Spanish for our OKC Littles.
Maegan Taylor shares 5 helpful tips for helping your little ones become bilingual.
An important part of my Latina identity is the fact that I can speak Spanish. I grew up speaking Spanish, I speak Spanish with my family, and I find that Spanish allows me to express myself in ways that sometimes I cannot with English. Spanish is an undeniable part of me. So, when I had kids, I knew I wanted to communicate with them in Spanish—I want Spanish to be a part of them too. Except I never realized how hard this would be.
My husband is not bilingual, no one in his family is. My family is scattered everywhere, my mom still lives in Colombia and my sister lives in Hawaii---how could I possibly expose my kids to enough Spanish when literally no one around them, except me, uses it? You would think that it would be a piece of cake. I did think to myself “easy enough, I’ll just speak Spanish all the time to my kids, no big deal.” Boy was I wrong. Life gets chaotic with toddlers and newborns and in the midst of everything—having to speak in English with my husband and just in daily life in general—it was just easier to communicate in English with my kids. My brain is literally too tired to jump from one language to another. I have had a few interpreting jobs that have lasted a couple hours and whenever I would finish, I would be completely mentally drained----jumping back and forth from Spanish to English at home felt ten times more exhausting. So, here I find myself struggling with the fact that my two-year-old does not speak Spanish. He uses a few words and understands (although he sometimes pretends not to), and repeats after me whenever I try to teach him new words---but he does not speak Spanish.
So, I thought I would put together a list of things I use at home to encourage my little one to learn Spanish. It’s so important for me to be able to communicate with my kids with a language that largely defines so much of me. This year I decided I would buckle down and do everything within my power to get my kid to learn Spanish.
#1 Listen and Learn
When possible change every audio setting to Spanish on Netflix, Disney+, etc.
Okay, so I know some moms are super against screen time---but I am not and if you aren’t either this is definitely useful. My son only watches shows in Spanish (unless its PBS---Daniel Tiger is such a great show that I let him watch it even though it’s in English). I can tell sometimes he can’t quite catch on to what is going on, but for the most part he understands. I grew up watching Disney movies in Spanish, so I was really excited to find out that Disney+ has multiple languages for the audio on basically all of their kids shows and animated movies. After watching Toy Story, a billion times I caught my sweet two-year old pretending to be Buzz Lightyear and screaming “al infinito y mas alla!” I was so proud and I so excited when I heard him. Netflix also has the same setting for most shows, there are quite a few exceptions. For example, the new Grinch movie is only available in English and there are a lot of shows that are available in other languages except Spanish. There is one show on Netflix called Motown Magic, its available in Spanish, and I highly recommend it. It uses Motown music to tell stories and because the songs are in English but the dialogue is in Spanish it seems to me like a good exercises in awareness for my little one that English and Spanish can both be used to communicate.
#2 Spanish Flashcards
I often find myself in the target dollar section (like every other mom out there) looking for that three-dollar succulent or glass jar that will look cute on my kitchen. I often do find these things, but you know what else I’ve found there? Spanish flashcards for kids! I’ve found some with the alphabet, colors and animals. I always get them if I find them because my toddler has an uncanny ability to make things disappear. Anyway, toddlers also have notoriously short attention spans, but I can usually get him to focus for ten minutes and we just do flash cards in Spanish. My son loves the animal flashcards and often he will automatically tell me the name of the animal in English---I simply redirect and ask him what the animal is called in Spanish. Slowly but surely, he is beginning to get it and can name a lot of animals in Spanish. Randomly he will point out an animal in Spanish before continuing in English which is always very exciting. I bought two sets of flashcards off Amazon that I highly recommend. There are lots of options on Amazon, but I really liked the graphics on these sets, and I thought they were reasonably priced.
#3 YouTube- 123 Andres
YouTube is such a great source for Spanish content. There are copious amounts of videos for kids in Spanish, but here I am only going to talk about one YouTube account that I think is awesome. It’s called 123 Andres. It’s all kids’ songs in Spanish sung by Andres and Christina two Colombian artists who won a Latin Grammy for one of their Spanish language albums. Their songs cover all sorts of subjects and they just released an album of STEM- related songs. Their material is awesome, and kids love it.
There are a plethora of Instagram accounts that are all about raising bilingual kids. I’ll list a few of them here so you can explore them, but there are so many more! They cover all kids of topics and are great for finding new resources and ways to reinforce Spanish at home.
#5 Enroll your kids in Spanish School
This option is perhaps the best, but its also the most expensive one. There are a few Spanish immersion schools in OKC and one in Edmond. The all offer a variety of programs that are based on Spanish immersion activities such as arts and crafts and story time. This is great because not only will your littles be exposed to someone other than you who also speaks Spanish, but they get to do it by playing with other kids and what other better way to learn than through play.
Kids are like little sponges soaking up the world around them. If you speak Spanish to them regularly, they will at least understand it quite well. Learning Spanish can also be an activity in which the whole family can participate. For example, my husband downloaded the Duo-Lingo app and began doing ten minutes a day. Now his Spanish vocabulary is growing, and he actively tries to use it whenever he is playing with our little one. When it comes to language learning everything counts, whether its television, flash cards, conversation, or Spanish immersion school. What is important is consistency---this is also the hardest aspect, but just keep at it and before you know it your OKC little is going to be saying so many words in Spanish. Buena Suerte!