short song and walking around in a circle. Unlike the English version, this game doesn’t ask players to fall on the ground. Instead, they pause and grab one or more partners when the leader gives the command.
For example, when the break comes in the song, the leader calls out “Tres amigos!” Everyone in the circle has to end up in a group of three and either hold hands or give each other a big bear hug. Anyone who doesn’t get a group can try again in the next round or stand in the center for the next round.
To hear the song and see the game in action, check out this video.
3. Rock, Paper, Scissors becomes Piedra, Papel, Tijeras
You can’t go wrong with this game. Of all the Spanish adaptations, this one is bound to be a family favorite. It helps break ties, decide who goes first and can help pass the time during long car rides or while you wait in line. The Spanish version is a direct translation of the English game.
Start with a fist that jumps up and down on your other hand’s palm while you chant “Piedra, papel, tijera!” After the last word, show which one you picked. Remember, a fist is rock/piedra, a flat hand is paper/papel and two open fingers are your scissors/tijeras.
Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors and scissors beat paper. Play a few rounds to determine the best out of three or five.
4. Hot or Cold Becomes Frio o Caliente
A fun guessing game, Frio o Caliente is a chance for your child to hide something and enjoy watching a friend or Mom and Dad try to find it. The hider lets the seekers know how close they are through temperature. Hot is close, cold is far away.
You need some key phrases for this game.
“¡Te quemas!” You’re burning hot or right next to it
“¡Caliente!” Hot or close
“Tibio, tibio” Lukewarm or headed in the right direction
“Frio” Cold or moving the wrong way
“¡Te estás congelando!” You are freezing cold or going the wrong way
Keep guessing and moving until the hidden object is found, then switch leaders. While younger learners love this game, it can be adapted to older learners who need to practice directions. They can tell you which way to turn, go forward, go backward, stop. More advanced speakers can give verbal clues or riddles to help the seekers find the hidden object.
Have more kid-worthy games with Spanish adaptations? Share them with the HSA community in the comments below!
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You’re learning Spanish – well done! Now it’s time to plan out how and when to study. Let’s take a moment to go over some good practices for studying your new Spanish vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension.
Students use flashcards for a reason; they work. Physical cards let you add notes, organize and practice like a pro. If you have good flashcards, (like these) for your new Spanish words, all you need is a regular study habit.
First, make them early. After you finish a chapter or section of class, sit down and make your new set right away.
Separate the cards into five groups and number them 1 through 5. They can be sorted by theme, type of verb or conjugation into boxes or pouches. Start with pile one and go through your cards. Every definition or conjugation you get right goes into pile two. An incorrect answer stays in pile one. Then move on to pile 2 and continue to put correct answers into the next pile while incorrect answers move back to one.
Keep going until you get to the bottom of pile five. Start again with the cards from pile one only and continue until you’re all out of flashcards.
Play a Vocabulary Game
Games are a great way to make studying fun! Take advantage of your goofy side with a great word game like ¡Basta! or Stop! This takes a little practice but it’s a great way to practice your new words and push yourself to learn new ones.
Here’s how to play. Print up a ¡Basta! Board for each player, (easy or hard, depending on students’ levels). Then, designate a game master to be in charge of how the game starts. The master says, “I’m thinking of the alphabet…” then goes through their ABC’s until the players yell ¡Basta! The master lets the group know what letter he or she stopped at. Players then use that letter to start each word in each category and write as fast as they can.
After a minute, the Master yells ¡Basta! and everyone puts their pen down. Players then read what they wrote. If another player wrote the same word, they have to cross it out. Go through each player to make sure final answers are original and not repeats. Each unique word gets 100 points. Use the final column to add up their points and the next round begins. The player with the most by the end of the game is the winner.
Listen to Spanish
Listening to Spanish is important for various reasons. It allows students to pick up on accents and pronunciations, but also offers another means of learning. If your child is an a strong auditory learner, listening to Spanish is a plus. Students have a few choices – they can make an audio recording of their lesson for review, record themselves speaking or find a radio show designed for Spanish learners.
A popular site with Spanish podcasts is Audiria. The site is free and designed to promote the Spanish language and culture. They post a new podcast each day and tag each with a level and a theme so students can easily navigate to the podcast that best suits them.
Take Advantage of Technology
If your child uses Facebook, Instagram or any other fun site, try changing their account settings so it functions in Spanish. This way they will see their second language every time they log in, even if they don’t type in Spanish. Students can also use their Instagram account to make short, digital stories to review new vocabulary or to show their comprehension from the latest lesson. Many other devices allow for this too. Have an iPhone or use Alexa around your home? Try changing the settings on your devices so practicing Spanish becomes inevitable.
Sing a Song
Have a learner in your house who can’t sit still or loves music? You’re in luck – there are tons of Spanish songs that work well for learners of all levels.
For a song with direct commands and tons of encouragement to dance, try Te Mueves Tú by Ha*ash, Reik and David Bisbal. This song has a lot of repetition, is kid-friendly and tells you how to dance along.
There are tons of songs about family that can aide your studying. Most of them are for young learners, (like this one from Peppa Pig), but some are more grown up. Try Mi Familia by Basho & Friends for older kids.
Songs are wonderful for more advanced review. Check out ¿Con Quién se Queda el Perro? by Jesse and Joy. The song looks at a couple’s tough decision of who gets their beloved dog once they break up. This version shows the lyrics to help you sing along.
Have some additional tips and tricks for effective studying? Share them with the HSA community in the comments below.
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Conversation is a great way to practice the skills learned in a Spanish language class, but many kids switch back to their native English the moment class is over. How can you keep them practicing beyond the classroom?
Conversation Techniques with the Textbook
A straightforward way to show your child you want him or her to speak Spanish with you is to get out the book and review. Here are quick review techniques that your kids can use anytime.
1. Turn Exercises into Quizzes
This one lets you take a short, five-question practice section about a topic and use it as a quick, verbal check. Find a section where your son or daughter filled in the blank for their vocabulary, then turn each one into a question. For example, if your child is studying nouns for objects around the house, you can go to the window and ask, in Spanish, “Is this a window or a door?” Do four or five more and be sure to celebrate correct answers with a high-five.
2. Fill in the Gaps
Students are sometimes shy to ask their teacher for a breakdown of a concept or grammar rule. That’s where you can come in. Go over each section and be sure to ask, “Is anything unclear? Can I help?” Make yourself available as an additional tutor to show your child he or she is free to speak Spanish with you.
3. Become the Student
One of the most fun ways to help someone review is to ask them to teach you. When a student gets to switch roles, it helps them organize their thoughts and break down an idea. For fun, you can get a small chalkboard or fake pair of glasses for your son or daughter to use when they’re in teacher mode.
One of the best ways to learn and internalize new information is by having fun. So take advantage and be sure to play and laugh in Spanish with your kids.
4. ¿Que Es? (What is it?)
For this game, you need the Spanish name of different objects written on individual cards or flashcards. Separate them into the categories of your choice, such as Things Mom Likes or Things that Make a Mess.
The first player holds up a card so the rest of the family can see it, but the player can’t see anything. Then, the player has twenty questions he or she can ask, in Spanish, to guess what’s on the card. If the player guesses correctly, they keep the card for a point. An incorrect guess ends the turn and cancels out the card. The person with the most cards wins.
5. Verbal Tic Tac Toe
This one requires planning on your part. You must make a set of cards with Spanish verbs, get a whiteboard or chalkboard for each player and then a reference sheet to be sure your conjugations are correct.
The players write a subject in each square. For example, one square reads ellos and another says yo. Each square should be different. Then you let the first player pick a verb like comer. Players have to tell you the correct conjugation for the square they want. If they want the ellos square, they have to say “Ellos comen.” A correct answer wins them the square, a wrong one gets a pass and the opponent has a chance to steal. Wins need to be marked with an X or O and three in a row win.
6. ¡Simon Dice!
This is a simple twist on the classic game Simon Says. Lead your kids, (and their friends if they’re available), in a simple game of commands in Spanish. These can be “Toca tu cabeza” or “Doble sus rodillas.” However, no one is allowed to move unless you start with “Simon dice…”
Anyone who moves without permission is out. Keep going until you get down to just one player and then make them the leader for the next round or next game.
7. Sports in Spanish
A lot of kids are more open to a conversation once they get outside and start moving. If your son or daughter has a sport they love, grab a ball and invite them to a game. Before you start, explain that speaking in English will earn them a penalty. Decide together what the penalty should be. You can make it fun like a silly dance in the middle of the basketball court or they have to sing “Cucaracha.”
Your child will love that you took some time for them and you’ll love hearing their cheers in Spanish.
Other Fun Techniques
We don’t always have access to games or textbooks, but that shouldn’t stop us from practicing Spanish. Here are some additional ways to get the conversation going.
8. Tell a Story
Sharing a story with your children opens them up to the possibility of sharing with you. Tell them about how you learned a language, a time you embarrassed yourself in class or a time you made a mistake. Be sure to tell it in Spanish or, for a twist, sprinkle in Spanish words and ask your child to translate them for you. After you finish, ask your son or daughter to tell you a story about their day, about their earliest memory, anything you feel is appropriate to the moment.
9. Tell Jokes
Something funny happens when we tell jokes in a new language – sometimes they’re funnier! Of course, not every joke translates, but that means you can use them as a challenge. If a joke isn’t funny, look at why it doesn’t work and how it can be edited to make a Spanish speaker laugh. This is also a great chance to talk about cultural references from other countries, what they mean and why they’re funny.
10. Draw Together
If your child is a burgeoning artist or on the younger side, try having some Spanish drawing time. Get down on the floor or get some easels up and talk about colors, memories, scenes, anything. You can also let your artist have some space to create and then have a conversation about their work in Spanish afterward.
Have other conversation starters to add to this list? Share with the HSA community by commenting below.
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What can you do to brave a new language class? Here are four common fears and how to face them head on.
Fear #1: “I don’t understand!”
Many students are certain they won’t understand a word in class, in the textbook or from their classmates once they step into a Spanish class. No one wants to be the only one in the room who feels lost.. However, there will be times when a word or phrase goes over our head and sets off a round of anxiety. How can we keep this fear in its place?
Solution: Find the right teacher for you
One of the best ways to get past this fear is to consider your options. The right teacher, environment and pace will help you relax. Once the stress is out of the picture, you can enjoy the moments when you don’t understand – that means there’s a chance to learn something new. Some teachers use music, props or actions to help with context while others use more images or texts. Look for a teaching style that inspires you and a teacher who can go at your pace and you’ll love every minute of class.
Fear #2: “I can’t say that word.”
Pronounce this word: Refrigerador. If you struggled to get the vowel sounds and accent right, you are one of many new speakers thrown by this and many other common words in Spanish.
Spanish vowels, stress, and accents on vocabulary vary. It’s easy to mispronounce words as we learn a new language, but there’s hope for you and anyone who struggles to open the mysteries of él refrigerador.
Solution: Sing a song
Singing is one of the best ways to learn how to pronounce new words. Look for songs that show their lyrics or come with a printable version of the words. If looking to master the language, join a Spanish choir, take guitar lessons in your new language or translate a popular song into Spanish.
A melody and a beat will help you hear the words in a new way. The added emotion of the song will seal the proper pronunciation into your memory.
Fear #3: “What if I freeze up?”
The fear of conversing with someone and suddenly forgetting an important word or how to properly place it in a sentence is one that many students express. It happens – one minute we know what to say, the next we don’t.
Solution – More practice in and out of class
The best way to face this fear is to let it happen, laugh at yourself, then try again. Learn some key phrases like, “I’m still learning; give me a second,” can be extremely helpful. Ask your teacher to give you a few ways to say that you are a Spanish learner to help you remind your new acquaintances you might need a moment to express yourself.
Keep in mind that even native speakers go blank or get distracted sometimes. It’s normal.
Fear #4: “What if I can’t do it?”
We all shiver at the thought of being the lowest in class, the last to learn something or the student who quits and walks away from something new. If you’re feeling this way, it’s a good thing. It means you’re being realistic about your schedule, your limitations, and prior commitments.
Solution – Set good goals for yourself
Sit down with your schedule and block out your free time. Do you have a window you can dedicate to a new class? If your answer is yes, think about what you might use as a reward for completing a semester of Spanish. Whether it’s as big as a trip to Mexico or as small as a new pair of shoes, grab a picture of your reward and hang it on the wall to remind yourself what you’re working towards.
Everyone gets intimidated by new things, but fear doesn’t have to be the decision maker. Take control of the situation, be realistic and reward yourself for learning new things and taking risks. You’re worth it!
Have something to add to this of common fears for learning a new language? Please feel free to share with the HSA community in the comments below!
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Young readers love to hear a great story over and over! This makes for a great opportunity to incorporate Spanish into story time at home. These bestselling storybooks are recommended to Spanish students by kids and parents alike.
1. La Catrina: Emotions/Emociones by Patty Rodriguez (Best for Ages 0-3)
Written for little readers, this sotrybook teaches words for different feelings with the help of a friendly catrina, or dolled up skeleton, from Mexico. Don’t worry, the skeleton has a warm, sweet face painted with traditional makeup to ensure she’s not scary.
As a result, many reviews of this book highlight that kids want to read it on repeat and how much fun they have practicing new Spanish words by reenacting the emotions of the main character. This book is from the Lil Libros series. Other books include true stories about traveler Cantinflas and artist Frida Kahlo.
2. Donde Viven Los Monstruos by Maurice Sendak (Best for Ages 4-8)
Maurice Sendak’s classic storybook Where the Wild Things Are has been translated into numerous languages, so help your kids get to know the Spanish version. This is a great story to read as a family. Grown-ups will revel in the chance to hear an old favorite while kids will empathize with the main character’s struggle.
3. Dragones y Tacos by Adam Rubin (Best for Ages 4-8)
Did you know dragons love tacos of all kinds? Rubin’s book walks you through a dragon’s taco addiction with the help of gorgeous illustrations from artist Daniel Samieri. Kids love to see the big, silly dragons who are afraid of spicy food and yet live for crunchy chicken or barbecue tacos.
Similarly, this story is another translation and many reviewers mention reading both the Spanish and English version to see the variations in the text. Try it with your readers to help them better understand how Spanish grammar differs from English.
4. Cali Y Mona by Pepe Valle (Best for Ages 3-8)
Author Valle read a touching story in his local newspaper about a little blind girl who had a small pony for a guide. He was so moved that he wrote Cali Y Mona, telling their story for Spanish speaking children and for visually impaired readers.
This book includes braille print alongside the Spanish text. Stunning illustrations are printed in bas-relief from the page, inviting readers to feel them as they listen to this tale of loyalty and friendship. Don’t miss this beautiful story written by an author who lives to tell stories that celebrate Latino culture.
5. Chimoc en Machu Pichu by Andrea and Claudia Paz (Best for Ages 6-9)
Written to be silly and educational, this is the story of Chimoc and his animal friends who travel to Peru to save a forest. The story uses real places to engage readers and helps them practice new words while they learn about the importance of the environment.
Even more, this book comes with a bonus CD full of songs that inspire listeners to sing along and dance. Try this one for anyone who needs to read or simply jump up and get your wiggles out.
6. Friends from the Other Side by Gloria E. Anzaldua (Best for Ages 8 and up)
This book offers a realistic look at the struggles of living on the Mexican/American border. The book focuses on the people and the kindness in everyone from border patrol agents to traditional healers as paths cross and needs clash. A great read at any age, this book is a great one to read as a family .
Written in both English and Spanish, this book is one your family will want to read over and over. This is a great story for students looking to better understand how immigration affects families in the US and Mexico.
Have any favorite Spanish storybooks you and your kids love to read together? Share it with us in the comments below.
Looking for a great Spanish program designed for all ages and levels? Sign up for a FREE class trial today!Read More
The search for a good Spanish program can be lengthy and difficult, especially if you’re not sure what kind of program you or your child will respond to best. Do you want to spend the money on a private instructor and hope the teacher knows what they’re doing? Or should the two of you navigate a set of textbooks or a software-based curriculum at the kitchen table and hope for the best?
Weighing your options is always a good idea. Here are three different approaches you can use to guide your learning and help you speak Español excelente.
Rosetta Stone Online Program
Developed in 1992 in Virginia, this is a Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) software. Like HSA, it encourages users to go at their own pace and enjoy the process. Unlike HSA, it’s taught by an automated program, not a teacher that speaks and connects with the student.
Rosetta Stone uses images, text, sound and repetition to help the user learn Spanish. It offers a chance to analyze things like how many questions the student answered correctly, how accurate their pronunciation is with the help of visual sound graphs and how long each lesson is taking. There is no text book and no instructor attached to each learner.
- Easy to get started – a visit to their website and a payment gets you started
- Very analytical and practical
- Image heavy – the screen never looks like a test, even when it is
- No book or instructor. Each learner is truly on their own
- Every learner gets the same presentation, so if they get bored or lost, there’s no adjusting the curriculum
- No free trial, you have to buy it
- No instructor to guide you through the program
Pimsleur Online Program
The Pimsleur program has taken language learning and done some reevaluating in how we learn and why we may not acquire new vocabulary and structure as we might hope. This program claims to have an entirely new approach they’ve termed “Graduated Interval Recall.” Basically, students remember by being asked to recall specific phrases and then wait to see how they did. This makes for active listening in a program that is purely audio.
Users have reviewed the program as usable, yet overly formal. It was originally created for the standard travelling businessman who needs to talk about his wife and kids, not a young person visiting family or a student on break.Again, there’s no book or teacher – the student interacts with the program itself and it can’t be tailored.
- Audio based and highly interactive, students want to guess the right phrase and feel elated when they succeed.
- No reading or note taking, just a conversation
- Students learn a formal version of each language and may sound a little old-fashioned as speakers
- The program focuses on a married, male perspective, making this less than ideal for young learners
- No teacher or textbook
The Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA) Online Learning Program
Easily one of the best options around. The program not only has its own, highly refined curriculum, it’s also entirely up to you when your child starts and how often he or she takes classes. Instruction happens one-on-one with a real live instructor, meaning each student has their teacher’s full attention throughout the lesson. Your son or daughter will be speaking introductory Spanish after just one lesson and can do review with you in the program’s textbook.
Best of all, HSA offers a free, no-risk trial for one or two students at a time before you commit. You don’t give your credit card information or make any decisions until you are positive this program is perfect for your little learner.
- Personal, tailored instruction with a human teacher and printable textbook
- A free, no-commitment trial class prior to any purchase
- Siblings can take classes together
- Classes encourage speaking, interaction and true language acquisition
- Online only – this isn’t really a hindrance as students can access the classes on any device
Is your little learner ready to start learning Spanish? Click here to sign up for a free class today.Read More
The decision to study a new language is the beginning of a wonderful adventure. It’s a look into a new culture, a great way to meet people with different backgrounds and stretch ourselves intellectually. As a parent, you can jump in on the fun with some interactive practices to help your child both effectively and quickly learn Spanish.
Make it Visible
A great way to enhance comprehension and build confidence is to let students listen to directions in a new language and respond physically as opposed to verbally. This is a low risk technique that a lot of classroom teachers use because it shows students that they already know the words, all they have to do is apply them.
Ask your child to “Abre la ventana,” (open the window), or “Prueba la sopa,” (try the soup), without the stress of responding in words, actions only. It’s a small thing that shows them they’re learning a lot. It’s also a great chance for you as a parent to get involved in the language learning process, something your kids will really appreciate!
Make it Physical
Everyone learns new things differently. Some people love to sit and read for hours while others find the practice nothing short of a nightmare. It’s important to be honest about how your child learns and then follow their style rather than fight it.
Many kids learn through physical activity. If your child lives for soccer practice, ask a friend who is fluent in Spanish to play a game with your family using only Spanish. Your child will learn in a natural, organic way as they have a great time on the field. Dance, art and theater are also great opportunities for learners to practice Spanish away from a textbook.
Make it Emotional
Ask a person what they did last Tuesday and they’re likely to struggle to recount a normal day. Ask someone what they did for their birthday or Christmas and the stories are endless. That’s due to the fact that our memories are much more colorful when we associate them with strong emotion.
A great way to to do use this to learn Spanish is to use a sad song, a powerful film or an emotional story. Print out lyrics or turn on subtitles, (also in Spanish), to help your child catch the words, associate them to a melody or a moment, and then incorporate them into their own vocabulary.
Another great method is to give your child the chance to make friends with a Spanish speaker who doesn’t live nearby. Ask around for anyone who might know a student in a Latin country that can write emails or text messages to your child in Spanish. They’ll want to know what their friend is saying and respond the best way possible. This will help them see that language connects them to people and inspire them to keep learning. Best of all, they might just make a friend for life.
All students learn differently, but with some fun, creative practices you can help your child become fluent in Spanish in a much shorter time. Friendships, games, music – all of these can be effective methods in learning a new language.