Fun With Spanish

We are attempting once again to incorporate foreign language studies into our homeschool. Originally we made Spanish one of our focus subjects for the first semester of first grade, but that didn't work out so well. Prior to that we made a valiant but mostly failed attempt to learn Italian (because of that whole living in Italy thing) but we didn't get very far there, either. Why try again?

I think that learning another language other than your own tongue has many advantages. Not just the obvious of being able to use it when traveling or adding it to your repertoire of skills, but it also makes you use your brain in different ways, helps with acquisition of your native language, and it's just plain fun.

Full disclosure: I don't speak any language other than English fluently. Oh, I studied Spanish in high school, although I'm not sure the experience of conjugating obscure verbs back in the late 80s really counts. And as far as Italian, even after living there for two years I remember almost nothing . . . counting, a few songs, some random vocabulary
Meeting Goofy in Barcelona, June 2011
What makes me think I can do this? Two things.

First, the array of materials, supplements, recordings, books, DVDs, CDs, games, workbooks, flash cards, classes, videos, etc. available is basically unlimited. I Googled "teaching Spanish to kids" and with nearly 26 million hits I'm sure that at least half a dozen or so will be useful.

Second, my objective is not to turn them into fluent speakers, readers, and writers. My goal is to encourage them to want to learn more. Ultimately, this would mean an outside class with someone way more proficient than me. Whether that's next year, or when they're teenagers, or if they pursue it as adults, all I want to do now is plant the seed. 

So, what kinds of things do we do? Following is a list of resources we use around here.

1. Music in the car. We checked out a CD of Spanish songs (with some dialogue interspersed) from the library, and we listen while we drive. Right now we're using Teach Me Everyday Spanish volume 2 by Judy Mahoney. Sometimes they dance around the house to the songs, too.

2. Picture dictionary. Another library find that shows everyday words/phrases (the written word and a drawing) grouped by subject.

3. Phrase book. Good for looking up a single topic, such as words you might use at a restaurant, or signs you may see at the airport. I like this Berlitz one.

5. Dictionary. We have a simple pocket version we use occasionally when we are stumped on a particular word usage.

6. Printouts of common vocabulary. I honestly cannot remember where I found these, but I downloaded and printed a list of numbers, days of the week, animals, seasons, etc. and put them on the wall next to the calendar.

7. More printouts of common vocabulary. These I created on my own and placed strategically around the house. So, on the back door is a list of Spanish words for things like yard, sandbox, squirrel, tree, and birds. On their bedroom door is a list including bed, books, sleep, pillow, etc. I try to add some full sentences here as well, not just random words, so we can begin to learn how to use those words to form complete thoughts. We don't worry a lot about using all possible verb tenses; that's a bit too much right now.

Hanging with Donald in Mexico (well, the EPCOT version), March 2013
8. Subtitles and language tracks. Many (but not all) of the DVDs we regularly view have a Spanish language track and/or the ability to put on Spanish subtitles. Since we already tend to watch most TV/movies with the subtitles turned on (it's an Agent thing) this fits in perfectly.

(Side note: We found that at first it's easiest to keep the audio in English and use Spanish subtitles rather than the other way around. Part of this is because as beginners the spoken dialogue just moves too fast for us to keep up. Another reason is that written captioning rarely corresponds exactly to what is being said. We find it more useful, at least for now, to be hearing the speech in English, but seeing what some of the key words/phrases translate to. When we do move on to attempting Spanish audio, we will likely begin with very simple videos we've seen over and over that use a lot of repeated words. (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, anyone?) Although I should add here that the Agents will also often request to watch something in a random language for no apparent reason whatsoever. They still seem to enjoy it even if they can't understand it. We did this a lot while living in Europe. We've seen many of the Disney shows/movies in Italian, Spanish, French, German, and others in various hotel rooms while traveling.)

9. Post-it notes. It's not unusual to find these all around our house. A quick and easy way to build vocabulary. You know, when Agent A isn't collecting them and putting them in a pile.

10. Books. Our library has a collection of children's books in Spanish. We also have several stories around the house that we pulled out of Cheerio boxes that include both an English and a Spanish version.


  1. I love your fun - no pressure ways to incorporate Spanish into your day. My husband's family speaks Spanish but my daughter just doesn't seem interested. She does enjoy watching her favorite movies in Spanish from time to time - I will probably incorporate more of you ideas.

    I found you blog on the Hip Homeschool Hop.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Angela. That's wonderful that you have family that can introduce another language to your daughter . . . if not now, then in the future.