Learning foreign languages works best while kids are learning their first one. There are several reasons why but, in short, it comes down to this: children can learn a second language as if it were their mother tongue up until 8 years old. This also explains why children whose parents regularly speak a foreign language can communicate like a native in both languages. These children are the true bilinguals: they can think in both languages, they don’t have a foreign accent speaking any of them, and they can’t choose which one they prefer.
However, if you would like your child to grow up bilingual, you don’t exactly need to move abroad. If up until now your child has been in a monolingual environment, there are many things that you can do to change that - and while there’s still time!
The most obvious response would probably be enrolling your child in foreign language classes. And while this is a good start, it might not be enough. First of all, teaching a language to really young children isn’t the same thing as teaching it to an adult. Many teachers don’t have experience teaching children, which is significantly different, so you might have to rethink your plan. Then there’s another issue: are classes enough? Probably not. If you’re really invested in teaching another language to your child, you should make sure they are exposed to it more than once or twice per week.
If your goal is to cultivate native (or near native) Spanish fluency in your children, at Spanish Gurus we strongly recommend you pair Spanish classes tailored to children and actual cultural immersion. And the good news is that we can provide the first and make recommendations regarding the second.
Spanish Courses for Children
Our Spanish courses for kids feature teachers with special training who have experience teaching young children. Our aim is to make classes interesting and engaging, so that the child discovers a new world in Spanish. We start by teaching things your child will be familiar with: basic daily vocabulary. The materials we use in these courses are age-appropriate: we’ll introduce the animals at the zoo, talk about a day at the beach, name the parts of the body, play games (what we like to call “edutainment”) or give a Spanish name to their favorite teddy bear. Spanish class shouldn’t feel like a tutoring lesson they’d rather avoid!
We understand that as a parent it’s not always easy to drive your child to a local tutor or trust an unknown new tutor. But with our online courses for children, you don’t need to take them anywhere and they’re safe at home. Also, the classes are recorded and you can monitor the whole process.
Activities to teach Spanish to children
It’s important for any student - but especially when the goal is language fluency - to have a steady contact with Spanish. We recommend introducing Spanish in daily activities, even if you don’t completely understand it. For example, one of the best things we can suggest is Spanish cartoons. Watching their favorite heroes gives them an extra incentive to watch. But our favorite activity is children’s songs. If they’re catchy (and they usually are), your child will try and eventually manage to sing along and practice.
Another thing that you should try is getting educational games in Spanish. If you live far away from a Spanish-speaking country, this might be a little troublesome, but with some googling we’re sure that you can order them online. Give them the same language-learning toys that a Spanish toddler could have - children’s books, games to learn the letters, the numbers, the colors or the animals. Nonetheless, we cannot forget that your child will be a digital native above all else: these days, technology is a regular part of childhood. So, fortunately, there are some easily accessible online resources and apps that can help.
Apps to learn Spanish for young children
For children, we recommend apps that mix a little bit of training with a little bit of fun. For really small children (around 18 months) there’s Peekaboo Barn, where children enter a farm and learn the animals’ names. Slightly older ones might enjoy Feed Me!, which basically consists in feeding a purple monster according to its desires, while practicing shapes, counting, the time, feelings and sizes.
Other games are a bit more elaborate: Gus on the Go, for example, is a friendly owl that teaches 90 new words throughout 10 activities. The game is mainly vocabulary-based, with food, animals, numbers and parts of the body in the spotlight. Mindsnacks is another one of our favorites, because every lesson is a minigame. And what’s best about it is that kids can skip a lesson if it is about something they already know. Another app we like is Spanish crosswords puzzles for kids - the name is pretty much self-explanatory.
If your kid speaks English, then you can also try bilingual apps and games. We have to mention Frida’s World, the cutest we’ve found so far. Kids learn about the amazing Mexican artist Frida Kahlo while practicing the language, what’s not to like?