The Secret Formula to Teach Your Children Spanish When You Don’t Speak the Language
Last week we learned about the Hammurabi code in our homeschool. Hamurabi was the sixth king in the Babylonian dynasty, which ruled in Mesopotamia 1894 to 1595 B.C. His code of 282 edicts etched in stone bears great similarities to the laws outlined in the Old Testament and many of the influences of these laws can even be seen in modern legal systems around the world today.
I am 37 years old and learned about the Hammurabi code for the first time along with my 7 and 9-year-olds. The truth is, I probably breezed through a lesson on Hammurabi and his code at some point in my schooling, but for some reason or another, it didn’t stick.
The truth is, there’s a secret formula to teaching your children any topic at all (like Spanish, for example!)—read on to discover more.
Making Connections Leads to Deeper Understanding
We internalize information when we have a connection with the material. We learn when we are invested in what we’re learning about. Active learning where students are physically and mentally taking the lead in learning the material has been proven to be superior to the more traditional passive learning approach where teachers lecture and students listen. In learning a foreign language, active learning is key.
Active learning engages students as active participants in their lessons. It relies on a range of individual work, collaborative work, and uses various combinations of the student’s five senses to assimilate information in a whole-body way.
Applying Connections to Foreign Language
I studied Spanish in high school and college without ever truly being able to speak it. My experience learning Spanish in a traditional school setting isn’t an uncommon one. One study shows that less than 2.5 percent of students who said they could speak another language well said that they learned that language in school. Many are even calling for the elimination of foreign language requirements in K-12 schools.
For those of us that value foreign language learning, whether it is to increase a connection to your own history, increase compassion for others around the world, or increase opportunities in the workplace and in life, we have to do more than replicate the kind of language learning we likely had in school.
When I set out to ensure that I exposed my children to Spanish as part of our homeschool, I wanted to find a way to make it stick. I didn’t want them to get to graduation and realize that they spent years studying a language without gaining the skills to use it in their daily lives.
The Secret Formula to Learn Spanish
I’ve been adjusting my secret formula for almost 10 years as I’ve simultaneously navigated achieving Spanish fluency as an adult and teaching it to my children.
My secret formula for creating an active learning environment to learn Spanish includes the following four points:
- Learn Spanish from a native speaker.
- Practice using Spanish in the home daily.
- Use songs and games to bring Spanish to life.
- Find ways to use Spanish in the real world.
1. Learn Spanish from a native speaker.
Learning Spanish from a native speaker is so important! There are many options for learning Spanish at home using a variety of curriculum tools and materials. Maybe you have a stack of phrase books, dictionaries, and “How to Learn Spanish” books on your shelf like I do?
Languages are less of a science, and more of an art form. There are so many nuances and intricacies when it comes to deciding on which verbs or nouns to use in different situations or learning the meaning of certain phrases and idioms. Learning from a native speaker accelerates so many aspects of language learning.
There have also been studies that show greater chances of a person ever reaching grammatical fluency when they are exposed to the foregin language before age 10. As a home educator and a person with some ability to speak Spanish, I could use the resources I have on hand to teach Spanish myself, but I would be depriving my children of the chance to not just learn a second language, but to be fluent in a second language.
2. Practice using Spanish in the home daily.
Learning a new language requires time and effort. There aren’t any shortcuts when it comes to learning Spanish!
I have found that it works best to focus on one lesson each week that introduces new material, and then we spend the rest of the week incorporating that new material into our daily conversations. This daily practice constantly recycles vocabulary from previous lessons and keeps everything fresh.
Learn more: 10 Creative Ways to Practice Spanish Daily
3. Use songs and games to bring Spanish to life.
Songs and games make learning Spanish fun. Whether you’re teaching Spanish to a second grader or trying to learn it yourself, put on a Spanish song and feel the music. Listen to the song and see if you can pick out vocabulary that you already know. Are there words you are curious about? Can you tell what the song is about?
Children love games, and playing games in Spanish is a great way to encourage everyone to practice speaking in Spanish. Play hide-and-seek with different objects, I Spy, or even a board game like Candyland with only speaking Spanish.
Using songs and games as a method of reinforcing language learning can be a great way to dive deeper into the culture of Spanish-speaking countries and learn more about people who speak Spanish around the world.
Gather Your Free Resources!
- 10 Songs for Kids in Spanish Who Want to Rock Out
- 40+ Online Spanish Games for Kids That Are Educational and Fun
4. Find ways to use Spanish in the real world.
If we learn when we are invested and have a connection to what we’re learning, it makes perfect sense that to truly learn Spanish, we need a real-world connection.
You can find someone in your community who speaks Spanish to have a conversation with, go to a Mexican restaurant and order your food in Spanish, or even take a vacation to a Spanish-speaking country.
Whatever you do, your children will be so happy to make a connection with others speaking Spanish and will see the value of learning a new language first hand.
The Secret Formula in Action
I’ve been using this formula with my own children for almost 10 years. When you find the right tools and resources to help you with learning Spanish, it can be such a fun and enjoyable process for the whole family.
Step 1: Decide on Your Material
The first step is deciding on new material to learn for the week. This might include new vocabulary words, a set of phrases centered around a theme, or a single verb and its various forms.
Step 2: Connect to a Native Spanish Speaker
We always try to learn new material from a native speaker.
Homeschool Spanish Academy makes this simple and easy with their well-designed curriculum and teachers who are native speakers.
Step 3: Set the Daily Schedule for Practice
Once we have learned the new material, we set aside about 15 minutes each day to practice using the language and reviewing what we learned. We also aim to incorporate the new material plus any relevant older material into daily life. We might practice greetings and salutations in Spanish, or we might talk about what we’re having for dinner in Spanish.
Step 4: Regularly Fill Your Home With Spanish Music
We fill our home with Spanish music on a regular basis. We also love listening to Spanish kids’ music in the car. This music inspires more conversations and helps train our ears to be more familiar with the language. We aim to play a game in Spanish once a week as well.
Step 5: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize—Your Ultimate Goal!
My kids know that our goal in learning Spanish is ultimately to be able to go for an extended visit to the Dominican Republic where my family is from. We have small goals along the way like having short conversations with others we encounter who speak Spanish.
Every time they’re able to share a buenos dias or hasta luego with someone out in public, it makes us all smile and encourages us on the journey to continue making connections and learning Spanish.
Sign Up for a Free Spanish Class Today!
Kids learn a language by listening and speaking. Children with a strong Spanish foundation are even able to develop an authentic accent or learn other languages as they continue to grow. It also gives them a wider understanding of cultural diversity in their neighborhood and community.
As a homeschool parent, you’re on the right path to improve your child’s language skills by being here. Give them a chance to engage in conversation with a native speaker and sign up your child to a 1-on-1, kid-friendly, free class with HSA’s teachers from Guatemala!
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