My original purpose for learning español was focused on a teaching career path: Learn Spanish in Costa Rica, come back stateside and find a bilingual job. Ideally* with a bilingual job, all resources would be given to me with a memo, “Teach this.”
*(Note ideally… I have done plenty of inventing and curriculum writing while in a bilingüe teaching position in the last few years… but that’s a post for another day.)
And then life had a different direction: Family focused. It’s funny how a new area of language development gives me flashbacks to those first vulnerable days. I have been pushed to continue the growth proceso by becoming a mom.
When Tico and I found out we were pregnant, we dreamed before Guapa’s arrival about how much we value being bilingual and how we wanted to pass that on to her. Then during my maternity leave with my newborn Guapa, I had an abrupt reality check when I realized that speaking only Spanish with my daughter would require me to re-learn “kid language.”
Think about that for a second… As adults, we generally talk to the little people in our lives a bit differently than we do fellow adults.
Getting bossy. (Not so much when Guapa was a baby, but definitely now as a toddler. You know what I mean!)
In other words, just when I thought I’d mastered my segundo lenguaje, I realized I still had a long way to go. When Guapa was born, my next Spanish mission was ahead of me: everyday language required for the fun and the challenge of raising a little one.
I started with what I do best; I asked around for others’ ideas. For whatever reason, I didn’t get very far. People had ideas, but they were often resources with lots of English and a little Spanish (Think Dora the Explorer). I had to (and continue to) do the digging myself to find what will work at Guapa’s (and my!) current language stage.
All that to say, here are our current Top Three bilingual resources that we depend on daily to aid in our language development.
- The Public Library
We are fortunate to live near an absolutely AMAZING biblioteca (I don’t use all caps for emphasis lightly, so this is truly an amazing place!). There are entire shelves devoted to baby Spanish board books, and Guapa and I go about once a month and check out 10 different libros (once a month because that’s when the last books were due and 10 books because it’s an easy number to remember… Just being strategic… and perhaps nerdy).
The library also has a few Spanish kids’ CDs de música that we’ve checked out for listening in the car (I’m currently learning an español version of the “Clean Up Song” courtesy of one of these CDs!). I’ve learned to also check the company that makes the CDs and then look up their website for more materials.
Reading out loud to Guapa is a non-threatening way for me to continue my own growth process. I am allowed to absorb the grammar forms and new vocabulary without the need to do my best translation effort while also interacting with Guapa about una canción or un cuento. Here’s a few of our favorites (a.k.a. repeat check outs):
There’s an added bonus when the libro has the words in both lenguajes. When I don’t understand a Spanish word, I can pop over to the English text, check my understanding, and go right back to the Spanish. No need to get out the translation dictionary!
Alright, I think we’re ready for #2….
2. Native Spanish Speakers
Alright, y’all, let’s take an honest moment. Despite my now 8 years of learning Spanish, I am still a second language learner. They say it takes 7 years to be truly fluent in an acquired language, and yes, I now am a witness to that (looooooong) process. BUT just because I went through the process does not guarantee I’m perfecta (My inner perfectionist is cringing at admitting that… but y’all need to know I’m not perfect in anything, including my second language!).
So this is where native speakers come in. I still need (lots of) influencia from native Spanish speakers. My favorite native speaker is of course Tico and that’s why I married him (¡for life, mi amor!), and I am surrounded by many native speakers at church and at work. I’ll share their stories (with their permission of course!) in later posts on this blog.
Summary of #2: Finding native speakers that allow me to practice and expose my little one to native Spanish has been an invaluable tool.
And now on to another (perhaps the most valuable) tool that probably the whole world already knows about…
When I was a kid (and my parents were kids…), I had to wait until my favorite show was on TV, most likely on Saturday morning. I remember watching reruns of Arthur with my younger siblings, not because we chose the episode, but because that was on PBS at the moment.
As a teacher, I have noticed a different dynamic in the classroom as my students have never had to wait for their show. This new generation (the “YouTubers” of our day) is quick to find and watch a favorite episodio via the Internet, and they even dream of having their own YouTube channels someday!
With that in mind, I have gone to YouTube to hunt for Spanish videos, poems, shows, etc., and I have dug up (what I think is) a gold mine. (Move over Dora!)
Let’s start here: Canciones infantiles
I (ever-so-conveniently) played this song one day while Tico and I were both home with Guapa, probably on a weekend. Tico lit up every time a song came on that he recognized from his own childhood. I was taking notes on the songs that my favorite native speaker knew so that I could focus most on learning those (and sing them with Guapa of course). Our favorites from this video include El barquito (at 5:18) and Un elefante se balanceaba (at 8:34) and Una vaca lechera (at 15:20).
(Side note: My favorite rendition of Un elefante se balanceaba can be found aquí.)
Then there’s just the silliness of Pollito Pio. While I’m learning animal sounds in Spanish (yup, sonidos de animales are different in Spanish too!), Tico and I try to keep up with all the lyrics of the song! Whew! (If you watch — or skip– all the way to the end of the video, you’re in for a surprise ending! Then of course go check out the Pollito Pio Venganza video for further laughs about how this determined little chick gets revenge!)
I’m also keeping a couple Spanish shows in mind for the future. Guapa isn’t very interested yet in having her own show that tells stories, but when she is, I have some suggestions (We’ll see how that goes, ha!). One is the Vamos bebé series and the other is Peppa Pig. Both use Spain Spanish, but we’ll take what we can get!
I’m realizing how many YouTube videos we’ve found during Guapa’s 18 months, and I think it’s a good idea to save other links for another post (And so as not to overwhelm you if that’s how you’re feeling…)!
***Side note: Yes I know excessive screen time is not recommended for our littles, and so far (I think) we’re keeping a good balance of lots of playtime and a little screen time. Guapa already knows that I’m more likely to say no to her request for puppy videos and Tico is much more likely to say yes! They learn young!***
So there you have it: Our Top Three Resources! The library, native speakers, and YouTube.
More to come!