Learning a language is like anything worthwhile: fun to dream about, hard to make happen! If you want to learn to speak Spanish as a family with long-term results, take time to think through your plan. Working through each of the following steps will help ensure that your language journey is a marathon, not a sprint.
There are a million reasons not to try. Stay laser-focused on the incredible benefits of speaking Spanish, and jump in with both feet. (Are you not a native speaker, but want to teach your kids Spanish anyway? You can do it! Are you on a tight budget? It’s can still be done! Don’t have much time? Start small.)
Get started with these 5 steps to learn to speak Spanish as a family, at home.
1. Set Family Goals
Learning a new language is a big goal. You might see articles describing 3 easy steps to bilingual kids or 3 months to fluency, but the reality is different. There’s a whole range of proficiency, and many kids who hear Spanish every day still struggle to speak.
That said, many learners can become quite fluent. It depends on what you invest to reach your goal. Is the goal bilingual children? Do you want to get around town on a trip to Spain? Are you looking for some exposure other languages as you raise world citizens?
How much you will learn to speak Spanish, and what your goals are determines what you’ll put into the following steps. Some families will hire a nanny, some will purchase a program, and some some will plan to practice with free online resources.
My best advice is to set a reasonable goal, and always remember that any amount of Spanish your family can get is amazing.
2. Learn to Speak Spanish with the Best Resources
Now that you know where you’re headed, you can think through what you need. One of the common hang-ups to for families who want to learn to speak Spanish is actually the sheer volume of resources out there.
It takes time to sort through them, but it’s an important step. If you aren’t organized, you’ll lose time looking for materials and trying to make decisions, and lose your momentum. Purchase, bookmark, and/or organize the materials you will need:
50 Bilingual books in Spanish and English for Kids
50 Bilingual English and Spanish Stories for Beginners
50 Authentic books in Spanish for Kids
Fables in Simple Spanish
Online Spanish Stories for Kids
Movies & Shows:
Apps & Websites:
20 Spanish Games and Apps for Kids
Preschool Spanish Lessons (songs, games, printables, and stories)
Free Online Spanish Resources for Kids
Free Online Spanish Resources for Teens and Adults
Curriculum to Purchase:
3. Create a Realistic Routine
It’s tempting to get excited and make a plan you can’t maintain. (Like suddenly deciding you will start going to the gym at 5am everyday!)
Start small. 10 minutes everyday, or twice a week for 30 minutes. Whatever is realistic for you. Set aside a basket or drawer for your materials, so everything is in one place and ready to go.
Think outside the box as well! Perhaps establish one night a week to be Spanish night, with games, movies, or recipes to learn to speak Spanish. Or if you have a crazy schedule, try for 3 20-minute chunks a week, at whatever times, and put stickers on a chart to keep your family on track. Some families thrive on strict routines, and others like to keep it more organic.
As you begin, the most important thing is quality exposure. Even before speaking and practice, language is acquired through input, and reading and listening are the main priorities. I advise not worrying very much about grammar, and use your scheduled times for communication-based activities. Focus on useful language, songs, and stories, over drills and exercises.
4. Work Spanish into Your Day
Once you have a routine of more structured Spanish time, brainstorm some creative ways to work Spanish into the day, naturally. For example:
- Play music in Spanish in the car. Have a CD or playlist is ready to go.
- When watching shows or movies, put on subtitles in Spanish for older kids, or audio for younger kids who won’t mind.
- Keep a list of key phrases for mealtimes at the table (please, thank you, more, water, etc.)
- Label parts of the house and furniture.
- Post clothing words in bedrooms, to refer to when getting dressed.
5. Find Real-Life Opportunities
To make Spanish a life-long journey, look for ways to use it in the real world. Think of what motivates your family.
Perhaps plan a summer abroad, attend a bilingual story-time at the library, or do a Skype exchange. Experience Hispanic culture through local festivals, media, or travel. Perhaps look for authentic restaurants and try out new foods. (Just be careful not assume that someone speaks Spanish because of a Latino appearance. Be respectful of people and culture as you explore!)
Speaking Spanish will make you more competitive in the workforce, do better in school, and often raise your earning potential. On a deeper level, it will change how you see the world and your neighbors, and even how your brain works.
Have fun learning together! With time and effort, families can learn to speak Spanish together!
Elisabeth is the teacher and parent behind Spanish Mama, where she writes about Spanglish living, Spanish resources, and teaching language. Elisabeth has taught PreK to high school over the past ten years, and currently lives in Peru with her husband and two children.