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Learning Spanish for toddlers with Bilinguebabies

Meet Audrey and her wonderful children from the United Kingdom in this delightful article. In her journey to educate her children in many languages, she also teaches Spanish and French. Learn more about her inspirational quest to master multiculturalism and the notion of being multilingual in a bilingual home.

Teaching toddlers Spanish using the world around you, any moment can be ‘Spanish time-Bilinguebabies’ by Audrey Antoine-Hart

‘I could not possibly raise my child bilingual as I know nothing about the language’, why can’t you learn the language together if you don’t already know it?

A toddler’s brain is in its peak of development, rapidly developing and curious about what is happening around them makes this development phase an ideal to teach them Spanish as you go about your daily existence.

I hope that some of the tips I share will inspire everyone who wants to raise their child speaking Spanish in an English speaking country.

Electronics

One of the ways I am instilling Spanish to my toddler is through the iPad. My eldest was born to read, he loved all kinds of books, the youngest however will have a peek and instantly reject a full sit down story. However he will tap onto a few of the Spanish apps, I have installed. At present I am building an online Spanish vocabulary flash card via the app FC maker by INKids. I started with the photos of the people in the family and labelled them with their titles e.g ‘Javier’, el hermano. The wonderful thing is that you record the labels in your own voice. I have spied the toddler repeating them over and over. I can’t wait to build on this.

Reading

I am not going to give up with story time I just need to accept my toddler is unique, he learns at a different rate and I may need to change the way I do things with him. Sometimes I have our big Bert and Ernie puppets or as we call them Epi y Blas’ sit on my lap and I read them a book in Spanish. Eventually if he sees me doing this he will push them off my lap and get on himself, this enables me to hug him and ask him (in Spanish) for kisses and ask him some open needed questions in Spanish about the book I am reading.

Music and Dance

Toddlers are active, curious and on the move constantly, I have found at times it is necessary to change an activity for a more upbeat one. I may put on an upbeat salsa tune and call out instructions for the toddlers to follow. Using myself as the model ‘ponte de pie’. I will start with simple instructions like ‘camina’ ‘deprisa’ ‘despacio’ and then develop them to ‘caminamos como el burro’, taking the theme of the donkey and then introducing the words to bray= rebuznar, making donkey noises as we trot, walk and gallop around the room. In this activity I am working on his coordination, getting him to exercise, extending his vocabulary and teaching him to comply with instructions.

I have a whole host of Spanish cd’s in the car, from nursery rhymes to South American folk and Spanish rock. This attunes their ears to hearing Spanish, the rhythms and pronunciations and yet also hearing the difference in accents. Soon you will find they have a favourite tune that you can both sing along to, I often have to put ‘Debajo un botón’ on repeat which helps when I need to put his socks on before a trip out.

Real Life Situations

I have family in Spain, they are not blood relatives but they are as close as they could be. This means at least once a week my toddler who spends the most time with me is able to hear mummy on the telephone talking to our Dominican friends about real life events. My best friend now lives in Columbia so we have regular Skype conversations. If readers do not have family of friends abroad there are a host of sites that come up within a web browser search. Skype has an online community where you can post a message and find someone suitable to converse with, even maybe a family similar to yours in Spain.

There are loads of real life Spanish things you can do, get a Spanish au pair or nursery, find a Spanish speaking church, a Spanish speaking story time or toddler group and if these don’t exist, start one yourself. You will soon start to meet like minded people who will have kids and bang you have playmates for your toddler to converse and play in Spanish!

In my Spanish music classes ‘Bilingüebabies’ we have a standard core element of songs and activities that do not change each week because experts have proven that toddlers need consistency and like repetition. We then introduce new items gradually and my suggestion is that as with toys sometimes you can swap them and bring out old favourites so too with songs and books in Spanish. Catchy tunes and nursery rhymes help children remember, I love to drop a tune into the context of learning.

Learning languages in context in my opinion is the most natural way of teaching them. A walk to the park is a lesson in itself about changes in seasons or how about as you do your chores, ¿Qué hace mamá, mamá está pasando la aspiradora, por qué? What is mummy doing and why? Para quitar el polvo. She is getting rid of the dust. Then you can introduce a song ‘Esto es como quito el polvo/ paso la aspiradora’ or es la manera de…then back to your questions. ¿Hace mucho ruido? Introduce another song about noises. Cantajuegos has one ‘a mis manos’ on YouTube or make one up.

Fun Fun Fun

Enthusiasm is infectious amongst younger learners and if you generally are having a positive learning experience they will too. If you are too tired to do much one day then just count the stars on the ceiling at bedtime (if you have sticky luminous ones like we do) or sing ‘Brilla brilla’ twinkle twinkle little star. If Spanish is not your first language or if you are just learning it then the key is little, often, repetition and practice. Create a special language time each day, whether it is at breakfast or bedtime to start with then build upwards.

A jugar A JUGAR vamos todos a jugar!

In the US you have a whole host of bilingual books and toys- make everyday a learning day!

Hasta pronto

Audrey Antoine-Hart is a Spanish and French teacher in the UK teaching languages at secondary schools (11-18) in South London. She has designed Spanish toddler 0-5 classes for mums and babies to learn Spanish together within the company called ‘Bilingüebabies’, motivated by the birth of her second child who she was and still is determined to raise bilingual. She also teaches Spanish at local nurseries and primary schools (0-11) and has recently started writing a program for children with Special educational needs (SEN). Audrey has a Hispanic background and is reintroducing Spanish to her eldest child and raising her two-year-old toddler bilingually in Spanish. Such is her passion for languages, she is currently teaching herself German and hopes to study for an MA in multiculturalism and bilingualism. She lives in a blended, multicultural household and is raising her children to appreciate their mixed backgrounds. For more info, see www.bilinguebabies.wordpress.com  Contact Audrey on bilinguebabies@gmail.com or follow her on twitter @bilinguebabies

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

13 Comments

  1. Barbara Mascareno on at

    Thank you Audrey for being my guest today. I appreciate your dedication to educate your children about Spanish and other languages. Being bilingual is being part of many worlds.



  2. Raising bilingual babies is such a struggle… I applaud Audrey for taking on multiple languages!



    • Barbara Mascareno on at

      It sure is! It’s never easy to have bilingual kids but I love it every moment of it.



  3. These sound like great, age-appropriate ideas for helping younger kids learn Spanish. Thank you for some great tips!



    • Barbara Mascareno on at

      So glad you like the tips 🙂



  4. Rosey on at

    What a wonderful guest post. I love the Bert & Ernie puppets (my childhood favorites!), and even more I love the attitude about just doing things a different way when they don’t work out the first few times, and keeping enthusiasm genuine and plentiful. Happy to have read the post!



    • Barbara Mascareno on at

      When the little ones are reluctant to learn, educators and parents can get creative, for sure.



  5. Leah on at

    My son is not bilingual but is obsessed with learning Spanish and he has been since he was a toddler! I indulge him as much as my high school Spanish class can take us and we watch videos! He seems to really enjoy it!



    • Barbara Mascareno on at

      What wonderful news! It’s great to read how parents encourage their kids to learn a foreign language.



  6. Cynthia on at

    My hubby speaks 3 languages, I speak 2, remembering to teach our son while he is so young is tough. Early on we said we would only speak Tagalog in the house so he could learn – but we end up speaking English all the time. Our 2 year old recognizes the Spanish language from a few children’s television programs. We really need to take some of these tips!



    • Barbara Mascareno on at

      It’s amazing how television can actually be a good learning tool.



  7. That is such dedication to admire!



    • Barbara Mascareno on at

      Thanks for your comment 🙂



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