Whether your child expressed an earnest desire to learn Spanish, or was motivated by the parents to take a Spanish class at a local school, having the right tools will help improve understanding and speaking skills, which, in turn, will get your kid even more excited about learning the new language.
If you do not speak Spanish at home all the time and are looking for ways to maintain that curiosity for learning Spanish and help him or her learn the language, here are a few ideas of what you could do:
If you can speak Spanish, make a conscious effort to speak more of it around your child.
Make it fun, make a game out of it. Let's say, you have Spanish Saturdays, or Spanish breakfast, when during that particular period of time you speak only Spanish and your child must do the same. That will give them an opportunity to show off what they have learned in school and learn new things while practicing with you. If it is your spouse, or another caretaker who speaks Spanish, encourage them to do the same. Announce a prize for asking so many questions or naming so many items in Spanish. Incorporate a phrase or two into your daily life, and always use that phrase only in Spanish (for example, "get in the car", or "it's time for dinner", "wash your hands" etc.) Introduce more phrases overtime as the child becomes familiar with the previous phrases.
If you don't speak Spanish yourself, lead by example!
Take a class, or download an app on your phone and start learning so that your child sees your sincere desire to learn to communicate in a new language. Learn together. Have the child teach you what she or he learned in class. Practice together. Make stickers and place them around the house to help memorize vocabulary. Try to find ways to be in contact with Spanish speakers for real-world practice. If you have friends or relatives who speak Spanish, make it a point to see them more often for Spanish play dates.
There are a few great apps out there that your child might enjoy. Some are free and some are almost free. Since too much of screen time is no good, a half hour of daily practice is enough to make the new knowledge stick. A couple of weeks ago, when visiting a friend who recently started taking Spanish lessons with one of our teachers, I started asking her some questions to see how much she learned. A twelve-year old boy, who overheard me speak Spanish, jumped out from around the corner eager to make conversation with me, in Spanish! As his mom told me minutes later, he had been learning the language on a Duo Lingo app and was so excited to put it to some practical use. I came across this article that suggests a few good apps.
Watching familiar cartoons or movies in Spanish
can be a fun way for kids to hear the language more and possibly recognize some learned vocabulary and add a few more new words and expressions to what they already know. How about watching Frozen or another favorite film in Spanish (and with Spanish subtitles)? Again, remember to make it fun and enjoyable, don't push it too much if you meet resistance.
You cannot learn a language in isolation from the culture.
Moreover, exploring Hispanic cuisine can be a yummy addition to learning the language. There are many authentic restaurants right in our backyard where you can enjoy traditional food and practice ordering in Spanish. A list of a few authentic places can be found on our website (just scroll down to the bottom of the page).
Be creative! Plan a visit to a restaurant in advance and explain to the child that it is an authentic restaurant and you must order food in Spanish. Practice ahead of time, whether it is just memorizing vocabulary pertaining to food, or asking for something politely (for example, "agua, por favor")
Listen to music in Spanish.
Whether it is kids songs or Spanish radio in the car, listening to the language helps the child to get used to the sound of the language.
Get curious about the culture of the Hispanic world
by watching videos or reading books about Spanish-speaking countries. Part of the reason why we learn languages is to expand our horizons, and what better way to do it than by learning about the culture of the countries where language is spoken?
Whatever techniques you choose to help you succeed in your child's linguistic journey, remember to make it fun and enjoyable. As parents we know, that as a child gets older, he or she wants to be just like everyone else, so none of that Spanish-speaking nonsense that will make him or her stand out from the rest. But as parents we also know that we must BE CREATIVE in order to do what is good for the child, and being able to speak another language is definitely an asset.
Please feel free to share how you keep your child interested in learning the language and what tricks or tips you would pass on to other parents.