Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Adults who want to learn Spanish

Yesterday, I had a really good conversation with one of my readers. She was frustrated because she didn't feel comfortable teaching her children Spanish when she didn't have any formal background in the language.

What do you do? Sometimes it's hard for me to understand this because I've been studying Spanish off and on for over 20 years. After talking to her though, I now have an even deeper respect for parents who are teaching their children a foreign language.

Well, in order to teach the language, it would be helpful learn it. Makes sense, eh? But how? Luckily today's parents have an amazing resource at their fingertips - the Internet. Also, don't forget your local library (books, dvds, cds, computers, digital media, etc.).

Let's begin! (By the way, all of these are free. I like free, don't you?)

First of all, I would recommend visiting the Spanish Language page on About.com. The guide, Gerald Erichsen, has put together a series of lessons for beginners. You'll start off with the alphabet which is very important. Once you learn the sounds of the Spanish alphabet, you'll be able to pronounce any Spanish word you see. I strongly recommend doing this first. You might be tempted to jump ahead, but don't. So, go through all of his lessons a little at a time. Set aside perhaps 15 to 30 minutes a day to do this.

Now, let's go back in time to when you were in elementary school. Remember when you learned how to read? Some may recall the Dick and Jane books. "See Jane run. See Dick run. See Jane and Dick run." Yeah, well, there you go. You have to go back to the beginning in Spanish as well. Go visit your local library. They may have a Spanish language section. Browse the books and look for the easy ones - 5-7 words to a page and pictures. Think about some of the easy books you have read to your children and find their Spanish equivalent. If they don't have any, try your library's inter-library loan service. For some super-simple books, visit this site. She has free printable books in Spanish (scroll about halfway down).

By this point, you might be getting a little bored. No pain, no gain. *grin*

Okay, another thing you can do is listen to the newbie lessons on SpanishPod.com which are actually pretty fun. I have mentioned them before here. I highly recommend that you subscribe to them through iTunes, so that you can see the transcripts (right-click on the podcast, click on get info, then click on the lyrics tab and wa-lah, there it is). If you want, you could copy and paste the transcript in a document and read while you listen. Also, to work on your pronunciation, read the transcript aloud. If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email (link on profile page). There have been some changes with SpanishPod.

Are you ready to watch something in Spanish? How about Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish? I wrote about it here. Don't worry if you don't understand every word. Relax and just enjoy it. Before you know it, you'll start to understand more and more each time.

Well, I think that is enough for now. Don't feel overwhelmed. First step - the Spanish alphabet. ¡Buena suerte!


Josh said...

These are all great suggestions. I have always thought that learning the Spanish alphabet and the sounds that each letter makes is the best starting place. Pronunciation in Spanish is much easier than English because there are far fewer exceptions to how each letter sounds. Once you learn the sounds of the letters you can basically read anything that is written in Spanish.

The best practice you can get is try to speak the language. If you know someone who is a Spanish-speaker, ask them to humor you and let you try to speak Spanish to them. When I was learning Spanish for the first time it was in a 100% immersion setting. I know this isn't practical for most people, but I really think that listening to others speak the language and making an effort to respond is the best way to learn the language.

I also agree with Karen that SpanishPod is a great place to start and fun to listen to.

Karen said...

I agree - using the language is essential. I'll be writing about that soon. ;)

Keen said...

I just found your blog and loved this post. I'm teaching my kids Spanish but I grew up speaking it. I greatly admire and respect parents who don't speak a foreign language who are trying to make sure their children learn one. Thanks for the resources--other parents sometimes ask me about teaching their children Spanish and this list will come in handy.

I had to laugh because I have a degree in interpretation and the very first thing we interpreted in class my first year was "Little Red Riding Hood." It's so true, you need to start with things you're familiar with.

Jessica said...

Hi Karen,

Your reader’s frustration is at the heart of why I started up my blog. My husband and I are monolingual, but we’ve managed to have success in teaching and learning Spanish with our children. We have a ways to go with fluency, but I’m happy with the tremendous Spanish foundation they are getting. I, too, agree that if you want your children to learn another language, it’s helpful to spend time learning the language yourself.

At the same time, there is plenty that your reader can do to expose her children to the language and interact with them as well. She doesn’t have to be a perfect Spanish linguist in order to sing songs, play games and do other fun activities in Spanish with her children.

If you don’t mind, I think your readers might find my latest post on this very subject helpful. www.spanish-lesson-plans-for-children.

¡Hasta luego!

Karen said...

Hi Jessica,

I agree that they don't have to be a perfect linguist, but at the same time I think parents should make an effort to learn how to pronounce the words correctly.

It would be wise to take the time to learn proper pronunciation and model native speakers through podcasts, family friends and so on. Then they will have the confidence to do more with their kids.

Thanks for stopping by! :)

Karen said...

Keen - just popped by your blog and visited for a while. Thanks so much for leaving a comment. :)

Maribel Suardy said...

Karen, your blog is awesome! What a great place for Spanish learning resources :) I'm a native Spanish speaker raising my almost 2 and 3 year old boys bilingual. I too have great respect and appreciation for monolingual parents taking on such a noble task of giving their children the gift of languages. I also agree that the alphabet is smart starting point to learn the language yourself, but if you want to go ahead and put practical Spanish to use with your children start by using simple commands. As a parent of a toddler and a preschooler, a lot of what I speak to my boys during the day is in the form of a command: sientate (sit down), esperame (wait for me), cuidado (be careful), ven aqui (come here), camina (walk)... well you get the picture :) I like to think of language as a puzzle, you start with one piece and build upon it, and slowly but surely you'll get to see a clearer picture.

Maribel Suardy
"We are Little Amigos" playgroup

Karen said...

Hi Maribel,

Thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, I agree that parents can start using Spanish right away like you suggested. I hope to cover more of that using the Pocoyo videos along with some others I have found. :)

Anonymous said...

I think that all parents should try and learn some Spanish so that they can help their children. Personally I haven't used Spanish since high school but it is becoming so important to learn another language I took it on myselt to learn. I'm currently using http://www.quiz-buddy.com/Spanish_Phrases_with_Audio.html
to teach my self on my own pace and it is great for the kids too.