This study published in Cognitive Psychology suggests that the younger a child begins learning a second language, the higher their chances of achieving bilingualism are. That’s because of a term called the “critical period” which hypothesizes that the possibility of second language acquisition significantly diminishes after puberty.
Long story short, there’s no better time than now to start teaching your child another language. And in the United States, there’s no better second language to learn than Spanish. Not only is it the second most spoken language in the country, it’s the fourth most spoken language in the world!
Why should I teach my kid Spanish?
Proficiency in such a popular language will grant your child opportunities for years to come, the chance to broaden their cultural horizons beyond belief and the ability to see the world through an entirely new lens. In an increasingly connected society, that’s one skill that can’t be taught in the classroom.
Plus, the journey of learning Spanish will aid in your kid’s personal development too. A heightened sense of perceptibility, empathy and decision-making are just a few of the many benefits associated with second language acquisition.
If you’re taking care of a particularly young one, you may be thinking “Another language!? We’re still working on their first one!” And to that we say, don’t worry. Children can pick up languages simultaneously, even starting from the time they are babies. By using supplemental learning materials or employing a tutor, you too can raise a bilingual child – without a doubt!
How to make language learning fun?
Unlike math or biology, we want our kids to see language learning as an engaging and useful subject. What makes that task even easier is that it’s the actual truth: there is so much to be excited about when it comes to speaking Spanish! That’s why it’s important to learn the art of teaching a new language in a fun way. Or as we call it: funifying.
Funifying matters for the experience as much as it does for material retention. It’s a simple equation: fun equals excitement, excitement results in dopamine and dopamine leads to increased attention levels. And what better way to funify than to introduce games into the lesson? Not only do children already associate games with enjoyment, but they will also feel a sense of empowerment and agency as they actively shape their learning journey.
I’ll share one anecdote of my own just to show you how this works: I have a 9-year-old little sister, and the only thing she loves more than me *wink* is our dog, Luna. As some of you may already know, luna is the Spanish word for moon. At this point, my little sister had memorized some numbers a few grades ago but that was the extent to her Spanish knowledge.
So, like the great big sister I am, I convinced her that we could only talk to Luna in Spanish since that was the language her given name was in. I knew some Spanish and could lead the game. Before we knew it, my sister was giving commands to our dog with words she didn’t even know ten minutes ago. Everybody was laughing, and I had snuck in a vocab list without a single mention of studying. Ta-da.
5 Games to play when learning Spanish
All kids are different, and that means they have different learning styles. That’s why we’re offering five diverse games, each emphasizing a new mode of teaching and learning.
Tactile, or kinesthetic, learning is one of the most common types of styles among all ages. These types learn best with their hands and need to physically touch something to best grasp the concept. For these students, we recommend drawing or building. In my own teaching, I’ve used drawing games specifically for learning the prepositions of place. But you could also do this with shapes, places, colors or things.
Perhaps your little one prefers auditory learning. Rather than playing a boring pre-recorded dialogue (like the ones I had to listen to in college while learning German), try finding a simple song that’s either in Spanish or uses music to teach an element of it. Start small with something like the alphabet song on YouTube.
Some people are brainiacs from the time they are young and most enjoy learning in the form of an intellectual challenge. For these kids, we recommend a game that will invite them to use logic skills and culminate in some kind of reward. Three great examples of this are crosswords, mazes or word searches. In Spanish, of course.
One age-old learning tool is reading, and with good reason. Books help expose young learners to new vocabulary and speaking styles. But for some kids, reading needs a bit of funifying. Try finding interesting books or articles in Spanish and ask your kids to recount the plot in the form of a play or campfire story.
Some children learn best when their bodies are as active as their minds. You don’t necessarily need a schoolroom chair to promote classroom results! Try activities that encourage movement like a game of baseball or a round of hoops. This is a good way to practice demands like Run! Pass! or Jump!
Disclaimer: I have teamed up with TruFluency Kids in support of this campaign. We received compensation for participation in this campaign. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.