Today´s question was sent by Tricia, who is looking for advice on how to create a perceived need for Spanish in her family. For more tips check out this article Roxana recently wrote on the topic.
“Do the experts have any advice on creating a perceived need for Spanish in families that aren´t from any sort of Spanish-speaking cultural background? We´re located in a rural area with almost no Spanish speakers, making it even more difficult. We are making it a point to travel to Spanish-speaking countries, but I´m still kind of constantly scrambling to find ways to give a 4, 9, and11 year old any sense of needing to speak Spanish (other than with me). I’d definitely appreciate any suggestions!”
What a great question – and a timely one for me. I just returned from giving workshops at a professional conference in Europe. I was astounded (and impressed) by how many people speak English – and not just a little English, but a LOT! People in Europe are obviously convinced about the importance of learning more than one language! I wonder why it is such a struggle in the United States to convince folks of this need?
With regard to your children, I would suggest finding them a keypal (computer keyboard penpals) who speaks the minority language with whom to communicate. You can try any one of a number of services that provide worldwide connections for young people – Student Letter Exchange is one example of this kind of service. By connecting your kids with a native speaker of Spanish, you will be providing them with an important link not just to language practice, but to cultural and social connections.
You might also get them interested in Spanish-language media like films and music. If your kids are intrigued by movies, TV and music coming from the Spanish-speaking world, they will find themselves more engaged on a personal level with the language and see more of a need to speak and understand it. Try these sites:
Overall, I applaud you for trying to make Spanish more relevant for your kids. If they feel connected to people who speak the language, they will be motivated and driven to learn it and to speak it better and better each day. ¡Buena suerte!
Lori Langer de Ramirez – Bilingual educator who began her career as a teacher of Spanish, French and ESL. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics and a Doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is currently the Chairperson of the ESL and World Language Department for Herricks Public Schools, New York. Lori is the author of Take Action: Lesson Plans for the Multicultural Classroom and Voices of Diversity: Stories, Activities and Resources for the Multicultural Classroom, as well as several Spanish-language books and texts (Cuéntame – Folklore y Fábulas and Mi abuela ya no está). Her interactive website (miscositas.com) offers teachers over 40 virtual picture books and other curricular materials for teaching Chinese, English, French, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish and Thai. Her areas of research and curriculum development are multicultural and diversity education, folktales in the language classroom and technology in language teaching. You can read her answers here.