From Erin: Because Will and I both speak Spanish and have a huge heart for other cultures, language learning is very important to us. It’s one reason we took our girls to Costa Rica for 5 weeks this past summer!
Will is actually a high school Spanish teacher, so he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to language learning!
Whether you homeschool and are looking to add language learning to your school day or are interested in augmenting the language learning your children are already experiencing in their schools, I hope you will appreciate these 6 ways to encourage language learning in your home!
By Will Odom, Contributing Writer (and Erin’s hubby!)
There is an old joke that asks, what do you call someone who speaks:
- three languages? Trilingual.
- two languages? Bilingual.
- one language? American*
Though these numbers may not be completely accurate3, we cannot deny the importance of language learning for the interconnected world in which we live.
I do think over the last decade that this is changing. Many schools are starting language learning earlier, and bilingual schools have successfully popped up all over the country.
While the joke is increasingly untrue, there is still a gap with language learning in the U.S.
Whether you travel or not, the world is becoming a smaller place. Through immigration and technology, the world is at our doorstep.
Chances are you have a neighbor who speaks another language, you work with someone from another country, or you hear other languages as you run errands throughout the day.
In addition, if we want our children to be globally competent, competitive citizens, learning another language is paramount.
There are many possible benefits to speaking another language:
- provides better job opportunities
- delays Alzheimer’s or dementia
- opens doors to travel and cultural appreciation
- develops worldview and awareness of influences
- promotes brain development
- fosters creativity and critical thinking
- allows for new friendships
- gives a chance to assist or serve others
- moves you from an observer to a participant
- increases knowledge of native language
When it comes to language learning, younger children are sponges.
Their brains can soak up new concepts much faster than those of adults. There are many theories on how and why this works, but I don’t have time to go into all of them.
However, if you want your children to learn another language, now is the time to start teaching them. Don’t wait until they get to high school.
There are several things you can start doing now that will foster language learning and cultural appreciation.
6 Ways to Encourage Language Learning in Your Home
1) Movies/TV Shows
In order to learn a language, kids need comprehensible input, meaning they need to understand a certain percentage of what they are hearing and/or associate it with a concept.
Watching movies and TV shows in different languages are great ways to introduce some of these areas.
If they have seen the show or are familiar with the characters, they can draw from previous knowledge to make those connections.
If your child as watched Frozen (or any other movie) a million times in English, switch the language and let them listen to the movie and songs in another language.
My girls love singing “Libre Soy” just as much as the English version, “Let it Go.”
This summer in Costa Rica, our girls watched Strawberry Shortcake (Rosita Fresita) and My Little Pony and Mickey Mouse Club House in Spanish and were picking up words as they sang the songs and listened to the dialogs.
Many of these shows can be found in Spanish on Youtube, and DVDs will often have various language options.
Just make sure you check the languages before buying it.
A sure fire way to get kids excited about learning a language is through apps and games.
Classic games such as memory, go fish, etc. are an excellent want to introduce phrases and words.
A quick search in any Android or Apple store will yield a plethora of activities like Spanish School Bus that are fun and educational.
One of our girls’ favorite apps is the Princesses Learn Spanish app (in-app purchases).
It has princess stories in Spanish and allows them to read the story or play games with some of the words.
I also like the Me Divierto en Inglés version of this app since the majority of the text is in Spanish and not just a few words.
Learning set to music is one of the most effective ways to learn aspects of a language.
There are countless videos on youtube with songs that teach vocabulary or conversation phrases. You can take anything and set it to a song to learn whatever concept you need to focus on at the time.
Whether you are reading to your child or your child is reading on their own, there are numerous bilingual books, like Dora’s Book of Words, or classic books in the target language, like “Oso pardo, oso pardo, ¿qué ves ahi?”
Find books in the target language that interest your kids and let them dive in to discover a whole new world.
One of the absolute best ways to broaden your child’s worldview and learn a new language is to expose them to other children that are speaking another language.
This summer in Costa Rica my children often played with others kids that didn’t speak English. They quickly learned new phrases and words in order to communicate, and they had a blast.
Occasionally, they needed to ask me how to say something, but those questions were born of necessity and were easier internalized.
The need for the language was real time, and they had no problem using it.
There was also a lot of charades involved.
In our case, we also have family members who are native Spanish speakers, so all of the girls’ cousins on my wife’s side of the family are bilingual.
(Both Erin’s sister and brother married Argentines, and Erin and I both were already proficient in Spanish from living in Costa Rica, where we met!)
I am always on the lookout for a good curriculum to use with my kids, especially since our daughter attends a university model school and is homeschooled a couple of days a week.
We have wanted to augment her Spanish learning, but I have always been frustrated with other curriculums.
Then I found Calico Spanish, and it is, by far, the BEST homeschool Spanish program that I have come across.
On a basic level, the innovative curriculum incorporates the first 4 areas that I listed above. It uses music, videos, games, and books to engage students in active language learning that is based on developmental research.
They aren’t just learning random sets of words. They are actually learning usable chunks of language in short, repetitive lessons that are plainly laid out.
These lessons require very little preparation on the part of the parent.
You don’t even have to speak Spanish to teach this to your kids. It is remarkably user-friendly and accessible.
I have been incredibly impressed with the curriculum. And, more importantly, the girls have been enthralled with it as well.
After going through one lesson and viewing the videos and songs, they were asking to do another lesson and watch more videos and sing more songs.
My 5-year-old even asked me one day when we were going to do more Spanish. And that is saying a lot since she was the child that had the hardest time in Costa Rica this summer.
In addition to the songs, games and videos, children read stories and recreate the language with flash cards, making the learning interactive and student-focused.
In level A, children meet Pedro Pez (fish) and María Mona (monkey) and will learn greetings, introductions, describing themselves, and discussing about things they like.
In level B, they will meet new characters and continue to expand their language by describing their families, expressing their feelings, and talking about months, numbers, etc.
You can check out all the learning objectives for levels A and B at the Calico Spanish homeschool page.
They also offer a free lesson that gives you access to the full 10-day lesson 1 for level A. It is a great place to start to explore this ingenious curriculum.
For any homeschool family or anyone looking to augment Spanish language learning, Calico Spanish is an essential program that will establish the fundamentals that children need to be successful at language learning.
Enter to WIN Level A of Calico Spanish via the Entry Form Below!!
What do you do to foster language learning or cultural curiosity in your home?
(* I use the term “American” to refer to someone born in the U.S.A. I acknowledge that anyone from North or South America can be considered Americans. However, unlike some other languages, there is not another word in English to categorize someone from the U.S. except American. For example, Spanish uses the word “estadounidense” to mean someone from the U.S. I know this may not be a big deal to some or even comprehensible, but for some of other cultures, it is.)
Thank you, Calico Spanish, for sponsoring this post!