Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Tips for Non-Spanish Speaking Parents Raising Bilingual Children

© Can Stock Photo  ylivdesign

The following guest post is by Debbie Annett, founder of Spanish for You! Thank you, Debbie, for accepting my request to write on this topic!

Non-Spanish speaking parents can still raise bilingual children. There are many paths that can be taken. Some people have access to dual-language programs where their children attend the local school and are immersed in Spanish everyday. Dual-language programs do the work for you. This article is for those who don’t have an option like that.

I will provide you with a suggested path that considers your time and budget. Everyone has different amounts of time and money they can give to this effort. So, the goal is to provide a path where just about anyone can help their kids become bilingual by adulthood or maybe sooner.

You will see that this path takes years. But know that along the way, your child will be achieving ever higher levels of language proficiency. So even though Spanish fluency may not be reached until later, you will see an increasing ability to communicate. That is exciting!

So, let’s get on with this suggested path to bilingualism!

Begin Early 

As many people know, the earlier you begin learning a language, the easier it is to learn. Starting early takes advantage of your child’s “brain” ability to learn languages more easily and become savvy linguists later.

However, you can begin at any age, so if you are reading this and your child is already in elementary school or older, don’t worry! It is still ever so possible!

Begin with a Structured Spanish Program 

No matter what age your child is, using a structured program will guide your efforts. A structured program will lay things out for you so your child can systematically and sensibly build their skills.

If your child is not yet school age, look to enroll in a baby or toddler Spanish class together. Or, look at programs to use at home, such as Little Pim or others. Once you have a program in place, you can supplement if you’d like. For example, expose your baby or toddler to music or videos in Spanish. See if you can purchase bilingual baby/toddler books in Spanish that come with audio so you can read and listen together. At this early stage, you are developing their ear for the language and getting those brain connections going.

If your child is in elementary or middle school, you can use a program like mine, Spanish for You!  My program provides you with step-by- step, daily lessons that you can do at your own pace. The lessons are in bite-size chunks and are filled with easy-to-do activities. You can even learn Spanish along with your kids if you want!

The program works to develop the child’s ability to understand, speak, read, and write in complete sentences using content that is useful in everyday life. It also prepares your child to succeed in high school Spanish. You can learn more about Spanish for You! for home use here.

Whether you choose my program or another, just make sure it seems like a good fit for you. My program comes with a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee, so you can see if it’s a good fit. Be sure other programs you consider offer you a way to try without risk.

Another option at the elementary or middle school age is to find an enrichment class. Some schools or organizations offer after-school Spanish, and some homeschool co-ops offer classes. But be sure that your child will learn more than just vocabulary, phrases, and some songs. At this stage, it is best that your child learn how to use the language, not just memorize groups of words or phrases.

Take 4 Years of High School Spanish 

The next step on this path is to take 4 years of high school Spanish. Since your child has already been learning Spanish, he/she will excel with confidence at this higher level. Take advantage of conversation or other elective Spanish classes if offered.

Also, if your child has been doing a structured program, such as Spanish for You!, for a few years or more, you may want to ask the school or your homeschool class instructor, to evaluate him. They can determine if he/she could begin higher than first-year high school level.

Supplement Elementary, Middle School, and High School Learning 

You can supplement your child’s elementary, middle school, or high school learning in many ways. It isn’t necessary, but these are ideas in case you are interested:

• Visit places where Spanish is spoken, such as local restaurants, grocery stores, etc.,

• Visit Spanish-speaking countries. Some families go on mission trips through church or other organizations. They interact with native speakers as they provide charitable services.

• Enroll in a Spanish summer immersion camp such as Concordia Language Villages. This is a neat option, but it can be pricey for some families. So don’t feel you have to do it.

• Listen to music, watch videos, and read bilingual books with audio if available. Your child won’t understand everything, but he/she will pick things up. If watching videos, it helps to run subtitles in English or Spanish while the video is speaking in Spanish.

• For high school students who have had Spanish for several years, take a look at my blog post on suggested reading for them.

• Find someone to practice conversation with your child. Read my blog post on this here.

Take College Level Spanish 

If your child attends college or even if he/she doesn’t, continue the learning at the college level. Your child can major or minor in Spanish. If he/she doesn’t attend university, take advantage of classes offered at your local community college. Take conversations classes or other non-grammar based classes such as literature. If you are unsure about which classes your child would qualify to take, then ask to take a placement test. Community colleges and universities have these available to you.

Do a Study Abroad Program 

Students can do study abroad programs beginning in high school and through college. In these programs, students live and study in a Spanish-speaking country. There are many exchange programs available for high school students and you can usually find out about these at your local high school.

If attending a university or community college, you’ll almost always find a study abroad office with lots of possible programs. Some programs go for an entire academic year while others offer you weeks at a time in Spanish-speaking countries.

I consider study abroad programs to be the “icing on the cake” when learning a language. The student becomes highly challenged to use his/her accumulated skills with native speakers on a daily basis. Such a neat experience!

From personal experience, I recommend a minimum of 5-6 months where Spanish will be spoken every day. But, if that is not doable for you, any amount of time will be beneficial.


That is it! It takes years, but is doable for just about anyone. The biggest expense comes with the study abroad. At that point, the money investment is worth it. And if your child has enjoyed the experience, he/she can endeavor to find future work or other activities that put him/her in communication with Spanish speakers frequently!

If you have any questions about getting your child started learning Spanish, feel free to contact me. Also, feel free to browse my blog for practice ideas as well as other language learning information.


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