Parents often ask me how they can help Spanish learners if they only speak English. There is no denying that it easier to support your children if you speak the language, but parents play an important role in a child’s education regardless of their knowledge of the subject matter. Below you will find 10 dos and don’ts for parents who do not speak Spanish. Most of them need no explanation, but here are my thoughts on a few of the points.
A positive attitude and willingness to speak are key to learning Spanish. Your enthusiasm will help your children take the risks that are necessary to be successful Spanish learners. Language educators are, on the whole, dedicated professionals who are doing their very best to help your child learn. That said, no program is perfect. If you have concerns, share them with your child’s teacher so you can work together to give your child the best experience possible.
Provide lots of exposure to native speaker language, but don’t correct the pronunciation of Spanish learners. Even with the best intentions, it is easy to confuse a child or give misinformation. For example, when one of my classes was learning Mi cuerpo hace música, I had a parent tell me that she had been working on the p sound in cuerpo with her daughter, so that it was clearer and easier to hear. Imagine my dismay – the p in Spanish is not aspirated and sounds different than in English. Her daughter had been pronouncing it perfectly.
Once a child begins to learn the language, parents are tempted to say something in English and ask them to say it in Spanish. Rather than having your child translate isolated words, learn a song or fingerplay together. Another option is to use phrases that are appropriate for specific settings, like the dinner table. With songs or phrases in context, your child can produce Spanish naturally, without being put on the spot.
Here is my list of dos and don’ts for parents who don’t speak Spanish, but want to support their language learner.