Today I joined a group of Spanish speaking moms who discussed with sadness in their tone how difficult it is to get the children to speak Spanish even at home in an English speaking country. During our time, it was agreed that children don’t want to speak Spanish, even when they know the language.
Living in different parts of the country, I have experienced this, too. Many of my bilingual friends across the country have experienced this as well.
There is nothing more gratifying than passing on our heritage language or our native language to our children.
The gift of language is the gift of a lifetime.
There is no return policy on it.
So why does this happen?
First of all, we live in an area where everything is in English. Schools, friends get-togethers, story time, books…everything is English.
It is our nature to produce (output) the language we hear (input) the most. There it is natural for our brain to produce what is more used to.
Therefore, why should the child speak Spanish?
There needs to be a clear need to use the target language, Spanish in this case.
That’s right. There needs to be a real need as to why speak in Spanish (or the minority language).
6 Ways to Create a Need to Speak in Spanish (or the Target Language):
Participate in a Spanish Story Time program at the library.
Check with your library if they have story time in your target language where there is a read-aloud, some songs, and a craft.
Take advantage of technology and call family that only speak Spanish.
Use your Saturday afternoon to call family and use your webcam. This is a great time for sharing stories, recipes you have cooked this week, tell a joke or two! Show your pets, etc. Use this time to talk with family in Spanish. Maybe they have never met in person, but thanks to technology, they get to see each other through the webcam.
If you have toddlers learning to talk, have a playgroup where moms and children participate together using Spanish.
This is a great time to teach and learn to speak Spanish in an authentic way through play. Pretend to be doctors, cooks, and play in Spanish. So much language can be learned through play!!!
If you are homeschooling, do memory work in Spanish.
Every week we work on memorizing a new Bible verse and sometimes a poem, in addition to Spanish songs we learn every month. Instead of memorizing in English, which they probably will one way or another, use this time to learn them in Spanish. It will build their confidence! You can also write out the verse, talk about the meaning and vocabulary in Spanish. Much will be learned by memorizing a short verse.
Find a local church in Spanish where children could attend Sunday School in the target language.
Participating in a Spanish speaking environment with other teachers and children could be very beneficial. It would show them that there are many others out there who also speak Spanish. They could see the same activities they do at home or in school can be done in Spanish.
If you have older children, have them do peer tutoring.
Think of foreign students just arriving to the US who need help learning English. They may need a lot of help studying math or science when their vocabulary is limited. Have your child help them in their native language to become more comfortable with school work. There are many advantages of learning subjects in the native language even while learning a second language.
What ideas do you have to create a need for children to speak in Spanish?