If you do not speak Spanish, then it’s quite hard to help your child learn it! Maybe your children are in dual language, and you worry that they’ll forget all their Spanish this summer. Or, you wish with all your might that you were bilingual, but you’re one of those people that never moved to another country (like 99% of us!). Yet, you really wish you could give the gift of bilingualism to your children.

Even if you can’t move to Spain or Mexico, these are ten tips for helping your child learn Spanish and immersing your home in a Spanish environment.

  1. Start young if you can! Studies find that children DO NOT learn how to speak from television, but it most certainly trains their ears to the rhythm and sound of the language. This is key. When we learn later on in our lives, our ears are slightly shut off to new sounds. They’ve kind of given up on hearing differences than our native language. So if you have a 30-minute rule for TV a day, make sure you put on all Spanish kids shows on Netflix. There are a TON!

  2. Read in Spanish. Even if you do not 100% know what you are saying, give it a try! This will show your child that speaking Spanish is a part of your daily life, or, even better, get audio books for kids and listen together. You can find a TON of native Spanish speakers that will read books to kids on YouTube. You can learn the sounds, or you can listen to full on stories. Even if it’s ten minutes a day, that’s incredible! Feel proud of yourself.

  3. Try Spanish apps. These are best for children ages seven and up. Again, this does not make a child fluent, but it will teach a lot about vocabulary and sentence structure. I recently dove into duolingo again after being very disappointed when I tried it a few years ago. I would have to say that it is much better now, and it is something that I feel is worthy of my time as a language learner. Actually, it really becomes addictive, because I always want to finish just one more lesson, which takes about five minutes. You know your child, so you’ll have to see if this is something that would keep their attention.

  4. Hang out with Spanish speakers. If you have access to native speakers, try to hang out with them as much as possible, especially if they also have kids, and they speak Spanish in the home. Your child can go over to play, and get to hear real Spanish that’s spoken on a daily basis.

  5. Try a Spanish speaking babysitter. If you do not have friends that speak Spanish in the home, you might want to hire a babysitter that only speaks Spanish, or will only speak Spanish to your child. You could hire a professional tutor, but a babysitter (think about a high school or college student!) will be about $15/hour, and in order to see real growth in speaking the language, your child needs to be around this person for at least 4 hours a week. They can simply hang out, play games, enjoy time together and your child will soak up the Spanish as much as possible. If you can do more time, do it!

  6. Take Spanish classes. Online Spanish classes with live teachers can get your child fluent. Do not think that you have to study for a few years before jumping into a speaking class. The teachers are typically focused on getting the kids to speak, so make sure you join an online class that has a communicative approach. You can usually find these for $10 – $20 per class for a small group class.

  7. Use flashcards. No, this isn’t high tech, but if you learn ten Spanish words a week with your child, then you’ll know 520 by the end of the year! Most of us use the same 2000 words daily, so you’ll be a quarter of the way there. I suggest writing ten Spanish words down with your child every Sunday. Make it a fun activity! What words do you want to learn this week? Then, keep the flashcards in your car door, or on the dashboard or visor, and when you have an extra minute for going into the doctor’s office, grocery store, or before bed, go through the cards one at a time together!

  8. Music! This is probably the easiest, and by far the most fun. Make sure music in Spanish is in your life. There are Spanish radio stations in almost every major city, so check out which one is in your city. There are a lot of sweet pop songs sung in Spanish from Mexico, Colombia, Spain, and more. Google the top 40 charts in Spanish and check the translated lyrics, to make sure you haven’t come across a sexy song, and then learn the lyrics. Then, you can teach your child while singing away in the car.

  9. Go to a real Mexican restaurant regularly. Get to know people who speak Spanish and see them regularly. If there’s a Mexican popsicle stand nearby, check it out. If there’s a taco stand, check it out. Be clear that you and your child are trying to learn Spanish, and ask them for phrases or see if you can practice a few sentences you’ve learned. They will most likely be excited that you’re learning their language, and be more than happy to practice with you. This will help your child shake off any nerves about speaking the new language.

  10. Use your Spanish. When you learn a new set phrase, like ‘come here!’, try to use this in daily speech with your child. Don’t just focus on vocabulary, but rather, full and complete sentences. For example, ‘come here’ is ‘ven’. ‘Don’t do that please’ is ‘no hagas eso por favor’. Look up these phrases online (not Google translate!), write them on cards, and tape them somewhere in your home, like the bathroom mirror, or the front door, so that you see it regularly and use it. Make sure you check with a native speaker before memorizing it. We suggest wordreference.com, or even just asking fluent friends on Facebook.

Whether you try one of these tips, or all of these tips, just get started! Don’t focus on how hard it will be, or how long it will take, or even if you’re doing enough. Just do something. As someone who has been studying/trying to speak Japanese for 6 years, I can tell you, I never look at the end goal. I just keep attending my classes, one hour at a time, and when I look back, I know that I’ve learned a lot! Just focus on what you can do today, and the years will take care of themselves. And also, have fun. That’s the goal when discovering a new language, culture, cuisine, and more.