By Manuela Canales
We all know fluency in more than one language has enormous benefits. Research tells us that the cognitive learning skills of a child are enhanced, employment opportunities can increase and it certainly broadens a child’s exposure to different cultures, resulting in an expanded view of the world. And with more than 350 million native Spanish speakers in the world and it ranking as the world’s No. 2 language – learning Spanish many would say can come in handy.
So tap into your child’s interests and set aside some time to do some of these easy, fun exercises together. In a classroom, teachers might use minimal English to teach Spanish but as a parent these strategies allow you to subtly incorporate learning a second language into every day family life activities.
• Create a puppet or the digital version with this free website www.voki.com. Choose an avatar and use an external microphone and record a message in Spanish, then e-mail to relatives.
• Play restaurant at home: The menu is Spanish food. Your child is in charge of selecting what’s on the menu and you can both look up ideas. Amarillos anyone?
• The next family night – play the card game Fit Deck Jr. (available at WalMart) If I get the higher number, she has to perform the activity of the card like “Touch knees to chest while skipping,” which I tell her in Spanish. The picture in the card helps my youngest child. As you start with simple commands and then you’ll make it harder you’re following advised by the TPR (Total Response Technique) advised by James Asher in 1986 that takes into account how the brain functions.
• Use TV for input for literacy, with Spanish subtitles. Expand the limited choices with offerings on the Internet. Combine YouTube and Apple TV, which allow you to watch Spanish programs in the big screen comfortably from the couch.
• Create your grocery shopping list in Spanish, looking up words you don’t know.
• Label some toys and furniture in Spanish.
• Prepare a slide show or Powerpoint with Spanish captions of your family vacation and daily routine with pictures for Grandparents and other patient family members.
• Print a calendar with Spanish days of the week to write family activities.
• When you meet other Spanish-speakers, introduce them to your kids in Spanish; the Argentinean bakery lady is always popular in our neighborhood. It also surely helps when my Nicaraguan friend from the Latino parent group based in our public library branch plays along and pretends to only understand Spanish.
Have fun with it. You’re always doing something together and indirectly, they’ll learn it as they’re living the language. Colin Baker’s “A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism” is a useful resource you might want to check out. Meanwhile enjoy the journey while you are planting the seeds for your child’s interest in another language.
(Manuela Canales is a former elementary teacher of Spanish from kindergarten through Grade 5.)
Photo (c) Stock Xchng
By Manuela Canales