For many reasons that are largely out of my control, my two older children from my previous marriage Jonathan (10) and Elena (6) are currently not as bilingual as they should be. They understand a lot of Spanish but they barely speak it. Having been raised to be fully bilingual has been such a blessing for me that it drives me crazy to think they may not end up fully bilingual.
A couple months ago I had a breakthrough idea about how to get them to CARE about learning Spanish and that’s what I want to share with you.
I was going through just another day of my kids complaining about why they needed to learn Spanish when a thought came to mind.
“Do you want to know the real secret for why you need to speak Spanish?”, I asked the kids.
Jonathan the kid spokesperson immediately perked up. ”Yeah, why do you want us to learn Spanish so much when you know we like to speak English.”
I’ve given the typical parent answer to this many times so on this occasion I took things to their level.
“If you speak Spanish you can buy more toys, you get more friends and you’re smarter.”
“What do you mean we get more toys, we have more friends and we’re smarter?”
Here’s how I broke it down for them:
“You can buy more toys.” This means you will be able to purchase a lot more toys because people who speak two languages are often paid a lot more money than those who only speak one. You also get more job opportunities. My kids don’t fully appreciate the value of money at this age so toys is synonymous with salary/money. Of course, this statement is true.
“You have more friends.” I tell my kids that when they speak Spanish they get more friends to choose from and to be chosen as friends especially in a place like South Florida where tons of kids have cool toys but only would only be able to fully play with them if they speak Spanish.
“You become more intelligent.” I’m teaching my kids that if they learn to speak Spanish they will be more intelligent because they will be able to gain more knowledge about more people, places, things and books than if they only understand English. This also makes sense to them.
When I was done making my kid-friendly case for learning Spanish, my children were surprised. They had never had it fully explained to them this way before. I think for the first time in three years of pleading for them to cooperate with me about Spanish my kids discovered a completely unemotional, rational reason for them to learn Spanish.
I still have much more work to go for them to not end up at the Dora the Explorer-level Spanish I fear but right now I’m counting this victory as a significant one. For the first time in their young lives the kids CARE about learning Spanish.