So your child is in preschool or about to start and you think it’s a great time for them to pick up a second language. You’re right! Research has shown that the best time to learn a second language is childhood. (You can learn it just as easily when you’re an adult, but it is just a bit easier for children since they have a lot of time on their hands.) Preschool Spanish is a great place to start.
If you’ve made the decision to introduce your preschooler to a second language, you must also be wondering where to start. Well, there are many relatively free activities you can do to supplement learning but they won’t make your kids fluent. On the other hand, there are paid opportunities that involve a live teacher that will ensure your child speaks Spanish, but only if they’re consistent enough (think, two to three hours a week for 10+ years).
Good analogy: if your child never touches a real piano and plays it for hundreds of hours, will they ever play like Mozart? That’s what fluency is: playing like Mozart – mastery. So if they never actually experience having conversations, listening to the language consistently, and interacting with it, then no, they will not speak Spanish.
Back to free (supplemental) activities for preschoolers to learn Spanish.
Watch Spanish TV Shows and Learn Songs
Wouldn’t it be great to leave your kids for an hour every day in front of a Spanish show and have them become fluent in no time? Unfortunately, this alone won’t give them any level of fluency, just maybe add a word or two to their vocabulary.
This is the same for songs. Even if you hear your child singing a Spanish song, it doesn’t mean they’re getting fluent, it just means they learned a song, but the words don’t have any meaning to them. We’re not saying the Spanish shows and songs shouldn’t be used, we’re simply saying they shouldn’t be used alone because they won’t make your kid bilingual.
Have you ever heard kids say the pledge of allegiance? It’s like a huge mumble of words and sounds connected together. They don’t actually know what they’re saying; they’re just repeating the sounds.
So songs and TV help with some vocabulary, maybe, but it definitely helps with sounds, listening and pronunciation (as long as you’re also working with a live teacher).
Teach Them Short Spanish Phrases
Teaching your kids short Spanish phrases every day is a great way of increasing their vocabulary. You can check out our YouTube channel or any other channels on YouTube that teach short phrases in Spanish. You can also access some short phrases on our blogs but if you’re unsure about pronunciation, make sure you watch a video so you can hear exactly how it’s pronounced.
A good example is using the phrase ‘¿Qué quieres comer?’ Which means ‘What do you want to eat?’ when it’s mealtime. You can write it on a flashcard and leave it somewhere in the kitchen where you will see it, like the coffee pot or the fridge. That will serve as a sort of prompt to remind you to use the phrase. Remember to teach your kids how to respond so that you’re teaching them complete phrases and parts of a real conversation. When you ask this question, your child should respond with “Quiero…. [input food item here]”.
Of course, you’ll have to spend a little time researching your weekly phrases and a couple of responses but this really shouldn’t take more than five minutes, especially if you join our Facebook page. It’s totally worth it. No, this won’t make your kid fluent, but it will help with vocabulary building and conversation skills. It will also reinforce what they’ve learned in their live teacher classes, so ask the teacher what they are learning, so that you can use those questions on a daily basis.
Find a Preschool That Teaches Spanish
If you find a pre-school that offers Spanish classes as part of the curriculum, you’ll still need to use other methods to ensure fluency. Many preschoolers have a 30-minute Spanish class once a week. That’s definitely not enough interaction time to ensure fluency. In addition to that, the classes may not even be small enough for the individual attention your child would need. Learning a language is a one on one experience (your kid learned English one on one with you for hundreds of hours).
Sure, your kid may come home saying things like “Hola” and “Buenos Dias”, however, they’ll need to develop their communication skills, vocabulary and listening skills by more exposure.
We recommend that you look for a preschool with daily Spanish classes, possible. However, you’ll still have to do some more work at home if you want to help your child really learn Spanish. The more time, the better, so get as many hours in during a week as possible.
Hire a Spanish Speaking Babysitter
Hiring a babysitter for your child when you have date night or just a really busy day is commonplace for most people. Since you have to hire a babysitter, why not hire one that is fluent in Spanish? The best time to do this is when your child is very very young. If the babysitter speaks to your child in only Spanish, this can help the baby learn the language. This babysitter could be a regular Spanish speaking teenager, they don’t need to be a Spanish teacher for your baby to learn. Look at it this way, you are able to teach your baby English but you may not be an English teacher. A couple of hours a week with this babysitter should be sufficient and shouldn’t cost too much.
The main problem with this approach is that the babysitter may not speak in Spanish to the baby as much as you would like, so you have to be firm in telling them, and you have to start early, since speaking Spanish suddenly to a 5-year old will not at all be effective. The babysitter will get frustrated and start translating everything to English, which defeats the whole purpose. One way to go around that is to hire one that’s not fluent in English.
While this method may seem odd to some, it’s gaining popularity in many places. According to a New York Times article, many parents are seeing the value in their children being bilingual and have opted for a bilingual babysitter to only speak the target language to the baby. However, the article does say that it probably won’t make them fluent. According to Ellen Bialystok, a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto and the author of “Bilingualism in Development: Language, Literacy and Cognition. “It’s an interesting solution; it gives young children a consistent exposure, but how long will the nanny be around, and who else will the child use that language with?”
So you have to have a plan for after you no longer need a nanny or babysitter. We suggest vacations in countries that speak that language, dual language elementary schools, Spanish in high school and immersion camps that can be found throughout the USA.
Online Spanish Classes for Preschoolers
If you don’t really have the time to be teaching yourself Spanish to help your child, but also don’t have the money for a private tutor that will come to your home, you could consider online classes two to three times a week. Once a week Spanish in the afterschool program will not likely give enough exposure to truly teach the language, but it may move the needle forward if you do online lessons 3 times a week along with it.
If you can shell out the $12-$17 dollars a couple of times per week make sure it’s a good online class program. The ideal online class is one with a small group that focuses on conversation.These classes help ensure consistency and daily motivation. In addition to that, when they do sit down to watch those Netflix shows in Spanish or learn those Spanish songs, they can tie it back to what they’ve learned and they will make much more sense to your kid. It will also enhance their learning in the Spanish classes they have at school. You’ll need about 600 hours of group classes for fluency so bear that in mind if you decide to go this route.
600 hours is the amount for any method with a live teacher, so it’s a numbers game either way.
Private Spanish Classes
A private class is also another way for your child to learn Spanish. They’ll need at least two hours a week for three years which is around 300 hours. This gives a low level basic fluency, NOT native fluency. 600 hours is needed for a truly high level. The reason behind this is that consistency is important in language acquisition.
Yes this can be a little more expensive but you can pair a private tutor with an online class. For example, you could do a private class once a week and the online classes 2-3 times a week.
To conclude, you can take an honest look at your budget and see which combination of methods make the most sense. There are many ways to expose your kid to Spanish but to ensure fluency, you’ll need consistent exposure, individual attention and an emphasis on conversation.
If you’re ready to get your child fluent, then consider contacting us at TruFluency Kids or even signing up for a $15 trial lesson, and learn Spanish with kids from all over the USA in our small 6-person class. Our native speaking, Spanish language teachers can help your child acquire Spanish as a second language, with consistency, fun, motivation and time.