Our Fourth Grade Curriculum: Spanish

Do you teach a foreign language in your homeschooling?  When did you start?  How is it progressing?

Why We Chose Spanish

We chose Spanish as our children’s foreign language, and we tried to teach it as much as we could as soon as we could.  My husband and I had both learned some Spanish during medical school and residency because there was a large Mexican immigrant population where we did our residencies in Indiana.  We like foreign culture and language and wanted to try to converse with our immigrant patients as much as possible in their own language.  Since we knew Spanish a bit, it made sense to have our children learn Spanish.  Plus, Spanish-speaking people could be found easily around us.

A Brief History of My Fourth Grader’s Spanish Background

We found a Spanish tutor when M1, my now ten-year old fourth grader, was 5 years old. Before that, we talked to her in our self-taught rudimentary Spanish. We frequented Mexican restaurants and my husband insisted on speaking Spanish with the waiters. (I always wondered what they thought of us fools.) We volunteered at English as a Second Language. We watched Muzzy and Barney in Spanish. Did Rosetta Stone, Visual Link Spanish and some kid’s computer programs in Spanish. It was a Godsend when we finally found a tutor.  She came once a week and played and did art with my daughters, speaking Spanish to them.

Having my children speak a foreign language is something we just won’t budge on. Here we are 5 years, a move across the country, and several Spanish tutors later. (Our tutors, sadly to us, come and go as they get new jobs or their families change. However, we have enjoyed each tutor and their different accents and approaches with the kids. Our current tutor has been with us for about a year now. We have had Puerto Rican Spanish, Colombian Spanish, and Mexican Spanish. They’re all a bit different, and interestingly enough, we’ve found Colombian Spanish easiest to understand.) We are at the point where M1 grasps the understanding of both written and verbal Spanish when in context. When words are not used in context, she may not be able to tell you meaning. Her own use of the language has drastically increased, and we (my husband, the tutor, and I) all agree that it is time to push her into speaking mostly only in Spanish for her lessons.

An Exceptionally Brief Video of My Daughter Speaking Spanish

Our Fourth Grade Spanish Curriculum Includes:

Using a tutor.  Our Spanish tutor comes twice a week, including summers.  She does not have a secondary degree in teaching, her own language, or even the English language.  For now, I don’t care!  She can speak Spanish and is willing to work with M1 to find out how she best learns to SPEAK Spanish!  M1 learns so much just by listening!  Our goal for this elementary stage is to simply get M1 SPEAKING Spanish.  Grammar focus will come later.

(Note:  Our tutor works with each child one on one.  Initially, a year or two ago, we had the tutor work with the girls together, but then their abilities started spreading apart.  At this point, we separated them for individual lessons.)

The tutor tries to speak only in Spanish during class, but when M1 doesn’t understand, she explains things in English.  I tell her that right now the most important thing is for the kids to hear, hear, hear Spanish.  I chose a native speaker because I feel that the children pick up the tongue positions of foreign language sounds naturally; for example, they don’t have to think about rolling the “R.”  It just happens.  Also, as much as possible, I don’t want them at this young age to learn by “translation.”

Although I don’t spend too much money on homeschooling,  I’d say we do spend the bulk of our homeschooling budget on our Spanish tutor (and the computer programs we invested in are kind of “salty” too–but they can be used for many years).  Without a tutor, though, I don’t think my kids would learn Spanish fluency in our home.  I could feed them vocabulary and verbs, but I don’t think our goal of fluency would be achieved.

wpid-IMAG2426.jpgRead and Understand, Grade 3.  As M1 was understanding well and beginning to speak Spanish more, our tutor and I decided she needed practice in making sentences.  I would have preferred to not use a textbook, but our tutor is not a trained teacher and prefers to have something to guide her.  We started using Read and Understand, Grade 3.  It has reading selections from various backgrounds (myths, poetry, nonfiction, and science) that are in both English and Spanish.  M1 doesn’t like it because it requires writing sentences quite a bit.  I usually work with and compromise with M1 on this abhorrence of physical handwriting, but in this case, I am not her teacher, and she must do what her Spanish teacher asks her to do.  Her tutor also gives her homework–which she hates!  I like it because it keeps us accountable on the days the tutor does not come.  Plus, she gets a feel of real, live homework!

We did not buy Read and Understand, Grade 3 especially for homeschooling.  My husband picked it up several years ago for himself and never used it.  It has worked great for M1. She reads the passage aloud with the tutor for pronunciation work.  She then translates it as best she can orally to English.  Finally, she does the written exercises at the end of the lesson which require her to formulate and write sentences in Spanish.

Visual Link Spanish (link)  We really, really like this program a lot.  Currently M1 is working through the Level 2 Verbs section.  She learns 30 verbs and then there is a fun game to quiz her on the verbs.  Her Spanish tutor then has her come up with sentences using these verbs.  M1 likes this program much better than Rosetta Stone, which she described as “Boring!”  The whole family (even my 5 year old tries) likes to use this program.  We have used Rosetta Stone in the past, and, like M1, I like this one better, too.

Mom and Dad Learn Spanish, Too!  My husband is very good at this and keeps diligently working.  I’m hit or miss, depending on what nutritional health topic is fascinating me at the moment.  However, I feel I must make a much bigger effort in learning and using my Spanish again.  I notice when I use as much Spanish-Spanglish as I can around the house with whatever I know, the girls start using their Spanish, too.  When I don’t, they don’t.  So here recently, I’m back at Visual Link Spanish, too, and back to sitting in on their lessons with them with the tutor.  I really have a sense that my children will come to speak with fluency at a younger age if I use my Spanish, too.  Sadly, yet excitingly, they do correct my around-the-house Spanish.

Miscellaneous  The tutor occasionally uses flashcards as needed.  We listen to Spanish CDs in the car.  My husband and I attend Sunday School in Spanish and the girls sometimes finish their class early and come and listen in.  Despite dietary restrictions, we still can pretty comfortably eat occasionally at the local Mexican restaurant where we all try to use our Spanish.  (Our youngest is known there as “Pollito.”  One time, speaking Spanish, they asked her her name.  She thought they asked what she wanted to eat, and she yelled out loudly in her characteristic style, “POLLO!”  So they took to calling her “Pollito,” which means “little chicken.”)


I guess this summarizes what we do for fourth grade Spanish.  If I’m still posting next year, I’d love to be able to say that M1 has progressed to conversing somewhat easily in Spanish.  It will be fun to see if it happens.  For us, I really, really think that the more my husband and I use our Spanish in the house, no matter how bad it may be, the more M1 will come to use the Spanish she knows.

I hope you and your families are full of love, peace, and joy!  ~~Terri

PS:  Did anyone who has been around awhile notice that I learned how to put a video on?  Don’t even tell me if it doesn’t work.  Next, I’m going to learn how to hook my laptop up to my scanner so I can scan in my hand-drawings in future health-related posts!  Big plans.  Oh, big plans.  One teeny, tiny step at a time!  LOL!  Learning is fun!

40 thoughts on “Our Fourth Grade Curriculum: Spanish

  1. The Vanilla Housewife

    Yay on the video! Too bad it wouldn’t play on my phone but dont worry it’s not just your video but all videos on wp.
    One region in our country use Spanish as their first language buy the call it Chabacano. It’s our version of Spanglish. It had something to do with the Spanish colonization a long time ago but it just stuck with the local folks. Lovely to the ears!
    I’d love to learn Spanish, too bad the university I went to, took out the elective subject before I got to college. Never took the effort to learn it in my own though.
    It’s funny in our country, all subjects in school are taught in English except for the Filipino Subject. And here in Mindanao and Visayas, it was only last year that they required public schools to include our native dialect Visayan in the curriculum. Private schools though are not required and Luzon is exempted from this order because people there speak the national language which is Filipino (among many other dialects in different regions). Many Filipinos speak Chinese, which is of course a required subject in Chinese schoola but many non-Chinese kids go to these schools. And now with thr influx of Koreans in our country, many are learning how to speak Korean.
    And I realize why I’m blabbing and veering away from the topic Spanish. LOL Enjoy the rest of the week Terri! Buenas Noches! 🙂

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      That was a GREAT cultural lesson! So many languages around you! My husband gets worried when I tell him I want Mary to learn more than Spanish, but I think it she can do it! And who ever would have thought about Spanish (Chabacano) in the Philippines! (Not me.) Our schools teach only English until ninth grade, when you can usually choose from a language or two that is offered by that particular school. There are smaller, unique schools where it is started earlier. Here in South Dakota, I could easily find a middle-aged person who speaks German, but that wouldn’t be so easy elsewhere!

      A drunk phone. By, golly! I’m missing one of those!

  2. andthreetogo

    Wow! I am so impressed with your guys decision and subsequent follow through for the last 5 years! We want z to learn Thai (since we live here currently), Chinese, and Spanish along with English of course. I plan on learning them with her too and I know it is a lot of languages to learn at the same time, so we will probably try one first and then move to the next. This is all probably wishful thinking but I am willing to try. 🙂
    My mom always wanted to learn French (which turned out to be completely useless, not many French speakers in Northern California). I took Spanish in college and spoke Chinese when we lived in Taiwan. I love learning new languages.
    Good job on the video!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Good luck! I think Z speaking all those is do-able.. I mean, I’m sure she is immersed in Thai right now and learning so rapidly! You lucky ones! (If she learns it, somehow wherever you go, find a way to keep her exposed!) And since you speak Chinese, that ought to help in that language! And there are lots of college students from abroad who could come help tutor. (We found our initial tutor here in SD by calling the Spanish department head.) And Spanish here in the States is easily accessible. If Mary does become fluent in the next year or two, then I’d like her to choose her next language. I do occasionally let them listen to the DVDs/CDs that we have in other languages so they can maybe get the sound pathways in there early. I took French. It helps me understand Spanish. But I don’t “know” French. Sad. Thanks for noticing the video! Simple accomplishment I know, but maybe you understand?

      1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Oh, and I wanted to mention my Romanian friend who speaks Romanian, Italian, French, Spanish, English, and a smat of German. She tells me as a child, she watched a lot of TV, but in Romania at the time (a huge fascinating cultural time to talk to her about), the movies were all in French and that’s how she “learned” French so easily later. I tucked that away in my brain.

      2. Scott

        Thai is an awesome and very beautiful language. The script used to write Thai is art and the Thai people are absolutely wonderful. Thai was the first foreign language I studied and it was a real challenge. Because it is a tonal language, like Chinese and Vietnamese, comprehension of the spoken language can be somewhat elusive to English speakers. I mean,when one word can mean five different things depending on the tone that is spoken I consider that to be a challenging language!
        Becoming “fluent”in a language takes longer than just one or two years to reach what could be considered “fluency”. Also there are many factors involved in reaching fluency such as exposure to literature in the target language and how often the student gets to practice speaking and writing the language. Learning to think and not just translate in the target language is another deciding factor.Performing simple math in the target language is a great way to learn to think in the language. Language learning takes time,patience and practice,practice,practice.Not just textbook practice but real reading and writing practice. This is why the majority of American kids who study French or Spanish for only 1 or 2 years in high school then move on and forget about it never really learn the language. They are not taught how to approach the language or view the language as a living entity.

      3. Scott

        Yes,it is an added difficulty. It is the tones that give Asian languages like Thai,Lao,Burmese,Khmer,Vietnamese and Chinese their “sing-song” sound. Thai (which has 5 tones) is awesome,as I said before,but Vietnamese (which has 7 tones),will completely bend the mind and twist the tounge .I studied Vietnamese for about 5 months before dropping it like a hot potato. I just could not get my mind wrapped around it.I also toyed around with some of the more exotic and lesser-know South-East Asian dialects like Hmong,Lisu,Meo,Yao and Karen,all of which are very beautiful and difficult tonal languages. Languages like Mongolian and Japanese derive meaning by vowel stress which makes learning those languages much,much easier for English speakers if one can get used to inflecting the word endings. The Mongolian language,to be quite honest about it,is not really a beautiful language like Thai or Vietnamese. It has a rather harsh and aspirated sound,unlike Thai with it’s roller-coaster up and down, and rising and falling tones.The first time I heard Mongolian being spoken it sounded more like a train wreck,but it was easy to learn than Thai and it eventually led me to marry a beautiful Mongolian woman. :).

        As for the idea about the books it was completely my pleasure. I love sharing ideas to fellow home-educators and learning from them as well.

  3. All Seasons Cyclist

    I am a big believer in Total Immersion Learning — drop me off in a foreign country and my language skills improve every day. Unfortunately, I usually forget everything by the second week after I’m home. By the way, I also carry a Kwikpoint card in non-English speaking countries (it is a card that has a LOT of photographs — you just point to what you are looking for and nearly everyone can understand you — really important if you are trying to find a “water closest” before the Cipro kicks in).

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Sometimes I think my English is still improving, if you get what I mean.

      Thanks for the Kwikpoint card tip! Never heard of it! Hope you found that closest water closet on that trip!

      Ever bike in a foreign country? I remember traveling from Barcelona up to this small town called Palafrugell in Spain along the cliffy, Costa Brava. It was hilly and hugging the edge of the cliff. You’d make these hairpin turns, and there’d be a biker right smack there! (We saw several through the several hour trip.) Man.

      1. All Seasons Cyclist

        The Kwikpoint cards are a real life saver in foreign countries! I have cycled in Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Greece—but only on bicycles I borrowed from hotels. The ride in Turkey nearly cost me my life—one moment I was standing on the same hill where Alexander the Great once stood to overlook the ancient city of Smyrna (modern Izmir), and a few moments later I was barreling down a monstrous hill and dodging oncoming cars while riding a bike that was missing the brake pads!

  4. Scott

    I applaud you,HSD for your insistence that your children learn Spanish. Universally Americans are primarily known as monoglots,so when I see home-educating families not only giving their children opportunities to learn foreign languages but actually INSISTING on it I find it to be really cool! We have a large foreign language home library encompassing Spanish,Mongolian,Japanese, Chinese,Russian,Latin,Ancient Greek and a few books for French. I would suggest introducing your children to literary Spanish as soon as they feel confident enough to tackle it. Two books in our Spanish collection that I highly reccomend are “Representative Spanish Authors” Vol.1 and Vol. 2 by Walter Pattison and Donald Bleznick (Oxford University Press). Reading real literature in the target language helps to expand vocabulary beyond the conversational stock and gives the student a real feel for the culture of the target language. Currently we are focused on Latin,Mongolian,and Ancient Greek and will be adding Spanish once our son has successfully completed three years of Latin and at least two years of Ancient Greek. Mongolian,Latin and English are to be his primary home languages since his mother and half-sisters are Mongolian and we live in a large Mongolian speaking community here in the Jeffersonville/Louisville area. I’m an American but I speak Latin and English to him. Latin is to also to be his primary literary language along with Ancient Greek. Our family firmly believes “Vna lingva nvmqvam satis est” (one language is never enough), and I am happy that your family feels the same way. Applause from our family to your family!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi, Scott! Thanks! You sound very, very successful in this area! I checked out the book(s) you recommend on Amazon. What level are the books’ excerpts (I assume they’re excerpts?)? Is it a mix? Is it more like high school level? Just wondering if it’s something she could attempt now (her reading comprehension seems very good for Spanish) or perhaps wait? What do you think?

      We lived in Lexington for a year during my husband’s fellowship. Loved it. Had no idea Louisville/Jeffersonville had a Mongolian population! Fascinating!

      We introduced Latin about 1 and 1/2 to 2 years ago. I think my 4th grader is ready, but my 2nd grader is not for sure. I used to try to do lots of the subjects together, but perhaps it is time to turn Mary loose on the Latin curriculum on her own. You probably don’t need a curriculum as you probably make your own?

      One language is not enough. You are right! Especially when children are capable of so much! Sometimes it’s like we waste our time trying to teach them things that just will come developmentally in time–when we could use that precious time for things like music and language that can be taught by “immersion.” Does that make sense? Like trying to teach a kindergartner the months of the year or phonics sounds–I’ve discovered by observation (at least in my kids), these concepts just come in time a little later than kindergarten! So no need to “drill” them on these! Use that time for language, music, art. Immerse them in these as much as possible! Rant over. Thanks!

      Loved hearing what you guys do!

      1. Scott

        Hello again HSD. The books contain a good mix of excerpts from Spanish prose,authors and poets from the middle ages to the late 19th century and could be considered high school level. I would assume that a student would need at least two years of serious study to begin tackling these books.I have less than two years of self-study in Spanish and I really enjoying pulling these books from time to time and reading them with a little help from my dictionaries and the included vocabularies. Since your daughter has good reading comprehension I would not suggest waiting.Comprehension has to be continuously practiced and developed and sometimes it is good to go in a little ways over our heads. and I am of the belief that one learns to do something by doing it and in no other way regardless is one is learning to swim,ride a bike or learn a language or math.

        As for Latin I currently put together my own curriculum for our son but in May we will begin using curriculum from Highland’s Latin school. That doesn’t mean, however, that I will rely 100% on their Latin curriculum. I will still be “helping” him to develop his reading and writing abilities in Latin outside the curriculum as he needs to be prepped for Latin literature and to eventually take National Latin Exams.Exposure to good books and knowledge of the great Roman writers is one way I will approach that.

        And yes,I also agree that children are capable of so much more than adults often give them credit. I especially liked what you said here:

        “Sometimes it’s like we waste our time trying to teach them things that just will come developmentally in time–when we could use that precious time for things like music and language that can be taught by “immersion.”

        Yes,sometimes concepts are not learned “on schedule”. Every child is different and learns at a different pace. I find that “a little and often” works out so much better than forcing the child to work for hours on things that he or she may just not be ready for. Our son did not learn the Greek alphabet by having it “forced” on him. We just put the letters up on the wall and he approached them at his convenience. Within two months time he had learned them painlessly and tear-free.
        Days of the week,moths of the year,etc are things that children learn through osmosis by just being in the world. I am blessed in the fact that by nurturing our son on foreign languages he actually take the initiative to want to learn how to say things in the languages he is learning and I don’t have to waste precious time in “teaching” him ever little thing. Aristotle said ” all men by their nature desire to know” and I believe that includes people both big and small.

        I’m loving your blog and I look forward to every e mail notification that I get on your new posts. Keep up the good work. Our home-education experience is so much richer thanks to your blog.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        I think we will dive right in! We already do poetry memorization, some can be complex, so why not in Spanish, too? Thanks for the idea! And thanks for your kind, motivational words and sharing.

  5. Karisa

    M.C. can come spend the summer with me once she is fluent in her Spanish and teach me! I’ve been trying to convince myself to take Spanish up and try to learn. I have had three Spanish only speaking patients just within the last week (one without an interpreter!) at my new job, and it has been challenging!

  6. Jo tB

    I would like to pass on my experience in learning foreign languages. I was educated in Australia, so English is my mother tongue. As a young lady I wanted to see the world, went to Europe and landed in Holland. It took 4 years of private tuition to learn Dutch. Unfortunately I didn’t learn it in translation, so even 50 years later I still have trouble connecting the dots when someone asks me what a Dutch word is in English. I know both words, I just have trouble connecting them. These days if there is a word in Dutch (or English) I type the word in Google add the word vertaling/translation and the internet coughs up the translation. So I would urge you to get all of you to take the time to learn 10 Spanish words a day with the English word alongside. You will be surprised how helpful it will be in future. If you know how the word is used in a sentence in English, if will be a lot easier to use the corresponding Spanish word in a Spanish sentence.
    After I learnt Dutch I decided to learn German as the languages are so similar. It turned out to be fairly easy, as I took the Dutch word and “germanised” it, and about 80% of time it worked. So all in all it took less time to “master” the German language, as the vocabulary was already in place in Dutch.
    Last year I went to Norway for a holiday and found that I could read Norwegian quite easily and to my surprise I understood what was written!! I even asked a lady in a supermarket if a word meant what I thought it meant, and it turned out that I was correct. So I thought, should I give it a go and learn Norwegian? You learn 3 languages in 1 because if you speak Norwegian you can understand both Swedish and Danish as well as the languages are so similar. The same applies (as I understand it) for Spanish and Portuguese.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Now WHAT another interesting take! I am glad to hear that (not the part where you have to take extra work to translate!) but the part about where you “know” what’s being said but have to work at direct translation. I wouldn’t have thought of that and now can watch for that and help prevent it.

      I have observed VERY different language learning styles in my two oldest daughters (10, 8). The first “just gets it.” The second we have been working more with flash cards and memorization because she just can’t seem to remember and didn’t seem to be gaining on understanding the tutor, despite now at least two years of tutoring twice a week. (This is the fun challenge of homeschooling! Helping each child gain maximal potential?)

      Go for Dutch (and Swedish and Danish)! Being able to speak and read all those languages blows my American mind. Simply amazing.

  7. Jo tB

    Do you have Spanish television where you live? That would be a great help. The visual and the sound together. Let them watch Spanish childrens programmes. Why the Dutch are very good at languages is because they don’t dub. They leave the programme in the original language and use sub titles. The Germans, French, Scandinavians, English, etc all dub foreign programs. So you don’t get the benefit of hearing the spoken language. Believe you me, hearing J.R. Ewing of Dallas in German just doesn’t cut it for me!!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Me either! (Regarding J.R. Ewing) We do have Spanish television and watch it occasionally. I wish I could figure out, though, how to get the subtitles on our TV. That would be helpful for me, for sure! And my kids, too, I’d bet!

  8. Scott

    I would like to also recommend a very good Spanish dictionary,if you don’t already have it.It is the “Larousse Diccionario Del Espnanol Moderno”. It is available on amazon.com for $6.64. I found my copy at Goodwill for 25 cents. This dictionary is all Spanish and Spanish terms are defined in Spanish,a great way to help the student build their Spanish vocabulary and think in Spanish.There are no page numbers but I would bet it is at least 300 pages or better. The only con to this dictionary is the size of the type,it is tiny! But….. that could be a plus for the ambitious student who is willing to make a vocabulary notebook and write the definitions to words they need to define,thereby living the Roman mantra: “Qvi scribit,bis legit” (He who writes reads twice). So if you decide to use this dictionary have a good magnifying glass on hand, you will need it!

    There are also two textbooks for Spanish that I would like to recommend if you can find them as they are now out of print. The first is “Curso Moderno De Espanol”. This fantastic book has 602 pages and could be considered a book for the first two years of Spanish.It teaches Spanish thoroughly. The first 62 pages of the book are one big introductory lesson,”Lecciones Preparatorias”, which includes learning to think in Spanish using simple mathematics for the numbers and using question and answers for other things. The “Lecciones Preparatorias” act as the “slingshot” of the book, helping the student build a solid introductory vocabulary and to be able to begin thinking in Spanish before they even see lesson 1.

    The other book is called “Hablar y Leer”. This book could be considered a third year text. The book is all Spanish,not one bit of English to be found anywhere. The big plus to this book is how complete it is in itself. Each chapter (20 chapters in all) begin with “Usando El Diccionario” and defines 40 words in Spanish.The entire book is centered around reading in Spanish and the grammar is taught only in Spanish.

    Anyway,those are the three best books I have in my Spanish home-library in addition to the two volumes of “Representative Spanish Authors”. Also a great website for free books is archive.org. Just type in Spanish Language Books and you will find more free books than any one person could possibly use. And if you need help for Latin be sure to check out textkit.com. This website is a place for students of Latin and Greek to get together and help each other with anything they don’t understand in their studies.

    Have a nice day! 🙂

  9. IrishMum

    We use a tutor for French, and it’s the biggest homeschool expense for us too. I think you are lucky in America to have access to so many Spanish speakers; we have few here. In hindsight we should have chosen an Asian language as our foreign language, so we would have more choice with tutors, and more chances to communicate with native speakers. BUT I love the sound of French, so I love to hear my boys speaking French.
    What is your cutie daughter saying in the video? And good for you for learning to embed the video 🙂

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      My daughter is saying “I am hungry. I want an apple.” (Tengo hombre. Quiero una manzana.)

      French is beautiful, for sure. Remind me, then, do your boys speak Gaelic, too? (Sorry if that’s not what it’s called and I’m showing my large ignorance!)

      I do wonder how many languages the girls will manage to tuck into their brains. I wonder if they’ll be able to pursue one or two more sometime.

      Take care!

      1. IrishMum

        We Irish call it Irish, the rest of the world calls it Gaelic : ) No they don’t speak Irish, thought my oldest went to an Irish speaking school in Ireland, and they all would have been fluent by now 😦

  10. Nicole, The Non-Toxic Nurse

    I am so glad to hear your girls’ opinions of Rosetta Stone and to hear about Visual Link. My daughter has devoured the “Your Baby Can Speak” Spanish materials and the “Rock’nLearn” Spanish materials and we must move on to bigger and better. She officially knows more Spanish vocab than I. When I speak to her in Spanish, I often have to pause and ask her, “what’s the word for _____?” to finish my sentences. I very much want to find a Spanish-speaking person to come speak to her.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Our Spanish tutors have been indispensable! We also now have a babysitter who speaks Spanish to them primarily. She is a college student. It’s kind of like once you get your foot in the door in the Spanish speaking population network then more opportunities open! But, for us at least, finding one who wanted to come initially was challenging. I think they’re not sure what is expected as a “tutor” since that’s not their primary experience. I think they have visions of English class! And your daughter is amazing!

  11. My Tropical Home

    Interesting post this. I wrote about the Chinese language school I sent my daughter to almost 2 years ago. I learned from them that the best time to teach foreign or different languages to kids is when they’re before 7!! That way they learn languages different from their mother tongue and don’t mix up the words. They claimed research studies that supported that. But I believe anyone can learn another language if they put their mind to it and are prepared to do the work.

    I live in the Philippines (Luzon not the southern part where the Vanilla Housewife lives). She’s right about Chinese (Mandarin) and Korean being “popular” choices here. Spanish is almost taken for granted because there’s still the older generation who speaks that and there’s so much of it in the official tongue Tagalog.

    My 6 almost 7 year old son likes Spanish and he has so far learnt how to speak and read it by watching and listening to it through Youtube videos and cartoons. I got him a very used but still readable elementary Spanish dictionary by Dr Seuss which he is also learning to read from. I can still understand him because like I said Tagalog has a lot of Spanish loan words but it’s getting harder and harder for me now because he’s working at it. It has helped my son that the hubby studied some Spanish at a time when it was a college requirement and that my parents grew up when Spanish was still spoken by a large part of the population; so he gets to practise with them. But lately he’s taken an interest to…Japanese! because his favorite shows are from Japan and he wanted to know what it sounded like. So we went to Youtube and watched and listened to Japanese songs and cartoons. I studied a year of Japanese as my foreign language elective in college but can’t remember much of it. I’m sharing the little that I can recall but I’m not yet ready to study Japanese with him.

    The daughter still remembers a lot of her Chinese and we do the same thing (watch Chinese with the characters) to help her remember what she knows.

    The tip I got about learning languages (from the Chinese language school teachers) whether its English or something else – is to learn it the way you learned English (or your mother tongue if its not English): talk, hear, read and write it (i.e. immersion). The earlier in life you start the easier it is. I speak, read and write at different fluency levels – English (because I grew up in a former British colony), Bahasa Melayu or Malay (same reason as English), Tagalog (supposedly my mother tongue), Bicolano (my parents spoke this at home so I can understand and read it but not speak or write it) and a few words of Japanese and some Spanish. Immersion is very important especially for tonal languages like Chinese. Many of the languages and dialects in the Philippines are tonal also. Change the tone you change the meaning of the word – so exciting to learn!

    And now my comment is getting longer than your post so I’ll stop 🙂

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Fun to read what you learned from the experts at the Chinese immersion school you sent your daughter to! (Like you, I think anyone can learn another language if/when needed with lots of persistence and exposure. Probably heavily accented. My Aunt who has lived in Germany for about 50 years says that her accent is described as speaking German with a potato in her mouth.) I just know my kids easily picked up the verbal tongue placement for sounds that I can’t seem to get at all without making them sound just so American! So for that, starting young since we were homeschooling, it was worth it. I will go to your site and see if I can track down your post on the Chinese school. (Just ran over. I did not see a search bar, but I had fun reading your lines and homeschool curriculum. 🙂 )

      Are there people there who speak Spanish and Tagalog? Or has it merged to just Tagalog mostly now? I will have to look up now when Spain come to the Philippines!

      I think it’s just amazing that you can speak and/or read those languages. How the brain can transfer situations, heard sounds, spoken sounds! What a gift! (Which I think is easy for multi-lingual people to take for granted! Maybe because it’s so common elsewhere?)

      Have a good Wednesday! ~~Terri

      1. My Tropical Home

        My father and his family could because my grandmother used to talk to them in Spanish (in addition to the native Bicolano and English). My grandmother spoke poor Tagalog hence her preference for Spanish. Tagalog has a lot of Spanish words but it hasn’t really merged. It’s now got a lot of English words also. But the languages in the Southern and Central Philippines have a lot more of Spanish in them.

        Spain came to the Philippines in the mid-1500s and stayed around for about 300 years or so. Many of the older generation of upper classes can probably still speak Spanish and the local languages and dialects. Among the regular folk like myself especially my generation and younger, probably not.

        Languages become ingrained especially when exposed at a young age. It’s been more than 20 years since I spoke to anyone in Malay but I still remember it and can use it. It won’t sound very nice but I’m pretty sure I’ll be understood. Sometimes my siblings and I talk in it just for fun because we know people around us won’t be able to understand 😉

        Happy Wednesday also! ~ Mary

  12. Scott

    “Spain came to the Philippines in the mid-1500s and stayed around for about 300 years or so. Many of the older generation of upper classes can probably still speak Spanish and the local languages and dialects. Among the regular folk like myself especially my generation and younger, probably not.”

    It is the same way in my wife’s country of Mongolia. The Russians moved in in 1921 and did not leave until 1990. In 1940 the Mongolians adopted the Russian Cyrillic alphabet but had to add two additional letters to represent two additional sounds that were not in the Russian language. Thank goodness they adopted the Cyrillic alphabet as the Mongol Uighur script is very difficult to learn. Today Mongolians age 35 and older can still speak and understand Russian but it is a rare exception if the younger generation of Mongols can speak Russian. The younger generation of Mongols,like my step-daughters who are in their early 20’s, want to learn English,French,Chinese,Korean and/or Japanese since it is the young people who are traveling abroad to live and work. but the Gen X’ers, like my wife,still speak Russian and even watch Russian programs. It is funny how the younger Mongols refer to the Russian language as “the language of the old people.” 🙂

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Right. Dougie Houser. Russian. You and your wife must be ancient old people. (Kidding. I watched Dougie Houser.) To me, learning a whole new written alphabet (to top the phonetic alphabet/sounds) is frightening! Even more amazing that people, young and old, have mastered this–have had to master this!

      1. Scott

        I was a Dougie Houser fan back in the day (albeit a “closeted” fan since I was a guy). And yes,my wife and I are positively ancient! We love to tell our kids how we counted all of the animals as Noah was loading them onto the ark! The Cyrillic alphabet is really a straightforward alphabet with only two silent letters (myahgkii znyahck (Ъ ъ) and tvyordii znyahck ( Ь ь) are their names) and is based on the Greek and Roman alphabets. The Russian Cyrillic alphabet has 33 letters and the Mongol Cyrillic has 35 letters. One has to get adjusted to reading letters from the Roman alphabet we as English speakers use that have different values in Cyrillic such as “B” pronounced as “V” “C” pronounced as “S” “E” pronounced as “YEH” “H” pronounced as “N” “P” pronounced as “R” and “Y” pronounced as “OO”. One of the most unique letters is the letter “Я”. It is a vowel and is pronounced as “YA” .( When my wife first came to the U.S. and she saw the “Toys-Я-Us” sign she asked me “Why does it say Toys “YA” Us? Is it a Russian toy store?” ) The other unique letter is the letter and vowel “Ю”,pronounced as “YOO”. The benefit to being literate in Cyrillic is that when one can read and write Cyrillic one can read and write in several languages that use the Cyrillic alphabet such as Russian,Mongolian,Moldovan,Ukrainian and Bulgarian.One may not understand what they are reading,but they can read it never-the-less. Another plus is that being literate in Cyrillic makes learning the Ancient Greek alphabet a cinch and vice-versa. The Mongolians actually tried voting a few years ago to stop using the Cyrillic alphabet and revert back to using the Uighur script but the majority of voters decided to keep the Cyrillic since it was the only alphabet the younger generation had ever known.And as I said before,the Mongol Uighur script is very,very difficult to learn. It looks exactly like the Arabic script, but turned sideways counter-clockwise. My wife can read and write it since her parents had taught her and her sisters in childhood how to read and write it and we have 7 old Mongolian books from the early 20th century written in Uighur in our home library. The Uighur script is a very old cultural icon she will be passing on to our son (just as she passed it on to her daughters),in a few years at her father’s insistence and with my support.Our son in turn,like his big sisters,will be required to pass it on to his children,too (Mongolian children,adult children included, really respect their parent’s desires and our son is being raised to do the same).There is no practical purpose for being literate in Uighur,just a purpose of culture that many,but not all, Mongolian parents passed onto their children. My wife and sisters-in-law were just some of the lucky and few children to have parents who cared enough about their culture to pass it on to their children. It just goes to show that education is not always for “practical’ purposes.Anyway,I have droned on long enough.I hope you have a nice day and I look forward to your next blog.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        I’m glad your wife’s family and you care(d) enough to pass Uighur on. Although we have only English, I hope my kids can say my husband and I did them well by getting them back to our childhood homes to see grandparents, harvest, planting, animals, maple syrup making, etc–all parts of who we are and where we came from. (My family still small-scale family farms in Indiana.)

        Toys-backwards R-Us! LOL!

  13. Scott

    Family is most important of all. My wife and I dream of owning our own small farm where we can raise our own vegies and animals. It’s funny that I grew up on a small farm in central Arkansas and could not wait to get out and live in the city. But now that I have lived in the city for 24 years (14 years in Little Rock,Ar and 10 years in the downtown Louisville/Jeffersonville area) I find myself wanting to get back to the country. I think you did your kids a favor by getting them back to your family homes.Kids need the experience of taking part in raising their own food and having the experience of seeing nature at it’s finest.


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