The Spanish language is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, with 400 million Spanish speakers worldwide.

Why learn Spanish?

There are many countries in the world who speak Spanish, from South American countries through to Spain, and even large parts of the USA – particularly areas with a high Hispanic population.

As a language, Spanish is relatively easy to learn. This is due to Spanish being a phonetic language. How it looks is how it’s pronounced. Learning Spanish can also increase your understanding of English as it uses the same Latin base.

Another reason for learning Spanish is that it will give your child an insight into a culture rich with dance, music and life.

The key reasons why your child should start learning Spanish:

  • To understand better. When travelling you’ll hear as much Spanish as English at airports, and in many other places. Wouldn’t it be great to understand what people are saying, and what the announcements are?
  • To improve your brainpower. A new language expands the range of your possible thoughts. There are concepts and expressions in each language that don’t exist in others. These can give you new ways to think.
  • To change your perspective. In Spanish, you say “I have fear” (yo tengo miedo). Psychologists tell us that thoughts like “I am afraid” create too much identification with the feeling. It’s healthier to think “I feel fear,” or “I have fear,” and in Spanish it’s automatic.
  • To improve your memory. Did you know that most people experience a general improvement in memory from studying a language? Studies prove it.
  • To get a better job. Knowing more than one language always looks good on a job application, and Spanish is a very useful one to learn.

Where do you learn Spanish?

You will find a variety of options available for your child to learn Spanish. This may be by mixing with Spanish-speaking friends or family, or it may involve enrolling in lessons. Some ways to do this are listed below:

  • Private language schools
  • Universities or polytechnics for older children
  • Local Community Centres, where you and your child could choose to learn together
  • Home Schooling
  • Language Exchange Programmes
  • e-Learning courses

What age can your child start learning Spanish?

A child’s ability to grasp new and multiple languages at an early age is well documented. Pre-school children from ages as young as 3 or 4 can start learning Spanish simply by being exposed to the language at home, or in structured play activities (such as those run by Fun Languages).

However, age is no barrier when it comes to learning a foreign language and it would be a great opportunity for you to learn alongside your child.

How do you progress over time?

The rate of progression will be determined by the child’s age, the amount of exposure to the language, and the amount of time they spend practising. The more opportunities your child gets to practice what they learn in everyday situations, the greater will beomce their level of proficiency.

Generally it is recommended that older students spend at least 1 year focused on learning the fundamentals of Spanish and then on an ongoing basis continue to maintain the language ability by attending classes or practicing with other Spanish speakers.

What equipment do you need to learn Spanish?

The equipment you choose will depend on the age of your child; some suggestions include:

  • Spanish-English dictionary (electronic or hard copy)
  • Reference books including grammar and vocabulary books
  • Audio CDs in the car
  • Video tapes or DVDs to watch
  • CD-ROMs with the aid of computers

You will also need to expose your child to Spanish speakers whenever possible.

How much does it cost to learn Spanish?

Cost ranges from free (learning from friends or learning from various free websites) to several thousand dollars (for full immersion at an overseas language school).

For regular children’s lessons you could expect to pay anywhere between $12 to $20 per session, depending on the age of the child and the size of the group.

How much time does it take to learn Spanish?

Class times vary but generally most courses meet once or twice a week. Classes generally run for 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on the age of the child.

Older children would be expected to spend at least another hour outside of class to revise and complete their homework. It would be ideal if a student could spend at least 5 hours per week outside of class to practice, but this is often unrealistic.

Great Spanish Websites

www.eurolang.co.nz/spanish

Background on why your child should learn Spanish and how Spanish courses are delivered

www.spanish.about.com

A must-use resource site with loads of information relating to the Spanish language and ways to learn it

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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