Kids Can Learn Spanish
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Kids Can Learn Spanish! Spanish for Children
I just got a call from my two year old granddaughter.
She wanted to sing "Los Pollitos" to me.
You can find this children's classic in most of the
collections of songs that we are recommending.
It is perfect for hand gestures. These gestures are
ideal for language learning because they imprint the
sense of the words as the child recites.
The text is: (translation follows)
Los pollitos dicen pío, pío, pío
cuando tienen hambre,
y cuando tienen frío.
(the kids make gesture of shivering)
La gallina busca el maíz y el trigo;
Le da su comida,
Y le presta abrigo
(the kids make the gesture of Mom hugging her kids.)
Pío, pío, pío
(the kids should ham it up, making a little chick
The little chicks say peep, peep, peep
when they are hungry
and when they are cold.
The chicken looks for corn and wheat;
she feeds them,
and she keeps them warmn
There are many reasons for wanting your children
to learn Spanish. We want to help you find resources
that will help you with Spanish for Kids.
Some parents are interested in preparing their children
for life in today's world where it is important
to know more than one language. This is even more
important in our hemisphere where it becomes increasingly
valuable to know Spanish.
Other people think of the intellectual stimulation
that learning a language provides. They think
that they can give their children a an additional
intellectual challenge in a painless way. Researcher
in London, England have determined that learning a
second language boosts brain power which remains throughout
Learning a language can be a source of pride and
self esteem for the child who is fortunate enough
to be exposed to learning outside of the classroom.
There are some parents who are concerned that their
children grow up respecting the different heritages
that surround them. Concerned that the nativist tradition
of United States history is always present, many parents,
not of a Spanish Speaking background, choose to prepare
their children to accept and embrace the Hispanic
culture they live alongside of.
Their reason to encourage their children to speak
Spanish is based in part on the history of a previous
group of Latin immigrants to the United States, the
"Some social critics were aware of the consequences
of sudden assimilation. Mary McDowell, a social worker,
wrote en 1904:
'The contempt for the experiences and languages of
their parents which foreign children sometimes exhibit...
is doubtless due in part to the overestimation which
the school places upon speaking English. This cutting
into his family loyalty takes away one of the most
conspicuous and valuable traits of the Italian child.'
She attributed the lawlessness of some of the immigrant
children to their disrespect for their parents and
therefore for all authority."
(La Storia: Five Centuries of the Italian American
Experience, Mangione and Morreale, p. 222)
Reflection on this same national history, and often
more importantly personal experience, moves many Hispanic
parents to keep their language alive in their children.
They want to preserve their heritage for their children
by giving them its most evocative and powerful manifestation,
the language of their forebears.
Whatever your reason for wanting your children to
learn Spanish, this site will provide resources to
help you. You will find suggestions and experiences
of others who share your interest; you will find songs
and stories in Spanish that will enthuse your children
with their learning task. A list of links to related
sites will lead you to other resources. And you will
find that the books you need for yourself and your
children have been located and placed at your disposition.
¡Buena Suerte y adelante con su cometido!
Do the Parents Know Spanish?
Although most of us agree that it is a good thing
for our kids to speak Spanish, most kids in the US
whose parents were born in Latin American countries
do not speak Spanish well.
Even if both parents speak Spanish at home, quite
often the kids answer their parents in English. Look
around at your Latin friends and relatives and you
will see that most give up on teaching their kids
Spanish. Chicano and Puerto Rican families seem to
have a little better luck than Latinos from other
countries with keeping Spanish alive in their barrios
but even their younger generation is losing fluency
However, parents who want their children to speak
Spanish can go against the current and set the stage
for their children to grow up speaking Spanish. It
is not easy. Most families fail in their resolve but
it CAN be done. Take a look at our bilingual study.
How to Get Your Children to Speak Your Language/¿Cómo
Lograr que Sus Hijos Hablen Su Idioma? You can
find it in http://www.leerespoder.com/comoeng.htm.
This report will give some hints on how to improve
But it is most important for you to get your kids
reading Spanish BEFORE they learn to read in English.
Don't be afraid that it will hurt their English. Unless
they are living in a closed Spanish Speaking Barrio,
their English will be perfect. They will absorb it
on the playground and in the school. Your job is to
keep the Spanish up!
Take a look at the fuller argument presented below
for the importance of your kids learning to read FIRST
Finally, another idea for native speakers of Spanish:
You may want to review (or study it for the first
time) your Spanish. I found one reference for you.
Sorry it is expensive; that's because it is used as
a textbook. But that will make it easy to use and
will surely be complete. Take a look at Nuevos Mundos,
Spanish for Native Speakers 2nd Edition, Workbook
: Curso de espanol para estudiantes bilingues"
Whether or not the parents know Spanish will determine
their strategy for exposing their children to the
language. Obviously, parents who do not know the language
well will not have native pronunciation.
If their children learn to read Spanish, they may
not have the proper pronunciation. This is a tough
issue. Some might say that pronunciation is not important
for children. However, why not try to expose them
to the correct values of the Spanish sounds. Parents
should work on their own pronunciation to model as
correctly as possible for their kids.
Nevertheless, the value of the parents' involvement
in reading and singing in Spanish with their children
more than outweighs the disadvantage of the child
hearing their poor pronunciation. Much of the damage
can be remedied by having the child listen to as much
Spanish spoken by native speakers as possible.
So, in general terms parents can fall into one of
1. those who know NO Spanish;
2. those who know enough to read, even poorly;
3. and those who can model correct pronunciation for
their children. All these parents should make sure
their children HEAR a lot of good Spanish but obviously
those parents who know no Spanish will be more dependent
on recordings for their children to listen to. Try
to find some good audio resources. Besides the tapes
and CDs you might buy or take out of the library don't
forget the radio and TV. All parents should expose
their children to ask much passive listening of Spanish
that they can. In most places there are Spanish language
radio stations. TV programs from the Univision network
are very widespread.
All of the above boils down to three tactics that
are valid for all kinds of parents and all kinds of
kids of all ages and level of Spanish.........
1. Passive Listening: Everyone should keep
the Spanish radio on as much as possible. Keep the
radio or TV on while the childis doing other things.
It has to be the sea of sound that they swim in while
they are beginning their study of Spanish. The child
doesn't have to concentrate on it; they will not be
listening to try to understand. After a while they
won't even hear the radio but it will be affecting
them. Little by little they will begin to anticipate
the rhythm of the language, even before they understand
they words. They will also begin to recognize certain
2. Pattern Response Drills: Those parents who
know some Spanish can try to run through all the permutations
of the new expressions that the child learns. For
example, suppose your child just learned to say. "Pedro
tiene cuatro años" rather than translating
from the English incorrectly, "Pedro es cuatro".
Now to make this new element of the language stick,
you should go on substituting different ages and the
names of different people. The child will soon be
able to say comfortably, "María tiene
cuatro años." "Juan tiene ocho años."
"Yo tengo tres años." "¿Cuántos
años tienes tú?" There are many
examples of these drills in most language courses
but the parent can generate them herself.
3. Encouragement: Don't correct their Spanish
when they speak. Don't interrupt the flow of their
conversation. Don't make their speaking Spanish to
be another homework assignment. It should be something
special, even something "secret" in your
family. Kids like the mystery and intrigue of having
something special of their own. Their speaking Spanish
should be a joyful, non-threatening experience. If
they make mistakes in their grammar, correct their
errors by using the same expression correctly a few
minutes after. Don't come right back at them with
the correct form or they will begin to feel conscious
of their expression and choke off their freedom of
The Alphabet: If your child is coming up on
you have a wonderful opportunity to teach him or her
how to read in Spanish BEFORE they learn the alphabet
in English! Why? I will be brief, hoping that you
will catch the direction of my thought (and my practice,
with both my children and my grandson!)
Spanish is completely regular. They can learn the
vowels in one sitting.This is how Spanish Speaking
kids learn: from "abecedarios", the same
as English Speaking children used to learn from primers.
If your child learns to read (even if only simple
words) Spanish first, in effect you are giving them
great head start.
You can start the child reading the simple words like
Mami, comida, mesa, Papi, muñeca, carro, etc.
Basically you are giving them phonics without having
to buy any expensive program.
You can do them no harm because, they will have a
basis of the sounds that DO hold up
for English; they will have achieved the satisfaction
and boost to their confidence by your enthusisastic
affirmation of the achievement when they read "Mami
y Papi" and other simple phrases.
As they progress in English they will still have to
deal with the irregularities of this language. However,
they will have learned the consonants by applying
them to completely foolproof regular vowels.
I said I would be brief. I am very convinced of the
value of this method. I have no scientific proof,
just intuition and my own experience. To work, you
have to teach the child to read the alphabet in Spanish
BEFORE they begin to learn in English. If they are
already learning in English, it will confuse them.
But if you get there FIRST, you will do them a great
favor! to see a bunch of alphabet resources for you
to choose from.
Toys and Games: Of lesser importance but still
a possible beakthrough for certain children could
be the use of toys and games (board games and others)
as a way to sneak in some fun and variety into the
learning process. See if Spanish Educational Toys
would be useful for your child.
Computer Programs for kids If you or your child
is computer savvy or if you want to combine math or
science with Spanish you may want to check out the
Educational Software for Children in Spanish: Reader
Rabbit, Disney, Jump Start and many more...
Some First Recitations
A long time, universal, traditional favorite is "Pinpón"
Pinpón es un muñeco,
muy guapo y de cartón
(the kids smile for "muy guapo",
and act stiff for "de cartón")
se lava la carita
(the kids make the gesture of washing their face)
con agua y con jabón.
Pinpón dame la mano,
(the kids reach out their hand)
que quiero ser tu amigo
(the kids make the gesture of shaking hands)
¡Pinpón, Pinpón, Pinpón!
Pinpón is a doll,
a handsome cardboard doll.
He washes his face
with soap and water.
Pinpón give me your hand,
I want to be your friend.
Pinpón, Pinpón, Pinpón!
Another favorite of our kids was "La Mar Estaba
Kids like this one because it is easy to follow. The
repetition helps them learn the relation between noun
and adjective as well as the vowels in Spanish.
The same verse is repeated by using all of the vowels
in turn. It begins by the parent singing, "La
mar estaba serena; serena estaba la mar". (The
sea was calm; calm was the sea.) Then either the parent
or one of several children taking turns shouts out,
"¡con A!", meaning, "Let's sing
it with all "a" sounds"! And you sing,
"La mar astaba sarana; sarana astaba la mar."
"¡con e"! "Le mer estebe serene;
serene estebe le mer".
"¡con i"! "Li mir istibi sirini;
sirini istibi li mir".
"¡con o"! "Lo mor ostobo sorono;
sorono ostobo lo mor".
"¡con u"! "Lu mur ustubu surunu;
surunu estubu lu mur.
You'll find the kids really like this one.
English (sic!) As A Second Language
It might be interesting to do some "reverse engineering"
and look at the world of those Spanish Speakers who
want to learn English. Check out http:www.leerespoder.com
Reading in Spanish for the Parents
If you want to keep up your Spanish. Try to keep reading
books in Spanish on a wide range of topics, la familia,
la salud, los negocios, el niño, el adolescente,
etc. A good source is http://www.bookslibros.com/LibrosEnEspanol.php
Good Luck! Your Kids will thank you!