No Dad! I Speak Spanish!

Elmo esta BailandoHaving children is wonderful!  Sure they can think up the most interesting things that will try a person’s soul, like my daughter taking a shower with an umbrella, but then they will do some of the cutest things that make you adore them to pieces.  I think it must be a survival mechanism that must have evolved into the human race.  My 4-year-old, especially, can say and do the darndest things.

What does this have to do with Spanish?

When you are in a family, there are very few secrets that can be kept long.  Since I am not keeping my desire  to learn spanish a secret, my children definitely know I am learning spanish.    I say stuff to them in spanish all the time, sometimes forgetting that they don’t know what I am saying.  When I put a movie on for them, they now warn me not to put the spanish subtitles on or they wont watch with me.  So yeah, it’s no secret that I am learning spanish.

So with that background, here is a  common conversation I have with my 4-year-old daughter:

Me: Felicity, you need to stop doing “X” ( X can be anything extremely naughty, like the umbrella incident already mentioned)

Felicity: You need to say the magic word

Me: Please!

Felicity: No Dad!  I speak spanish!

Me: Por favor?!?

Felicity: That’s better. (All while walking off smug like she just told her Dad off.) 

This conversation is, other than my one spanish phrase I say, entirely in english.  I can think of no other reason for her being able to do something so cute other than as a survival mechanism.

What’s the point of the story?

First, I like to tell fun stories about my kids.  I love my kids and will find any excuse to talk about them if I can. The other reason is that I have sparked an interest with my kids learning foreign languages despite them complaining about it when I do too much spanish with them.   They even will ask me to teach them stuff sometimes.

This is where it gets hard.  I know I don’t learn the same as kids, but how do I teach them?  I know that children learn better when its fun, but everything I can find, to teach children spanish, only teach them a bunch of words in spanish.  I haven’t found hardly anything that teaches them real conversational type stuff.  I have a few things, of course, but its boring to them.   Dora, Diego, and Handy Manny do not teach kids how to speak spanish even though it is very entertaining and educational.

I remember talking to a kid in highschool who was in the most advanced Spanish classes of our school and got all A’s.  This person could sing lots of songs in spanish and could tell me HEAPS of vocabulary in spanish, but couldn’t put a simple spanish sentence together.  I really don’t want my children’s foreign language experience to be like that.

This is where you come in

I am trying to figure out how to bring my children along for the ride on this big adventure I am having. I know I am not  the only one out there who wants to encourage their children to learn a foreign language.  Here is just one example.  The problem is, that I have to attempt this without forcing them into it. I also need to do it without losing their interest.  I have already mentioned the I have the Muzzy DVD’s and they like them alright, but then they found out that they could watch them in english and that is what they always ask for now. 

So I admit that I need help. Do any of you have any ideas or suggestions?  Does anyone have any experience or methods that they know have worked for them.  If you do, please put them in the comments below. 



Filed under Opinions, Parenting

7 responses to “No Dad! I Speak Spanish!

  1. One of the things I tried (and still enjoy doing on my lazy Saturday mornings) was to watch cartoons in Spanish, specifically broadcast on the Spanish television station I receive here. I suppose if you don’t get Spanish television, this could be tricky, but I found plenty are available online as well. Watching Dora or Handy Manny in English will, as you pointed out, only teach them basic vocabulary terms. I recall being a young child learning how to say Hola and Adios through Sesame Street, but I certainly did not become bilingual this way. One of my favorites that I know is available on You Tube is Pocoyo. It’s geared towards very young children and has Spanish, Italian, and even French options to view. The narrator speaks entirely in Spanish and there are no translations to English. If you want to know what’s going on, you have to listen and learn Spanish. I found cartoons were great ways for me to learn as they tend to speak a little slower and focus on proper grammar. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

    • Awesome Thanks! Yeah part of me says I should have started this when I lived in the states. No worries as they commonly say down here. I was searching for kids programs and found plaza sesamo which is the Spanish Sesame street. The funny thing is that Big bird is not yellow in Plaza Sesamo? Es muy interesante. I will definately check out Pocoyo.

  2. Your daughter brings up a great idea, actually. By telling you to replace “Please” with “Por favor” it shows she already knows some Spanish from watching you learn. When I was her age, my brother and I would say “buenos días” instead of good morning, and “buenas noches” instead of goodnight. It was fun because it was different than the norm. Small replacements to your daily vocabulary like this will stay with you forever. Now I am 25, and it would be impossible to forget those phrases. Maybe replacing a simple phrase every week or month will help. I kind of want to try it in my own journey to learning Spanish, now. Ha!

    • I will do that. Thats a great Idea. I do say “ven aqui” sometimes to tell them to come here and I always say hasta luego when I go somewhere. Just as a side note, since I had this blog post on my mind I asked my daughter if she still speaks spanish. She not only said yes but then she started saying some gibberish. I asked her what it means and she said “trash bag.” I will just keep using spanish with them. And at the very least it will spark their interest for the future.

  3. On one of my forums I go to they posted this comment:

    Martín Raúl Villalba said:

    Why not find some Spanish-speaking kids for them to play with? And until you find those you could teach them some vocabulary so they can atleast point to and name things when playing with said kids.

    You could also play games with them to the effect of “How do you say that in Spanish?” every now and then, and let them piece together the grammar. Kids are good at that :).

    And you could do stuff like “Spanish TV Sundays”, where they only get to watch Spanish cartoons and such.

  4. Your point about words vs whole language is excellent. Lots of children’s programs teach isolated vocabulary, but that is far removed from what a child needs to learn a language. Kids need as much exposure to what we call “comprehensible input” as possible -natural language with enough context that it makes sense. One of the very best ways to expose kids, and adults, to language is by reading simple picture books together. Choose stories with short sentences that are supported by the text. You will find that there are sentences in the books that you can then model with your kids. There are lots of suggestions of specific books on my website, Spanish Playground. There are also online activities made for native speakers that work for Spanish language learners. Sites like Mi mundo en palabras are also excellent. This is too big a topic to try to take on in a comment, but you will find lots and lots of resources on my site.

    You sound as if you have the passion and determination that it takes to give your kids this gift. It is very hard work and you have to think in terms of the long term, but your children will definitely thank you. Good luck!

    • Thank you so much. I have started looking around your website. I haven’t had alot of time, but what I found so far has been great. Thanks for creating it. I will definately continue to frequent your page.

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