Dear super mom,
Don’t panic! We have compiled a list of 10 ideas to help reverse the situation that we hope will help you. Without further ado, let’s jump in!
Make it personal
This is first on our list, because nobody knows your son or daughter like you do. You know what your child is interested in and how he or she learns best. If your son is interested in animals and learns by observing, then take him to the zoo or watch a nature program in Spanish. Personalize his experience for the greatest effectiveness.
Remind him why learning Spanish is important
Whether it’s to remain connected with your cultural heritage, to be able to speak to Abuelo and Abuela, or whatever you reason, remind your son or daughter that the process of learning Spanish is important and their labors will not be wasted. (And in reminding them, you remind yourself, too).
Increase Spanish speaking community
The idea is to surround your child with Spanish speakers on all sides. Aunt, Uncle, Grandma, Grandpa, neighbors, babysitter, playmates, an online tutor and whoever can speak Spanish to your son or daughter, the better. If your family lives far, phone dates work well too. Quick note – Cultural Bytes offers an incredible one-on-one online tutoring program to be yet one more encouraging Spanish voice in your child’s ear.
Often when children don’t want to speak a language, it is because they don’t have enough vocabulary to express themselves properly and get frustrated. Find fun and effective ways to introduce and review vocabulary with them every day.
Create Language Boundaries/Rules
Communicate the language rules of the household with your son or daughter, so that they know what is expected of them. Perhaps your child speaks Spanish only to mom, but English to dad, or maybe it’s Spanish only at home and English outside the home. Whatever the family rules, remain consistent and encourage your son or daughter to follow them.
Move beyond yes or no questions
Language listening and language speaking are two different skills. It’s easy for your son or daughter to understand the question and answer with a simple “yes” or “no,” but more specific questions require him or her to think through vocabulary and sentence structure, leading to richer communication and deeper understanding.
Make it fun!
There’s definitely a place for structured learning, vocab practice, and traditional homework, but if that’s the only interaction your child gets with Spanish, no wonder they don’t want to speak it! You must make Spanish come alive off of the textbook and outside of routine so that speaking Spanish will be a way for your son or daughter to bond with you and have fun, rather than a chore.
Today, there is no lack of Spanish resources for children out there and we suggest you take advantage of as many different types as possible. Spanish television shows, storybooks (and novels for older children), games, music, art and more will help grab your child’s attention again.
Encourage and encourage again
Teaching your child Spanish is a long, slow process that will require great effort both for you and for your child. Responding to ‘language rebellion’ in encouragement and love rather than frustration will show your son or daughter that you have their best interests in mind and that they can trust you in the midst of challenges and discouragement.
Don’t force it
If you’ve tried all of the above and more and your child is still refusing to speak Spanish with you, don’t force it or punish them for not speaking it. This will create more resentment in his or her mind against the language and you. Rather, be patient and persistently research and test different methods of language learning until you find one that opens them up again. Anything is possible with love and perseverance.