Jump to content


Help teaching Spanish!


Recommended Posts

I'm a native speaker of Spanish and a candidate for a master's degree in the subject. I want to teach my children Spanish, however, due to how busy things have been and, shamefully, to lack of motivation on my part, I haven't been formally teaching my children Spanish. My oldest has been doing Rosetta Stone on his own, but my little ones haven't really had any practice. I'm aware of the fact that I've lost precious time by not speaking it at home, but I want to correct my mistake.

Where should I begin?

How can I introduce my little ones to the new language?

What program can I use for my school aged children?

Please help me, I feel really lost!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well it's hard for me to say because I'm just starting out with my LO. I just try to take it easy and do at least one spanish thing a day whether its reading a book, watching a salsa episode or singing songs. Sometimes we do all three but I'm happy if we just fit one of those in.

My favorite books are a series of flap books for toddlers

Donde Esta El Gatito?

Donde Esta el Perrito?

Y ahorra que passara?

I also subscribe to Babybug magazine in spanish. I know a lot of Crickets magazines are available in spanish so they'll have magazines for older kids too.

When my LO gets a bit older I'm planning on doing this curriculum which focuses on oral skills




And then after that this program




So I don't know if that's helpful or not. It seems as if we are the only two on this board right now. Best of luck! Let me know how it goes :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of books; lots of casual conversation throughout the day, upping it incrementally; CDs; DVDs if you do that. Simple games are great. Keep it real and keep it fun!


It would help to know the ages of your children.  Also, there are lots of threads on this board about this already...I recommend you try a search.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

With my littles (5,3, and 2, all boys) we watch a lot of Spanish language children's television online.


I've tracked down episodes of Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go! in Spanish, as well My Little Pony and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. My kids watch those instead of/in addition to their English-language counterparts. I've also had some success in checking Spanish-language books out from the local library, as well as DVDs. My DD and DS1 also use a Spanish lap-booking curriculum that I purchased from Amazon called "My First Bilingual Little Readers". Currently, DD is on Level A and DS1 is on Level B.


Check out Fluent Forever and Fluent Forever: Spanish.  I also make use of Anki to make custom decks for my kids and myself. I learn alongside them. Both allow you add audio to your cards, as well as pictures and other reminders. I don't do any formal studies with my kids. We just make them as we go along and practice them for about 10-15 minutes per day.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you soooo much for the ideas. I had never heard of "My First Bilingual Little Readers," but I just ordered the first one! My oldest is almost 12, and pretty fluent (he uses bju Spanish for eh grammar), but my 5 and my 3 year olds are not. I'm going to check out the other websites and series provided. I searched for other threads about the subject but came out empty handed, any ideas on how to phrase the search?


Thank you for the comments, please keep them coming!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know about searching here. I found out about Fluent Forever in a book I read about a year ago called "The 4 Hour Body". I also watched some videos of Tim Dohner/ Polyglot Pal on Youtube with my oldest who is very interested in languages. He's an auditory learner and picks up songs and rhymes quickly in both English and Spanish. He struggles with conversation though and can't write it beyond copywork from his flashcards and bilingual readers.


Polyglot Pal just immerses himself in a language and learns it. 4HB urges people to make a suvival list of basic phrases, apply the principles of spaced repetition and encourages you to drill yourself in a specialized area of interest in your target language. Both stress the importance of intuitive learning, that is, learning new languages in a way that is natural. Most people don't learn to read and write while learning to speak. No one memorizes verbs and long lists of words.


Most of us learn by pointing and repeating after people. We make mistakes, we don't know things, we ask questions, we learn as we go along.


I don't really have any sage advice in this arena. I've only been doing Spanish with my kiddos for a little over a year. Our first 1+ of hsing was spent figuring things out and there was lots of trial and error. "52 Weeks of Family Spanish" was our main resource last year. I didn't love it and thought it was really basic. Not really what I was looking for my older kids and my little ones weren't that engaged in it. We were able to get through the entire book in about 4 months...so much for 52 weeks, eh? But if you're looking for something basic to get your littles started, that might be good for them. Be sure to pair it with some audio and visual resources though. It isn't strong enough to stand on its own, imo.


I will probably do "52 Weeks" again in a few years when my youngest is ready for school. For now, we are doing fine using the principles from Forever Fluent + Bilingual Readers + Immersion via Spanish-language television and books. There are plenty of good resources on YouTube for free. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please talk to me about forever fluent, I glanced at it very quickly and didn't really get the concept. I was expecting a program, and instead found a book..... What is it exactly, and how does it help?


There is a series called "Pocoyo," the episodes are short, and you can find it on YouTube as well. The series was created in Spanish, it's simple, but very cute and engaging for little ones. My dss 5 and 2 LOVE it, even my 11 yo and my dh watch it sometimes and laugh about the things that happen in the show! It's about a little boy who always has something going on, he has a few unusual friends, but it's really cute, and he Spanish is flawless. If you find it in English though, skip it, it's not that good AT ALL!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is a link to the method page from the Fluent Forever website.


What the author suggests is using IPA or International Phonetic Alphabet, to learn a language. In theory, this is a good idea. Adults and older kids probably wouldn't have much problems with it. I use it myself when I need to sound out a word in Spanish. It is kind of like Chinese pinyin, I think. Or at least that is what it reminds me of.


Basically, with my kiddos, I discourage translation as much as possible when we do Spanish. I try to give simple directions in Spanish and we do a lot of singing, rhyming, and picture/pointing drills. I will hold up a ball and say "mami tiene un....?" and point to one of my kids. Hopefully, they will say "bola" or another word that means ball.


You can do the same thing with pictures from books. Board books or books that your child is familiar with that have the text covered with painter's tape (this works on glossy pages only, I've found...) are good for this purpose. You can ask them questions or just point to things and say the words. Have them repeat after you. If your book is in Spanish, then read the story a few times and see if your kids pick up on some words.


Using Anki or another flashcard program that allows audio is a great way to pick up on language. Every child will be different, but they will all have something that they are interested in. My DD likes My Little Ponies and horses, so her deck is centered around that. It's pretty random, mostly color words and stuff related to the My Little Pony universe, but she does know most of them. I also have her do the readers 2-3 times a week (we spend about 2 weeks on each reader, sometimes more depending on content.) I keep a second deck of picture cards that I made myself using index cards and pictures of things in our house and at the park for prompting as well. I write the words in Spanish with prompts for myself (in case I forget) and have the picture on the other side. We do these as a group 2-3 times a week.


DS1 really likes this exercise and often wants to add new pictures and sort the existing ones by room or color or some other thing. DD and DS2 like to make up little stories in Spanglish, although I've noticed more Spanish than English popping up in the past few months. They are actually having short conversations in Spanish, which is pretty neat. They are fluent, but have very limited vocabularies.


In total, we spend about 30-45 min per day on Spanish. They spend about 10-15 minutes per day on their personal decks, then the older kids do readers or read a short book in Spanish (Dr. Seuss stories or simple board books, mostly). After that we regroup and do the picture cards or picture/pointing drills. When that is done, they generally watch a show in Spanish if they are feeling it.


Most mornings, they watch television while I get the day started. I try and make sure that they watch something en espanol during this time, even if it is just a few singalong videos on youtube or half an episode of something. I don't force them to watch though.


I have heard of Pocoyo, but haven't been able to get my kids to watch it. I think they just prefer what is familiar to them. *shrug*


Hope this helps.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For Spanish immersion for your Iittles you could check out Salsa from Georgia Public Broadcasting. We do that once a week.


One of the local libraries here has online access to Muzzy - a similar program.


Once a week with my 8yos we use two of the four Paquetes Educativos from Tin Man Press.


Once a week they read to me and then translate, usually part of a Sapo y Sepo (Frog and Toad) story.


Twice a week I secularize a religious language arts program written in Spanish for Spanish speakers. I like that it is introducing basic grammar and lots of vocab we wouldn't normally see, but it is a pain to secularize it. Someone here mentioned Yabisi Spanish curriculum and when we finish the books I have I'm going to look at that again.


There are a lot of programs available to teach Spanish to older students, keep searching the threads. Oh, I have better luck searching with Google. Type something like:

Spanish curriculum forum:welltrainedmind

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In our household, we have dd7 and dd3.


1) Dd7 is in First Grade, and we are doing FlipFlopSpanish.  This year she is able to handle the writing portion.  Last year (K), even though she was a comfortable reader and writer of English, the writing Spanish was more than she could be comfortable with.


Disclaimer:  There are MANY good beginner Spanish curriculum that could be used with the following things I will list.


2) I speak basic Spanish sentences in the car. 


"We need to go to the store."

"We want to go to the library."

"Let's go to the park."


3) The kids watch Salsa or Oh, Noah on the computer over lunchtime.  The girls take turns picking.  I do some translation or asking what certain words mean, if I am not preparing food.

4) Games. Games. Games!!!!  I have made several games to play with dd7.  They should work with almost any beginning curriculum.  Dd3 joins us for these sometimes.


4a) Colors:
Open a Word file, and type the colors in both black and the specific color.

Example: roho and roho, amarillo and amarillo, azul and azul

Print on cardstock.  Cut the words apart as cards to match.


4b) How are you?/Como estas?

I drew faces on index cards, and taped them on popcicle sticks.  We have faces for fine, mad, sad, tired, okay, bored, and happy.  (We use what is in the vocabulary for our curriculum; you may use a different range of words.)

I ask dd7, "Como estas?" and she answers, "Estoy bien," or "Estoy enojado!", etc, dependent upon the card I am holding up.

She quizzes me, too, and I encourage her to answer in her head what she thinks the right answer is.


4c) Como te llamas?

Dd7 and I will get a pair of stuffed animals, and we will have 2-3 practice conversations using:

--greetings (hello, good morning, good afternoon)

--what is your name?

--my name is....

--do you like....[frogs if I am holding a frog; bunnies if I am holding a bunny, etc]

--how are you?

--questions including any other vocabulary we are currently learning

--nice to meet you!  Bye!


4d) Opposites

some vocabulary cards of opposites to match





4e) Yo tengo [animals].

I have a little cloth bag with ~10 little plastic animals in it.  We take turns blindly picking an animal, and saying (in Spanish), "I have a [animal].  **please don't penalize my spelling!**


Yo tengo un cocodrilo.  (I have a crocodile).

Tengo una giraffa.  (I have a giraffe).


This requires understanding of tengo, and understanding of male and female use of "a" (un or una).



Randomly add some of the other flashcards you have so far.



Tengo un leon azul.  (I have a blue lion).

Tengo una rana roho.  (I have a red frog).

Tengo una serpiente gorda.  (I have a fat snake).

Tengo un burro flaco y amarillo.  (I have a thin, yellow donkey).


4f) Me gusta, te gusta, me gustan, te gustan.

I use a cloth bag (a pillowcase will do).  I clean out the girls' play food, and I put it all in the cloth bag.

One by one, we remove the pieces of food, and ask one another:


Te gustan fresas? (Do you like strawberries?)


And the other answers:


Si, me gustan fresas!


Te gusta un pastel?


Si, me gusta un pastel!


Te gustan carrots? 


No, no me gustan carrots!


--to play this game, we must understand masculine, feminine, singular, and plural use of Spanish.

--it's okay to not know the Spanish word for carrots (zanahorias), and to mix your English and Spanish
--I look up many words on the computer for vocabulary and pronunciation.  We also use the Usborne Spanish Dictionary for Children.  It has most of our words so far.


4g) Family words

For the unit on family words + amigo (friend).


I have made flashcards with the Phineas and Ferb characters.  You can be Phineas or Ferb, but as you pick other cards you name them in Spanish.


Disclaimer: This game has not yet been beta-tested.


For example, if I am Phineas, here are the other cards I could pick (and name as):

Ferb -- hermano

Candace -- hermana

Mom -- madre

Dad -- padre

Grandpa --abuelo

Grandma -- abuela

Uncle --tio

Aunt --tia

cousins (male) -- primos

cousin (female) -- prima

Buford: -- amigo

Baljeet -- amigo

Isabella -- amiga

You could also create this game using family photos or characters from another show (WordGirl was another possibility).

5) The older your children become, emphasize that THEY MUST ANSWER ALOUD!!!. 
--Most people cannot learn to speak a language without...uh...SPEAKING it.
--the parts of our brain for hearing/understanding language are different from the parts of the brain used for speaking words (of any language, including one's native language). 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Super helpful! Thank you, duckens! but one thing you should double check with your curriculum, but I'm almost certain that it should be rojo and not roho, even though that is the way it sounds.


We are doing Learning Spanish Like Crazy (audio program) and I'm making worksheets for Madrigals Magic Key to Spanish (book) which we'll start when we finish LSLC and have more time. Neither of these are targeted to kids. But both are highly effective and easily adaptable for motivated kids of school age and average ability. I already have (access to) them so we are using them. I was a Spanish speaker once upon a time but rarely use it anymore.



NOTE: Learning Spanish Like Crazy is all about realistic conversational Spanish. It includes optional and separate lessons that cover a range of topics that most people actually use but few programs actually teach.  Please be aware that LSLC includes lessons that are, again OPTIONAL and SEPARATE from the main program but INCLUDED and these lesson cover topics that other families might not be comfortable with. They range from light day to day insults and expressions (idiot, silly, cheapskate) and also some that cover swearing (d4mn it! or f#ck off!) and there are 2 lessons on words for romance (Some of it is the kind of stuff you'd say getting intimate.)


While I might let my guys learn the milder insults/expressions in a couple of years because I can see them needing to know those words and possibly even wanting to say that sort of stuff in Spanish and they already have been exposed that sort of thing in English.

We will never be studying Spanish profanity or how to tell a girl you want her to $^&*@ your !@#$%. I consider myself an open sort of parent, I don't do much censorship but I draw the line at exposing kids to sexually explicit lessons.


You definitely want to be aware of this. The main LSLC program is clean and family friendly and includes full PDF transcripts of every single lesson. For us, it seems to be working and I intend to continue using it, just skipping the parts we don't want or need..

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Gil says:

Super helpful! Thank you, duckens! but one thing you should double check with your curriculum, but I'm almost certain that it should be rojo and not roho, even though that is the way it sounds.


Thanks for catching my mistake, Gil!  :blushing: *embarrassed*


I should have checked my cards before I typed!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When you go to a mexican restaraunt teach your kids to use a little spanglish. The waiters don't mind and usually they'll take a little time to help you on your way to improvement. Have your kids ask for "an jugo por favor" (juice please) and teach them to say gracias. The waiter often says "oh you speak spanish?" Or "tu tienes espanol?" fondly to the kids. It's a great place to practice whatever spanish you have. My husband and his family are bilingual native speakers, but many of them can not read spanish. I grew up with phonics and took a little spanish in school. I can read and sound fluent, and even throw in the local spanish accent, but I am not bilingual. I can translate more of what I read in spanish than what I hear, and more of what I hear than what I can think of to say. Anyway, mexican restaraunts are a great place to practice your spanish and it really seems to make the waiters happy to hear you try.

agua is pronounced "ah-wa"

Cevoya is onion

con queso is with cheese

or sin queso without

papas are french fries.

Don't forget gracias.

leche chocolatee

Everyone asks my three year old if she knows spanish. She sings "la cucheracha" and they laugh.

la cuceracha, la cuceracha,

no puedo caminar.

porque no tiene

Porque la falta

Un patita ultima.

I didn't teach her that. She heard the song on a kids tape and started answering that if someone asks if she speaks spanish.


If they don't know their colors and numbers yet play uno but use the spanish words during the game. But don't forget to talk to the waiter. Reading spanish books is cool, but I'd much rather understand all the conversations than read all the signs or advertisements.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Found this great site that has an online database of books. Theres many different languages and the level of reading differ as well. Very customizable and user friendly. Great on a tablet not sure how it would work on a reader.



Thanks for this link!! We have a pretty good library system here, but I'm going to tap it out soon. Awesome to have more free resources!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I watched a TED talk about becoming fluent in s language 6 months. It wasn't the best presentation, but it was insightful. Here are the highlights:


1. Focus on language content that is relevant to you. (For example, my kids don't care about the weather, so I don't teach words about weather. THey are interested in scriptures in French, so I bought a set of French scriptures. I wish I could find the audio, too.)


2. Use your language as a tool to communicate from Day 1. (Go to a Mexican restaurant and order in Spanish, talk to Hispanic friends in Spanish, etc.)


3. Train your mouth to make the sounds that you hear. It helps to be able to watch a native speaker speak so you see how they form the sounds. Sorry, Dora doesn't count.


4. Your mood matters. Learning takes place when you are happy and relaxed.


7 actions for rapid language acquisition

1. listen to the language a lot

2. Focus on meaning before grasping the words (focus on body language; use patterns that you already know: donde esta ....)

3. start mixing verbs, nouns, adjectives

4. Focus on learning the most commonly-used words

5. Get a "language parent"- safe environment, simple language

6. copy the face- watch native speakers

7. direct connect- connect sounds (fuego) to mental representations (a picture of a fire)


I realize that some of this doesn't make sense, so I recommend watching the TED talk, which is about 20 minutes.



Good luck!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...