How to Teach a Toddler Spanish
Young children tend to learn a second language most easily when they’re learning the basic rules of their primary language, making it a wise idea for parents with hopes of raising bilingual progeny to start teaching their children early. The benefits of speaking two languages fluently are countless, from increased academic performance and influencing college admissions to boosting the likelihood of landing a choice job once they’ve entered adulthood. Helping your children to gain second language skills is a great way to give them a competitive edge early in life and increase their appreciation for other cultures, with Spanish being a particularly useful choice in today’s world. As the second most studied language in the world, Spanish is becoming increasingly more common with each passing year. Teaching your toddler to speak Spanish as he’s honing his English skills is easier than you might think; here are a few hints and tips to turn your little one into a bilingual bebé.
- Learn Spanish Yourself – It’s exponentially more difficult to teach your child Spanish if you have no grasp of the language yourself, so take the time to familiarize yourself with vocabulary and verb conjugation. Without basic grammatical knowledge, you’ll have no way of hearing any mistakes in your child’s speech and correcting them. It’s not necessary to speak Spanish as if it was your native tongue, but understanding how to structure a sentence and knowing what common words mean is essential.
- Books, Toys, and Entertainment – There are an abundance of books, toys, movies, and television shows directed solely at primarily English-speaking toddlers to help them develop Spanish skills. Take advantage of these great tools, as they’ll help your child to become fluent in a second language while having fun. One reason shows like Dora the Explorer are so wildly popular with toddlers and their parents is because they teach basic Spanish vocabulary, turning what could be vapid television time into a learning experience.
- Music is the Universal Language – Kids love to sing and learn new songs. Simple Spanish children’s songs, especially those that are easily translated into English for comparative purposes, are powerful tools for helping kids grasp concepts, vocabulary, pronunciation, and accents in the Spanish language. There are a wide variety of CD’s and legal MP3 downloads that will bolster your children’s Spanish music collection; integrating those songs with your child’s English favorites can be quite effective in supplementing their growing fluency.
- Keep Your Expectations Realistic – No matter how hard you work at teaching your toddler a second language, he will only be able to grasp it to a certain level. Remember that your child’s command of any language is limited during the toddler years, and that he’s still trying to learn the fundamentals of speech to begin with. Be patient, and do not get frustrated when he’s not ready for a spot on Telemundo before he starts preschool.
- Hold Off on Formal Lessons – Formal Spanish lessons can be incredibly effective, but they’re not a great choice for toddlers. At this age any classroom setting is likely to be stifling and boring to enthusiastic, energetic little ones. Save the lessons for later, and focus on giving your child the basic skills he needs to develop his ability to speak a second language at home. If you can find a Spanish playgroup, however, taking part is sure to boost your child’s language development.
- Integrate Spanish into Everyday Life – Rather than setting a specific period of the day aside for “Spanish practice,” try to integrate both languages into your everyday lives. Immersion is a very effective tactic for helping language scholars of any age develop their skills, so hiring a nanny or other childcare provider that speaks Spanish fluently can increase your toddler’s comprehension by leaps and bounds. Immersion can be somewhat difficult if you’re not confident in your own Spanish language skills, so make sure that you continue to work on developing them whenever possible, as well.
Giving your child the gift of education, whether in the form of second language skills, early reading, or a concentration on music lessons for pint-sized prodigies, is one of the best things that you can do for him. Keep in mind, however, that toddlers learn about the world around them and how it works primarily through explorative play; insisting that they spend these formative years in a rigid classroom or instructional environment to the exclusion of play could be counterproductive. Remember also that you know your child best; adapt your teaching style to suit his needs, tailoring your approach to his abilities and skill level. With a bit of effort and a lot of patience, he’ll be speaking Spanish as confidently as he speaks English.← 10 iPhone Applications for Early Childhood Educators | How to Teach a Toddler French →
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