“Yo hablo español!” are three precious words we want our child to say, and what’s more – to mean. Given the amount of language tools and resources for Spanish that never seem to end, the road to Spanish fluency can seem long and paved with obstacles. Fear not! One of the most powerful tools you have is also one of the most fun: reading! Learning a second language through reading offers a number of benefits, including an increase in cognition, memory, and listening skills. There are two types of children’s books to enjoy while sharing a love for Spanish: bilingual books and Spanish-only books.
Bilingual books create a bridge between the two languages (in this case, English and Spanish) and help you understand the story you’re reading. Spanish-only books will help you internalize the new language since it lacks the presence of English as an aid to understanding. Both types of books are essential in your quest to teach Spanish to your little one. If you are a true beginner of Spanish yourself, then pick up some (or all) of the bilingual books listed below to lead your child in learning along with you. If you feel confident about basic Spanish skills and pronunciation, then graduate to Spanish-only children’s books to read at home. Either way, you will be providing your child with the chance to discover new stories in a new language. ¡Vamos a leer!
Bilingual Books in English and Spanish
A great way to stimulate your child’s interest in Spanish is to read bilingual books to them. Cuddle up somewhere comfortable and peruse the book together. First, read the story (or a few pages, depending on your child’s capacity for attention) in English and talk about what’s happening. Then, read it again in Spanish in a playful way. This is a fool-proof way to get your child curious about the language. You can point out people or objects in the pictures when you say a vocabulary word, compare the words with those in English, and talk about the differences in sounds. The goal here is to make it fun and exciting so that each time you pick up the book, your child will be eager to hear it in Spanish. Here is our list of popular bilingual books that you and your child are sure to love!
English-Spanish Bilingual Books
For ages 3-6 years, this book of new words is big, bright, and easy to read. Each page has a central theme around which colorful pictures are displayed with labels in Spanish and English. Learn the names of colors, food, toys, farm animals, objects in the home, and many others. This is a fun way to explore Spanish vocabulary and to encourage your child to remember new words.
A perfect learning combination of art, culture, math skills, and Spanish vocabulary, this little book is a must-have! It is designed to engage babies and toddlers alike with its pretty pictures and big numbers. Follow baby Frida as you count all of the things in her world, such as clouds, leaves, toes, and dresses.
A book about mice mixing colors can only be great fun! The three mice in the story find three jars of paint in blue, red, and yellow. The story comes alive with lovely illustrations that will teach your child how to mix colors and what to call them in Spanish. This would be especially memorable if it was read along with a painting activity!
This is an endearing board book about the love of family and all the kisses that come with it. It has cute pictures to share with your child while teaching them some basic Spanish words like besos, gato, perro, and a few more. While it’s not a book for learning a ton of vocabulary at once, it captivates your little one’s attention gives you a reason to shower them with kisses while learning Spanish.
A charming story in the form of poetry, this book is about María and the llama who follows her to school. Based on the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” the new poem carries the same rhythm in both English and Spanish. It takes place in Peru and embodies all the elements of Peruvian culture with illustrations of the village where Maria lives, the typical dress of the villagers, and more. It is sure to be a quick favorite!
By reading stories to your child entirely in Spanish, you can immerse them in the language momentarily. Take advantage of it by trying to use Spanish only during the time that you are actively engaged with the book. Early literacy skills are inspired at a young age by hearing oral language. The more often you can read these stories in Spanish to your little one, the more likely they are to imitate what you say or to associate new words with the pictures. Check out our blog on strategies for teaching your child Spanish to get a better understanding of why this is. Here is a list of some excellent Spanish-only books to be treasured and enjoyed!
A book of sounds is perfect for children ages 1 to 3. Learn what sounds the animals in the book make and practice Spanish onomatopoeia at the same time! This is a Spanish rhyming board book with cute illustrations and a farm animal charm to it. It’s easy for reading, repeating new words and sounds, and enjoying the practice of Spanish.
This book is an excellent tool to teach basic emotions in Spanish and to discuss the colors that may be associated with them. The monster has accidentally mixed up all the colors and feelings so as you read to your child, you can help put them back where they belong. It’s a fun and educative book.
A diverse little group of animals is curious to know what the moon tastes like. Working as a group, they pile on top of each other to reach as high as possible. The book shows what can happen when friends share dreams and cooperate with one another. Along with the important life lesson it offers, it’s a great book to learn animal vocabulary!
This is a unique and enjoyable book that never ends! Read through the board book, learning characteristics of a strange animal. When you think you’ve finished, you are directed to flip it over and read it from back to front! It’s definitely a fun way to teach descriptive words and phrases in Spanish.
The author of this children’s book was a primary school teacher who knew what inspired and engaged students the most. This is a large, beautifully-illustrated alphabet book that uses a different animal for each letter. As it is one long, rhythmic poem, it is a fun way to teach children new words while enjoying the pleasant rhymes.
Richness of Reading
By exploring and sharing these books that are rich in language, your child is sure to develop important skills each time you sit down to read. Overall, the best thing a parent can do is to encourage reading habits early with their little one – especially when learning a second language! If you would like to practice your Spanish with a native speaker before you begin reading books to your child, try our free online Spanish lesson. Or, consider signing up your child for Spanish classes online to boost their fluency, as it’s a guarantee they’ll be speaking Spanish after the first class. With this list of books to choose from, we are positive that you will enjoy your Spanish-learning journey with your child!Read More
September in Central America is as colorful as any other holiday should be. Weeks before the 15th, the streets, markets, houses, and cars become adorned with hundreds of flags. Cities are dressed in patriotic colors by their citizens. Schools start practicing for the parades and concerts, marching bands can be heard all around town getting ready for the big day when festivities will take place from Guatemala all the way down to Costa Rica. Wearing traditional outfits, eating local dishes, and going out in the streets to have fun are all commonplace practices shared across Centroamérica.
How did this holiday start? To learn this we have to go back in time, almost 200 years ago, before our independence was proclaimed.
A Brief History of Central America’s Independence
September 15, 1821 was an important day for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Through a relatively peaceful process, these nations claimed their independence from the Spanish government impulsed by the political chaos caused by Napoleon Bonaparte’s attack on Spain in the year 1808. On November 5, 1811, the first revolts occurred in El Salvador, and the rest of the countries mentioned followed suit. A meeting between colonial authorities, renown locals, and religious leaders culminated on September 15 with the termination of Spain’s dominion over the Central American isthmus (Panama was not included and had their independence a few years later). Some historians argue that Central America’s independence is often glossed over, and that the subject is much more complex in nature, so if you’re interested in the historical aspect of Central America’s independence, I encourage you to research and ask Centroamericanos to tell you their stories – most of us will gladly share what we know!
Now, almost two hundred years later, people all over Central America celebrate our independence with joy and pride on the 15th, each country having similarities as well as carrying unique flair to their celebrations. I’ve researched and talked to natives of each country to learn the different ways we commemorate our nations and share them with you so you can know what to expect if you’re visiting!
A torch across five countries
Every year, there’s a tradition in Central America where the people carry a torch from Guatemala to Costa Rica in a relay marathon, passing through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The torch is a symbol of the messengers who rode on horseback spreading the news of independence across all five nations. The ‘flame of independence’ is lit at a monument in Guatemala City called El Obelisco almost a week before independence day, reaching Costa Rica’s old capital, Cartago, on the 15th. This tradition has been done over 50 times to this day. The first time the torch traveled through the 5 countries was in 1959!
Differences between countries
In Guatemala, the torches are central to our celebration. Not only does the Central American torch leave El Obelisco 6 days before the 15th, but we also do torch runs all across the country. On the days prior to independence day, the plaza at El Obelisco is filled with marching bands, food stands, merchants, and people carrying a vibrant livelihood that is then taken all over the country in the form of torches lit by Guatemalan citizens. From small towns to groups of friends and even businesses, these torches are taken to many hometowns in celebration of our free nation. So if you have to go to work on the days before independence day, be sure to leave extra early, because the streets will be filled with groups of people running about with torches in their hands!
Some places like Petén, a lush jungle with ancient ruins in the north side of Guatemala, are far away from the city. What happens if I live in Petén? You might ask. There’s no way a group of people would be willing to run almost 500 kilometers for a torch, so many different hub spots in the country serve as lighting beacons for torches. My dad used to run with the torch back in the day with his coworkers. They would run together and finally get to their office to have lunch there. Since my dad worked in the city and making such a short a relay run between El Obelisco and his office didn’t make much sense, they traveled to Antigua, a neighboring town, and ran from there to the city.
In El Salvador, it’s not unusual for the first section of the celebratory parades to have flags from the other four countries that share the independence date, each flag with its own dedicated car. “They signify how we are all connected as one, as centroamericanos,” as my El Salvadoran friend, who lives in Guatemala, said. He tells me that “In El Salvador, we have a strong sense of identity; we get along well and have very little conflict between one another. My family makes fun of me when I visit, saying my accent has changed, but as you can hear my accent is not Guatemalan. Yet, we have a strong cultural identity and a necessity to preserve what we are.” His accent really wasn’t Guatemalan, if I’m being honest, and his insight was a good indicator of how much he appreciates his homeland.
Independence day in El Salvador starts with parades orchestrated by schools across the country as well as a military parade. They all converge at the national gymnasium, where the president greets the students and the military puts on a show with parachutes and planes flying overhead.
Honduras is very similar to El Salvador; school and military parades are planned and inaugurated with 21 cannonballs shot by the military at 6:00 a.m., signifying the start of the festivities. That’s one loud way to wake up if you ask me! Honduras also has a beauty pageant aspect to its parades, with the palillonas. These are girls dressed in fantasy military uniforms, sporting batons that they wave around, and the best ones often end up featured in the newspaper the next day.
Nicaraguans are very organized and meticulous when it comes to celebrating their independence. We all decorate our streets as soon as September starts and celebrate for three days until the 15th. Nicaraguans go a step further, and schedule events all throughout the month in order to celebrate their independence! Ceremonies begin on the first of September with an inauguration that features politicians, ambassadors, and students in tandem with the marching bands that are reminiscent of these celebrations. The following days are ceremonies dedicated to the torch that has been traveling all the way from Guatemala, which Nicaraguans pass on to Costa Rica on the 13th. The next day, there is an event held to commemorate and give medals to the best students and teachers in the country, followed by marching bands from schools, the military, and even the police! Aside from the common practices across Central America, Nicaraguans have the tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on all schools on the 15th.
Just like the torch travels through all five countries and arrives at Cartago, we finally arrive at Costa Rica, where the celebration begins with the receiving of the torch. Costa Ricans pride themselves on their pacifist beliefs, having no military forces to speak of. After 1915, the military presence in their parades started to fade away, until the abolishment of the army removed them altogether. This altered the focus of the independence day celebrations, moving it more towards the youth. The evening before the 15th, there is an event called Desfile de Faroles, or Lantern Parade, where kids from all over Costa Rica build glowing lanterns with recycled materials. They decorate the lanterns with patriotic symbols and enjoy the warm light of their artistic expression while enjoying the local food.
All these different ways to express freedom sure make me want to go follow the torch across all five countries! It’d be great to experience what is not just a celebration of our past, but a unifying act that connects us and our history. It’s very interesting to see how the differences in celebration are influenced by who we are and where we come from. The torch leaves from Guatemala, so we center our festivities around the act of lighting and carrying the torch. In Costa Rica, the celebration centers around receiving the torch.
So, in a way, Independence Day in Centroamérica is a series of parades, shows, and traditions led by a single flame traveling both in the torch and in the hearts of the citizens of Centroamérica.
You can also connect with Centroamericanos by learning to speak Spanish. We always have something nice to share, and it’s a pleasure to show other nations what we’re all about. Get a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy today!Read More
Did you know that in addition to individual and paired Spanish classes, Spanish Academy is the leading expert for teaching virtual Spanish classes to groups?
We have been piloting this program for 2 years, developing and fine-tuning a format that works best for classroom settings. Look no further – you can have a certified native Spanish-speaking teacher in your classroom this year!
1. Global Immersion Every Day
We all know that it’s best to learn Spanish from a native speaker – they have the proper accent, a grasp of colloquial language usage and cultural awareness (such as when to use formal and informal expressions). Exposure to native Spanish-speakers is just a click away and you can join the exciting world of Spanish language ¡ahora mismo! Better yet, you can have an international guest in your class every day and this will set your institution apart!
2. Your College Application Will Shine!
Schools look for unique experiences and perspectives when comprising their freshman class. What better experience than to have international interactions in each Spanish class! This will set you apart. Exposure to the world generally, and to language specifically, leads to more open-mindedness, better problem-solving skills, adaptability, and flexibility.
3. Your Student Will Begin Speaking Spanish on Day One
One of Spanish Academy’s main goals is to ensure that our students begin speaking Spanish on their first day! Our classroom format is ideal for schools, hybrid schools, and other organizations that want high-quality Spanish instruction at an affordable price.
4. Hire Us and We Will Do the Rest!
Tell us what day(s) you wish to hold your Spanish class and we will provide a teacher to support you! Students can enroll in classes by semester or for a full year.
Our customized classroom package includes all homework, quizzes, and exams as well as direct access with our Care Team. The Care Team will go out of their way to help you with registration, payment preferences (i.e. group or individual family billing), payment tracking, explanation of software requirements, virtual set-up assistance as well as grades and student progress.
In addition to the Care Team, Spanish Academy provides an online portal that lays out the class plan – inclusive of all curriculum, schedules, and syllabi. How convenient is that!? Also, the portal is used for uploading and accessing exams and quizzes.
Highly Qualified Teachers, Small Classes and Cost-Effective
Our teachers are specially certified to teach a classroom from Antigua, Guatemala. An on-site moderator should be onsite to ensure software set-up and classroom management, but other than that we run the class!
Classes are taught in small groups of 3-10 students for maximum student attention, language exposure and practice. For example, if you have a classroom size of 25, then the class would be taught in groups of 10, 10 and 5 students.
The group classes are a more affordable option in comparison to individual or paired packages offered through Spanish Academy. They are also significantly less expensive than if you hired a local full-time Spanish teacher.
Spanish Academy can create and design courses, as well as customize the curriculum based on your school’s needs. The program can be designed to accommodate student’s levels of Spanish and any specific requirements schools have for their individual Spanish programs. The classes are effective in allowing students to have personalized attention within the classroom, as our teachers are trained to promote participation and conversation during class time.
Students can learn Spanish from a native Spanish-speaking teacher and may then practice amongst themselves using the proper vocabulary, accent, and grammar that they learn in class.
Students enjoy learning in group settings because they will have a peer-group to practice with!
Earn High School Credit
We offer high school level foreign language credit!
Individualized classes are available through 1-on-1 and 2-on-1 class settings for additional Spanish conversation and language tutoring.
*supplemental material is available for an additional cost
Has your school decided to go without a foreign language because you cannot find a qualified native Spanish-speaking teacher at an affordable price?
Look no further! Contact our Care Team today for more information and customized pricing.
One of the more exciting aspects of learning a new language is finding out the unusual characters it contains, and Spanish is no exception. Not only do we have special characters like ‘ñ’, but also combined characters like ‘ll.’ There are also some letters that sound the same and others whose sound depends on its placement in a word.
Phew! All that can make your head spin if you take it all at once. In today’s blog, we’ll organize, simplify, and explain several of the tricky consonants that are found in the language. If you’re the kind of student that’s been speaking Spanish for a while, you’ll find these guides will help you perfect your understanding of the language. If you’re just starting out, these tips will serve as tools to jumpstart your Spanish career by helping you get ahead of the reading game! Remember that while these tips are useful, practice is the key to becoming a bilingual master. Let’s get started!
LL or Y – What’s the difference?
I remember that when I first began working with my new office mate from Costa Rica, she would make fun of me for not pronouncing the ‘ll’ and ‘y’ correctly in Spanish, as I would often use the ‘y’ sound for both. The truth is, I never really paid much attention to the differences between the two, and each culture has a different approach on how to pronounce these two letters. So, what’s the consensus on pronunciation?
For la doble l, the double l, the sound you make is the same sound that the letter ‘j’ does in a lot of English words. Juice, jade, June, and July are some examples of words that use the same pronunciation. You can then alternate words like juice and lluvia (rain) to practice!
For the letter ‘y’, it’s a bit more complex. Sometimes, you’ll use the same pronunciation as in la doble l, and sometimes you’ll use the same sound as the ‘ee’ in ‘eerie’. When should you use each one? The basic rules are as follows:
When the ‘y’ is found at the end of the word, it acts as a vowel, and its use is purely grammatical. Also, in some regions of Latinoamérica, people won’t change the way they pronounce the ‘y,’ having it act as a vowel all the time! It’s fun to learn how speech changes from one region to the next, your Spanish will improve faster if you talk with people from different countries.
B and V
Unlike the b and v in English, these letters are pronounced exactly the same in Spanish – the pronunciation is officially called a bilabial sonoro, or a bilabial sound. In other words, you use both of your lips, more like the English ‘b.’ The difference between the letters has been purely grammatical for over 100 years! While you may hear people in some regions pronounce them differently, the correct pronunciation that the majority of Spanish-speakers use is to not differentiate between the sounds.
Below you’ll find a chart with different ways to name these two letters. Bear in mind the names on the last row of the chart are very informal, and it’s best to avoid using them (especially in a business setting) but are important to know anyway.
Different names for ‘v’ and ‘b’
The letter H is like a spooky ghost!
It is probably the easiest letter you’ll ever learn how to say in Spanish, because you don’t say it at all! The ‘h’ is a silent letter. Much like how the English language has changed and been left with quirks and marks in writing, this letter is a vestige of the way we spoke some centuries ago. As the language became more sophisticated and evolved with time, the consonants became smoother. The ‘h’ actually became so smooth that people stopped pronouncing it all together; that doesn’t mean it’s completely useless, though! In some cases, the ‘h’ will guide the pronunciation of certain words like buho (owl) by separating the two vowels and making the word composed of two syllables as opposed to one, changing the way it’s said.
One noisy exception
As my preschool teacher used to say: “The ‘h’ is shy and doesn’t like to make noise, but if her best friend ‘c’ sits next to her, everyone will be able to hear them!” This was a neat way to let us know that our beloved ghost letter still holds some use in Spanish. If you’ve ever been to a mexican food restaurant you’ve probably ordered a ‘chimichanga’ or a ‘chalupa.’ These words are great because they tell us just how the letter ‘h’ combined with the ‘c’ sound. The examples I gave you, I believe, are a great way to remember when and how the ‘h’ makes a noise in Spanish. However, perhaps the easiest examples I can give you on how to pronounce these letters are words like chair, chimes, and cherry. It’s indeed charming how cheerful these letters sound together!
The deceitful D
It is not uncommon for native Spanish speakers to accommodate their speech to better communicate with someone who’s still learning. In fact, I believe that’s one of the beautiful aspects of learning a new language: people will make an effort to connect with you better, even if you’re not great at their native tongue. However, in situations like social gatherings, for example, there can be a group of Spanish speakers that all of a sudden start making no sense at all. How can you better understand what they’re saying when they don’t pull their punches?
Idioms aside, one of the letters that Spanish speakers skip the most (besides the ‘s’) is the ‘d.’ When saying words like nada (nothing), native Spanish speakers like myself will say ‘nah-ah’ instead, and that can easily throw you off the flow of conversation if you have to listen in an active manner, like all language learners must do. Some Americans do this too! In some areas of the States, people cut out the ‘t’ of words. For example, instead of saying ‘mountain,’ you may hear ‘moun-ain’ without the ‘t!’ Even though a letter is skipped, the audience still understands. In Latinoamérica we do the same!
Another important thing to note is that the ‘d’ sound is a lot softer in Spanish. The main difference lies in the position of the tongue when saying this letter. You might be tempted to say the ‘d’ the same as ‘th,’ but that will make words like oportunidad (opportunity) way harder to say. To simplify things, to the Spanish ‘d’ sound you just have to move your tongue behind your teeth rather than in between, making a ‘doh’ sound instead.
J is a funny letter
If you’ve ever interacted online with someone who’s a native Spanish speaker, you might come across a text message that looks like this: jajajaja ¡qué risa!
It might look like they missed the keyboard when they tried to type “hahaha, that’s funny!” but that’s because the ‘j’ sound is the same as the basic ‘h’ sound in English. There is a subtle difference though, and that is that the ‘j’ sound can be both identical to the ‘h,’ or have a more ragged, raspy feel to it. The difference is regional (Guatemala has a raspy ‘j’ while El Salvador is known for doing more of an ‘h’ sound), and it mostly affects your accent rather than your understandability, so you can stick with the basic ‘h’ sound no problem.
My N has a little hat!
One of the two extra letters you’ll find in Spanish and not in English is the ‘ñ.’ I have a little trick that will help you say this letter right, and it’s a very easy trick at that! The way to pronounce the ‘ñ’ in Spanish – eñe – is as simple as saying the word ‘lanyard’ while keeping your teeth together. The sound that will come when you say ‘nya’ is the sound that belongs to our friend the eñe. Below are some Spanish words to practice with.
Last but not least, the Z
This letter is tricky because it’s one of the main differences between España and Latinoamérica when it comes to pronunciation. For Latinoamérica there’s really no difference between ‘z’ and ‘s,’ but if you’re in Spain, you might want to consider the following:
To pronounce the ‘z’ as they do in Spain, just talk as if you had a lisp, changing the ‘z’ for a ‘th’ as in the word ‘thick.’ Some word that’ll help you practice the ‘z’ are cereza (cherry), zapatos (shoes), and Suiza (Switzerland).
Take it one step at a time
Consonants are often a milestone when learning a new language. They can be scary and confusing, so remember to tackle them one by one! We cover most of the letters in this blog in our video about confusing consonants on our YouTube channel. Subscribe to receive great content to improve your Spanish! Make sure you visit our website to receive a free Spanish class live with one of our teachers.
Don’t forget to practice what you’ve just learned with our teacher Miss Lia!Read More
Being bilingual in today’s world is not only a perk but a serious advantage. One might even consider it a necessity! As parents doing our best, of course, we want to impart this linguistic talent to our children. Spanish is an especially popular language choice with more than 500 million speakers worldwide. However, what if you only speak English? What if you learned Spanish years ago in high school, and now you’ve forgotten how to pronounce everything? There are so many questions that arise when we want to teach Spanish to our children but are limited by our language capabilities. The internet is full of overwhelming amounts of information about how to teach this foreign language at home, whether we speak it or not, and the sheer volume of resources can be daunting to sift through. In this article, I will boil down the excess into manageable chunks to explain the what, the why, and the how of teaching your child Spanish at home.
How to Learn
First, let’s imagine this: you are building a house. Before the house can be constructed piece by piece, you must first lay down a solid foundation. In this analogy, our understanding of how to learn Spanish is the foundation, and the pieces of the house are the strategies explained in detail below. To understand how our children learn a foreign language, we will turn it over to linguist Stephen Krashen who developed a useful theory on how children experience language learning:
The result of language acquisition … is subconscious. We are generally not consciously aware of the rules of the languages we have acquired. Instead, we have a ‘feel’ for the correctness. Grammatical sentences ‘sound’ right, or ‘feel’ right, and errors feel wrong, even if we do not consciously know what rule was violated. (Krashen 10)
While we may think of language learning as all the grammar, vocabulary, and drills, it’s, in fact, more effective to use the language in a meaningful way. The interaction itself is what grabs our attention and holds it at a very deep level. Children subconsciously learn the rules of their native language. In order to maximize the learning potential for acquiring a second language, it would be wise to use the same method. Let’s look at these two opposing examples:
(1) The teacher stands in front of the students, pointing to a list of new Spanish vocabulary words on the board. He asks the students to write the words in their notebooks: agua, arena, lodo, polvo. The students are then instructed to look up the definition of each word in the dictionary, make flashcards, and memorize their meanings.
(2) Students gather in a circle. The teacher reveals a sensory table with four different textures, each with its own label. She asks the students to touch each substance while saying its name: agua, arena, lodo, polvo. They will immediately associate the tactile sense of each substance (water, sand, mud, dust) with its Spanish name.
In each example, the students are learning. The question is – how are they learning? Number one shows memorization and number two shows a combination of associative memory and subconscious acquisition. Although both examples lead to learning, the second method will be more effective with longer-lasting results since it is made meaningful by the experience.
Children, especially toddlers or younger, are much quicker to imitate words, phrases, or song lyrics when they acquire it instead of learning it – when they experience it instead of memorizing it. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most effective strategies you can use at home to improve language learning!
Strategies for Success
1. Learn along with your child
Your kids need a compelling reason to learn a second language. As soon as they understand that it will increase interaction time with you, they will be extra motivated to engage. Brush up on your skills or start from scratch – it’s going to be a rewarding ride! Enroll in an online class at Homeschool Spanish Academy (the first class is free!) or check out our blog to review your best options. You will want to make sure your pronunciation skills are in good shape as you begin your learning journey with your child.
2. Set up a daily schedule for language learning
A 10 to 30-minute daily routine that is set at the same time is necessary for the best results. Children thrive in learning environments where they understand what to expect. Depending on their ages, they will need to start with shorter time frames and then slowly increase their stamina over a period of a few weeks or more. Create a routine that suits you and your child by dividing the time up into experiences that encourage learning. For example:
5 minutes – a fun song with a meaningful dance
10 minutes – color a picture and practice pronunciation with an activity
10 minutes – play a game to reinforce new vocabulary
5 minutes – a fun song with meaningful dance again
3. Choose your themes
Focusing on specific topics, or themes, helps you and your child focus on related information and makes learning easier. By building mental bridges between similar ideas in a theme, you are more likely to create meaningful memories. Spanish themes you might like to include will revolve around a central theme. For instance, the theme could be “On the Beach” and for 2 to 4 weeks you discuss different sub-topics using vocabulary (warm weather, what you bring to the beach, what you see on a beach), phrases and verbs (vamos a la playa, me gusta nadar), and play beach-related games (toss a beach ball and say new words or phrases, sing songs about hot weather, or fill up a kiddie pool!). Organize your themes into a notebook and jot down new ideas as you move through the year of learning.
4. Use props and TPR
Props are broadly defined as “serving a means of assistance,” and in this case, they are assisting you to bring the lesson to life. You use toys and gadgets to grab your child’s attention and excite their inner desire to play. A squishy toy frog is a whole other world compared to a simple picture. If you’re trying to encourage subconscious learning then you will want to stimulate the child’s senses and – again – give them a reason to learn.
Along the same line of props is TPR, which stands for Total Physical Response. This is a method used by language teachers to help students understand new words by using physical movement. We parents do this automatically when teaching our babies to speak our native language, so this should come naturally! TPR means to use your body to show the meaning of words while teaching them and then have your child imitate the movement and the word or phrase. For example, you can rub your hands over your eyes in a sleepy motion when teaching the phrase Tengo sueño (I am tired). Have your child repeat it and use the same motion. It’s important to be consistent when choosing movements for whichever words or phrases you’re teaching.
5. Combine learning and play
Learning is much more effective when it is fun! While teaching your child Spanish, keep in mind that it shouldn’t feel like homework or a chore. You can combine learning and play easily by using songs, dances, toys, and lots of physical activity. One excellent idea is to use a Spanish-only puppet! Find a funny puppet at a thrift store and give it a Spanish name together. Tell your child that this puppet only speaks Spanish so anytime they communicate together (you are the puppet, of course!), your child has to try really hard to remember the vocabulary they’ve learned.
6. Add Spanish to established routines
Your morning and bedtime routines are goldmines for language learning! Take advantage of the daily repetition in these activities and gradually add new Spanish words and phrases to them. While brushing your teeth, you say, “¡Me cepillo los dientes!” as your child repeats. Point to your teeth and say again, dientes so your child can repeat. While changing into pajamas, repeat, “Me pongo el pijama!” and hold up the clothes and say together “pijama.” The key to this is repetition and association of name to object or phrase to action. This is a guaranteed way to teach new vocabulary.
7. Try family ‘Spanish time’ once a week
Everyone in the family can get in on the action by setting up a weekly time that the whole family practices Spanish together. A good time might be once a week during dinner or a Spanish game night. Everyone tries to communicate as best they can for 10 minutes (or as long as they can manage) using only the Spanish they’ve learned!
8. Collect new vocabulary words in a Libro de Palabras
While you are teaching new words to your children, it will be helpful to have an organized place for them to store it all (since unfortunately it won’t all be stored in their heads!). Reuse an old binder or pick up a notebook and use it as a home for vocabulary. By calling it a “libro de palabras” you will easily teach your child two words – libro and palabras. Have your child glue down colored pictures of objects and their names on it that he or she colored, cut, and practiced. Then, every week, have a time when you both can sit down together and simply look through them as a review.
9. Seek out community support
We’ve all heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” but it’s also the case with teaching a new language to a child! A great way to gather ideas and resources, ask questions, voice concerns, and vent when you need it to those who understand (we’ve all been there!) is by joining a like-minded group. You can look for meetups in your area for parents teaching bilingual children, join groups online by searching Google or Facebook, or ask around at your child’s school to see if any other parents are teaching their children Spanish.
10. Try out Spanish learning videos
While videos aren’t the same as having a live teacher, they do have a place! Let’s use the “On the Beach” theme as an example here, also. If this were a theme in your house and you already learned some songs, vocabulary, and a few of the sub-topics had already been explored, then it would be helpful to use a video. The video should make use of some of the words and phrases you covered. Use this as a review. You could pick out one or two new words to focus on as a learning goal while watching the video to extend it or ignore the new vocabulary and just use it as a review. If you’re looking for some great videos with a specific topic or for video lessons, check out our YouTube Channel, Spanish Academy TV!
11. Enroll your child in online Spanish classes
The ultimate support in your quest to your child Spanish is to enlist the help of a native Spanish teacher. This is an extremely efficient way to give your child the gift of bilingualism. Sign up your child today with a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy, where they will start speaking Spanish immediately! By using an online classroom to provide the bulk of instruction and experience, you can focus on supplying the boost at home using the ideas listed above. If your child is too young for online classes, consider taking the class yourself to improve your Spanish and share the talent with your child. It’s a win-win!
You Can Do It!
Teaching a foreign language to your child is certainly a challenge, but with the right tools and a positive attitude, you can do it! Take advantage of this list of ideas while you gather your resources and make your teaching plan or schedule your free class with Homeschool Spanish Academy today. We would love to help you achieve your language goals. No matter how you choose to teach your child Spanish, remember how great of a parent you are for helping your child to master a foreign language. ¡Buen trabajo!Read More
To be a global player, you need to familiarize yourself with español para los negocios (business Spanish).
Why? Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers, and most Spanish-speaking countries are geographically located next to the USA. What does this mean? It is time to learn business Spanish in order to communicate -and do business with- our neighboring countries!
The Importance of Speaking Spanish and Building Rapport
Many cultures, including those from latinoamérica, rely on building relationships and trust before business dealings are discussed. Building rapport is key. This can be done through active listening, patience by spending time engaging in small-talk before ‘getting down to business,’ as well as showing real interest in your conversations.
Building rapport is also done by knowing Spanish and greeting your business associates in their native language! Don’t forget to use the proper form – formal or informal – in your greetings! Hola Ximena! Es un placer conocerle.
In the USA, small-talk can be short and sweet: “Good Morning! Did you have a nice weekend? Nice weather today, eh? Okay – Here’s what I need from you….” and the business meeting ensues. In many other countries, this would nary be a start. Lengthy amounts of time can be spent ‘feeling out’ the other parties’ intentions, temperament, motivations, non-verbal cues, etc.
The Criticality of Face-to-Face Meetings
I experienced this while working with an Indian company that was not accustomed to doing business with Americans, and it was one of my first times doing business in India. I was a ‘new’ member on the team and started ‘getting down to business’ on day one.
In order to perform an analysis, I required information to be sent via email. However, no one would send it to me. I had participated in a couple of phone meetings with my new counterparts and engaged in ‘small-talk’ with the team; nonetheless, when it came time for the company to share information with me…it was silence and avoidance. There was always an excuse that it was ‘delayed,’ or that they were ‘working on it’ – but I wasn’t receiving the data I needed.
I ended up consulting with an Indian-American colleague and discovered that the company most likely didn’t ‘trust’ me yet, and if I wanted to move forward with the project then I would have to meet them in person.
Off I went, traveling over 30 hours to have an in-person meeting with the company representatives. The meeting went well – we spent half the morning drinking tea and getting to know one another. My counterparts were ‘evaluating’ me to deem me trustworthy. Evidently, I passed the test because from that meeting forward, I received any and all information I requested without delay, hesitation, or excuses. Success!
In many cultures, it is crucial to spend time getting to know each other before the business meeting can officially start and before the business relationship can grow. Even though Southeast Asia and Latin America are two very different regions, they share this similarity (as do many other parts of the world!)
To help you facilitate your next meeting in Spanish, we have compiled a list of key business words and phrases below!
20 Key Business Words
Let’s start by learning the basics so you can speak with confidence.
Business Phrases Translated for You!
There are many common phrases used when talking about business projects, holding meetings, or striving to meet deadlines. Some of those phrases are colloquial, and you would only use them with your coworkers. Others are more formal and would be reserved for your boss or important clients.
Below are some key phrases that will apply to coworkers, bosses, and clients alike. Practice these to show your skills as a businessperson to your fellow Spanish speakers!
Practice Spanish Every Day
Knowing these top business keywords and phrases is a great start on becoming business-savvy in the Spanish workplace! To avoid language mishaps and dale con todo (put your best foot forward), it is important to practice Spanish every day!
Now You’re Ready!
The Spanish Academy offers personalized classes in real-time with real people that can adapt to your schedule. Be confident when holding your next business meeting! Practice with native Spanish-speakers today!
If you have studied Spanish for a little while, you have probably noticed that there are many connections between English and Spanish. Since they both have roots in Latin, there are many similarities, making it pretty easy to identify the meaning of new words in Spanish…or so you think. While you may be able to stick an ‘o’ or an ‘a’ to the end of some English words or change an -tion to a -ción to make them Spanish equivalents (tranquil — tranquilo, education — educación), it is not always that simple!
These words that look alike and have the same meaning are called cognates. Let’s look at some more:
- Plate — Plato
- Intention — Intención
- Capital — Capital
These examples either have the exact same spelling or just slight differences. There are other examples where the words may not look exactly the same but look enough like each other for us to make the correlation between the two:
- Necessity – Necesidad
- Lamp – Lámpara
While these connections between the two languages are great and can help us understand a lot more Spanish than we expect, it can often set us up for some awkward situations. How many times have you not known a word in Spanish and tried to just put a Spanish ending on the English one and hoped for the best? This often works (like with education and educación), but not always. There are numerous false cognates, or false friends as they are often called, that create confusion and miscommunication. Possibly the most common example of this is embarrassed and embarazada. They look similar, so they must mean the same thing, right? Wrong! Embarazada is actually pregnant, and the correct translation of embarrassed would be avergonzado(a). Can you see how false cognates can cause a lot of problems? Let’s look at some more.
Phew! That’s a lot of false cognates. Don’t stress, though! I learned a lot of these through trial and error, and it’s okay if you confuse these, too. Keep practicing, and be sure to talk with one of our certified Spanish teachers if you have any questions. Sign up for a FREE class now!
Today is my 20th birthday! My party will be at the fifth house on the second avenue. As of now, you’re the first to know! Ok, ok, so today isn’t really my birthday, but without the use of ordinal numbers, I wouldn’t be able to tell you all about it. Ordinal numbers tell us about an object’s position in relation to others. They are the numerical labels that help us arrange objects or ideas in order: first, second, third, etc. They are different from cardinal numbers, or natural numbers, that represent a quantity that we can count. When we learn about ordinal numbers in Spanish, it’s important to remember the vocabulary as well as the ways that they are used.
Ordinal Numbers 1-10
The most commonly used números ordinales in Spanish are numbers 1-10. As you will soon see, the numbers after 10 grow in complexity and length, which has undoubtedly persuaded Spanish speakers to use the cardinal numbers between 11 and a million much more frequently. Let’s start with a list of the numbers 1-10 in their ordinal form with a pronunciation cheat sheet!
It is important to take note that we do not use these ordinal numbers in Spanish exactly the same way that we use them in English. For example, unlike English, we write the days of the month with the cardinal number to specify a date. The only exception is for the first day of the month, where we use the ordinal number:
Cardinal number: El diez de agosto (August 10th)
Ordinal number for the first day of any month: El primero de abril (April 1st), el primero de agosto (August 1st)
The use of the ordinal number to denote the first of the month is a general and common rule for Spanish, but it is acceptable only in Spain to use uno instead of primero (El uno de abril).
Give it a try
Here is a quick quiz to see if you can fill in the blanks with the correct ordinal number, using the chart above to help! (See the answers at the end of the blog to check your work!)
1. el ______________ (8th) carro
2. el ______________ (1st) de noviembre
3. el ______________ (10th) suéter
4. el ______________ (5th) hermano
5. el ______________ (9th) cuadro
Ordinal Versus Cardinal
While cardinal numbers act as adjectives, ordinal numbers can be adverbs, pronouns, and adjectives. The major difference between them is that cardinal numbers do not usually change according to the gender and number of the noun, as ordinal numbers do. Here are a few examples that show how ordinal numbers change in order to adapt to the noun that they describe:
You will see that the ordinal number ending in ‘o’ comes before masculine nouns, while the ordinal number ending in ‘a’ precedes feminine nouns.
Do you notice anything strange in the chart above? Take a closer look at the ordinal number in the sentence Me dieron el primer boleto. In our example, it’s no mistake that primer is written without the final ‘o’. Ordinal numbers primero and tercero both lose the final ‘o’ when they are in front of a singular noun. This is the case even if another word is in between, as in, el primer gran día (the first big day).
El primer momento libre = the first free moment
El ganador del tercer lugar = the third place winner
Give it a try
Which ordinal or cardinal numbers do you need to fill in the following blanks? (See the answers at the end of the blog to check your work!)
6. Tengo ______________ (2) animales.
7. Tengo el ______________ (2nd) animal.
8. Hoy es la ______________ (1st) vez.
9. Lo hago solo ______________ (1) vez.
10. Comienza la ______________ (4th) entrada.
We have just learned that ordinal numbers are often adjectives. As you may know, an adjective generally comes after the noun it describes in Spanish. In the case of ordinal numbers, however, they come before the noun unless discussing a member of royalty or the pope.
El sexto libro = the sixth book
Mi primera foto = my first photo
Juan Carlos Primero = Juan Carlos the First, the former king of Spain
San Juan Pablo Segundo = Pope John Paul the Second
Numbers 11 to 100
Ordinal numbers are not ordinarily used after 10, but it is still important to expose yourself to them so that you can recognize them when they do appear. Both 11th and 12th have two acceptable forms, which the chart below shows. While there is, unfortunately, no formula to memorize for all the ordinal numbers after 11, there are a few guidelines we can follow. For numbers 13-19, we use a combination of decimo + ordinal number 3-9, as in decimocuarto (14th). For numbers in between 20-100, we use the ordinal number ending in -gésimo or -agésimo + the unique singular ordinal number 1-9, as in vigésimo primero (21st).
As you view the chart, keep in mind that all of these ordinal numbers can be written together or apart, as in decimoprimero or décimo primero. Additionally, if they describe a feminine noun, their form changes to decimaprimera or décima primera.
Similar to English, Spanish ordinal numbers can be written in long form or using superscriptions. While in English we use “st” “nd” “rd” and “th” as the superscriptions (as in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th), Spanish uses “o” for masculine nouns or “a” for feminine nouns, as in the following examples:
Another way of abbreviating numbers is by using roman numerals, which we read as ordinal numbers. We can use roman numerals with centuries, popes, monarchs, emperors, books, volumes, chapters, and recurring events. Keep in mind that in informal speech, the use of ordinal numbers above 10 is fairly rare. Instead of saying, el quincuagésimo capítulo, one would more likely say el capítulo cincuenta.
Now that you have learned how to use ordinal numbers, be sure to keep practicing them regularly in speech and writing. Be sure to check out our blog on cardinal numbers to refresh your memory or learn new vocabulary! To enhance your language skills, schedule a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy and start speaking Spanish with a native speaker today!
Answers to Give It a Try:
Do you remember the blog about ya where we introduced you to the first of many Spanish words that have multiple meanings? Today, we’ll continue exploring the phenomenon of words that are spelled the same but don’t mean the same thing! We can categorize these words as:
- Polysemic words – words that have one single origin, but when used in different contexts have different meanings.
- Homonyms – two or more words that are spelled the same but don’t have the same linguistic roots; they, therefore, have different meanings.
The difference between these two is that a polysemic word is one single word with two or more meanings that depend on context, while homonyms are two or more words that are spelled the same but mean different things because they don’t have the same etymological background. This means that homonyms are words that are spelled the same by chance, not because they have evolved from the same word.
For all you grammar nerds, Etymology is the study of the origin of words and their evolution throughout history.
We’ll start with our first polysemic word; this one has caused the most trouble to all my English-speaking friends learning Spanish! In Mexico and Guatemala, we use the word ahorita. This is the diminutive form of ahora – we sure love our diminutives! Ahorita is a colloquial expression, which means that we use it in informal speech. There are two reasons why this word causes so much trouble:
- As a part of informal speech, we use it all the time in conversations. So, it’s really easy to misinterpret it as we really use it so often!
- The meanings of ahorita are very contradictory. It can either mean:
- Right now, like right now, now. Right this second.
- Just a little bit ago.
- In a little bit, or anytime between 5 minutes and a couple of hours.
- In an indeterminate amount of time.
In order to understand what the other person means with ahorita, I’ve often needed to ask something like, “Are you leaving the house ahorita as in right this second, or ahorita as in a couple of hours?” I’ve also had friends who live only a 5-minute drive from me tell me they’ll leave their house ahorita, only to come to my house 4 hours later! And once they arrived, I asked them, “Weren’t you leaving ahorita?” To which they would usually reply with something like, “Oh, yeah, I did. I was just finishing something.”
As you can see, the meaning of ahorita greatly varies depending on the context. This can cause a lot of frustration not only for people who are learning about a new language and culture but also to people who speak the language as a mother tongue. Don’t ever feel bad about these misinterpretations! Remember that a language is not always an exact science!
While most of these words are not as confusing as ahorita, it’s important to know them before you encounter them!
Spanish Polysemic Words
As we mentioned before, a polysemic word has one single etymological origin and multiple meanings that vary depending on the context in which we use the word. Let’s have a look at some of these words:
As we mentioned above, homonyms are two or more words that are spelled the same but do not have the same etymological background, so they have various meanings. Let’s look at some of them:
As you can see in all these examples, there are many Spanish words that we spell exactly the same way but that have more than one meaning! We understand what these words mean because of the context in which we’re saying them. If someone said puedes bajar la llama de la estufa, they could mean two different things:
- You can turn the llama down on the stove, or
- You can get the llama off the stove
What is certain is that the person is most likely referring to turning down the flame on the stove, and not telling you to get the fluffy animal off the stove!
Let’s have a look at some more examples! As you will see below, there are times when more than one sentence makes sense. This is why the context is so important! If you’re sitting at a restaurant, you’ll more likely ask for a menu than for a letter or a card. And while a baby is sure mono (cute, lovely, or adorable), he can’t wear a monkey (monkey also means mono in Spanish – the right word here would be onesies).
Me duele la muñeca
- My doll hurts
- My wrist hurts
Me puede traer la carta
- Please, bring me the card
- Please, bring me the letter
- Please, bring me the menu
Me encanta comer falda
- I love to eat foothills
- I love to eat skirts
- I love to eat brisket
Mis plantas están verdes
- My plants are green
- My factories are green
- My soles are green
Las carpas son de agua dulce
- Tents live in freshwater
- Carps live in freshwater
El mono le queda muy bien al bebé
- The monkey fits the baby well
- The cute one fits the baby well
- Onesies fit the baby well
If you have any questions regarding the use of any words, remember that you can always schedule a FREE class with us and we’ll help you solve any doubts!
Follow along with our PDF!
In English, whenever you are happy, at home, or cold, you use the verb to be (am, are, is) to refer to all three things. However, in Spanish you say estoy feliz (or in some cases soy feliz), estoy en la casa, and tengo frío! There are three different verbs for the equivalent English verb ‘to be.’ Today, we will discuss when it is most appropriate to use each verb! If you’d like to learn more about how to express your feelings in Spanish, go have a look at our feelings blog!
Ser vs. Estar
Although they express something similar (the characteristics of a person or thing), estar and ser convey distinct ideas. Pointing out this difference to an English speaker, or a speaker of any language that doesn’t differentiate between these ideas, is a little complicated. Since we use only one word to refer to both concepts, you’ll have to create an approach in your mind and learn how it works. As said above, don’t worry: the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it!
Ser expresses the attributes of a person or thing. When you use ser, you’re talking about characteristics that are a part of the essence of a person or thing: something unchangeable.
Since ser helps us express the characteristics of a person or thing, what comes after the verb is an adjective! The structure for these sentences is ser + adjective:
Another way you can remember when to use the verb ser is to completely get rid of the verb and see how the adjective matches your noun. Adding the verb ser turns this phrase into a sentence*:
*Sentences are grammatical units that include a subject (a person or thing) and a predicate (which includes a verb and whatever follows) and help us express a complete idea. On the other hand, phrases are a set of words that form part of a sentence or clause.
Think of estar as a status or condition. Estar expresses how a person or thing exists, finds itself in a place or situation, how it feels, or how it remains with stability in a place, situation or condition.
As you can see, estar refers to something that can change and that doesn’t belong to the nature of the person or thing.
Estar can help you say how you’re feeling, express a place that you’re at, or something that you’re currently doing. When forming sentences with estar, you want to use the following structures:
*Gerund: in Spanish, the gerund (verb with -ando and -iendo endings) helps us describe a continuous action that started taking place before we mentioned it and that is still taking place as we talk about it. The equivalent of this in English is the Present Continuous Tense that we form with the verb to be + another verb with the -ing ending.
Ser vs Estar Examples
Conjugation of Ser and Estar
Now that you know when you should use each verb, let’s have a look at the conjugation since they are both irregular verbs (estar only varies on the first person singular – the rest of its conjugation is regular):
Tener means to have, to own, or to possess. This verb may be a little easier to understand because it is a verb that exists in English. We can use tener to express something that we physically possess or a way we feel at a certain point in time – a feeling or need we “have.”
As we learned in our blog about expressing the way we feel, we can use tener (to have) to express needs or emotions at a specific point in time.
The construction for this is tener + a noun. Let’s have a look at some examples and what a literal translation would look like:
Tener is, like estar and ser, an irregular verb. You need to keep that in mind when building sentences with it:
Like we reviewed in our common mistakes blog, there are some things you need to keep in mind to make your Spanish even better. When it comes to expressing the way we feel, make sure you remember this list:
- Tengo calor: while in English you say ‘I’m hot’, in Spanish you say ‘I have heat’ (I experience heat). Saying ‘estoy caliente’ or ‘soy caliente’ means that you are aroused by something, so you really want to avoid making this common mistake and having people look at you funny.
- Tengo frío: in Spanish we say that we ‘have cold’ (we experience cold). To properly that that you’re cold, you need to say tengo frío. To say estoy frío or soy frío me means that you’re a cold person – a person who doesn’t show their feelings.
- Estoy mal vs. soy malo
- Estoy mal: since we’re using the verb estar, we’re referring to a condition that is not a part of the character of a person. In this case, estoy mal means that you feel physically sick or that you’re upset about something.
- Soy malo: ser expresses qualities about a person or thing that are part of them and therefore unchangeable. If we say soy malo, we’re saying that we’re a bad person, not that we’re feeling unwell. Another thing to keep in mind here is that if you want to say that you’re ‘bad at something’ like I am at playing soccer, you say soy malo para el fútbol. We use ser in this case because not being able to play soccer well is a part of me that’s not going to change because I’m not interested in soccer.
- Estoy bien vs. soy bueno: estoy bien and soy bueno work the same way as estoy mal and soy malo.
- Estoy bien: we’re using estar so we refer to a condition that we’re currently at. When you say estoy bien, it can either been that you’re physically or psychologically fine.
- Soy bueno: since we’re using ser, we’re talking about a part of our character. We’re saying that we’re a good person. Like with soy malo, if we want to say that we’re good at something – at something being the keyword here – we say soy bueno para jugar ajedrez (I’m good at playing chess). This means that being good at playing chess is a part of our skills.
I know this is a lot to take in, and the best way to learn all this is by practicing and practicing! Why don’t you jump into a FREE class with us so that you can practice even more with one of our teachers!
Continue practicing with our handy-dandy PDF!