A traditional Uruguayan story for children shows how knowing two languages can be an advantage. The story tells how a hungry cat was failing to entice a mouse out of its hole to catch it. Suddenly a fat cat appeared on the scene and solved the thin cat’s problem by suggesting to the small cat to move away from the hole so that the mouse could not see it. Next, it placed itself out of the mouse’s view and started barking like a dog. Thinking that the cats have been chased away by a dog the mouse thought it safe and came out. The fat cat immediately pounced upon it, ate it up, and explained that this had been possible only because it was bilingual.
As per studies, the world has 66 percent of bilingual children with some even coming to America as a Cultural Care Au Pair while America has only 17 percent of them who speak English and any other language. America has always supported other languages. Presently foreign languages are taught in very few American schools to few students and that too for short durations.
It is one of the most essential second language for Americans from the North. Many Americans feel that there should be no language other than English that should be spoken in the United States and fail to understand the real situation existing in the world. Spanish is a language that gets spoken by almost 400 million people living in the North, South and Central parts of the America. It arrived on these shores long before English did at a time when the United States did not exist. The people living in remote New Mexico and Mexican border towns have been speaking Spanish for centuries. Spanish gets spoken by native Puerto Ricans as well as those who live in the United States.
Advantages of knowing Spanish
Teaching your child a second language has its advantages, and its inclusion does not show that you are trying to abandon English but rather benefits your child in the following ways:
- Getting to know other cultures
The world has become smaller due to the internet interconnectivity and incidents taking place in cities like Brussels, Bogota, and Beijing can equally affect people living in Atlanta, Boston or Detroit in The US. Knowing a foreign language can help you to understand incidents occurring far away beyond physical demarcations.
- Developing Skills in creative thought
It’s proven that children who are bilingual remain sharper and more active even as they grow older compared to children who are monolingual. Bilingual children are more focused, interactive, can multitask, skip unnecessary information, solve more puzzles and play more games in comparison to others.
- Getting a job easily after growing up
The 11th largest economy ranked in the world is the Mexican economy. Mexico is US’s second largest import-export partner and third largest country behind Canada and China from where the US sources its goods for import. It is US’s number one partner for trade in agricultural goods, while the US is Mexico’s number one partner for trade in all kinds of products. All the other countries in Latin America where Spanish is the primary language are fast becoming US’s trade partners. Any job seeker will find it extremely useful to be able to communicate with the businessmen from these countries in Spanish.
- Delaying the symptoms of Alzheimer
Bilinguals have been found to keep away the symptoms of Alzheimer’s much longer than monolinguals.
Methods of introducing Spanish to your children
- For kids in pre-school stage
Probably the best way that children use to learn any language is by listening to it first, repeating it next and then speaking it. They pick up vocabulary and grammar and start to read in this way. We are genetically designed to create 40 kinds of sounds at birth, and we can associate objects and sounds to ideas and actions. Language gets created from all these capabilities. Every sound has some meaning including the babbling of an infant that changes from ‘ma, ma,’ to ‘mama’ and then to ‘mother.’
The best thing is to introduce your child to a foreign language as early as possible which is ideal if done before the age of 10 or perhaps before 5. Children will feel more comfortable when they grow up with books, songs, videos and objects dealing with a foreign language and its particular cultural background intermixed with their daily life.
Introduce your pre-school children to Spanish via:
- Nursery Rhymes and Songs
The repetitive and melodious nature of nursery rhymes and songs produce a positive impact on small children even though they are unable to comprehend what gets said. Tunes such as ‘Ten Little Fingers’ and stories like ‘Sesame Street’ expose the children to the sound and rhythm of Spanish when done playfully.
- Recordings of stories
Find out the stories in Spanish which is your child’s favorite. Read out ‘Dora the Explorer’ or ‘Sesame Street’ which have been translated into Spanish or listen to the CD together. A young girl’s story ‘Sana Sana’ written by Indi Avila that contains colorful pictures has a unique attraction for young children.
- Cards with pictures and words
A word related to an image is a natural and primary method of learning and remembering vocabulary. Write down the word in Spanish alongside the picture and put them up in different parts of the house so that they are always visible to the children. You can use various words of the language such as ‘bano’ on the bathroom door or ‘jugette’ posted to the toy which your child plays with most. You can play a game inside the house or in the garden where different objects have to be named in Spanish.
- Hiring tutors and nannies
If you can find a tutor or nanny whose native tongue is Spanish, then this is also a great way of teaching the language. Spanish students living in your area show a higher quality of grammar and may charge nominal fees. Ensure that the Spanish tutor you hire enjoys teaching your children as the learning experience has to be full of fun and not an enforced one.
- Spanish programs on radio and television
Most kids get bored with the television shows in the United States as they are for grown-ups and knowledgeable viewers. The website ‘TVE a la carte’ can help you find proper TV channels for your child if you are interested in TV for teaching.
- For Kids in Elementary school
Education experts agree that the proficiency of children in a language is increased if they get exposed to a longer duration of instruction by introducing the second language in the early stages of elementary education. In simple words, your child would become a master in Spanish if he or she is given exposure to the language on a regular basis for a greater duration. Additionally, children have more open minds when they are studying in elementary schools than at a later date, and show more enthusiasm and interest to pick up information regarding other cultural backgrounds. It is mandatory in many countries to learn a foreign language by the time the child is eight years old, while comparatively American students get first exposed to a foreign language only at high school.
You can use a computer, a smart phone or tablet to access the internet which provides many audios, videos, texts, animations in Spanish in case the school your child goes to does not have any foreign language course.
- Adolescent children
You can give encouragement to your child to join formal classes in foreign languages offered by high schools to learn to speak and reading skills in Spanish as he goes through school. Extracurricular classes are provided by many schools which teach the rich culture and history of Spanish-speaking countries as an additional course.
When in high school, your child can also take advantage of the ‘International Student Exchange Programs’ to improve his or her Spanish speaking skills. Young people can also join the ‘Peace Corps’ voluntarily after college graduation and develop their abilities in Spanish with a 27-month posting to a foreign country. They can also get a waiver for their education loans in this way and can get paid instead for their efforts.
Knowledge of Spanish can enrich you personally, give an idea about other cultures, and can be an advantage for building a good career. If you decide that your child should learn Spanish, then you should keep in mind that it should be an enjoyable experience. Otherwise, they will lose their commitment. You have to acknowledge their smallest achievement with celebrations and provide the necessary encouragement whenever they fail.