Three Simple Steps for Adding Spanish to Your Summer Fun - The Koch Family
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Three Simple Steps for Adding Spanish to Your Summer Fun

Forget the worksheets for the summer! Skip the verb conjugation lessons for the next ten weeks! Did I hear some of you shout out a request for play? Now, if you have teens like I do, some of the shouts were for sleep! But today I want to talk about the strong desire of our younger set, between two and ten, who want to play, play, and then play some more!

It can be so easy to keep these young ones laughing and learning. We just have to have a game plan to get started, and I want to help arm you with the tools to get through the next ten weeks, coming out on the other end of the time knowing that the kids did learn something amidst all of the play. As a mom of three, an educator of thousands, and president of a company directed strictly towards children ages birth through ten, I can help!

First of all, find yourself a great local library that has lots of bilingual materials in Spanish and English. Not just books, I am talking CDs, DVDs, and even magazines for children featuring both languages. Many public libraries offer a wider selection than others based on the demographics of their population, and I encourage you to simply ask the youth specialist of your library to bring more bilingual materials in. She will (provided she gets enough of the same request).

Once you have found a spot to sample a variety of bilingual materials, I urge you to check them out and then check out the reaction of your child to each medium. Does he respond more positively to the visual learning at this point via a DVD or a board book? Or does the music strike up the excitement level in his little body and mind? Every child learns differently and, as parents and teachers, we know this can change daily. One day your child might love the little puppet talking in English and Spanish on the DVD, then the next day insist that she does not like that silly puppet!

Oh, the joys of summer! You can feel it now can you not? Keep at it, though, and use your local library as a testing ground for materials you might eventually want to purchase should your child respond positively on a regular basis to the item. Make the movie come alive by bringing out real life items that are discussed in the movie. Make the music come alive by providing maracas appropriately sized for your little tyke so that she experiences success with rhythm and new lyrics.

Do not worry or become obsessed with the fact that you yourself are not bilingual. So many parents and teachers get caught in the rut of thinking they cannot give the gift of Spanish as a second language to their children because they themselves do not speak Spanish. Let me tell you loud and clear that the experts are reporting that you do not have to be bilingual to help young children gain a sound foundation in Spanish. The key is interaction with the child, making certain the learning is developmentally appropriate for their age. The verb conjugation and formal learning takes place in later years. And one of the cool benefits of learning a second language early in life is that the child will exhibit native or near native pronunciation.

Secondly, since repetition is the key to learning, I encourage you to seek out community members who speak Spanish, and spend time with them. Whether it is in a playgroup setting, a cultural event featuring their native country, or a local restaurant that showcases the food indigenous to their country; the best way to learn a new language is to expose your child to various ways of hearing Spanish spoken. That DVD from the library will never make your child conversationally fluent.

According to research, it takes anywhere from five to eight years to become biliterate and bilingual, so this summer is meant to be a fun time where a sound foundation for Spanish learning is laid. Allowing your toddler or preschooler to watch Spanish TV for children once in a while will only enhance the neural pathway connection for second language acquisition. Hearing the new language while visual cues are provided is an excellent way for your child to gain vocabulary and confidence in the new language.

Lastly I highly recommend using a computer for your Spanish fun this summer. I have found so many resources over the years that allow parent and child to play together online for free and gain skills in Spanish as their new language. You Tube makes it easy. Web sites from companies that make bilingual products for young children often times provide many free resources on their web sites. Simply type in a few key words such as teach child Spanish, and you will be inundated with thousands of pages of information to sift through to find something your child will respond with smiles to.

Keep the learning fun! Never force the new language on your child. Let it flow naturally, just like the learning of his native language happened. One word at a time, repeating that word over and over, until finally it became a part of his vocabulary pool. That is how learning a second language can be if you introduce it during the first ten years of life. Introduce a word in English, then use the Spanish word, and allow it to become part of the added vocabulary of your child.

Try to stay out of the trap of thinking this will delay the language and speech development of your child by confusing her mind with two languages at once. Experts have reported that this type of bilingual learning actually allows your child to decode the two languages side by side, and this process makes children early readers. In fact, the SAT College Entrance Exam Board reported that students with at least four years of world language study score higher on the SAT than those students who had very little to no world language exposure.

Start your summer off on a fun foot! Start your summer off with a smart start! You will keep your family laughing and learning each and every day.


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