One of the keys to helping your children succeed in learning a foreign language is giving them lots of linguistic input that is both understandable and authentic. (If you want to know how important this kind of foundation is, you can read about it here.) BJU Press has developed its elementary Spanish curriculum based on that principle.
Called Pasaporte al español, it’s an introductory Spanish curriculum for grades 1 to 6. The material comes in two sets—Kit A for first through third grade and Kit B for fourth through sixth. Each kit is chock full of tools you can use to whet your child’s appetite for foreign language learning, including a hand puppet, various kinds of visuals, songs and stories on CD, read-aloud books, and much more.
Pasaporte uses a total physical response method to teach grammar and vocabulary. Rather than translating and analyzing sentences, children watch your motions and observe the context to figure out what they are to do. At the beginning stage, the emphasis is on action and movement (standing, sitting, walking, pointing, etc.) rather than on responding verbally.
◊ Fostering openness to another culture
Communication is a cultural act, and language is only one aspect. So this curriculum introduces children to the richness of Hispanic culture through fascinating visuals about various countries, recipes, holiday celebrations, and cultural notes.
◊ Engaging all the senses
The lessons use visual and contextual clues to make the foreign language input comprehensible and compelling. The kid-friendly mascots (one for each grade level) as well as the versatile animal hand puppets (named Choco and Nacho) serve to get children involved in uninhibited communication.
◊ Instilling a biblical worldview
Like all the content we develop at BJU Press, this curriculum has an underlying worldview that is based solidly on Scripture. We know that God wants individuals from every linguistic group included in His kingdom (Revelation 5:9), and communicating with people in their native tongue is an effective way to demonstrate Christian love. That perspective comes through in Pasaporte in the explanations of Bible verses, missionary moments, the lyrics of songs, and the stories.
Regardless of what program or curriculum you use, here are some other steps you can take to expose your children to Spanish (or another foreign language) to facilitate their learning.
- Attend a foreign-language church service. Many churches have Spanish-language congregations or Bible studies. This can be a great way to connect with native speakers.
- Travel to Spanish-speaking areas. Whether it’s a mission trip or just a vacation, going to a place where Spanish is spoken will give learners’ comprehension a boost. Even a field trip to a local Hispanic grocery store is something to consider.
- Visit your local library. It likely has a collection of picture books, story books, periodicals, and videos in Spanish.
- Exercise hospitality. Invite Spanish-speakers into your home, especially families with children the same age as yours. Have a cookout; play games; celebrate a holiday together.
- Explore the internet. You can access a wide variety of audio, video, and print resources in Spanish, but keep in mind that research shows that interaction with a person rather than a screen will result in more progress in learning the language.