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How do I help my daughter keep her Spanish??

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One year ago we adopted 3 children from Colombia. The youngest two have lost their Spanish already (so sad!) in their quest to learn English. The oldest, a very bright just turned 9year old girl, still remembers a lot but is losing more vocabulary by the day. She is speaking all in English at this point with only the occasional new vocabulary word needing to be explained. She finished reading Charlotte's Web in Spanish about a month ago.


So, I'm wondering what I can do to help her keep her Spanish! My hubby and I only know a teeny bit (Mostly taught to us by our kids!) so we're not able to help! And, unfortunately, we just don't have a good network of Spanish speakers in our circle of life. A few, but none who can converse on a regular basis.


I really need something independent that she can use- and ideally free! I actually have Rosetta Stone level 1- would that be worth it or should I go a different direction? Any suggestions?

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Free - find spanish speaking people in your community and get your children together with them or set up Skype sessions with people that speak Spanish


Not free - Homeschool Spanish Academy has Skype sessions with native Spanish speakers, Salsa episodes (may be too babyish for your elder), Speekee

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Guest gapolyglot

Movies are a great way to do it - Netflix offers a lot. I agree that games will help the younger ones too. World of Reading - http://www.wor.com has lots of them.

Rosetta Stone is overpriced for what it offers, in my opinion! Get software that teaches math, science, social studies, etc. in Spanish - that will help them keep up their Spanish, since programs that teach Spanish will be boring. wor.com has a whole section of software for learning "in" Spanish and a lot of books too!

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Univision and Telemundo have kid shows on the weekend she can enjoy in Spanish to retain what she already knows.


:iagree::iagree::iagree: I was going to say the same thing. Lots of kids shows on Saturdays. They have Plaza Sesamo which is Mexico's version of Sesame Street. My dd used to watch it when she was little. :) Youtube also has some kids' videos in Spanish too. :)

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Most kids shows and movies on DVD have the option to play in Spanish instead of English, or with Spanish subtitles, both of which can be helpful.



I started watching Dora the Explorer in Spanish six months before we went on a missions trip to Mexico. I was surprised at how much I could understand.

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I second Spanish speaking tv channels for kids' programming. Check if you have VMe TV, it's basically Spanish language PBS, you should have access either through your cable provider or through antenna reception. Of course, something like NatGeo or Discovery in Spanish would be awesome, but these are subscription channels.


Check your library for children's books in Spanish and audiobooks. Depending on your area, there might even be bilingual storytime? Definitely check, we have a lot of resources through our system, like an online children's encyclopedia etc.

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Looks like it's been said...but:


- Movies/TV

- Reach out to the Spanish-speaking community and find friends and mentors

- Spanish-speaking high school/college students. Pay to come for an hour twice weekly to only speak Spanish/play games, etc. I think you could do that for $20/week or less. Just make sure they talk a LOT. I tried that once and got a shy boy who hardly opened his mouth! Worked a lot better with a chatty girl.


- Pick one day a week and call it "Spanish day" or "Colombia day". Have the kids try hard to speak only Spanish (which will be hard with the youngers not remembering, but I'm guessing they could still understand some) and try to participate as best you can. Maybe buy some board games in the Spanish version and play it that day, watch a special movie in Spanish that day, cook Columbian (or Latin American) food that day. Read one of your books about Columbia on that day. Fun day for the kids.


- This might be fun: once/week (maybe on Spanish day!) have each kid pick 3-5 things (or whatever number you think will work) that they want to learn the Spanish word for. Have them make notecards for that stuff (Spanish one side/English other) and tape that notecard - Spanish side onto the item (mirror, chair, carpet, fan, etc.). This will be good for the little ones, and the older one can tell them how to pronounce it. My sister did this for French words in high school all over the house. It drove me crazy at the time (signs everywhere!), but she sure learned those words...and so did I!!! Anyway, after you take them down you can use them as flashcards for review.


- What about Spanish audiobooks? Surely there are easy kid books like that, then longer chapter books for your older daughter?


- Other Spanish CDs. We have some - nothing great for conversational Spanish, but ok for basic vocab: several Beth Manners CDs, Rock-n-Learn Spanish.


Most of these are things that are good for your kids to HEAR Spanish, so I'd really try to get them speaking. Even if it is just your older daughter teaching them little rhymes and poems and songs. If you haven't already, I'd try to get her to remember any nursery rhymes she might have learned and write them down. Have her say them to the kids and then them back a LOT.

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Most of the Spanish TV shows (for kids and adults) are awful.


I'd go with movies/dvds in Spanish. Most of the dvds out today can be played in both English and Spanish (and often French) - it will say on the back so you know before you buy (or just get them from the library) - you usually don't have to get special Spanish versions. One of my kids' favorites was Magic School Bus in Spanish.


Someone else suggested Audio books - another great idea. Don't forget, they already have the receptive language in place (even the ones who seem to have forgotten it). They don't need "learning" software, you just want them to hear as much native Spanish as possible. This should help keep vocabulary, accent, and intuitive grammar intact. When they're older, you could add a Spanish grammar, but at this age, I'd just focus on making sure they don't lose what they have.


It would be great to find other Spanish-speaking kids for them to speak with in addition to those things, but if you can't, I'd go with the above. And CDs - Jose Luis Orozco has some great ones.

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I wouldn't underestimate the value of music, either.


Also, if you and your husband started working on your Spanish, I think that would demonstrate that you really do take it seriously. Then you could do things like listen to Spanish radio, read books, and so forth, instead of having them do it by themselves. (Please understand I'm not in any way criticizing you, but trying to encourage you.) If you can find any real life people for them to speak Spanish to, it will help a lot. You may need to seek them out with ferocity.


Also I do think the younger kids can get it back if there is effort put in place now. So don't be discouraged.


And I love this website.


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...Don't forget, they already have the receptive language in place (even the ones who seem to have forgotten it). They don't need "learning" software, you just want them to hear as much native Spanish as possible. This should help keep vocabulary, accent, and intuitive grammar intact. When they're older, you could add a Spanish grammar, but at this age, I'd just focus on making sure they don't lose what they have...ones.

:iagree: Again, I agree most Spanish speaking TV channels are awful, that's why I suggest VMe (free) and NatGeo, Discovery (subscription). I do hope your library system surprises you by having a lot of resources that you are unaware of, including books and audiobooks.


The Internet is another whole world of resources at your fingertips. I forgot earlier about BrainPop Spanish, my kids love it and they have a daily free movie as well as a paid option. If you google Pimpollos you will find an adorable Peruvian TV show my 8 yo dd is crazy about! So many possibilities out there!

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For the younger kids, someone mentioned Plazo Sesamo. If you don't have TV (like me), you can get 2 seasons free on AmazonPrime. Just to go Amazon and type in Plazo Sesamo. I would also watch cartoons/movies in Spanish. I'm not a fan of much TV for kids, but I AM a big fan of using it for foreign languages. I have lots of friends from other countries who primarily learned English that way.


If you're up for it, why don't you and your husband enroll in a Spanish course so that you can encourage Spanish in the house? I actually LOVE doing Rosetta Stone for myself. For kids, it's probably too dry for the most part, although my little one likes it in small doses. A lot of families like to take their adopted children back to their home country for visits (even if that's not the plan right now, you may change your mind) and it would be nice if you had a firmer grasp of the language.


I would buy lots of children's books in Spanish and have your older one read to the younger ones. With a few classes, you can do it too. Celebrate all the spanish that they do. Have the older one teach you....she might think that's awesome that she gets to be the teacher. Or she can have lessons for everyone. In English, help her put together a lesson concept (telling time, making brownies, teaching a children's song from Columbia etc) and then she can do all the teaching in Spanish. Ha - you could even pay her a little bit if she needs the incentive :)


Buy some spanish music and play it for them all the time. Don't worry that you'll hurt their English. English isn't going away :)


I would make time for it EVERY day, at least 30 min. If you're serious about it, convey how important it is to your kids. Ask them why they think it might be important and it might help them in the future. Getting them to think independently about these concepts might help them be on board. Even if you think your own Spanish is lousy (or you're lousy with languages in general), any little bit that you do will be helpful to them.


I'm not fluent in Spanish, but my daughter LOVES to do Spanish with me. She's a big reader and about 1/3 to 1/2 of her books are in Spanish. Even when she doesn't understand it all, she's hearing it, learning its cadence and structure.


Having a Spanish playgroup is key I've heard (haven't found one yet myself).


I'm sure there are a million more ideas, but generally, I'd make it a priority and any Spanish they learn/remember/use will be a blessing for them later in life and they'll thank you for helping them retain a piece of their culture.


Good luck!!

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@OP First, God Bless you, for adopting 3 children from Colombia! My wife and I would like you to know that for a Colombian mother to give up her children, the situation must be incredibly horrible.


Secondly, you are correct to want them to be fluent in Spanish and completely bilingual. For many many reasons, including their ability to get jobs when they are adults, being bilingual is a huge advantage.


There are many free online courses for people to learn Spanish (I'm not sure how many of those are targeted to young children) and many other ways. CNN in Spanish, most Movie DVDs have English and Spanish and possibly other Audio available, etc., etc. If you have Directv, Cable TV, etc., the audio for many programs is available in more than one language.


But, they also need to be able to speak and converse, not just listen to and understand the audio of a movie or a TV program. For that, they need someone to practice talking with. That could be someone on Skype or someone in your living room.


GL from Colombia!

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Thanks everyone!

I'm going to have to get creative since we don't have tv signal and we aren't able to watch movies or stream anything on our internet. We don't live in the boonies, we just have lousy service..


However, we do have Netflix so I'll try some of these options on there...


Sounds like media related stuff is the way to go at least for "hearing". We'll keep trying to find people to speak with locally...I'd love to do the skype thing, but our internet just won't support it.. sigh...


Our spanish was ok enough to communicate in country and get our points across, but it amazes me how quickly I've lost so much of it!


And, Lanny, where in Colombia are you?? Our kids are from Medellin. I LOVED it there and can't wait to be able to go back one day. We plan to take the kids when they are a little older.

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And, Lanny, where in Colombia are you?? Our kids are from Medellin. I LOVED it there and can't wait to be able to go back one day. We plan to take the kids when they are a little older.


@Tiffany We are near the city of Cali, in S.W. Colombia. If it gets cold where you live, I think you would truly enjoy coming to Colombia during the Winter. :) Great that you would like them to know Colombia.


We have Directv and many of the channels are available in 2 languages. Cable TV is not yet available where we live.


Possibly there is WiMAX or some other wireless Internet service that is available where you live, or, will be in the future. We live in a rural subdivision, but we have ADSL Internet service. And, Mobile Internet (GSM cell phone) is available here, but that is not as fast as Broadband Internet.

Cali was one of the first cities in the world with WiMAX service, but it is not available in our area. WiMAX would be my 2nd choice, after ADSL service.


Again, God Bless you and your husband for adopting 3 children from Colombia! Lanny

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 5 weeks later...
Guest Vintage



That's so sweet that you want them to keep their language. They will be so grateful,... maybe now, but especially later. Having a second language will be valuable for making a living, and it makes a person feel 'special'. Here's my thoughts on your question about how to help. (And everyone please forgive me if this has been stated, as I haven't had time to read all the posts, and my library is closing in a few minutes.) NOT Rosetta Stone. Please, not Rosetta Stone. It's not that it will do any harm. It's just so over-priced and so 'finite'. Also, you are tethered to the computer screen in order to use it. I paid something like $200 for the French and another $200 for the Italian. No, please don't do it. What's good though, for you and your husband, is Pimsleur. You can probably check it out at the public library. It's audio only, so you'll want to find something else later to practice writing. But the Pimsleur courses are the only ones that actually teach you to say anything useful. It challenges you a little, then backs up and lets you feel like you've accomplished something. I should graduate in December 2012 with my BA in Spanish. <Where's the happy face on this forum?> And, I speak a little in several other languages,... just enough to get myself in trouble. Before I forget,... your kids just need some friends who are native speakers. But maybe you aren't in a place where this is easy to find? And, one of my classmates is from Medellin Colombia. She's a pretty, friendly, young woman.- Vintage

Edited by Vintage
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