speaking spanish at home: an update

One of the original intentions of this blog was to document how I use Spanish at home with my kids. When I resigned my job teaching Spanish in a high school, it seemed natural to take my passion for foreign language and share it with my daughter. Fast forward 2.5 years, another baby, and a part-time job back in the classroom, and it's a bit tougher to prioritize foreign language fun at home.

I still want my kids to be familiar with the Spanish language, though, so I've found a few ways to incorporate it into our everyday life without much effort. Here are my favorite 3:

1. Bedtime Routine in Spanish

Since Pippa was a baby, I have been singing Jesus Loves Me to her en español right before bedtime prayers. She can now sing the first verse and the chorus along with me! I also like to throw in a few other Spanish children's songs and Jesus songs that I picked up on my mission trips to Mexico.

2. A fully stocked Spanish library

Over the past few years I've been slowly but surely adding to our collection of children's books in Spanish. Some have come from Barnes & Noble, some from Amazon, and others from a trip to Mexico to visit family! We make biweekly trips to the public library, too, and ours has a nice little Spanish kid's section.

Reading books in a foreign language is one of the best ways to learn, because kids can hear the rhythm of the language, discover new words in context, and see pictures to help them figure out what's going on.

3. Favorite Spanish Songs for Kids by Jose-Luis Orozco

We can't get enough of this album in the car! With favorites like "La Araña Pequeñita" (Itsy Bitsy Spider) and Las Ruedas del Camión (Wheel on the Bus), there are enough familiar songs to get my toddler's attention. Many of the other songs are simple enough to understand, and teach things like colors, animals, time, and numbers. My personal favorites are "Compadre Compare un Coco" and "El Chocolate." I even hear Pippa get some of these songs stuck in her head and sing them quietly while she's playing!

I may not be perfect at making sure my kids hear anywhere close to an equal amount of Spanish as they do English, but I do want to make sure that Spanish language resources are available to them, and that time spent en español is fun and relaxing so that they have a positive association with language learning.

magic wand

In my quest for personal growth, I listen to a podcast every day during my afternoon walk with the Pips and the Pabs.

Lately, I have been studying about how to connect with others. As an INFJ, I love the deep meaningful conversations, but struggle with small talk. It's beneficial for me to have a few questions in my back pocket that I can bring up to learn more about others - because that's what connecting is all about!

Anyway, one of the best connecting questions I have learned is the magic wand question:

"If you had a magic wand that made time and money of no consequence, how would you spend your time?"

This is an awesome question because it really gets to the heart of what is important to someone. What gets their heart palpitating. What excites them!

For me, it would be spending time abroad doing 2 things:
1. Helping others, volunteering, spreading God's Word.
2. Learning other languages!

I know some people barely "get through" their language classes in school. I, on the other hand, would be happy to spend all my time studying vocabulary and honing my grammar skills. Like this guy - my former Spanish teacher and his awesome family. Bonus: he gets to study language AND use it to spread the Gospel.

If I could wave that magic wand, we would be off on my dream vacation, which involves dragging my family to a beach in Costa Rica, or downtown Buenos Aires to study Spanish for fun.

If I could wave that magic wand, Pippa and I would be on a video chat every day with a native speaker, paying to learn more Spanish.

That's my passion. And I really want to pass that on to Pippa.

So yeah, I know I'm not a native speaker, so the Spanish I speak with Pippa is not going to be perfect. I know that the best way to learn a language is immersion in the culture. I know that! I want that! But, I have not yet reached the magic wand stage of my life. I'm working on it, though!

In the meantime, I am using all the resources available to me fo' free! Podcasts, websites, library books, and Spanish language toys. Keeping my own language skills fresh so I can speak more confidently to my 1-year-old.

That's why I'm dedicated to making Spanish a priority in Pippa's childhood. It's my happy place. The answer to my magic wand question.

What about you? "If you had a magic wand that made time and money of no consequence, how would you spend your time?"

in the trenches

Fellow humans. There are so many seemingly unpleasant chores, tasks, and duties in this life that actually make us happy in the long run. No one actually wants to do them in the moment, but many-a harvest has been reaped by sowing the unpleasant seeds when it didn't seem desirable.

These things include, but are not limited to:

√ flossing
√ loading the dishwasher before bed
√ getting up early to work out
√ laying out clothes and packing your lunch at night
√ setting money aside in February for Christmas gifts
√ saving for retirement instead of buying more stuff

Some days, it feels like work to raise a bilingual toddler. My brain simply doesn't want to put in the extra effort to find the word in Spanish. I just don't feel like thinking of the subjunctive. You mean I have to look up that turn-of-phrase on the internet? Oh the humanity!

But with much work on the front end comes high reward on the back end. Some days I receive positive reinforcement for this arduous work - like when Pippa started saying "ah-may" (hambre) when she was hungry. Or the fact that she only says agua instead of water. Or más instead of more. These little things make my heart sing, and I'm glad Past Emily put in the work for Present and Future Emily and Pippa.

Perhaps you're tired. Perhaps you have been procrastinating or avoiding something that you know is good for you in the long run. Whatever your Everest is today, let's all support one another in our efforts and gather some inspiration to push through. I promise it will be worth it - whether it's disciplining your young child or getting up at 5:30 a.m. to work out. Whether it's writing a few pages of that books you've been meaning to write, or writing that email you've been dreading. Whether it's avoiding sugar or running that extra mile today. Do. It. Now.

And now, some inspiration for you:

You can do it!

The struggle is nothin' but love.

Have you guys seen this guy? Kid knows what's up!  and he's only in high school!

This book and blog.

What gets you inspired when you're in the trenches and you just don't feel like it?

spanish songs for toddlers

About a year ago, around when Pippa was nearing 3 months of age, I made the decision to start taking her bilingual education seriously. I always knew I wanted to speak Spanish to her, but I don't think I truly realized what a commitment it would be for me.

I assumed the Spanish I speak with other adults would work just fine for speaking to a baby. Rookie mistake. Apparently I had a huge blind spot in my Spanish knowledge for words like burp cloth, high chair, and car seat. I found the easiest way for me to put those words into practice so that I would remember them was to tell Pippa whatever I was doing for her. "Let's put you in your car seat so we can go visit Daddy at school!"

But the very BEST way for me to learn new words to speak on her level was through books and songs. Children's songs are actually pretty catchy and easy to pick up, as they tend to repeat a lot. Of course, I also love to dissect the grammar, just for my own edification.

I found Spanglish Baby to be a wonderful resource for finding songs in the first place, but I also browse Spotify, YouTube, and the iTunes store to find even more!

So far our favorites are:

Pin Pon

Hola Don Pepito

Disney Presenta Cantar y Jugar

Huitzi Huitzi Araña - Latin Kids Hits

Soy Una Taza

I am currently on the hunt for a good version of the alphabet en español. Any other suggestions for authentic children's songs?

3 target language games

Whether you are raising your child bilingual, tutoring students in a second language, or teaching a foreign language in a school setting, one of the most effective ways to keep your students in the target language is to make it fun.

Music, videos, and books in the target language are great ways to use authentic resources while keeping language learning fun. But sometimes, kids just need a good old fashioned game to distract them from the fact that they're acquiring vocabulary and using new grammatical structures.

In some situations, you just want to inspire your students to engage in target language conversation while lowering their affective filters.

These games are easy to adapt to whatever type of vocabulary or structure you're targeting. They don't require a ton of preparation, and can be done with just a few, or many students. Happy playing!

great minds think alike
(found at The Creative Language Class)

Working in groups of three or four, each person takes a turn selecting a question in the target language. If your students are novices, include pictures with the questions, or make the structure of the question repetitive. Use lots of cognates. This students (secretly) writes their answer on a white board, note card, or piece of paper. Everyone else in the group writes on their white board or note card what they think that student wrote. Whoever matches their answer with that student gets a point!


This is a twist on that classic childhood favorite. Create your "cards" as slides on PowerPoint, then print them out as multiple slides to a page. Either print them on card stock, or cut them out and glue them to sturdier paper. Each new vocabulary word should match a picture. Avoid translating the word into the students' first language as the matching card.

2 truths and a lie

This is a wonderful game for novices working on structures such as "I am," "I like," and "I have." Each student writes three things about themselves in the target language - 2 are facts, and 1 is a lie. The rest of the group must guess which item is a lie.