Do you love setting goals, taking ownership of your language learning and building a following? You need to keep a language journal. A simple record of your progress in Spanish class can be the difference between attending class and rocking it.
Even if the thought of a daily journal doesn’t appeal to you, there is a way to make this practice work for you. HSA wants to see you succeed, so here is a quick guide to help you set up and use your new language journal.
Designate, Decorate and Design your Journal
Your journal practice should be easy and fun, so keep your habits in mind. Think of how you record items for yourself or your work and let that inform your journal. Don’t force yourself into something new; keep what you like at the forefront to help you stay active in your practice.
Here are three fun choices:
Invest in a notebook with a beautiful cover, nice heavy paper and maybe even a bonus like pre-written dates, room for images or a calendar at the top. Get yourself a nice pen you love to write with and some good pencils for extra notes. If you live for office supplies, go for highlighters, organizational tabs or stickers to use as you like.
If you live to draw or paint, go for an unlined book or choose a large pad that can handle heavy ink, charcoal or paint. Turn your entries into comics, illustrated images or fun doodles to help you record what you want to save.
A Journal App
Note taking apps have become more popular because they help people do more than write; they can add photos, audio, and video to what they want to remember. If you love music, you can record live performances in Spanish and notes about where you heard it, your favorite lyrics or what the song reminded you of as you listened. If you live on Instagram, you can recreate your posts in your journal and caption them in Spanish.
For phone journals, you can try several apps. Google Keep is good for lists and adding images. Penzu is an online, private diary you can access from your phone and can share with a teacher. Microsoft OneNote is a nice choice for longer entries with additional media attached.
Find one you like and keep it on your home screen to remind you to update it often.
A Published Blog
A blog is a set of articles written in first-person about your real progress as a Spanish learner. It’s an interesting twist on a journal because with this option you can gain followers and get comments on your writing.
Not for the faint of heart, a blog can be a great tool, but only if you’re prepared for it. It requires maintenance, special tools to block spammers and regular updates. Good bloggers post at least once a week and only fully-developed, polished pieces.
The benefit of publishing your journey is that you can interact with readers. You can ask for comments on a theme, (in Spanish), share it with a classmate and even use it to share other parts of your life. Be ready for the critics and enjoy the fans. If it’s your goal to improve as a writer, a blog is a great place to start.
What to Write and Why
You have your journal of choice. Now, you need to write something.
The more organized learner will want to create sections within their journal. They can Reflections on class, Vocabulary, Progress and Beyond. If you aren’t much for organizing or subsections, use these ideas to get you started.
The reflections section is to help you cement in what you learned at your last lesson. The idea is to find a place to journal right after class and then note down things you remember. Get out your workbook or class notes to help you along. What joke did the teacher make about a certain phrase? If in a classroom setting, which classmate had the best pronunciation that day? Did you speak up in class or hide in the back?
Don’t judge yourself here. Record what happened so you can look for patterns. Maybe you’re more open to language lessons on Tuesdays rather than Fridays or you perform well in class if you switch out your morning coffee for water. It’s easier to notice these things if you keep a record of your own experience.
Vocabulary is where you can take note of words to ask your teacher about, words you’ve heard but don’t understand or confuse with similar words. This is also a great place to practice verb conjugations and tenses. Building words is a valid practice that many language experts recommend, so add it to your regular entries.
Track Your Progress
Personal progress is an important section. This is where you can set goals for yourself like Order an entire meal in Spanish or Joke to José over the phone. If you write your goals down, you are much more likely to strive for them. When you achieve one, write about it. Show yourself that you can speak Spanish. Remember, confidence is half the battle – build it with your journal.
The beyond section is where you can go further than the learning in class. Translate a song to or from Spanish and record yourself singing it. Illustrate vocabulary words into a beautiful story. Do anything you like that helps you stay excited about Spanish.
The Benefits of a Language Journal
Journalling alone is great – it helps you keep a clear head, organize your thoughts, develop ideas. However, a language journal has a laser focus that empowers you in your language acquisition.
- It helps you remember new words to ask your teacher about or to look up later. This builds your vocabulary faster and easier.
- Take notes on what kind of exercises are your favorites and help you remember. When you analyze these reflections you will see a record of your learning style. Once you have a written record of what works best for you; songs, readings or something else – you know how to practice on your own and optimize your homework time.
- Your journal is a physical reminder of everything you learned in class. When you have off days and feel frustrated, you can look back at all of your accomplishments. That’s enough to motivate you on any day.
- Record your mistakes. This sounds negative, but it’s an effective way to avoid repeating the same mistake over and over. If you throw an s into deporte or switch the number tres with trece, write it down. Once you record that mistake and see it on paper, you’re less likely to make that flub again.
No matter how you keep a language journal, the key is to use it in a way that feels natural and helpful. Make it fun, keep it personal and a true expression of your linguistic journey.
Do you have a great language journal? Please comment below and tell us how it’s helped you in your journey to learn a foreign language.Read More
Using the 5 human senses can be extremely advantageous when learning something new, like Spanish or another foreign language. Teachers can use experiences, meals, and experiments to get students excited to use their new language. Want to try some sense exploration at home? Here are some fun activities you can do with things you already have at home.
Sight or Vista
There’s no question that some learners are more visual than others. For those that are, there are plenty of ways to explore the sense of sight to aid in learning Spanish.
You can start by playing a sight-word game with your child. Sight words encourage students to memorize and recognize the way words look and how they are spelled. Jump for the Words is a fun sight word game that also spends some energy. First, write 5-10 Spanish words on paper and attach each word to a piece of yarn hanging from a doorway (or entry way). Make sure the words are just out of reach for you child and start calling out the Spanish words. Your child will have to listen to what word you’re calling out, recognize that word on paper, and jump to grab it. You can take this game to the next level by adding a friend or sibling for some friendly competition.
If your learners are younger, try using a prism for some fun visual effects. Hold it in the sunlight to make a rainbow on the floor. Use them to warp your view of patterned paper or to inspire a work of art. Have your little learners point to and call out the colors they see in Spanish.
Smell or Olfato
The human nose is amazing. There are so many ways to explore our sense of smell can be that it’s hard to choose just one. Here are three to get you started.
Try painting with spice paints. Before you start, let your child decide which colors should go with each spice. This is a great chance to smell everything in the spice cabinet and learn the names of the different spices in Spanish. Then stir one spice into each color, take the easels outside and paint in the sun. The air will bring out the scents in the paintings and make your little artist want to create all day.
You can also grab a blindfold and then collect different foods from the kitchen with distinct smells. Try onions, lemons, cilantro, cinnamon sticks and vinegar. The kids put the blindfold over their eyes, then try to identify each food through smell only. For each food identified, be sure to identify in one language, then the other. Switch up the order of identifying in English and Spanish to truly master each word.
Finally, you can add on to the smelling game by adding a matching challenge. Double up on your food samples and then see if your learners can find each cup’s exact match using only their sense of smell.
Hear or Oido
Listening activities are a chance to listen to new kinds of music, audio books and play games like “Marco, Polo” in the pool. These are all solid activities, but you can also play some fun games that explore the sense of hearing in a new way.
A fun way to practice a new language is playing a game of old fashioned tin can telephone. Use any clean, empty cans and carefully punch holes in the bottom. Connect them with a long string. Each person should stand just far enough apart for the string to be tight. Then tell a secret, riddle or joke (in Spanish!) into the can. Your kids will love listening with this low-tech phone. Have the listener repeat what they heard out loud in Spanish and then try to translate into English. Then, switch turns.
Feel or Tacto
Use this sense as a chance to run barefoot in the grass, splash in the pool or compare the feel of different fabrics. Exploring your neighborhood can be a good way to use the sense of touch (or feel) for learning. Design a Scavenger Walk using a list of Spanish words that describe how things feel. Then, go word by word and see who can find the most examples for each word. You can give points or make this more of a discussion.
Need to stay indoors? Try some homemade finger paints. Based on your student’s level of Spanish, make a list (in Spanish) of things to paint. Using Spanish, have them call out each color they use and write the word in a sentence below each picture before moving on to the next.
Taste or Gusto
There’s a big opportunity in using the sense of taste to promote learning. Whether it’s trying new flavors or enjoying a bite of our favorite foods, there are many memorable ways to practice Spanish while doing so.
Set up a taste test using 5+ foods with various flavors and textures that can be classified as any of the following. Sweet – sour -bitter – salty -spicy (stick to mild level) – dry – crunchy – moist – chewy. Have your student identify the food in Spanish, then try the food and identify the flavor and/or texture. You can use a blindfold and make this a blind taste test if your little learner is feeling extra adventurous.
You can also try baking one of your child’s favorite sweet treats or get together and cook a favorite family meal at home. Have your student translate the recipe from English to Spanish, then talk through each step in Spanish. For example, when it’s time to set the oven, your student should tell say, Poner el horno a 400 grados. If you’re not too familiar with Spanish yourself, be sure to check the translation before starting so everything turns out just the way you like it.
Ready to start learning Spanish?
At HSA, we make learning fun and exciting. Sign up today take advantage of our free trial offer. Your first class is absolutely free! No credit card required. Click here to get started.
Conversation is a great way to practice the skills learned in a Spanish language class, but many kids switch back to their native English the moment class is over. How can you keep them practicing beyond the classroom?
Conversation Techniques with the Textbook
A straightforward way to show your child you want him or her to speak Spanish with you is to get out the book and review. Here are quick review techniques that your kids can use anytime.
1. Turn Exercises into Quizzes
This one lets you take a short, five-question practice section about a topic and use it as a quick, verbal check. Find a section where your son or daughter filled in the blank for their vocabulary, then turn each one into a question. For example, if your child is studying nouns for objects around the house, you can go to the window and ask, in Spanish, “Is this a window or a door?” Do four or five more and be sure to celebrate correct answers with a high-five.
2. Fill in the Gaps
Students are sometimes shy to ask their teacher for a breakdown of a concept or grammar rule. That’s where you can come in. Go over each section and be sure to ask, “Is anything unclear? Can I help?” Make yourself available as an additional tutor to show your child he or she is free to speak Spanish with you.
3. Become the Student
One of the most fun ways to help someone review is to ask them to teach you. When a student gets to switch roles, it helps them organize their thoughts and break down an idea. For fun, you can get a small chalkboard or fake pair of glasses for your son or daughter to use when they’re in teacher mode.
One of the best ways to learn and internalize new information is by having fun. So take advantage and be sure to play and laugh in Spanish with your kids.
4. ¿Que Es? (What is it?)
For this game, you need the Spanish name of different objects written on individual cards or flashcards. Separate them into the categories of your choice, such as Things Mom Likes or Things that Make a Mess.
The first player holds up a card so the rest of the family can see it, but the player can’t see anything. Then, the player has twenty questions he or she can ask, in Spanish, to guess what’s on the card. If the player guesses correctly, they keep the card for a point. An incorrect guess ends the turn and cancels out the card. The person with the most cards wins.
5. Verbal Tic Tac Toe
This one requires planning on your part. You must make a set of cards with Spanish verbs, get a whiteboard or chalkboard for each player and then a reference sheet to be sure your conjugations are correct.
The players write a subject in each square. For example, one square reads ellos and another says yo. Each square should be different. Then you let the first player pick a verb like comer. Players have to tell you the correct conjugation for the square they want. If they want the ellos square, they have to say “Ellos comen.” A correct answer wins them the square, a wrong one gets a pass and the opponent has a chance to steal. Wins need to be marked with an X or O and three in a row win.
6. ¡Simon Dice!
This is a simple twist on the classic game Simon Says. Lead your kids, (and their friends if they’re available), in a simple game of commands in Spanish. These can be “Toca tu cabeza” or “Doble sus rodillas.” However, no one is allowed to move unless you start with “Simon dice…”
Anyone who moves without permission is out. Keep going until you get down to just one player and then make them the leader for the next round or next game.
7. Sports in Spanish
A lot of kids are more open to a conversation once they get outside and start moving. If your son or daughter has a sport they love, grab a ball and invite them to a game. Before you start, explain that speaking in English will earn them a penalty. Decide together what the penalty should be. You can make it fun like a silly dance in the middle of the basketball court or they have to sing “Cucaracha.”
Your child will love that you took some time for them and you’ll love hearing their cheers in Spanish.
Other Fun Techniques
We don’t always have access to games or textbooks, but that shouldn’t stop us from practicing Spanish. Here are some additional ways to get the conversation going.
8. Tell a Story
Sharing a story with your children opens them up to the possibility of sharing with you. Tell them about how you learned a language, a time you embarrassed yourself in class or a time you made a mistake. Be sure to tell it in Spanish or, for a twist, sprinkle in Spanish words and ask your child to translate them for you. After you finish, ask your son or daughter to tell you a story about their day, about their earliest memory, anything you feel is appropriate to the moment.
9. Tell Jokes
Something funny happens when we tell jokes in a new language – sometimes they’re funnier! Of course, not every joke translates, but that means you can use them as a challenge. If a joke isn’t funny, look at why it doesn’t work and how it can be edited to make a Spanish speaker laugh. This is also a great chance to talk about cultural references from other countries, what they mean and why they’re funny.
10. Draw Together
If your child is a burgeoning artist or on the younger side, try having some Spanish drawing time. Get down on the floor or get some easels up and talk about colors, memories, scenes, anything. You can also let your artist have some space to create and then have a conversation about their work in Spanish afterward.
Have other conversation starters to add to this list? Share with the HSA community by commenting below.
Ready to try your free class? Don’t wait – contact us today and get started in Spanish.Read More
Classes are great, but what we do beyond our lessons is a big part of retaining new information. Students need ways to keep up with their Spanish and should be able to enjoy doing so outside the classroom. So, what are the best ways to practice new language skills and make it fun? Here are 5 favorite ways ways to incorporate Spanish into your everyday life.
1. Listen to Music
Music in Spanish is as varied and as easy to find as any music in English. Here are a couple to start with.
If you love to dance, try “Él Matador” from Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. Hailing from Buenos Aires, the band is a remnant of nineties ska and a ton of fun. The big, stomping beat will have you singing along before you know it.
A more romantic and haunting song is “Olvido” by Amaral. The video includes the lyrics and the pace is a bit slower. It will be your new favorite Spanish song by the time you get to the end.
2. Watch a Movie
Like music, movies in Spanish offer a lot of options no matter what genre you prefer.
For romantic comedy fans, check out the stunningly beautiful Happy Times. This Spanish film is a hard but hilarious look at how we avoid break ups. You’ll laugh until you cry.
Love science fiction? Check out Eva, a look at artificial intelligence and family that will captivate you. The story of a robotics engineer using his own niece as inspiration for a child robot takes some surprising twists.
3. Read a Graphic Novel
Reading a graphic novel is a great way to help you understand a story in Spanish. The pictures make reading less intimidating and help you understand new words with visual clues.
Dora by Ignacio Minaverry is a great book about a young spy travelling through Europe and Argentina during the 1960’s. Main character Dora hunts Nazi’s and fights for justice while the setting is historically accurate and helps clarify this intense time.
If you love the Walking Dead franchise, try the Spanish edition of the comic book by Robert Kirkman. All the twists, turns and horrible zombies are there and offer a unique way to incorporate Spanish into your life.
4. Follow a YouTube Celebrity
YouTube in Spanish can be great because it’s relatable and it lets you inside the life and home of a broadcaster. Best of all, they’re light and funny.
Up your style game with Yuya, a YouTuber with millions of subscribers who watch her laugh with her friends, style her hair and randomly break into song. She wants to make you look great with some simple tips and have a fabulous day.
Want to do some baking in Spanish? Check out Mis Pastelitos, a fun and high energy food show that appeals to all ages. Here is a video about how to make no-bake brownies inspired by the show Adventure Time.
5. Get on Netflix
Netflix, the website that offers endless movies and TV shows without commercials, is also a great place to practice your Spanish. There are some great new programs out this year to keep you glued to the screen.
Fans of past shows Lost or Alias will love El Internado, a suspenseful show about a boarding school. The story includes touches of the supernatural and a little romance.
El Tiempo Entre Costuras, a show about the Spanish civil war, is a vacation inside your screen. Set in beautiful places like Morocco and Portugal, it takes advantage of the settings to leave you feeling swoon.
There are many other ways to incorporate Spanish into your daily life. What else have you tried? Share with the HSA community in the comments below!
Ready for your free trial Spanish Class? Click here to schedule a session with one of our outstanding teachers.Read More
Family vacations are wonderful, but they are also an excuse to stay as far away from a textbook as possible. Why study at the beach or conjugate verbs at the amusement park? It turns out, there are many beneficial reasons to squeeze in a bit of learning while on break. If you go on your trip armed with a few basic tools, your child can get back into class speaking more Spanish, not less. Here are five tips to help your child keep up with Spanish on your next trip.
Consider the Destination
Think about where you plan to go and see if there is some way to confront your child with Spanish. This is a great chance to help them practice Spanish in a way that not only puts them on the spot, something that lets them see why being bilingual is important, but it’s also a fun experience to put their hard work into action.
Can you go somewhere that has a Spanish-speaking community or is bilingual? Would a trip to Mexico or somewhere further south be possible? If you can’t leave the country, find places that are more diverse and less reliant on English for either a day trip or an extended stay to challenge your child.
Associate Language with Food
Do some research and find a place that serves food from a Latin country or Spain and ask for the menu in Spanish. Better yet, make friends with the waiters and see if one or two will help your child with some basic conversation about food. Help your learner feel like a true international with more language – and a highly refined palette. You’ll be surprised how a just few sentences spoken in Spanish can increase your service.
Post and Share in Spanish
A huge part of vacation is photos. Let your learner be your personal social media manager, but insist that every second or third post be done in Spanish. They can share their best moments on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and practice some writing skills in a fun, low-risk, way. They’ll be taking and sharing photos anyway, why not capitalize on their interest and make it time for language practice?
Find a Language Community
If you’re on a break from studies at home, you can use time away from class to keep your children interested in Spanish.
Try a cultural center, a local church or co-op to give your learner a group to speak with away from class. These groups will be mostly adults, so email first and ask the organizer if a younger speaker can try a meeting with a chaperone.
Nearby homeschooling communities are generally really friendly and usually are very welcoming to visitors.
Start Your Own Group
Rather than find a group to join, reach out to friends and neighbors who also have children learning Spanish and host a meeting of your own. Invite a guest speaker or design a fun lesson on your own. Try the site Teacherspayteachers.com for an instant Spanish lesson or show a short film in Spanish and then lead a discussion. This is your chance to do something more fun and laid back so enjoy it.
Have other ways to help children (or adults!) keep up with Spanish while vacationing? Share them with the HSA community by commenting below!
Ready to give HSA’s flexible program a try? Sign up for a free class today.Read More
The search for a good Spanish program can be lengthy and difficult, especially if you’re not sure what kind of program you or your child will respond to best. Do you want to spend the money on a private instructor and hope the teacher knows what they’re doing? Or should the two of you navigate a set of textbooks or a software-based curriculum at the kitchen table and hope for the best?
Weighing your options is always a good idea. Here are three different approaches you can use to guide your learning and help you speak Español excelente.
Rosetta Stone Online Program
Developed in 1992 in Virginia, this is a Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) software. Like HSA, it encourages users to go at their own pace and enjoy the process. Unlike HSA, it’s taught by an automated program, not a teacher that speaks and connects with the student.
Rosetta Stone uses images, text, sound and repetition to help the user learn Spanish. It offers a chance to analyze things like how many questions the student answered correctly, how accurate their pronunciation is with the help of visual sound graphs and how long each lesson is taking. There is no text book and no instructor attached to each learner.
- Easy to get started – a visit to their website and a payment gets you started
- Very analytical and practical
- Image heavy – the screen never looks like a test, even when it is
- No book or instructor. Each learner is truly on their own
- Every learner gets the same presentation, so if they get bored or lost, there’s no adjusting the curriculum
- No free trial, you have to buy it
- No instructor to guide you through the program
Pimsleur Online Program
The Pimsleur program has taken language learning and done some reevaluating in how we learn and why we may not acquire new vocabulary and structure as we might hope. This program claims to have an entirely new approach they’ve termed “Graduated Interval Recall.” Basically, students remember by being asked to recall specific phrases and then wait to see how they did. This makes for active listening in a program that is purely audio.
Users have reviewed the program as usable, yet overly formal. It was originally created for the standard travelling businessman who needs to talk about his wife and kids, not a young person visiting family or a student on break.Again, there’s no book or teacher – the student interacts with the program itself and it can’t be tailored.
- Audio based and highly interactive, students want to guess the right phrase and feel elated when they succeed.
- No reading or note taking, just a conversation
- Students learn a formal version of each language and may sound a little old-fashioned as speakers
- The program focuses on a married, male perspective, making this less than ideal for young learners
- No teacher or textbook
The Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA) Online Learning Program
Easily one of the best options around. The program not only has its own, highly refined curriculum, it’s also entirely up to you when your child starts and how often he or she takes classes. Instruction happens one-on-one with a real live instructor, meaning each student has their teacher’s full attention throughout the lesson. Your son or daughter will be speaking introductory Spanish after just one lesson and can do review with you in the program’s textbook.
Best of all, HSA offers a free, no-risk trial for one or two students at a time before you commit. You don’t give your credit card information or make any decisions until you are positive this program is perfect for your little learner.
- Personal, tailored instruction with a human teacher and printable textbook
- A free, no-commitment trial class prior to any purchase
- Siblings can take classes together
- Classes encourage speaking, interaction and true language acquisition
- Online only – this isn’t really a hindrance as students can access the classes on any device
Is your little learner ready to start learning Spanish? Click here to sign up for a free class today.Read More
The decision to study a new language is the beginning of a wonderful adventure. It’s a look into a new culture, a great way to meet people with different backgrounds and stretch ourselves intellectually. As a parent, you can jump in on the fun with some interactive practices to help your child both effectively and quickly learn Spanish.
Make it Visible
A great way to enhance comprehension and build confidence is to let students listen to directions in a new language and respond physically as opposed to verbally. This is a low risk technique that a lot of classroom teachers use because it shows students that they already know the words, all they have to do is apply them.
Ask your child to “Abre la ventana,” (open the window), or “Prueba la sopa,” (try the soup), without the stress of responding in words, actions only. It’s a small thing that shows them they’re learning a lot. It’s also a great chance for you as a parent to get involved in the language learning process, something your kids will really appreciate!
Make it Physical
Everyone learns new things differently. Some people love to sit and read for hours while others find the practice nothing short of a nightmare. It’s important to be honest about how your child learns and then follow their style rather than fight it.
Many kids learn through physical activity. If your child lives for soccer practice, ask a friend who is fluent in Spanish to play a game with your family using only Spanish. Your child will learn in a natural, organic way as they have a great time on the field. Dance, art and theater are also great opportunities for learners to practice Spanish away from a textbook.
Make it Emotional
Ask a person what they did last Tuesday and they’re likely to struggle to recount a normal day. Ask someone what they did for their birthday or Christmas and the stories are endless. That’s due to the fact that our memories are much more colorful when we associate them with strong emotion.
A great way to to do use this to learn Spanish is to use a sad song, a powerful film or an emotional story. Print out lyrics or turn on subtitles, (also in Spanish), to help your child catch the words, associate them to a melody or a moment, and then incorporate them into their own vocabulary.
Another great method is to give your child the chance to make friends with a Spanish speaker who doesn’t live nearby. Ask around for anyone who might know a student in a Latin country that can write emails or text messages to your child in Spanish. They’ll want to know what their friend is saying and respond the best way possible. This will help them see that language connects them to people and inspire them to keep learning. Best of all, they might just make a friend for life.
All students learn differently, but with some fun, creative practices you can help your child become fluent in Spanish in a much shorter time. Friendships, games, music – all of these can be effective methods in learning a new language.