For most kids, it takes a lot more than an hour of lessons five days a week to become proficient in a foreign language. Fluency comes through constant use. If it’s part of your goals for your children to be able to converse easily in Spanish, you’ll need to surround them with resources that help them reach that goal in addition to their regular Spanish curriculum.
One of the most useful aspects of the current technology boom is its focus on breaking down language barriers. An abundance of free resources is available online and through apps. Try some of these resources to further your child’s foreign language goals.
- Memrise (app) is a fast-paced vocabulary memorization tool. Basic introductions to language are structured around a game rather than a traditional educational experience. Users set a daily goal of new words and expressions to learn and have the opportunity to start conversations with native speakers of the language they’re learning.
- Duolingo (app) is less game-like than Memrise. Users memorize new words, match items, translate sentences, and test from level to level.
Both of these apps are excellent ways to solidify vocabulary, especially in the early stages of language learning when most lessons focus on making introductions and identifying common objects. They also have premium or full versions that can greatly expand the user’s language-learning experience, but aren’t necessary to get the main benefit of the apps: daily interaction with the language.
- MyLanguageExchange.com (website) allows members to find language partners from around the world, encouraging them to build fluency through live chat or email. It pairs two people learning each other’s language into groups, and participants spend sessions using both their native language and the language they’re learning. MyLanguageExchange provides lesson plans for chat sessions so that participants may easily get started. Its purpose is introducing language learners to conversational forms of a new language, as well as increasing vocabulary and confidence with the spoken and written word. [Note: MyLanguageExchange pairs users automatically, so there is no option for choosing who your child is matched with. While interacting with native speakers offers a tremendous benefit for language learning, you and your child should approach all sessions with caution.]
- Platillos Latinos is a downloadable PDF of a Spanish-English cookbook from the US Department of Health and Human Services. It provides healthy recipes in both languages. Preparing any of these meals with just the Spanish instructions would be an excellent exercise for the more advanced student.
- busuu (app) presents a more traditional experience, separating learning into lessons in which users match terms and definitions. Users have the opportunity to have their lessons corrected by native speakers who are also learning a new language. They can even correct other users’ lessons. While there are both free and paid versions, the free version does not offer as complete an experience as Duolingo or Memrise.
You may find other (low-tech) resources helpful as well.
- Spanish-English picture books such as El Pato Paco: A First Look at Spanish, ¡Buenos Dias, Carlitos!, ¡Buenas Tardes, Carlitos!, and Rosa la Osa from JourneyForth are an excellent way for both early learners and high school students to gain experience in reading Spanish. Since picture books are designed for simple vocabulary introduction, even Spanish-only books would be excellent for a high school student becoming familiar with Spanish. Your local public library likely has a good collection of such children’s books.
- Basic discipleship and Bible study materials in Spanish can be used with more advanced learners. Fundamentos básicos para el creyente, the updated version of Basics for Believers, is now available in ebook format.
- A Spanish hymnal is useful for learning Spanish versions of familiar songs, and it can tremendously expand vocabulary and grammatical understanding. Most students will automatically begin to make connections between the familiar English version and the Spanish version of well-known hymns.
Several of these resources involve communicating with native Spanish speakers and interacting with their culture. Using these resources can encourage your child to follow the ultimate goals of the BJU Press Spanish curriculum: to understand the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries and be confident enough in the language to share the gospel in Spanish.