Se habla español? Chances are good that your child will soon, and homework in Spanish can feel a little, well, foreign to some parents.
Middle school is typically when kids add a foreign language to their schedule, and most kids these day are focusing on Spanish. I love hearing my daughter practice her Spanish – I have a pretty good grasp on conversational Spanish, so I feel comfortable with the basics. But I know lots of fellow parents who took French or another language in school, or who haven’t had a chance to practice their Spanish in ages.
The thing about learning a language is that the only way to successfully master it is to use it all the time. And that can be hard if you don’t speak it. Here are some tips to help your child with homework in Spanish – even if it’s all Greek to you.
- Help them be a word whiz. At the beginning stages, homework in Spanish almost always revolves around vocabulary words. The more students study their words, the easier it is to master them. And the best way to learn these vocab words is with flashcards. Do a quick quiz over breakfast; throw out a phrase at a stoplight; tape them to their bathroom mirror.
- Review every night. It’s common in middle and high school to have weekly tests, and it’s tempting to wait until the night before and cram it in. That doesn’t work with any subject, but particularly with languages. Learning a new language is all about repetition and familiarity, so help your child remember to include a 10- to -15-minute review in their study schedule, even if something isn’t immediately due. The pay-off of doing frequent review is huge.
- Feed the love. Lots of kids develop an affinity for studying a foreign language, and if your child really gets into it, make sure to indulge that passion. Find a festival that celebrates the country. Research native recipes and create them with your child. Download traditional music from YouTube or Pandora.
- Practice pronunciation. The best way to get the hang of the accent is to hear conversation from native speakers. Watching the news is an easy way to hear Spanish at home. Anchors use excellent diction and the visuals can help you get the gist of the story and learn new vocabulary. Check out Telemundo or Univision to find Spanish-language programming.
- Get help. Even if you know the basics, it’s not long until kids start diving into verb tenses, pronouns and other more advanced skills. All of a sudden, you might find your own Spanish is relatively rudimentary and it can be hard to help with homework if you literally don’t speak the language. I know, because parents repeatedly asked if Tutor.com had Spanish-language tutors, so last spring we introduced high school Spanish to our available subjects. Our experienced Spanish tutors, many of whom are native speakers, can help students with everything from Spanish grammar to essays –from beginning through AP Spanish. (We’ve got German and French tutors too!)
Learning a foreign language is a major benefit in our increasingly global world. It’s also a great opportunity for the whole family to learn something new – maybe you had no idea how amazing paella or flan was, or the fun of flamenco dancing.
Whether your child is just starting to learn the basics – or has achieved near fluency using the immersion programs that are increasingly popular—homework in Spanish, or any other language you aren’t familiar with, can be a new challenge. Supporting them in the love of another language can open doors for the whole family into fun new cultural activities and provide a foundation for new experiences for them down the road.