Guest Post by Eileen of 52 Weeks of Family Spanish
We all want the best for our kids. We sign them up for dance, girl scouts, football and karate. We hope each of these activities will contribute toward their development, help them become “well rounded” and add happiness to their childhood. Like most parents, I try to toe the line between enriching my kids’ life and leaving them plenty of time to just be kids. When I added learning a second language to this list of activities, it appeared to my friends and family that I was attempting to enter the land of overachieving, overscheduled mom. Not true! As a mom who struggles to simply find everyone’s shoes on a daily basis, I can truly say: learning Spanish with your kids is fun and easy, and the rewards are numerous. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you!
If you decide to teach your children a foreign language, here is what you will find:
- You will not be embarrassed. The number one reason people don’t learn to speak a second language is fear of appearing foolish. When you are attempting to teach your children something, their well being takes precedence over your own embarrassment. Practice sounding out those foreign vowels with people who will always encourage you…your kids! As you teach them, you will learn. As you practice, they will learn, by listening and example. Everybody wins!
- Children are enthusiastic learners! Children, especially small children, revel in using their new language skills. You may feel silly wishing someone, “Buenos Días”, but your preschooler will not! Their natural curiosity and the comfort of practicing within your family will encourage all of you to keep going.
- Keep your goals small and your overall learning will be huge! We set out to learn one useful phrase or concept a week. The more knowledge my children gained, the more questions they had, and the more language they gained.
- You will be kinder. It is extremely humbling to realize how much work it takes to say the simplest idea in a foreign language. Your empathy for people learning English as a second language will grow tremendously. It is a wonderful lesson for a child to learn.
- The more you talk, the more you learn. If you really want to learn to speak a foreign language, make sure your actually are speaking it, not just studying it! This is the way babies learn to talk, it is the way immigrants learn the language of their new homeland and its how you will learn too. No one has ever learned to speak a foreign language by only studying vocabulary lists. You have to speak, listen, read and write to fully master any language.
In the end, I wrote a book about my family’s experiences learning to speak Spanish called 52 Weeks of Family Spanish. Within it, I outlined a year’s worth of simple and easy activities that made learning the language reasonable for a busy family. You would be surprised how many opportunities there are for teaching a foreign language! You are already your child’s first teacher. When you add learning another language to your family’s routine you will realize this is just another of the many lessons you are teaching them throughout your busy day. Just as you categorize types of cars to pass the time in traffic, read stories at bedtime, model good manners and consideration for others, and develop observation skills by playing I Spy in a busy doctor’s office, speaking a foreign language is something you can fit into odd moments of your day with ease. My family really bonded over this common learning experience, and my hope is that I have set my children on a path to be multilingual their whole lives.
Eileen Mc Aree, the author of 52 Weeks of Family Spanish, is a mother, special education teacher and Spanish language student. She has enjoyed teaching children (including her own!) to develop their language skills and teaching Spanish has been a natural outreach from that experience. She lives in New York State with her family and their dog, Biscuit.