Success with teaching Spanish to kids at home comes from a commitment to making language learning a part of your life, not just a part of your school day. Fluency and communication skills—which are important goals for language learning—come through regular use and practice. If you want to help your kids learn Spanish in your homeschool and you’re not fluent yourself, these tips will help you be successful.
Tips for Teaching Spanish to Kids
1. Set realistic expectations.
If your goal for teaching Spanish to your kids is communication and fluency, then your Spanish lessons and practice will look different than if your goal is to give your kids an experience or simply fulfill a learning requirement. It’s ok to be ambitious with language learning, and it’s also ok if communication and fluency isn’t a realistic goal for your family right now. Your kids can advance far in learning a language if you follow all these tips for a year, but they can also make a decent amount of progress over a longer period if you can’t do everything.
2. Learn with them.
A fluent teacher helps but isn’t a requirement when teaching Spanish lessons for kids; instead, a willingness to learn with your kids is a definite requirement. You’ll only be able to guide your kids on this journey so long as you’ve also done the work. If you’re learning with them, you’ll be able to practice together and both you and your kids will learn Spanish better.
3. Introduce language learning early.
The earlier you introduce a new language to your kids, the sooner you’ll have an idea of how much your children will want to pursue it later in life. Your child will also have more time to learn the language.
4. Don’t give up on fluency just because your kids are older.
While it’s true that young kids (4 years old and younger) absorb language naturally if they’re immersed in it, don’t fall into the misconception that older children can’t become fluent. Older children, teens, and adults are all more capable, deliberate learners and can more easily recognize patterns and similarities. These skills will be crucial for language learners. An older child who can do these things can learn more of a new language in the same time it takes very young children to learn their first language.
5. Practice, practice, practice.
Language acquisition sticks with consistent practice and application. This doesn’t mean spending hours pouring over vocabulary word flash cards. It means using what your kids have learned so far whenever you can. You might start using the Spanish words for common items instead of the English words. You might go over practice conversations with them, like making introductions or asking how they are. Your kids might have short conversations with each other, or they might write about their day in Spanish. As they gain vocabulary and grammar skills to properly communicate, conversations and writing abilities will expand.
6. Find authentic experiences.
A big opportunity for language learning is finding ways to interact with the language in authentic experiences. Look for examples of Spanish that come from fluent speakers and are for fluent speakers. The Spanish you encounter that is Spanish as a second language—in Spanish textbooks or other books or media for language learners—is often limited and formulaic. It doesn’t fit the way a native speaker or fluent speaker would communicate. Look for books, songs, advertisements, Bible verses, TV shows, and conversations that are for and by native or fluent speakers. These will help your children become more natural speakers. They’ll be able to pick up on pronunciation, intonation, pacing, vocabulary, and structure that may be difficult to explain in a textbook.
7. Make a friend.
Having a fluent teacher is helpful once your children can start and carry complex conversations. They will need someone who can offer guidance and correction so they can learn as they go as well as in formal lessons. This is the perfect time to form or develop relationships with native or fluent speakers around you—in your neighborhood, at your church, or even in an outreach ministry.
8. Make language learning a part of your life.
Make it a natural part of your day. The more you can normalize your and your child’s Spanish practice, the easier it will be to keep learning and growing and to start practicing with native speakers you meet. Native speakers love when people put effort and a commitment into learning their language; they’re not going to laugh at you or your child’s accent. The more natural you feel, the less self-conscious you’ll be at starting these conversations.
Benefits of Teaching Your Child Spanish
Outreach, Ministry, and Work
If you live in an area with a high population of Spanish speakers, your children are likely going to find many opportunities for bilingual speakers. Local jobs and ministries will need bilingual speakers to effectively serve their community. Even as you go about your days, you’ll likely meet with people who would be blessed to hear a word of encouragement in their own language.
State Requirements and Excellence
Many states require foreign language credits for graduation from high school. In addition, many colleges expect to see foreign language credits on transcripts for incoming students. State and college requirements aside, studying a foreign language can also help students to better understand grammar, vocabulary, and usage of their own language.
Learning Another Culture
Learning about other people and cultures is also a part of language learning. Language curriculum, interaction with native speakers, and completing Spanish activities all introduce children to new cultures and ways of thinking.
How to Help Your Child Learn Spanish
The best way to help your child learn Spanish, especially if you’re not a fluent speaker yourself, is to be proactive in supporting their studies. This might mean learning with them, being diligent about connecting with pen pals or practice partners and finding ways to reinforce and use language learning outside of school, like with apps books, and other activities.
Fun Ways to Learn Spanish
In addition to a regular Spanish curriculum, you can use language learning apps, games, and other opportunities to help your children learn Spanish. Try some of these resources to further your child’s foreign language goals.
Games & Activities to Teach Kids Spanish
- Memrise is a fast-paced vocabulary memorization tool. The app uses a game structure rather than a traditional educational experience. Users set a daily goal of new words and expressions to learn. They can also start conversations with native speakers of the language they’re learning.
- Duolingois less game-like than Memrise. Users memorize new words, match items, translate sentences, and test from level to level.
- busuu presents a more traditional experience, separating learning into lessons in which users match terms and definitions. Users can 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.
Other Spanish Activities for Kids
- MyLanguageExchange.com 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.
- Platillos Latinos is 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.
- 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. 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 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.
How to Teach Your Kids Spanish Using the BJU Press Curriculum
BJU Press offers several curriculum opportunities for teaching your kids Spanish at home. Our curriculum opportunities range from Grades 1–6 and Grades 9–10. However, if your children are outside these ranges, you can still use our materials to help your kids take their first steps in learning Spanish. Children in kindergarten and preschool will benefit from simple language learning games and apps as well as listening to older siblings use their Spanish curriculum. Middle school students can also use our high school Spanish materials early if you take lessons a little slower and more deliberately.
Teaching Spanish for Elementary Students at Home
BJU Press has developed an elementary Spanish curriculum that introduces Spanish learning for Grades 1–5 and middle school Grade 6. Pasaporte al español includes Kit A, which covers Grades 1–3 and Kit B, which covers Grades 4–6. The program uses a total physical response approach to teaching grammar and vocabulary. Students don’t focus on wrote memorization, translation, and analysis. Instead, they practice observation and using context clues to learn meaning. This program fosters openness to other cultures, engages the senses to encourage multisensory learning, and it instills a biblical worldview of language learning.
Teaching Spanish for High Schoolers at Home
The BJU Press high school Spanish curriculum focuses on developing communication skills through vocabulary and grammar foundations that make communication possible. Students learn everyday words in groups by exploring them in context—family words, classroom words, and common phrases and commands. Each lesson will also include grammar rules and functions that give language structure. Video lessons from BJU Press give you access to a reliable, experienced video teacher so you can be assured that your student will have guidance in language learning. With a video teacher, learning the language with your student won’t be as much of a requirement, though having someone to speak with will be helpful for your student.
Spanish curriculum options:
Studying Spanish gives your child the opportunity to communicate and potentially share the Gospel with people they otherwise wouldn’t be able to talk to. As your children study and learn about a new language, they will also learn about new cultures, places, and people. We hope these tips can help make your language learning experience a success!