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Teaching Spanish to Children: Starting with Vocabulary

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 7/12/2012

This article discusses the argument of starting with vocabulary when teaching children Spanish. It then gives a list of resources and basic conversational phrases to help you get started in your journey.

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    Why Start with Vocabulary?

    With older children (middle school through high school), languages are often introduced through combining vocabulary lists and grammar. When you look at the way grammar school level resources introduce languages, often, languages are introduced through vocabulary only. Why start with vocabulary? For one, many younger students of foreign languages lack sufficient English grammar knowledge to be able to pick up Spanish grammar. Another reason that you may wish to start with vocabulary rather than grammar with younger students is that parents, upon understanding pronunciation, can assist their children in learning the language at home - with very little familiarity with the language itself. Finally, through memorizing vocabulary and conversational phrases, children will pick up some of the grammar much the way they picked up English - by becoming immersed in the language. In fact, immersion is one of the best techniques for learning a foreign language.

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    Resources for Spanish Vocabulary

    Many great resources exist for children who wish to learn Spanish. Some of the best that focus upon learning the vocabulary first include the following:

    Complete Book of Spanish (American Education Publishing) $14.95

    Everyday Words in Spanish $6.99

    Rosetta Stone

    Spanish Picture Word Book - This is a Dover coloring book where the child can learn and color in pictures for the vocabulary words. $3.95

    My First Spanish Word Book by DK Publishing $16.99

    First Thousand Words in Spanish by Heather Amery et. al. $12.99

    About.Com Spanish Language Channel: this is another great resource - look through here to find additional vocabulary lists so that you may teach your children - and label common household or schoolroom items.

    With a little research, and a trip to the library, you will find that a vast array of resources exists so that children can pick up Spanish vocabulary.

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    Basic Conversational Phrases

    To get started teaching children basic Spanish vocabulary, below is a list of phrases they may find themselves needing if they find themselves in a conversation with someone who speaks Spanish.

    Hola - Hello, or hi. Students may use this in formal or informal settings.

    Adiós - Goodbye

    ¿Cómo Esta Usted? - "How are you?" formal - to be used when a child is speaking to an adult.

    Muy, bien. - Very well

    Asi, Asi - Okay

    Mal - Bad, terrible

    Buenos días - Good morning

    Buenas tardes - Good afternoon

    Buenas noches - Good evening

    ¿Cómo se lamma usted? - What do you call yourself?

    Me llamo _____ - I am called ______

    Muchas Gracias! - Thank you very much

    De Nada - You're welcome

    ¿De dónde eres? - Where are you from?

    ¿Dónde es...? - Where is...

    ¿Hablas inglés? - Do you speak English?

    Feliz cumpleaños! - Happy Birthday

    ¿Me ayuda por favor? - Can you help me please?

    ¿Cómo se dice...? - How do you say...?

    No hablo español. - I don't speak Spanish

    Si - yes

    no - no

    ¿Qué? - What?

    These are very basic phrases, and can be practiced. You can ask the student, ¿Cómo se dice "yes" in español? and have her respond with the correct vocabulary word in order to practice.

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    Further Reading

    More reading on Spanish Vocabulary and common phrases can be found at Enchanted Learning and here at Bright Hub. Some Bright Hub articles you may wish to read include:

    lilypond's "Learning Spanish - Vocabulary and Expressions for Weather and Water Sports"

    and

    lilypond's "lr de Compras - Learn the Vocabulary for Shopping in Spanish"