Who doesn’t want their children to learn Spanish when they’re young? I’ve known several people who have asked me for Spanish programs, books or videos for their children—and not only American parents, but Latino parents, too. How’s that? Because sometimes, Latino parents (who live in USA) don’t have enough time to teach their children the language they speak themselves. So, though the children have heard Spanish at home, they haven’t learned it completely, because they’ve always spoken to their parents in English. This means that the child needs to not only hear, but also speak to be able to learn Spanish well.
For a child to really learn Spanish, it’s necessary to interact with them: to speak with them in Spanish and to have them answer in Spanish—and the ideal age for this is when they’re toddlers. That’s because at this age, they repeat everything their parents say. It’s not necessary to be bilingual to teach Spanish to your children, but it is necessary to know words and, eventually, phrases. Children of a young age are just starting to speak, and what they need to learn first are just words.
Search for words that you use daily. Choose ten Spanish words per month, and use them all the time! For example, dientes (teeth) is a good word to use, because every day, your children brush their teeth. That means you need to forget that the word “teeth” exists, and from then on, always use “dientes.” So start saying to your children, “Brush your dientes, please.” You’ll be talking in Spanglish, but that’s okay. That’s how everyone learns a language at the beginning.
For example, I have a three-year-old daughter, and she always asks me for water. She’ll say: “I want agua, Mama.” Yes, she’s speaking Spanglish. She knows the word “water,” because she learned that in preschool, but because I don’t use “water” at home, she uses “agua” when she talks to me or her dad. So, you need to use all these Spanish words all of the time, over and over. Remember: if you start using English, they’ll start using English with you.
Also, choose easy words to pronounce. If it’s easy for you, it’ll be easy for them. And then, once they’ve already learned those ten words, teach them another ten words the next month—but keep using the ten words that they’ve already learned.
When they’re around 3 ½ or four years old, you can start teaching them small sentences. For example, my daughter is now learning, “Quiero agua.” So, before, she used to say, “I want agua.” Now, she is starting to say: “Quiero agua.” Yay!
Hear my daughter learning the word “agua”
Now hear her learning the phrase “Quiero agua”
I’ll tell you some Spanish words that my daughter uses: dientes (teeth), agua (water), dedo (finger), mano (hand), poquito (little), aquí (here), zapatos (shoes), bebe (baby), pelo (hair)…
And some phrases: Quiero agua (I want water), No todo (not everything), Esta aquí (it’s here), No esta (it’s not here), No mas (no more), donde está (where is it)…
If you have a toddler and you want them to learn Spanish, now’s the time to start! Only you can make your child bilingual, and now’s the ideal age to begin. If, as a parent, you don’t know Spanish, then now’s the time to start learning! Not just for you, but also for your children.
I have a toddler and I work on this task every day—join me, and together we’ll teach Spanish to our children!
PS: I could speak only Spanish with my daughter, but as a Spanish teacher, I want to be able to teach my students how to teach their children. So I teach my daughter Spanish bit by bit, just as my students would teach their own children. This way, you can see that you don’t need to be completely bilingual to teach your child another language. As you learn, they can learn with you.
**Here it is our Spanish learning Apps for toddlers (Apple/Ipad)