Learning Spanish on a budget, a parent’s approach

lets-play-bingo-1-602195-mNowadays, most people realise the importance of knowing  how to speak a foreign language, and consequently they want their children to have this great gift as well. However, not everybody does speak a foreign language as an adult, are these monolinguals doomed, then, to have monolingual children?

The answer to this simple question is, no! Many successful bilingual or multilingual adults grew up as monolingual children and went on to study languages later becoming multilinguals. Other monolingual adults’ children also had the chance to learn a language in childhood.

There are many ways of learning languages, the most obvious would be taking lessons. However, it is not always possible. There may not be suitable teachers in the area or one you not have the free time or money for these lessons. It is possible however to help your child learn a language yourself, while learning along with him or her.

Recently I interviewed Viv, a local mum who decided that speaking a foreign language was important and decided to help her daughter to learn.

When I first met Viv and her daughter I was in for a shock. I had been told she had been teaching herself and her daughter Spanish. With my previous experience of people boasting about “having been” teaching themselves Spanish and how fluent they are, to then find that the extent of their fluency was reading through a menu, ordering and paying, etc. I must admit I didn’t expect great things.

However, I was pleasantly surprised when the little 6 year old just greeted me with “hola” and went on to say simple sentences like “I like the flower”. You may think it’s nothing, but in a country where a GCSE students with a B or even an A (GCSE are exams taken at 16 in England and Wales) looks at you blankly when you ask him: “¿Cómo estás?” (how are you?) and answers “Alice”… you can imagine how fast my jaw dropped when this self-taught 6 year old just answered: “Estoy bien, gracias”.

Viv’s daughter is 6 and she has always been home-educated (homeschooled). She has taken on the responsibility of her education and since her daughter was 4, the age when English children start preschool (reception), she has been providing for her lessons in Maths, English and in general all the other topics typically studied in school.

Viv had always wanted to learn a language. She realised that in England most people thought learning a language was difficult but then she had met many people from Europe who spoke at least a couple of languages and she wanted the same for her daughter. So she decided that having language lessons as part of her home-education plan was a must. The main hurdle was budget. She could not afford private lessons and decided to take on the challenge herself.

The first thing was deciding which language to study. Spanish got the upper hand as Viv decided that at this moment in history Spanish is quite popular and useful.

At this point, as a teacher, my first question is always, what resources did you use? Viv happily admitted that the Internet is her best friend. “You can find lots of resources on line. We also used Salsa, Osbourne resources, snap and books from the library.”

It all started with a much younger child who watched Dora the Explorer and realised there are actually people who speak other languages. From the few words Dora teaches, mum and daughter moved on to things like Salsa, a free online resource that teaches Spanish through videos and children’s stories.

learning-to-read-the-alphabet-549446-mViv admitted that there are also other avenues that they haven’t explored yet, such as watching popular cartoons in Spanish on Youtube or finding a Spanish speaking student who would come in to speak Spanish with them in exchange of English conversation.

I was really impressed by these two ladies who had successfully learnt the basics of a language with no outside help. But then, I had some doubts about time. Surely, being home-educated meant that you don’t have to dedicate endless hours to other subjects and activities in school, so you would have more time than your average parent and child who are both tired in the evening after working and being to school.

Viv dispelled my doubts, “You could do it even if you went to school. It doesn’t take that much time, just a bit of every day. Sometimes she (her daughter) chooses to do it (learn Spanish). The main thing is that when they (children) know a few words and are able to make sentences they start enjoying it more.”

Viv and her daughter only spend a short while every day learning Spanish, maybe 10 or 20 minutes, depending on the day. Viv admitted that sometimes her daughter would choose to sit in front of the computer and watch Salsa for an hour, and this was fine, but she wouldn’t make her sit for so long if she didn’t want to.

Another thing to consider when deciding to teach your child a language yourself is if your child already reads or not. If your child doesn’t read yet, you will have to start with resources like Salsa or Dora, as you don’t need to be able to read for those.

If your child reads, then there are lots of resources available for free or for a fee on the Internet. Screenshot 2014-04-14 18.43.06

For me, Viv´s story is inspiring. It teaches us that you don’t need to rely on others to learn something. Are you a parent with a similar story? Have you been learning a language with your child? We would love to hear from you, please, contact us:




  1. learn indian languages app says:

    Howdy! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with
    us so I came to give it a look. I’m definitely loving the information.
    I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
    Superb blog and superb style and design.

Speak Your Mind