I Don’t Want a Spanglish Family
If you speak in English and interject colorful Spanish phrases, and easy Spanish words, you’ve combined English and Spanish. That combo is called Spanglish. Some people think it’s delightful, but others think it is bastardizing both languages and a child from an English speaking country should be able to speak pure English.
My Kids Don’t Understand
If you use Spanish-only, your kids look confused and want you to translate everything, it makes you want to give up and just use English.
Try doing activities in which the children do not really need to understand what you say. Provide a running commentary during an activity the children are already accustomed to doing. Play UNO. Play memory. Bat balloons up in the air. Let your preschoolers pretend to be babies or your pets. Keep talking about what you are doing. “Oh, that is a red 3. It’s your turn. A blue 3. This game is fun.” “Look at my little doggies! They want to eat. Here is your dog food.” Repeat the same phrases again and again. The children will pick-up the language.
My Kids Don’t Like It
It is common for children to reject their non majority language. Lecturing them about brain development, heritage, and how it will come in handy when they’re adults doesn’t bear much fruit.
Do not show any disappointment or frustration when your children don’t understand the language. Don’t quiz them on words they don’t know. Do not force them to speak. Remember the saying: You get more bees from honey than from vinegar.
Steven Krashen (the linguist this blog is named after) teaches that people can’t learn language a optimally unless they feel comfortable. If you must force your children to do their chores and learn their times tables, so be it. Don’t force language learning.
Play with your kids in Spanish. Give your kids extra positive attention whenever you speak Spanish. Speak Spanish when you are in a good mood. Do not try to teach Spanish when you are in a rush and cranky. If you do this right, your kids will think they are in for some fun every time you start speaking Spanish. They will blurt out Spanish phrases during games without even thinking about it first. They’ll actually be disappointed when Spanish Time is over.
I Don’t Know Spanish Well Enough
This is a major concern for parents who learned Spanish as a second language. There are free lists of Spanish phrases online. There are phrase programs for sale . It feels very awkward and unnatural to say phrases to your children that you learned from a book. You can learn phrases better, by watching YouTube videos repeatedly. The video below has lots of phrases related to getting up and getting ready for school. Once they really ‘get in your head’ you’ll be ready to use them with your kids. You might pretend a teddy bear is getting ready for school, like Daniel Tiger.
The weaker your Spanish skills are, the more you will need to prepare for teaching your children and the more simple you will have to keep your games. Try searching on YouTube for ‘como jugar’ and the name of the game you want to play, like “como jugar UNO,” “como jugar Twister,” and listen to a native speakers say the words you will need to say when you play with your children. If you aren’t ready to play with your children in Spanish yet, try Picture Talks from Spanish Playground. They are excellent, don’t require a lot of time, and they are free:
It IS tiring to play with your kids. Try following up your Spanish playtime with a Spanish read aloud or Spanish TV show. Dancing to music with Spanish lyrics and freezing every time the music is off is a fun game to fill out Spanish Time. You can watch them dance and control the music.