How to Motivate Your Older Child to Learn Spanish
Is your older child indifferent toward learning Spanish? It can be frustrating and challenging to get them to understand the benefits of speaking another language. Read on for useful tips to help your child get (and stay) interested.
First of all, you could be motivating your child all wrong! The key to encouraging tweens and teens to learn Spanish is to show them why another language is fun and useful!
Children are motivated in different ways, try to find what suits your child for the best results. Some children are eager to set goals and achieve them, while others want to do the bare minimum to pass their classes. The key here is to find your child’s strengths and work within those limits.
Benefits of Learning Spanish
Some children are exposed to Spanish-speakers and understand the purpose of knowing another language – to communicate with family, friends and community members. Other children are not exposed to Spanish on a daily basis and will need you to show them the value of speaking another language.
Being bilingual gives you an advantage over monolinguals.
Why? Speaking Spanish will increase your child’s competitive edge when it comes time for high school and college admissions, give them the ability to communicate with a wide range of people from various countries and territories (21 to be precise!) – thus opening doors for studying and volunteering abroad, and kids can pick up accents and mimic sounds quicker than adults; thus helping them develop an accent similar to a native speaker.
Let’s Get Real
Do the above reasons make you yawn? Then let’s explore other benefits:
- Listen in on conversations in Spanish that you wouldn’t otherwise understand. This comes in very handy when traveling or if you’re bored on the subway and want to catch up on the latest gossip of the two people sitting across from you.
- Impress your friends or show off at parties/family gatherings with your amazing Spanish accent.
- Understand the lyrics to songs on the radio, like Camila Cabello or Despacito.
- Follow YouTubers in Spanish on cooking and fashion. Set yourself apart in the kitchen and with your wardrobe.
- Watch soccer on Spanish language television and gain a new perspective.
- Order amazing food!
Motivating Your Child
One of the best books to help motivate your child and to encourage them is to determine the “language” your child speaks and understands. The book, The 5 Love Languages of Children, helps you do just that. This book identifies which of the five languages actually work with your child’s personality. The languages children (and adults!) communicate in are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. Which one are you using?
Discovering your child’s primary love language can be really useful in unlocking and fostering potential in your child. Understanding how your child thinks and feels (and is motivated) will help you foster growth for many things, including learning.
Another way to get your child interested in language learning is to try something unconventional. Focus on finding ways to make Spanish useful. Plan a trip to a Spanish-speaking country and have your child be prepared to get you from the airport to the Airbnb…in Spanish. Or, go to church conducted in Spanish and ask them to give you an overview of the service that they heard. They may not have an interest in speaking Spanish until they realize they will be the ones solving the puzzle of language in real-time.
My Experience in Motivation
English is my primary language and I speak Spanish as a second language. My family is Dutch, so speaking Spanish is far away on the map of European languages. Growing up, my family would take vacations to Mexico every year. Often times, I was the only family member who could help with directions (this was before Smartphones and Google Translate y’all!), ask for the checkout time at the hotel, and converse with people on the street. I remember being so interested in the culture and history of a city that I would ask the locals question after question. I became highly motivated to improve my Spanish language skills so that when we returned to Mexico the following year, I could understand better and interpret more accurately. Essentially, I became more interested in Spanish when I understood its purpose and I had a meaningful reason to learn another language.
How I Motivate My Older Child
I have a pre-tween at home and it has been challenging at times to get her motivated to speak Spanish. Why? Because English is everywhere and there isn’t a great need to speak another language. I also have many friends who speak Spanish as a first language and want their kids to speak Spanish fluently. Unfortunately, like my child, their child has found it convenient to lean heavily on English.
What do we do? How do we expose them to Spanish and motive them in a mostly English-speaking country? To solve this, my friends and I put our kids in Spanish class together with an amazing teacher who only speaks Spanish!
Other Ways to Inspire your Child
Here are some other great ways to motivate your child to learn Spanish:
- Find out what speaks to them – Games, Movies, Books – and find one in Spanish.
- Stay upbeat – Set realistic goals for your child and stay positive when the goals are met.
- Inspire – Share success stories of children who speak Spanish and the benefits (short-term and long-term).
- Don’t be afraid to fail – Learning another language is challenging and you are not going to be perfect. With language, you have good days and bad days, so go with the flow.
- Consider rewards – Your child is willing to complete a semester or year of Spanish class? Then plan that trip to Guatemala! Or buy them that Lego set they have been asking for and have them use the directions in Spanish to put it together.
- Don’t micromanage – Let your child have a say in the learning experience. Give them control over their class time, let them pick their teacher or when they will study. This will also teach them life-skills.
The Purpose of Learning Spanish
Language exists so that people can communicate with each other. Your child is successful in English because they have a daily purpose for using this language: communicating among peers, talking to family, and getting around. If you are having a difficult time getting your child to speak Spanish, then help them understand its purpose.
The blog, Perks of Being Bilingual, will give you a starting point for having that conversation with your child about the benefits of Spanish. Being bilingual will benefit them as global citizens and set them apart as valued employees. Now is the time to let them know so they can begin developing their understanding of basic Spanish vocabulary and grammar rules.
Take your first step today by signing up for a free class with Spanish Academy! Find a teacher that inspires your child and get them speaking Spanish!
I began speaking Spanish at age 11 and have been interested in language and culture ever since! While at university, I studied abroad in Spain and Costa Rica and got a B.A. in Environmental Economics with a minor in Spanish. After spending over a decade in Corporate America, I now enjoy the simpler things in life.
Reach out if you have ideas you’d like to see in our next blog.
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