Wednesday, May 20, 2009


When studying something new, variety in approaches to learning can keep our minds engaged for longer periods of time.

When children approach Spanish for the first time, they quickly become bored by bookwork. Memorizing vocabulary lists is tedious work. And learning English and Spanish equivalents requires processing all new language input through the mind's translator: not a very efficient way to "live" in another language.

Playtime in the target language allows children to absorb new expressions while doing something they love. I recall as a child feeling delighted when my mom or grandma made time to play tea party with me, or when my dad sat down on the floor to build towers out of blocks. As busy parents, it is a challenge to find time to stop and play.

As we play, as "language instructor" I create an atmosphere of linguistic immersion by describing what is happening in the play kitchen, or narrate what the fire engines are doing, or describe the problems that the baby doll is experiencing, or why it's important to be careful with the toy iron and ironing board. All in Spanish--and yet to the child it makes sense because of sound effects and the "prop". Often a child will begin to ask for vocabulary in order to be able to respond. Before long, we're having a conversation that can expand and grow into real world communication.

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