Learning a new language is a whole heap of fun. It challenges the tongue to twist and turn in new ways to form new sounds, not to mention growing the brain, giving rise to new neural pathways etc etc. The benefits of learning languages have been enumerated over and over … and over and over… you get my drift.
Today, I am going to talk about the resources we have found useful in our quest to learn Spanish, but first, some background.
We started off by learning French because chance brought a teacher to our doorstep and I mean that literally. We enjoyed it -mostly. During one lesson, we pulled out our much-loved Katy books (written and illustrated by James Mayhew). As our teacher helped us get the pronounciations of the names of French artists and paintings right, we stumbled on some Spanish words. She helped us with those too. Turns out she can read, write and speak SEVEN languages – Wow!
The kids and I fell in love with the sound of the Spanish language and so we began to alternate lessons in both languages. Somewhere along the way, the lessons took on a schoolish testy feel. No! Nada! (that abhorred T word again).
We decided to take a break from lessons for a month. By then, we had let French sit on the back-burner and were going full steam ahead with Spanish. It happened to be December, so perfect timing for a natural break. Fortunately, our teacher is very flexible and also approachable and open. I had a frank conversation with her that we needed to change tack and make the lessons more about conversation skills without the constant questioning to check if the kids had got it – in short, trust the students, not test them. She was lovely and promised to give our approach a go in the new year.
Meanwhile, I realised that we need to find other resources to supplement our learning. Finally, the meat of this post – a list of resources that we have incorporated (with links – I aim to be helpful).
- Whistlefritz language learning using the immersion technique with lots of fun songs and conversation videos featuring children and animal puppets. My kids absolutely love it and my 5 year old watches a little everyday at brunch time – without my ever needing to nudge / remind them. I got to know of Whistlefritz from the amazing blog of a fellow home educator in the US. Here is a detailed review of how her family uses the language program (they use the French program) http://my-little-poppies.com/whistlefritz/
- Simple Spanish stories for children that I stumble upon in charity shops in town.
- Bilingual Spanish and English books, many of which also happen to be short and very interesting biographies of South American personalities including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pele and Pablo Neruda amongst others. The author is Monica Brown – each book is obviously a labour of love, beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated. I am so happy I stumbled upon her books and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Our favourite is La Manta de Maya / Maya’s blanket – it was our bedtime story for a few weeks and we still go back to it a couple of nights a week.
- Now for a resource that hugely appeals to our family as we love board games. A friend mentioned this same game in French. I looked it up and chose to get the Spanish version to start with. It is called Race to Madrid and helps build vocabulary and sentences – and it works for total novices too. The more you play, the more you learn. The only catch is fitting it more into our already busy days and weeks and with so many games vying for our time – the dilemmas of home education 😉
- The final resource I found, which we haven’t used yet, is a magnetic poetry set in Spanish. It looks very promising for many laughs as we stumble our way to create sentences and poetic ones at that.
Now, for the top motivator – a trip to Spain later this year to put our skills into action. We have to see Gaudi’s gorgeous work in Barcelona after reading Building on Nature.
Researching the trip logistics and places to visit with the kids’ help is a hands-on project for us all, building knowledge and skills. We have even roped our teacher in, her role being to converse with us about Spain (she has been there and knows a fair bit about Spanish History) and help us build sentences. The pieces of the jigsaw are coming together beautifully – one of the many reasons I love home education. But that is a different story. For today, just remember this – the Ticket to Ride Europe board takes you from England to Spain via France.