Unless you’re homeschooling your child, you don’t have much say in what curricula teachers use in your kid’s classes. Are the curricula designed to help your student succeed? Are they teaching what your student actually needs to learn? Now, if you homeschool, you do get to choose what program and books you use to instruct your child. However, how do you know which curriculum is the best?
There are so many questions that come up about curricula, especially when you are looking to have your child learn a foreign language. Most parents don’t speak the language their child wants to learn, and even if they do, they might not know how to best teach it. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed with all the curricula options, we are here to help take one subject off your plate – Spanish.
If you’re still on the fence about what language to teach your child, check out our blog that explores why Spanish is the best foreign language to learn in our increasingly connected world.
How is our Spanish Curriculum different?
You want the best for your child. However, what makes a Spanish curriculum the best course for your child?
First, we need to talk about how you learn a language. It is not just memorizing words and phrases; learning a language is learning a new way to think, express yourself, and look at the world. To gain that knowledge, you need exposure and repetition. If you have kids, think about how they learned to talk – did you teach them a list of words and have them memorize it? Did you expect them to be fluent in a year? Were they able to speak immediately?
The best way to learn a language is as close as possible to the way we naturally learned our native tongue. This means lots of exposure and relating vocabulary to images or objects – NOT relating them to the English words.
Think of it this way – if you always relate a new Spanish word to its English equivalent, when you go to have a conversation, you will constantly be thinking of your answer in English, then taking time to translate it to Spanish. It’s hard and time-consuming! You would be better off creating new relationships between the Spanish words and the objects or ideas. One easy way to do this is by labeling things in your house with the Spanish word (check out more ideas here).
So, that’s great in theory, but how can it be applied to Spanish classes? Well, here at the Spanish Academy, we have developed our own curricula that our native-speaking teachers use in each class. The curriculum utilizes images to relate each new vocabulary word and phrase to a real-life situation. Many of our teachers also use physical objects in class and encourage their students to as well. This combination of images in the curriculum and physical objects in the virtual classroom help the students avoid translation and directly create relationships between the Spanish word and the object.
Levels of Fluency
When your child first started learning their native tongue, did they immediately start talking? No, of course not! There are multiple areas of language learning and fluency. A child first learns to understand a language before learning to respond. As we said before, we want to teach Spanish in a similar way to how we naturally learn a language. Therefore, the first step towards fluency is exposure and auditory comprehension.
All our teachers are native Spanish speakers, and they make conversation a priority in each class. While your student may not be able to reproduce the teacher’s questions and comments or respond to them right away, they are developing auditory comprehension, just as they did as a baby learning their first language. If your student is able to read and write, our curricula also combine this auditory comprehension with written practice, so your student grows in all areas of language learning – reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
How many times did you have to teach your child the colors before they could remember them all? Did they remember everything the first time? Of course not! When learning a new language, we are actually building new pathways in our brain, which takes time and dedication – or repetition. A lot of other curricula, especially the ones used in school settings, move too fast and don’t take the time to reinforce learn vocabulary.
The Spanish Academy curricula apply learned vocabulary in the following classes to make sure your student remembers what they learned and can actually use it. Furthermore, the teacher always starts the class with some quick conversation and pointed questions to review and reinforce previous lessons. Instead of learning one topic and moving on, our curricula builds upon itself, deepening those pathways in your brain until speaking Spanish becomes second nature.
One size does NOT fit all
While finding pieces of clothing that are ‘one size fits all’ is great because there’s no hassle of finding the perfect size for you, that thought process cannot be used when learning a language. As a child grows up, they learn differently, and their Spanish curriculum must reflect that. That is why we have all the following programs:
- Preschool Curriculum
- Elementary Curriculum
- Middle School Curriculum
- High School Curriculum
- Adult Curriculum
Each program is specifically designed with the student’s age in mind. For example, the middle school years are a time of preparation and transition, and our curriculum takes that into mind – while addressing Spanish grammar topics head-on like the high school curriculum, it still goes at a slower pace to make sure they are truly learning. It’s like an introduction to a high school level course, which is what those middle school years are all about.
Creating the Perfect Curriculum for Your Child
While we offer different courses for each age level, every child is unique and may need something tailored specifically to their learning needs. You don’t usually get the opportunity to adjust courses in many classroom settings, but our curriculum can be altered as needed. If your student needs to just review certain parts of a curriculum because they have already mastered some topics, our teachers can start them right at the appropriate lesson, so they aren’t bored with the classes. On the other hand, if your student needs more time to review a tricky topic, our teachers take the time to get extra review materials and make sure they master each lesson.
All of our Spanish curricula have homework, quizzes, and tests built into the programs, but you can opt out of those and do a freestyle course of study. Keep in mind that if you are looking for high school credit, your student will need to comply with all parts of the curriculum. For any other course, however, the assessments can be optional.
Some students would like to focus more on conversational Spanish, while others already speak fluently but need help with their written Spanish. Either way, our teachers can accommodate and adjust the curriculum for your student’s needs.
Additionally, we have worked with numerous students that have learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and ADHD. Just let your teacher know and they will accommodate accordingly. We are here to make learning Spanish easy for your child!
High School Courses
So many world language courses don’t offer options for high schoolers – they focus more on younger kids and avoid high school classes because of the strict standards required for high school Spanish. However, the Spanish Academy offers Spanish I, Spanish II, Spanish III, and Spanish IV for the high schoolers. The classes include graded homework (10%), quizzes (40%), and tests (50%), and we can provide a transcript for each completed semester.
These classes are perfect for if your student needs high school credit for Spanish, if they struggled in school and need reinforcement, or if they are looking to get a head start on their high school credits. We have received numerous testimonials about how our unique high school curriculum has helped students succeed in high school and be well-prepared for college classes. Download a sample here!
Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”– Kim Collins
Here at the Spanish Academy, we want to be constantly improving our classes. For that reason, we are making some exciting changes to our curriculum. The flexibility and teaching methods will be the same, but we will be bringing you a lot more content, with some extra special products for all you parents!
One important change will be our alignment with the ACTFL standards and level system. You will be able to see what fluency level your student is at and what they need to work on at each level. This will give you a better idea of how soon they will reach their Spanish fluency goal and how you can help get them there.
Stay tuned for the coming changes and sign up for a FREE class in the meantime!Read More
When learning a language, there are so many different curriculums to choose from. Even with the Spanish Academy, there are five different more programs (with more on the way)! Deciding which program to start with can be a bit confusing if you aren’t familiar with the specifics of each curriculum. Some of the most common questions we get are “What is the difference between the middle school and high school curriculum? Which one should my child study?” Well, hopefully with this blog, we can help you make an educated decision on which curriculum is best for your child!
Who Is the High School Curriculum for?
While the name of the curriculum may make it seem like this program is only for students in grades 9-12, that is not actually the case. Even though the majority of our students in the high school course are within that age range, we do have children as young as 8 or 9 studying at the high school level.
Some kids start studying Spanish in preschool or take courses in an immersion school, which helps them reach a high level of fluency at a young age. The elementary and middle school curriculums, therefore, may not provide the vocabulary and grammar they need to continue improving their Spanish skills. Because of that, our high school curriculum is open to any student who needs to appropriately challenge themselves in the Spanish language.
High School Credit
Just like some colleges offer students the opportunity to earn credit while still in high school, the Spanish Academy gives students the chance to get ahead in their studies. Younger students who would like to get their language credits out of the way are more than welcome to study at the high school level to make sure they get credit for their studies. In the United States, nearly all high schools require one or two language credits to graduate. With the Spanish Academy, students can earn those credits while still in middle (or even elementary) school and open up their future schedule for other classes they may want to take.
Middle School Versus High School
Speaking of credit, can the completion of any other Spanish Academy course transfer to high school credit? The answer is yes. A student who starts at the middle school level can earn up to one full credit for their studies. Let’s delve into the differences between the two programs so you can choose the best option for your Spanish student.
Choosing the Middle School Curriculum
All of the Spanish Academy levels start with the basics – Hola, ¿cómo estás? Mi nombre es… The middle school program is no different. However, it does move at a different pace than the others. While the elementary program has fun exercises designed for those little learners, the middle school program takes a slightly more mature approach to language learning. However, it is not as intense as the high school program; it teaches some grammar but does not move as quickly through the material.
If you want your child to master the fundamentals of Spanish learning before jumping into grammar and advanced conversations, the middle school program would be the best option for you. The lessons move at about half the speed of the high school lessons, giving the student time to truly dominate the learned topics before moving on. The middle school course would give your child a strong foundation moving forward into high school. Additionally, your student will build their speaking confidence as they take their time learning correct pronunciation and phrasing with the teacher.
Choosing the High School Curriculum
Now, if your child is a fast learner or already has the Spanish basics down, you can opt for them to start with the high school program. Just like the middle school one, it starts with beginning topics but moves much quicker through grammar and vocabulary.
This program is designed for teenagers, but as previously stated, can be taken by any student needing a challenge or high school credit. If you are trying to decide between the middle and high school curriculum for your teen or pre-teen, it ultimately comes down to two factors: their previous Spanish experience (do they already have the basics?) and their learning style (would they do better in a fast-paced environment?).
Moving from the Middle School to High School Curriculum
Of course, if you start your student off with the middle school curriculum, it only lasts for a couple of years. Eventually, your student will need to move on to the high school curriculum. Before making the switch, there are a few things to consider.
Are credits important?
When moving from middle school to high school Spanish classes, credits need to be taken into consideration. Only the first two semesters of the middle school curriculum can be transferred to high school credit. In other words, middle school 1A and 1B are equal to high school 1A. After middle school 1B, the classes no longer transfer to high school credit because they do not follow the same path as the high school classes.
So, if you want your student to earn high school credit but start at the middle school level, the best plan of action would be to take only one year of middle school before transferring to high school. They would get the basics, master some fundamental skills, and then move forward with high school 1B at a quicker pace.
If earning credits is not as important, your student can complete all levels of the middle school curriculum and then test into the appropriate high school level. Keep in mind, though, that only one semester of high school credit (0.5 credits) will be given for the middle school level, no matter how many semesters they have completed.
Is your student ready?
Since a student can start the high school classes at any point, it is imperative that you consider your child’s learning method. Most students take 25-minute classes all the way through middle school, so the transition into 50-minute high school classes can be a big change (they can take 25-minute classes, but it would take longer to complete the program, and each lesson is designed for 50-minute segments). Additionally, the high school curriculum covers a lot of grammar – it has about double the content per lesson as the middle school program. Make sure your student is ready to advance and can handle the extra workload.
What is your language learning goal?
This goes hand-in-hand with the question about credits. What do you want your child to achieve through their Spanish classes? Is fluency your goal, or do you want them to earn 4 high school credits? Do they need Spanish to talk with their family members or to go on their college application? Whatever your goal is, we can work with you to help you meet it. However, it is something you should consider when choosing the best curriculum for your child.
If you are only interested in fluency, then there is no need to jump right into the high school curriculum (unless they are at an advanced level). If you want them to have several language credits for their college application, then it would be best to move into the high school program sooner rather than later.
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a Spanish program for your learner, but nothing can beat actually experiencing a class. Try a FREE class today, and you can even explore your curriculum options further with a live teacher! Also, download a sample lesson from each curriculum to see what your child would actually be learning at each level. Get them speaking Spanish today!Read More
Education is the foundation for a bright future, which is what every parent wants to provide for their child. The Spanish Academy isn’t just for homeschooling families; this program is for anyone looking for an affordable, high-quality Spanish program.
Many homeschool programs may just offer a Spanish book for the parent to teach from or provide funds for a program like Rosetta Stone. But where is the native-speaking teacher to help you with the pronunciation and conversation? Now, schools may have a native speaker teaching Spanish classes – they may even have a language immersion program! However, your child will probably not get the one-on-one attention needed to thrive in a classroom setting. For that reason, many parents opt for private Spanish tutors – if they can afford them, that is. A lot of people even travel abroad to get that authentic learning experience in a personalized setting with a native speaker.
All of the affordable options seem to be lacking, but the authentic teaching experience may be out of your budget. What the Spanish Academy offers is the best of both worlds – authentic teaching with native teachers at a price you can afford! Let’s see what a year with the Spanish Academy looks like.
How Often Are the Classes?
Throughout the school year, most of our students take classes twice a week. This is the perfect balance between overwhelming a student with loads of information every day and not spending enough time studying for the information to stick. Let’s say the student studies on Mondays and Wednesdays. What about the other days of the week? Will the gap in learning affect their progress? The answer is no. After every class, the teacher provides homework which takes about the same amount of time as the class. For example, if the class is 50 minutes long, the homework will take about 50 minutes as well. That way, on days that the student does not have class, they are still exposed to the language. Our curriculum is also available on the student’s profile so they can print out sheets and practice when not in class.
By taking classes twice a week, the student will finish two semesters of Spanish study in one school year. Each semester is about 30 classes, or 4 months, giving them plenty of time to finish the two semesters from September to May.
While many of our students take classes twice a week, it is NOT mandatory. Remember, the classes are designed to fit your schedule and lifestyle. If you want your student to progress quickly, he or she can take 5 classes a week; if you would prefer less frequent classes, that is also completely fine. The schedule is completely up to you.
Do the Classes Have to be Completed in a Certain Time Frame?
Since our program fits your schedule, the classes do not have to be completed by a certain date. If you would like your school year to be a full 12 months instead September to May, that is completely fine. If you would like to start the school year in the summer to get a jump start, that is also fine. Basically, you make the schedule – the start date, end date, and weekly schedule are all up to you.
The only time the classes would ever expire is if you do not take classes for a full year. Other than that, there is no deadline for completion.
What is Covered in Each Class?
While we can’t go over every topic in this blog, I will briefly describe the general outline of a class.
Each class starts with a brief conversation to engage the student and build a relationship between the student and the teacher. As the student progresses, this conversation will have more and more Spanish components.
If there was homework assigned in the previous class, the teacher will take time to review it with the student and go over any questions they missed. This is a great time for the student to ask questions and clear up any confusion they may have regarding the vocabulary or grammar.
The teacher will also take a couple of minutes to review the previous lesson and make sure the student remembers the material. We make sure not to push the student too fast, and reviewing material from the last class is a great way to make sure the student is ready to move forward.
The teacher will pick up where they left off in the previous class. Each lesson has multiple components, starting with a presentation of the vocabulary/grammar followed by multiple exercises to practice the information.
While the goal is to complete a lesson in each class, that is not always the case as some lessons are more complex than others. The teacher moves at the student’s pace, making sure they are truly understanding the content.
Depending on the student, this part can take many forms, from a simple conversation to an interactive game. The goal is to apply what was learned and end the class with a fun review session. The teacher will then assign appropriate homework to be completed before the next class.
How Fast Does the Student Progress?
This is a complicated question as each student has a unique learning method and our teachers take their time to make sure each student truly knows the material before moving on. That being said, the students, in general, do progress more quickly than in traditional classroom settings because of two main factors.
In a normal classroom, the teacher is in charge of anywhere from 5-30 kids which makes it extremely difficult to help each one individually. Since our classes are one-on-one (or two-on-one in the case of paired classes), the student gets the teacher’s undivided attention. They can ask whatever question they need, review difficult topics, and get extra help where needed. This ensures the student moves towards fluency at a quicker rate than the students in a traditional classroom.
All of our teachers are native Spanish speakers. A lot of Spanish teachers in public schools are not native speakers, and therefore do not have the mastery of the language that a native speaker does. Having a native speaker as a teacher ensures you will hear correct pronunciation, accurate sentence structure, and authentic conversations. This helps the student progress quickly towards fluency because they are being immersed in the language and culture.
Now, those two factors help a lot with fluency, but fluency is an intangible thing. What exactly will the students be able to do after a year with the Spanish Academy?
Spanish Skills after One Year
If your student is studying at the high school level, they will be able to have basic conversations after one year of studying with HSA. They will be able to use the present, past, and future tenses as well as talk about places, wants, and questions, just to name a few.
The high school curriculum progresses the fastest in terms of vocabulary and grammar, but even if your student is studying at the preschool level, they will be able to participate in simple conversations after one year as well. For example, in their first year, they will learn about introductions, family, and foods to name a few topics. They will be able to ask and answer questions and understand basic conversations.
As you can see, the main focus of every level is getting the student to conversational fluency, which is something you will be able to see clearly after just 2 semesters with HSA. The difference in the curriculum options is that as the age level increases, there is more focus on grammar topics, and they progress more quickly through vocabulary topics. However, no matter the age or level, you can expect to see great progress in conversational skills after a year of study, if not after just one semester!
For more details on the different curriculums available, click here.
Are the Students Graded on Anything?
In each semester, or 30 classes, there are four quizzes and four exams. The student will receive a grade for each of these that will count towards the final semester grade. Quizzes are worth 40%, exams 50%, and homework (graded on completion, not accuracy) 10%. Before each quiz and exam, there will be ample review to ensure the student is thoroughly prepared.
In the case of the younger students, they will not be told they are taking an official exam. Instead, the teacher will treat it more as a review, so the student does not stress. It is just a way to check their progress and make sure they are picking up on vocabulary and grammar.
We do offer freestyle programs if you would like your student to focus strictly on conversation and not worry about grades.
Do the Parents Need to Be Involved in the Classes?
If you have a younger student, we do advise that the parent be around when the student is taking the class. This does not mean they have to sit in on the class (although they may if they prefer to do so), but if the student has any technical difficulty, it is always good to have an adult close by. At the middle school and high school level, the parents can be as involved as they would like to be.
When purchasing classes, the parent creates an account that has access to each student’s class, homework, and syllabus information. If the parent would like, they can track the student’s progress there, print out the materials, and practice with the student. However, if they prefer a hands-off approach, they can leave it completely up to the teacher.
There are periodical parent-teacher conferences to make sure the parent is aware of the student’s progress. These usually happen during the first or last couple minutes of class, and the parent is notified of the meeting with sufficient notice.
Again, our program is very flexible. If you would like to be completely involved in the program, that is definitely an option. If not, our teachers are more than capable of ensuring the student’s progress.
Now that we’ve looked at the different components of our Spanish classes, it’s time for you to experience it for yourself! Sign up for a FREE class today and see if it’s a good fit for your child. If you would like more information on the curriculum and specific topics your student will be taught, you can download a sample curriculum here. Give your student a bright future today!Read More
As a parent, you want the best for your child – especially where education is concerned. When it comes to foreign language, sometimes our local options fall short as we don’t always have access to native teachers. Therefore, many people turn to online alternatives for second-language courses, such as Spanish classes. However, good Spanish programs can be lengthy and difficult, especially if you choose a program that doesn’t fit your child’s needs. Is it worth it to invest in a private instructor? Do Spanish textbooks alone work? What about the multiple online software programs?
Weighing your options is always a good idea. Below, you will find 5 popular alternative Spanish classes for children and teenagers. If you are looking at courses for adults, please visit our blog here. ¡Vamos!
Although you may not consider these options to be exclusively ‘online’ programs, they are quite popular with families looking for Spanish fluency. These applications are very similar in structure (for a more detailed description, click here) and offer interactive activities to enforce learned vocabulary and grammar. Memrise has a more game-like vibe, while Duolingo is a little more focused on grammar. However, with Memrise you can choose from hundreds of Spanish courses made by users. This ensures your child learns what they need for their level or what peaks their interest. Duolingo also offers a placement test so your students start right at the level they need.
You can find both programs online or on your phone as an application. The free versions offer a variety of language learning options, such as games, vocabulary exercises, pronunciation, and writing. Although there are not live teachers helping your child along, he or she can watch short videos of natives speaking and listen to authentic pronunciations.
Rosetta Stone is a favorite among families looking for authentic Spanish classes. Developed in 1992, this program is a Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) software. In other words, the student learns with an automated program.
The platform uses images, text, sound, and repetition to help your child learn Spanish. It also analyzes aspects of your student’s progress to help them learn at their own pace and enjoy the process. For example, it tracks how many questions the student answered correctly, how accurate their pronunciation is, and how long each lesson is taking. However, like the apps, there is no live instructor to help the student along.
So, those first two options don’t offer any live teachers to guide your child through their learning journey. A private instructor is always a plus, especially if your child is quite young. Are there any affordable options available with personal instructors? Let’s look at the Kids’ Club Spanish School.
This platform is a bit newer, created in 2017. The classes allow the child to sit down with a live teacher and interactive software to learn Spanish. The backbone of the program is the
Panda Tree is another program that offers live Spanish instruction at your own convenience. This one offers classes in both Chinese and Spanish, and it has been in operation for 5 years. Just like the Kids’ Club Spanish School, the classes utilize interactive software ideal for younger children. This way, kids can sit down with their teacher as if they were in a real classroom. The learners also have access to additional songs and activities to practice with outside of class.
However, this platform doesn’t offer a free trial class to see if it is a good fit for your child. Another drawback both Panda Tree and Kids’ Club Spanish School have is that there is a maximum age limit. Many high school students need Spanish credits to graduate or to apply to college, but these programs are geared mainly towards younger students.
Spanish Academy, though, offers live classes to all ages – preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school. There is even a program for you, mom and dad! This platform combines personal classes at your convenience with a written curriculum so your child has a complete learning experience. If you have two kids that want to learn together, you can even sign them up to study at the same time. That way, they can have more fun learning Spanish together!
Best of all, the price for classes are significantly lower than both Panda Tree and Kids’ Club Spanish School, even though all three programs offer live, personalized classes online. The only drawback is that availability with Spanish Academy may be limited during the school year because of its great popularity.
Is your little learner ready to start learning Spanish? Click here to sign up for a free class today and give your child a brighter future!Read More
We talk to people every day – on the street, in the store, at home – and rarely think about how amazing it is that we can actually communicate with them. We constantly take for granted our ability to converse with those around us.
Now, 58.9 million of our neighbors here in the States are Spanish-speakers. Imagine that for a moment. There is an impressive language barrier between us and almost 20% of the population. How can we bridge that gap and begin to communicate more fully with our neighbors? Well, we can start by perfecting our Spanish-learning process.
Why the Traditional Methods of Learning Spanish are Flawed
Let’s think about how most of us have tried to learn Spanish…
- Workbooks with reading and writing exercises
- Large classroom settings
- Non-native Spanish speaking instructors
- Software (free or paid) with audio recordings
- Classes only 1 or 2 times per week
Did one of these methods work for you? More than likely, they did not because these techniques utilize the wrong parts of the brain.
Flaws in the Traditional Methods
Remember the list we made of the different ways we normally try to learn Spanish? Those are what we are going to call ‘traditional learning methods.’ Let’s explore further to see where exactly they went wrong.
If you’re like me and went to public school, the norm was that you took about a year of foreign language in middle school before it became a requirement in high school. Since I studied in Texas, Spanish was the most logical choice of a second language. However, it wasn’t like I had much of a choice since German and French were my only other options. So, I began to study Spanish only because of its practicality. Now, on a personal level, Spanish was my least favorite class. I was a pretty good student overall, but matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do better than a B- (yes, I know – I was an overachiever).
At some point, I owned the fact that I wasn’t good at learning languages and just gave up. I stopped trying, which was quite contrary to my personality.
Looking back, I can point to several things that probably held me back.
Common Learning Errors
- Large Classes: I was in a 5A district, studying at a high school of 5000+ students. My graduating class was about 1000 students. In other words, the classrooms were consistently filled to capacity.
- Limited Attention: Due to the high student count, how much attention could one teacher realistically give to any one student? How does anyone stay focused when they’re just another face in the crowd?
- Limited Practice: Our classes, if I remember correctly, were approximately 50 minutes. They later shifted to an hour and twenty minutes in high school. Within those 80 minutes, I experienced about 10 minutes of actual application time. However, we weren’t speaking with actual native speakers. Instead, we stammered broken phrases to other non-Spanish speakers for a couple of minutes until we got distracted by a more interesting topic.
- Workbooks: Given the limited class practice time, most of the actual Spanish work was assigned as homework. This meant that we mainly learned about the reading and writing rules of the Spanish language in class, and perfected them (or at least attempted to) outside of class. I would actually argue that my reading and writing got pretty decent, but I couldn’t speak the language if my life depended on it.
In hindsight, it’s clear that my Spanish journey was flawed since day one. I was learning how to read and write in Spanish, but I barely flexed my auditory & speaking muscles. The lessons, activities, and practice works were constantly reinforcing reading and writing in Spanish, nothing else.
Now let me be clear. I’m definitely not saying that software and textbooks that focus on those learning areas are insignificant. I truly believe they can be helpful. However, I’m simply saying that they are only one part of a much bigger picture. We need various tools to activate the key areas of the brain that will help us effectively learn Spanish fast.
Before we can begin to learn Spanish fast, we must have a better understanding of how the brain functions when learning a language.
How the Brain Works
The brain is a very complex organ in the human body. It controls everything we do. Whether that’s reading, writing, or speaking, the brain has to be trained, over time, to know how to complete those tasks.
Although the brain is much more complex than what we can delve into here today, it is clear from looking at this diagram that different language functions are primarily controlled by distinct areas of the brain.
What this shows us is that when we try to learn a language with just reading or writing exercises, it isn’t very effective because we aren’t exercising the part of the brain that controls speech. We are learning only half of what we need to become fluent in Spanish.
In other words, as a learning audience, we have been studying and learning Spanish incorrectly.
In a nutshell, our brain accomplishes any task by firing or sending electrical signals to different regions of the brain. These signals then travel through the body to the muscles that you want to use. Let’s say, for example, you want to say something. Your brain would first send out signals to different parts of the brain to recall the words and sentence structure you need. Then, it would signal your muscles to move correctly and get your vocal cords to produce the correct sound. All at the same time. Whoa! That’s a lot of tasks! No wonder it’s a hard thing to learn, huh?
Becoming More Efficient
These electrical signals we just talked about travel along something called ‘axons.’ However, the further the signals have to travel, the more energy they lose. Luckily, our axons are wrapped in a fatty substance called myelin, which helps maintain energy. You can think of axons like the coaxial cables of the brain.
When we’re younger, this myelin fatty substance is quite thin. The more we ‘practice’ specific tasks, though, the more resources your body dedicates to that axon and thickening the myelin. This, in turn, produces a very well insulated pathway for that particular electrical signal. In this TED video that explores the idea further, they refer to it as something “similar to an information superhighway.”
Logically speaking, as a signal becomes fast and more efficient, the result should appear quicker and better, right?
Targeting the Correct Objective
The answer is yes. But to make that signal faster, we need to practice the right tasks. If we want to create efficient pathways in our brain for speaking Spanish but never say a word, those pathways will never develop. We must target the correct objective when we learn Spanish.
At this point, I can probably conclude that I did not excel in high school Spanish because the curriculum and activities were creating and reinforcing axon pathways in my brain specifically for reading and writing. Had I been able to converse and develop pathways for speaking, I would have been more proficient in communicating in Spanish. There’s a common saying, “practice how you’ll execute,” and it rings true for language learning.
More Than Practice: Quality and Effectiveness
The video I previously mentioned goes on to point out that although practice is necessary to build up the myelin along your axons, it’s not the only thing needed to develop mastery over any skill, including speaking Spanish.
This explains why repeating a bunch of words randomly or without context, often does NOT lead to Spanish fluency. So, we have talked about how traditional learning methods are ineffective. What’s the correct way to learn Spanish quickly, then?
How We Do It:
At Spanish Academy, we’ve developed a unique method of teaching Spanish that centers around five key concepts represented by the acronym RAMMA. These letters stand for:
Our classes are either 1-on-1 or 2-on-1, giving you the ability to talk about things that are relevant to your life. This does a couple of things. First, it gives your brain a point of reference and allows you to contextualize and process what’s going on. It also aids in pushing the information into your long term memory.
Because the information is relevant to your experience, you’re naturally more engaged in the class. Studies show time and time again*** that when you are attentive, your brain is more likely to retain the information.
Now that your classes are relevant to your experiences, you can learn Spanish through a lens you are familiar with. This gives meaning and perspective to your Spanish learning journey. Instead of just learning a bunch of generic words and phrases that you might never use, you will actually learn useful and meaningful vocabulary, grammar, and conversation skills.
Just like being attentive allows you to store information in your long-term memory, giving meaning to the context allows you to do the same. All that context, perspective, and meaning lets you process and store this information a lot faster than if you were to just try and memorize things a list of words.
Of course, repetition plays an important part in language learning. That’s where the last letter comes in: A for accountability. To continue with something that’s difficult, you need guidance and direction – or accountability. This is one of the most important things that people forget about or don’t include in their learning regiment because they don’t think it’s important. However, it can actually shorten your learning curve by avoiding mistakes that you would otherwise make. Think of your Spanish teacher (or some accountability partner) like Google Maps. You’re still able to get to where you need to go without Google Maps, but it’s a lot faster if you have it guiding you along the way.
Learn Spanish Fast
In my travels, there’s a joke that I’ve encountered many times over – as I’m sure many of you probably have. It goes something like this…
“What do you call someone that knows three languages?”
“What do you call someone who knows two languages?”
“What do you call someone who knows one language?”
Crazy right? But, there’s some truth to the joke. In many parts of America, there are people who feel that other languages should not be spoken or used in public.
Without getting political, I think one of the reasons for this, is that people find it really hard to learn Spanish or any other language. And it is challenging, don’t get me wrong. But it can be easier than people make it out to be if they practice and learn Spanish correctly.
So, it’s time to throw out those traditional methods and start learning Spanish effectively today. Click here to learn even more about how our program can help you learn Spanish fast, or go ahead and sign up for a free class. We can’t wait to see you in class!
About the author
Ron went from zero to Spanish fluency in 3 months after he left his high-paying consultant gig to become a director of a school for impoverished kids in Guatemala in 2009 – dove into the deep end. In 2010, he saw an opportunity for a real business and began his company in his tiny apartment. As the CEO/Founder of Homeschool Spanish Academy & Spanish Academy TV, he loves making an impact in students’ lives and also really loves chocolate.
If you’d like to learn more about how the brain works, check out this TED video. Or watch this one to discover how to learn Spanish in only 6 months! These videos go more in-depth with the ideas discussed in this blog.
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Choosing a language program presents parents with a barrage of choices. The good news is there is no need to panic – researchers, teachers and students the world over have found language is best acquired and retained in an immersion class.
What is immersion?
Immersion is actually a balance between what teachers call ‘L1’, the student’s native language, and ‘L2’, the new language. A good program will use the student’s mastery of English to support and encourage the acquisition of new words and phrases in Spanish.
There are a few ways teachers and programs achieve this. One is with a lot of visuals. This includes gestures, modelling, real-life objects to help illustrate a theme or situation and lots of pictures or videos. Another is open-ended questions that encourage conversation as opposed to inquiries that only garner a basic “yes” or “no”.
Students new to a program will use some English to start, but over time will depend on their new language to build their fluency.
The Problem with Non-Immersion Classes
Automated programs like Rosetta Stone make the claim that a student can learn their second language the same way they learned their first. In other words, tap into your former, baby brain and use it to acquire a whole new set of vocabulary.
There is a major issue with this approach – a brain grows up. And by growing, a brain makes significant changes in its connections and processes from year to year. While a three-month old brain can perceive any number of phonemes or distinct sounds within words, a one-year old brain is no longer able to do this. By that age, babies only respond to words and sounds they already know.
Young children also get the opportunity to guess at a lot of words. A small child of three might call a spoon a fork, for example. Parents are there to correct them over time and steer them towards the right answers.
Some programs have copied this, allowing language students to guess at which word matches which picture. While this technique works for babies, it’s ineffective for everyone else. After all, a student can accidentally guess the right answer any number of times, but getting lucky isn’t an effective way to learn.
Benefits of Immersion
Immersion style learning helps a lot because it shifts a learner’s first language into something new without allowing for a lot guesses. It’s a more natural and instinctive approach.
Most of us need to know some basic things with language like how to ask “What’s your name?” or “How much for milk?” With immersion, a learner takes the phrase he or she already knows and transforms it into “¿Cómo te llamas?” or “¿Cuánto cuesto el leche?”
Yes, the grammar and structure is a bit different, but the idea is the same. This crossover helps make for better understanding and retention.
Students who learn in an immersive style have a lot more confidence in their new language and feel much better entering a conversation with new people who might not speak any English. Most importantly, it means your son or daughter will actually speak a language, not a smattering of words or random phrases, and that is real bilingualism.
Ready to give HSA’s immersive program a try? Sign up for a free class today.Read More
Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA) has a unique curriculum and teaching style that can be tailored to the varied needs of students of all ages and levels. The immersive teaching style helps students to learn quickly and in a more natural manner. HSA also offers live online tutoring with certified instructors to create the best means of learning possible. HSA stands by their teaching style, but what is that makes this approach truly effective?
Here are some of the practices that HSA uses to keep your child engaged, excited to speak Spanish and confident in their linguistic skills.
Classes on Your Child’s Level
One point that HSA takes a lot of pride in is that they can tailor your child’s classes to their grade level or interests. While the basic curriculum remains the same, each teacher has a bit of freedom as to pace, adjusting the amount of time spent writing or speaking as needed or just adding in a bit more conversation.
Many students find that traditional classes goes too slow or too quickly for their style of learning. This often leads to students giving up either from frustration or boredom and hinders learning.
When a teacher can see how a student learns and then responds to that student as an individual as opposed to another face in the crowd, everything changes. Suddenly, class is a place where your child feels supported and the real learning begins.
Time for Review
One of the elements of language learning that can make it overwhelming is the sheer number of words, grammar rules and exceptions that students have to juggle as the semester advances. This is why time for reflection is so important.
Students retain their new vocabulary and master grammar rules when they have a chance to revisit them. Review sessions pull double duty – they serve as a warm up and get learners ready for new material, but it also reinforces the past lessons in the student’s mind. While it can be tempting to power through old lessons and focus on new words and phrases, review truly is key to making students confident Spanish speakers.
Real Conversation and Interaction
As a parent, you have a lot of choices for online classes, but very few offer a live, in-person teacher. The majority rely on automated lessons your child can click through.
When students have an actual teacher to interact with during class and tutoring sessions, the learning dynamic changes. Knowing that a real person is on the other side of his or her lesson means they can go beyond staring at a screen and develop a connection with their educator. It also opens the door to natural, organic conversation in Spanish to help reinforce your child’s skills and become a bilingual learner.
Sign up for a free class today to see for yourself just how effective HSA tutoring is for learners of all ages. Click here to schedule your session.Read More
Your child is ready to take on Spanish as a second language and you want to give them all the support you can. You want a program that can be tailored to his or her pace of learning, that gives them access to a great teacher and that you can trust to teach your child as authentically as possible. Simply put, you want to find the most effective online homeschool Spanish program for your child.
Homeschool Spanish Academy offers more than just a new computer program. It helps your child build confidence in their language skills with the help of a true, one-on-one class made especially for them. Here are a few reasons why HSA has so many success stories among for homeschool students.
Student to Teacher learning
Many programs offer a pre-fabricated, software-based language-learning system that are exactly the same for each student sitting in front of the computer. While this isn’t necessarily always a negative, it comes with complications. Students can’t clarify vague points in the lesson, there is no homework or review assigned to the learner and, most importantly, no emotional connection between the teacher and student.
When a learner has a teacher to greet at the top of each lesson, it changes how e or she interacts with the program. Knowing that someone is there to help, to cheer them on and keep them motivated turns what would otherwise be a passive experience into an active one. Most importantly, teachers can customize the lessons to each student; making the lesson and application real to them in a way that will stay with them. Students at HSA love their teachers and truly enjoy their time with them.
A Smart, Kid-Centered Curriculum
It can be difficult to develop a language program, particularly when it’s creators don’t know much about their demographic. Most assume the people taking their coursework will be adults, not kids, so they gear their program towards formal and professional language.
At HSA, we take opposite approach. We help students who want to start early and keep learning for a long time. By creating their curriculum with children in mind, we help students learn how to talk about their families, friends and interests – the things that matter to THEM – in an authentic way. Instead of asking, “What is the cost of the caviar?” they learn to say “I have a new baby brother!”
A Personalized Program
No two students learn the same way at the same pace. We are focused on making the experience of learning Spanish one the is effective for each student, delivered in a way that will make using Spanish is real life effortless and fun!
When students have difficulties with topics and concepts, you can communicate with their instructor about finding the right approach to help them succeed. If the lessons are a bit easy, our instructors can provide more unique challenges, a faster pace or for ideas on what more you can do to keep Spanish fun and challenging.
Students love Homeschool Spanish Academy because we teach them to use Spanish in real life conversation. To be able to read in more than one language, watch foreign films or call up a relative in Columbia feels like acquiring a super power. HSA understands their perspective and uses it to give them the best speaking and comprehension skills they can.
Ready to try our effective online homeschool Spanish program? Click here to sign up for your free class today.Read More