How to Support Your Child’s Language Learning Journey

There are so many ways you can help your child’s language learning success. We share four tips from an expert at Instituto Cervantes in Chicago.

Every parent strives to provide their child with the skills necessary to succeed in life, says Sonia Di Marino, a Spanish Language Instructor at Chicago’s Instituto Cervantes, the largest international Spanish teaching organization in the world. Providing your child with the opportunity to take a Spanish language learning journey could very well turn out to be the gift of a lifetime and open many doors as they grow.

“In a world that is globalized, second language acquisition is a necessity nowadays more than ever,” says Di Marino. “As a mother, I know parents want to provide our kids with the life skills (they) will thank us for as adults.”

But how can parents support their children in learning Spanish, especially if they do not know the language? Di Marino, who speaks multiple languages and learned English as an adult, shares four tips for language learning success.

1. Never stop learning

“It takes more than your weekly class to really learn a new language, so here at Instituto Cervantes, we always recommend that besides the time your kid spends in class, to expose him or her to Spanish in different ways,” says Di Marino.

Easy — and fun! — ways to support your child’s language lessons include listening to Spanish music, asking your home or smartphone virtual assistant for the weather report in Spanish, and even watching favorite animated movies in Spanish (with subtitles in English, if necessary).

“While you watch a movie, your brain will catch all the voices in Spanish and it will make a connection between what you read and what you are listening to,” she says.

2. Travel beyond your boundaries

“Language is part of a culture and culture is a part of a language. Full immersion is desirable, but if travel is not possible, come to Cervantes! You can have an immersive experience without leaving the city,” says Di Marino. This is because their professional instructors blend language learning with exposure to Spanish and Latin American culture for a full language learning experience.

3. Recognize every child’s uniqueness

“Accept not everyone will progress at the same rhythm but know that eventually, everyone here at Instituto Cervantes will speak Spanish. Your kid is a unique person and we treat each child in this way,” says Di Marino.

Whether it’s in a small class setting at Instituto Cervantes, or in larger public or private school classrooms where they provide language learning, Di Marino says it’s important to group the students according to skill level.

“Your child is a unique person and we treat them in this way,” Di Marino says, explaining that dividing larger public school classrooms into smaller groups of matching skill level allows for more personalized and productive lessons. By doing so, she says, the positive reinforcement at the core of Instituto Cervantes’ teaching philosophy works in the students’ favor. “I like to focus on the quality of our service and check on every student to evaluate progress,” she says.

4. Positive reinforcement is key

Di Marino also suggests exploring Spanish as a family and avoiding negative feedback as your kids build their skills at their own pace to master the language. Specifically, Di Marino believes that celebrating every new word mastered or new phrase understood, rather than focusing on the mispronunciation of a word, for example, leads to greater success and confidence-building for every child learning a new language.

“Positive reinforcement and a positive attitude are key when you want to support your kid as they learn a new language,” says Di Marino. “Practice. Practice. Practice. Accompany your kid in the process. Share the experience with your child.”

Di Marino notes that her love of teaching her native language is evident to her students.

“I am really passionate about my job,” she says. “This is my language.”

Learn more about Instituto Cervantes and its weekly summer Spanish camps at chicago.cervantes.es/en.

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