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  5. My daughter will not be learn…


My daughter will not be learning Spanish in school.

Where we live, Spanish is not taught in the school system until high school, and even then it's only for two years. I went to an elementary school for a while that required Spanish or French from 1st grade on, and I still remember everything that I learned in my short time there. As an adult trying to pick it back up, I am really struggling. So, I don't think that my daughter starting to learn now is optional.

My problem is that Duolingo is too advanced for a child just learning how to read, so I'm trying to find other ways. I've tried cartoons like El Perro y el Gato and flash cards, no dice. Do you have any experience with teaching your own children a language that you're still learning yourself?

July 19, 2015



If your child is young-elementary-school age, then immersion is probably the best way for her to learn. It's quite a different process inside the brain from adolescent/adult second language acquisition. Kids at that age do very well, for instance, being plunked into schools where everything is simply done in another language. Almost immediately, the brain adapts to having a 'home language' and a 'school language'. Obviously, that's an option you don't have. But if you can find an after-school or summer-camp kind of activity that simply happens in Spanish, the odds are she will adapt to it and absorb the language very quickly.

(This is with the assumption that the adults/teachers know that she's coming in without any Spanish, and are willing and able to draw her in, not by speaking English, but by keeping things simple to start with, with a lot of nonverbal help.)

I think an environment where she was surrounded by people speaking Spanish would be best, but if that isn't possible, I wonder if you could set aside some activity she likes as one that only happens in Spanish. If she can watch cartoons, for instance, but they're always Spanish cartoons. Or play videogames, but only with the language set to Spanish. Something like that?

Good luck! I think it's great that you're getting her started at this age.


As an elementary educator, I agree with this comment. Also, take the kindergarten route: sing songs, label things around the house, sprinkle in Spanish in your English conversation (refer to things and actions by their Spanish words), and read books in Spanish (the library will have some good ones with English and Spanish side-by-side). On that note, stop by your library! They will probably have some great resources, and may even have a storytime for Spanish-speakers.

Edit: And this website might be a fun way for both of you to learn more vocab. Some of the games are text-heavy but some could be done by non-readers. https://babadum.com/


Library storytime for Spanish speakers is an especially good idea since she would also meet other children there who speak Spanish. :D


It would be great if we had that here. Maybe I'll suggest it to our library.


Totally! Have you been to one? I worry it might be overwhelming and alienating if she doesn't have enough proficiency. But that'd be a good question for the librarian in charge of the storytime program.


I haven't myself, but I know they're group activities. ;)

You're right, asking the librarian ahead of time about how those are for children whose Spanish is a couple of years behind the Spanish of their peers raised by fluent Spanish speakers is a great idea!


In other words, always ask your librarian! They are usually happy to help and full of knowledge.


Have you tried Dora the Explorer or Muzzi? Or I think there's a lot of Tots' TV on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_q4jYMgE9I


there are many cartoons in spanish on youtube I've been watching (some with spanish subtitles) she may enjoy, also a good website with spanish ebooks for children http://www.childrensbooksforever.com/

One of the greatest things you can do for your daughter is to read with her. I don't have children but watching my nieces and nephew learning with their mother by reading has been quite amazing. They love spanish children songs- you can find some here http://www.123teachme.com/learn_spanish/children_songs_lyrics

I don't know how old your daughter is buy if she is interested in any particular subject, I think it's a good idea to look it up in Spanish and encourage her to learn by looking at the pictures/reading and translating. I think as long as you make learning into a fun game, kids gravitate to it so naturally.

also check out the bbc website for learning languages, I think they have an entire language section for kids.

Good luck :)


She is 5. Right now she is interested in Curious George and bugs. Lol. I should start reading to her more in Spanish tho. I had stopped because her attention span is roughly 5 seconds.


Sometimes games are something that may keep her attention, too- http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge/games/spanish.html

My nephew for the longest time was into sharks- he can name all of the different species and could "read about them" for hours. Have him pay sustained attention for 5 minutes- forget about it- they are the same age. I often wish I had such a wide access to information as a kid- there are so many fun ways to learn these days.

I found those videos, not in spanish but I hope your daughter can enjoy :)



You can find some of the PBS Kids shows in Spanish on YouTube. I know that they have Arthur episodes available in Spanish. Since the shows are pretty visual, you can usually get some of the humor without being fluent. Also, if it's a show she's seen in English, she might remember some of the plots.


I liked the Spanish story about the boy who played the piano. The subtitles are in Spanish for those who want to read along. I definitely understood the part about feeling nervous and also about feeling and playing the music with all one's heart. It's not too fast either. Thanks for sharing this link with us.


I have a great book to recommend for your daughter! Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever/El mejor libro de palabras de Richard Scarry. I had this book in English as a small child and LOVED it. There are bears brushing their teeth, mama rabbits cooking, a pig train conductor, and so on. The words are in both English and Spanish, so it can help her learn to read in both languages.

I'm not sure where you are, but here are a few links for various countries:




Now is the best time for her to start learning. There is also word/letter/number games that I used to play when I was little. Teach her the Spanish alphabet a b c ch de e....l...ll... n ñ ... r rr...z. Count up to 10 at first, then 20, then 30, 40, 50... Point at things and say the word... ojos, nariz, boca, and so on. After she gets more comfortable in the language, you can say "¿Qué es esto? Esto es un .... " Eventually, she will hopefully start asking you ¿Qué es esto? and quiz you on your Spanish.


Thanks. A little off topic, but would you include ch, ll, and rr in the alphabet? I know that they are no longer "official" letters. They had just been dropped when I was a child and were still being taught in school.


Interesting, I didn't know that, but I learned the alphabet that way before starting school and that was a very long time ago. Since I know it with ch, ll, and so on, I probably would teach it with those included unless I had a child that was going to be tested on the Spanish alphabet in school. For a non-native speaker, it helps to know those sounds and being able to say them even if they are not considered official letters. Even if not included in the alphabet, it would be good to learn them anyway.


What does your child do everyday? Use supplemental material designed for children and concentrate on these areas. My mother loves to play dominoes. The parent can keep a pen and paper and keep score while the child announces the numbers of the dominoes out loud. (This way one gets past six.) One can buy a Domino game with 10 dots. There are other games and activities which probably can be ordered on line even if they are not available locally. Originally, I was thinking about setting the table because this is one of the first chores preschoolers learn at day care centers with plastic or paper goods. Actually, I did learn to play Dominoes with my Grandparents and aunts and uncles in Puerto Rico as a very young child even though they didn't speak English to me. I'm not sure if they knew any English or how much they understood. I do know that they wanted us to learn Spanish while we were visiting them.


When I read "no dice" in your post, I thought it was Spanish at first. :)


Still works, in a way. :D


Lol! I actually thought about that as I typed it :p


I certainly wouldn't wait until high school. But I don't have any videos to suggest. What I would suggest if possible is doing the lessons with your daughter. There have been 3-6 y/os using the app. Everyone is at their own stage with learning, of course. I was a late reader myself. But, I loved sitting down and having my parent's read to me and then finally being able to read back to them. :)


Stuff like Duolingo is good for an adult picking up a second language. :D It's pitiful for a small child becoming a native speaker of a language. :(

As beadspitter points out, we learn our native languages from interacting directly with other people, not from textbooks and software.


I don't think Duolingo is enough to make someone of ANY age a "native speaker" - verbal fluency isn't going to come from a website, but from actually conversing in the language. That said, both my 10-year-old and 7-year-old are learning Spanish here, along with me - they're just starting and I'm about halfway through the tree. Duolingo has been very good for getting them interested (they enjoy doing their lessons and will do extra ones for fun), giving them the basics, and building a basic vocabulary.

SusanS1, I second the suggestion to do lessons on here with her - you can do the typing and the reading to her. Make a game of earning XPs and lingots, and you might help sustain some interest. I'd also speak as much Spanish around her as you can; curiosity might be a strong motivator for her to figure out what mom is saying. :-)


I grew up with a magazine called Highlights - they created a bilingual version that is a good starting point.


Another tool to add to your quiver: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCE1049BCC2C78B97

Bookbox has children's stories in various languages. You read along and look at the pictures, just like a kid sitting on their parent's lap having a book read to them. The link is to the Spanish stories. I think there are 19 of them.


Oh! Also search YouTube for "Plaza Sésamo" or you can watch it on Univision, Canal 5, or UniMás (according to Wikipedia). They have a web page as well, with games, videos, activities, and info for adults.

PocoYo is a good one, too. It's aimed at a younger crowd than Sesame Street.


Thanks. I'm going to look at this link. also. It would help me to read children's books in Spanish and French. I'm just a beginner too.


Our library has bilingual books for kids. Even bilingual board books meant for toddlers with one or two words per page. If she is just learning English, having both languages on the page might help. If your branch does not have them, you can request an interlibrary loan of such books.

( I always find I have cheated and read mostly the english words by the time I reach the end. I do better with Spanish only kids books. )


I didn't read through all the comments here, but I wanted to add that if you want your daughter to speak Spanish, research suggests that she needs a real person to interact with in Spanish (even you! as a non-native speaker). So setting her down in front of a TV with Spanish audio or playing an audiobook won't do the trick alone (although I'm sure it's definitely a good supplement to interacting with people).


Out of curiosity, have you looked into Spanish language learning informal groups? They are groups for Spanish speakers wanting to learn English/English speakers wanting to learn Spanish and physically meet someplace to practice speaking. Is there one that meets in your area that is child friendly?


Actually, yes. When she was a toddler I joined a meetup playdate group. We only went to one meeting tho, because unfortunately the other moms didn't really seem to like us. That was years ago tho, maybe I'll see if there's a new group around yet.


I am sorry to hear that. Finding a group where you feel you fit in is not always easy. I wish you and your daughter lots of luck.


I looked, there are no meetup groups around here. :( Even tho I'm in Florida, the Hispanic population in this town is tiny.


There are many Hispanic residents in the city and suburbs of Miami, Florida, and perhaps southern Florida.

Although I didn't speak Spanish when I lived in Daytona Beach, I did visit the old Spanish Fort, El Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine, Florida with my husband. Next to the fort, there are small shops and restaurants. If I'm correct, it's the oldest fort on the US mainland. You can learn about Spanish history.


I'm in Florida too with the same kind of situation. The meet up groups around me are 40 or so minutes away.


Maybe you can find something like Disney language learning programmes.

I remember it from my childhood.

Those Disney language videos were basically either the whole disney movie split up into sections where you have to stop the video as a parent after you get the instructions or those are little cartoons that are no longer than 15 minutes. There is a narrator who asks you questions and repeats things etc. It is kind of a guided video especially created for children. And no worries, the narrator also tells you the correct answer, so if you as a parent have no clue yourself, you will get the answer :D I was really little by that time something about 5-7 years old and it was really nice especially for listening comprehension. I refused mostly to repeat or answer the questions (because of being way too stubborn, and not because I did not understand it lol :P), but it surely was a good start !

I can imagine well that such a thing exists also for Spanish.


All the Disney DVDs come with multiple language soundtracks, so you can always just play them in different languages and try to learn the alternative song words. Half the kids have the entire screenplay memorised so they'll probably be able to follow and absorb quite a lot.


I second that. Some of the older Disney videos do not have a Spanish track (just French), but the newer ones are coming out with Spanish audio. I know Frozen does. If you watch Frozen in Spanish, it's kind of cool, they even change the sign on Oaken's sauna to Spanish.


They're very random, actually. I've just realised that if the box is accurate, my copy of Frozen only plays in English or Italian. The Jungle book is English, Dutch, Hindi or French and The Sword in the Stone has Swedish, Finnish and Icelandic and Robin Hood Spanish and Arabic.


That would be disappointing (well, if you're looking for Spanish, at least). If you buy the video on Amazon, it tells you what audio tracks are available.


Great suggestion. Disney has been doing a great job with releasing their videos in multiple languages recently - even translating the songs.


You can teach her yourself, by talking to her, for example, if you want to explain what a table is, you'll tell your daughter that a table is an object where you put stuff and, of course, you'll show her a table, then you'll also tell her that this is also called "mesa", and along with the tables normally there are chairs, and you'll tell her that they are also called "sillas".

There's no need to tell her that she's learning another language, let her assimilate the words first (don't worry with grammar for now, just teach nouns), when she grow up, she'll understand that these other words are Spanish words and are already rooted in her memory.

(I saw an answer like this once, I found it great and I'm trying to say the same thing, Maybe I said something wrong, not sure. Btw if I made some grammar mistake please correct me).

Good luck!


Thanks for all of the advice :)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZgNdn5OnfU te recomiendo este video. No el curso que venden si no más bien el método. La idea es aprender de la misma forma en que todos aprendemos un idioma, toma tiempo, pero es la mejor forma... Espero te sirva.


visiting places for a long period of time like Florida, NYC, California, Texas etc with a high Latino/Hispanic population may help, just being surrounded by the culture may also help with your Spanish as well. Living in Florida it is literally a mini Puerto Rico or Columbia or Cuba.


Have you looked into "Learn Spanish Together" from Living Language? Unfortunately it seems to be only available in cassette/book format, but it is very inexpensive and looks interesting. You can find it on Amazon ($1.98 + shipping), and probably other places too. ¡Buena suerte!


If your child is anything like mine, she loves movies, particularly Disney. Have her watch her favorites in Spanish. This can be helpful with anything entertaining like cartoons, music, etc...


Someone already mentioned Muzzy. It was made by the BBC. Fun videos and good language pedagogy. Check your library.


I've heard watching "Sesame Street" in Spanish helps. My best friend who was in high school at the time, was out sick one day. She was taking Spanish as her foreign language requirement, and decided that day that she would try her Spanish skills out and see how much she could understand in Spanish when "Sesame Street" came on the Spanish channel. She says it helped a lot.


There's a lot of good suggestions in this post. I'll have to bookmark it so I can try all of these things :)


When we lived in western US we had the babysitter use only her Spanish with the kids, so from a very early age they learned to interact with her in Spanish - I think this is part of what gave their brains the flexibility to learn very quickly when we moved to Wales and they ended up in Welsh-medium schools. I think it is crucial that they learn a second language early on, and which language matters less than having a second language.


Hello, Here http://www.openculture.com/freelanguagelessons , you may find something that help you.

  1. On the first edition of the Sound of Music DVD, go to special features.
  2. In Special features, select languages.
  3. You have a choice of English, French, or Spanish on the copy for the United States editions.
    I understand from The Sound of Movies, that this musical has been translated into other languages as well.
  4. Select subtitles.
  5. Select Sing-A-Long. Then select a specific song. I selected Do-Re-Mi this morning. Many preschoolers have learned the musical syllables from this particular song.

There are other following anniversary editions with different special features. The Sound of Movies is a special feature on the very first edition. If you go to the chapter for The Sound of Music narrated by Shirley Jones, she does mention that this musical has been translated into many foreign languages with many different titles. On the documentary, this song is sung in German.

*I have other DVDs with musicals where the music is in English, or unfortunately, removed entirely in the foreign translation.

Other songs that have been translated in Spanish include "Sing A Song," "Frère Jacques, and also Walt Disney's "It's a Small World." The last song has been translated into many languages worldwide. I loved the boat ride at the World's Fair which is now at both Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida.

*i edited this even once again because I wanted to focus on songs which might be easy for a child to learn in in preschool or elementary school.

Learn Spanish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.