Learning Spanish as a Family

Our family has decided that this is the year we will learn a second language.

My stepdaughter is in public school, but she doesn’t have foreign language classes. (Budget cuts maybe?) And my homeschooled kids haven’t had any foreign language instruction yet, despite the fact that their father speaks French (due to his Canadian citizenship) – something I’ll never quite forgive him for!

We decided on Spanish for several reasons.

For one, my husband speaks a little. Second, his father and step mother are fluent (Julia is Costa Rican, and my FIL, though he’s as gringo as they come, speaks fluent Spanish to the point that his English is now sketchy. They reside in Costa, and visiting them is definitely on the to-do list! Not to mention we would be able to communicate with Julia, who speaks no English, and would have built in cheerleaders and coaches).We also have several good friends who are either native Spanish speakers or who speak it conversationally, so we would be able to use our skills on a regular enough basis to keep most of it.

Third, the United States is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world after Mexico. Also, Spanish is easier to learn than many other languages, and far more practical.

I have been teaching the kids colors and a few vocabulary words in Spanish, but we’re mostly in the research phase of the best way to go about learning Spanish as a family.

I will likely invest in some adult classes. My knowledge of Spanish is muy poquito, so it would probably take me months of daily study to catch up with hubby. I’ve heard great things about Rosetta Stone, but it’s quite expensive, and I think I would do better with the built in accountability of a weekly class and teacher.

Hiring a tutor to come to the house and tutor the kids is prohibitively expensive, unless I’m able to convince a friend to help me out inexpensively (H.G. you know who you are!).

Have you learned Spanish or another second language as a family? How did you go about it?

With all this in mind, I was pretty excited to get this CD in the mail.

Olé & Play! The Songs of Isabella & Ferdinand Spanish Language Adventures

It was put together by the Isabella and Ferdinand folks, who started a Spanish language learning program for kids.

The CD contains original songs used by the Isabella and Ferdinand teachers in their classes for children.

There are several things I really like about the CD.

First of all, the songs are catchy and vibrant, and the kids really enjoy them (I was worried about this at first. I feared the older kids wouldn’t think the music was “cool” enough, but I was wrong!).

My oldest son immediately loved Track 2 (The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria). It sounds a little like it belongs on the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean. A little regal, and dark. And Pirate-y. That’s because the song is about Christopher Colombus, el capitan, a la conquista de America. He has been studying the liner notes (with lyrics in English and Spanish side by side) several times a day. My favorite song is Track 5, about the Aztec Market. (Is it funny that my favorite song is basically about grocery shopping? LOL) It’s beautiful.

That’s another thing. All the songs have to do with Spanish and Latin heritage and history, which has led to some great discussions about these cultural icons. Some examples: Frida Kahlo (we had a great time reading about her life and viewing some of her art online, which led to a discussion about communism, etc), Diego Rivera, Don Quijote, and more.

Teaching something with song is obviously very effective. I’ve often wished I could remember scripture chapter and verse the way I can remember old Beatles songs! Putting rhyming words to a catchy beat makes memorization almost effortless.

I’ve also been surprised at how much my 5 year old hears in the songs. Several times a day she asks me a question like,

“Mommy what’s that word for girl again?”


“Nina. Ok.”

“Mommy what does ‘oh-tra vays’ mean?”

Otra vez, it means again.”

We’re picking up vocabulary without even trying.

Anyway, it’s been a fun jumpstart to our adventure in learning Spanish as a family.

Please leave suggestions in the comments area or link to a great post from your own site if you have any recommendations! Thanks!

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12 Responses to Learning Spanish as a Family

  1. elizabeth A says:

    Thats really cool!

    Living in florida, I grew up around alot of spanish people and my brother learned to speak spanish fluently because of it. Along with the help of books and stuff.

    The best was just mainly speaking it on a constant basis, full immersion into it.

    i can speak some and understand it just not like i used to when i practiced it a lot.

    I really like the rosetta stone, which comes in three levels. My friend learn a asian language from using it and speaking it. A little investment but worth it.

  2. Esperanza says:

    I come from a Spanglish household, so never learned fluent Spanish at home. It’s just a part of our culture here to mix the two. Well, I studied in Costa Rica and it was so beautiful! I miss it everyday. Since you have family there, then you are truly blessed with a wonderful opportunity to visit them! That way you will be immersed in the language. It’s the best way to learn, trust me.

  3. Esperanza says:

    Also, if you want to save money, try the Café Mocha website. It’s free and you can take Spanish lessons! In fact, a whole variety of language lessons.

  4. Esperanza says:

    In response to the first comment, you probably grew up around “spanish-speaking ppl” not “spanish ppl” as you are indicating they are from Spain. My guess, if it was Florida, they were Cuban, not Spanish.

  5. carrie says:

    Thanks for the encouragement Esperanza. I keep hearing how beautiful Costa is, so visiting my in-laws there is definitely a goal! It will be wonderful to be able to communicate with people.

    We started with Rosetta Stone today after a good friend who is fluent in Spanish recommended it.

  6. Emily says:

    Your five yo will become more fluent than anybody in a jiffy! I often get looks when I speak to 4yo DS in Spanish, but he understands almost everything I say.

    The younger they are, the quicker they are to “get it.”

    Hope it all goes well with y’all – I think Spanish is a fun language!

  7. Elizabeth a says:

    Esperanza they were Spanish people from Florida with direct ties to Spain. I don’t know any Cuban people, that is mostly south Florida, but the Rosetta stone is awesome!

    I hope you like it Carrie.

  8. To learn Spanish together with your family is a good idea. That would be an effective way to learn Spanish easily. That’s a good start for you the family to learn the language. I hope that everything will be successful.

  9. Learn Basic Spanish says:

    Learning can be best achieved at home. Your ways, attitude and language is being influenced by your family. And learning how to speak in Spanish is hard but learning it with your family would be a lot easier and fun. Although learning is best in school but also it has been effectively don at home.

  10. hannah says:

    I can’t sleep tonight and just “rediscovered” your blog! I was sited in this one, now I feel famous! I’m sorry I haven’t been more help :-/ I hope Rosetta Stone has proven helpful for you though! After a few months you’ll probably be teaching me I have lost so much.

  11. carrie says:

    Ha I doubt that Hannah!

    I find it’s a struggle to manage doing my Spanish lesson every day, mostly because Ruby wants to talk to me and the microphone picks up her voice and tells me I’m saying it wrong (when I know I’m not, LOL). So I have to wait for her naptime.

    It’s a slow process but that’s ok, I’m avoiding perfectionistic thinking. If it takes me 5 years to become fluent so what?

    Interestingly I was listening to the news this morning and they said that caucasian children under 5 are now a minority in the US and that latino births are the most common ethnic group. That makes me happy that my kids are learning Spanish, it’s truly an international language. And it will open up doors for them as adults.

  12. Robert says:

    The founder of Isabella and Ferdinad Pilar O’Leary was exposed in the Washington Post and fired from her last job at The Smithsonian for stealing from tax payers and donations by abusing her work expense account. She took private planes and limousines, as well as charged luxury hotel suites with jacuzzis and spas. She double charged the same expenses to different accounts. Pilar gave contracts to friends rather than to the best qualified offer for the government in quality of service as well as in price. She asked for gifts from people wanting to do business with The Smithsonian.

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