Hi, my son is 11 and I didn’t teach him Spanish. Though my other two kids speak Spanish, for selfish reasons I failed to teach my son the language the we speak at home. My other kids will only speak in English though they understand and speak Spanish. My youngest who is 11 is not being exposed to the language. I am very depressed about this because I harmed my own child by not teaching him our language. I don’t know what to do so that he can learn it and be able to communicate with the rest of our family. What do I do? I need for him to learn… I hope that it is no too late! Please help ~ Eva


Dear Eva,

It must have made sense to you at the time not to speak Spanish with your boy when he was young. Now your ideas, or maybe your circumstances have changed, and it feels important to do so.

My first question is what does your son think about learning Spanish? At age 11, it’s not too late for him to learn — millions of people do — but it is too late for it to be your decision alone. It has to matter to your son, too, and he should be in on the planning. Does he see the advantages of speaking (or at least understanding) Spanish, as his siblings do? Can you two draw up a set of (realistic) goals for his learning Spanish?

Then, once he has his goals, how will you help him accomplish them?

I don’t know how much time or money you have to devote to his Spanish Project, but in my opinion, it works best not to address those issues until *after* you think of a good plan. Think first of what your son likes. Is he a soccer player? Is he a fan of Latin music? For example, I could picture advertising for a high school or community college student to be a soccer-and-Spanish coach. They could start by drawing up a booklet of phrases he will need in order to participate on a team. Then they could practice using the phrases during one-on-one soccer practice. They can expand his repertory while practicing side-line kicks or goalie saves. They would work up to joining a pick-up game in a Spanish neighborhood. They might also replay videos of televised games, stopping and starting to make sure they understood the moves they saw and the announcer’s description of the action. Your son could work up to where he could replace the sound track for a selection of plays and eventually be the sports announcer.

Or your son and a tutor could spend time learning popular songs, or following the sound track to popular movies in Spanish, starting with Spanish subtitles but gradually turning them off.

It would be ideal if there is also an immersion class for him in a nearly school or a summer language camp, but even so, the one-on-one activities in Spanish on a regular basis helping him follow his interests can help him reach a threshold where he could join a team in a Latin American club or a theater group or art activity that takes place in Spanish and puts him in the company of fluent Spanish speakers.

In my book, I give examples of older children traveling to relatives in a country where the language is spoken (Viviane, #20, and Javier, #35). How long do you think it might take till he would be comfortable traveling to Puerto Rico, Latin America, or Spain?

If these ideas are financially beyond your means, you will need to be more creative in coming up with trades or some version of them that can fit your lifestyle. The key is to picture a series of steps on the way to the goal. You don’t have to figure out the whole journey at once, just one step at a time.

The first step is to have the conversation with your child — and then perhaps with your other children in case they can be allies for him. We can ask other SpanglishBaby parents for their experience and advice.

It’s never too late, but once you establish your first goal, waste no time moving toward it. And then share with us what you come up with.



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