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Although the ability to communicate in Spanish on the computer has been possible since the widespread use of computers, the Internet has made the practice open to more users. At first, the Internet, being developed in the United States was filled with English resources. However, today it truly is the World Wide Web, allowing for information to be sent out and received in many languages and in many ways. Doing activities like a scavenger hunt in Spanish online would have been difficult 10 years ago, as there simply were not a lot of websites in languages other than English. Today you can conduct one using resources in Spanish with no problem.
Kids can learn interactively by doing scavenger hunts for information in Spanish. Use sites that make them read for information or define words such as online dictionaries. Enchanted Learning is a fabulous resource for teachers and students. They have a picture dictionary feature for kids to use to learn Spanish.
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Many information resources have caught on to the multilingual trend in the United States and have begun to provide their material in English and Spanish. World Book Encyclopedia is a good example of a reliable resource for finding information such as for research or just to learn about one's personal interests in Spanish. Go to World Book Online. There you will find several options on how to look up information in Spanish. One option is World Book Hallazgos. You may need to sign up for this service.
Other free services include: http://www.123teachme.com/learn_spanish/spanish_for_children
This site has plentiful themed activities and vocabulary, making the memorization of vocabulary a more concrete task. The site is colorful and easy to use for all ages.
Story Place Digital Library for Kids in Spanish is one of the best resources for young Spanish speakers and learners that I've seen. It has a Digital Library of stories in Spanish that can be read to the computer user in a friendly, easy-to-understand tone under the Cuentos Divertidos link. The site also features printable activities to practice and a list of other good books to read. This is a site that kids can enjoy while online and extend their learning into their school or public library later as they look for more to read in Spanish.
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The potential for what children can learn in and about Spanish on the computer is infinite. However, their new knowledge does not need to be limited to the language itself, but can combine language learning with other subjects. For example, kids are naturally interested in Science. It does not take much motivation to get them to study this subject, so combining Science topics with language learning topics can greatly improve Spanish vocabulary, and expand children's view of the language. See the resources section for a few examples.
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Although most of the characters in the English and Spanish alphabet are the same, Spanish has a few additional letters, as well as accents which can effect the accurateness of what a child types into the computer. For example, if they type in pena instead of peña, the meaning changes completely. Informational searches will be inaccurate, and they will lose time on their task, or learn incorrect information. Peña is a common Spanish last name, while pena means embarrassment or sin. The ñ character is not on the standard keyboard in the United States. Children can use this character, as well as the upside down question mark and reverse exclamation point as well as accented vowels in Word by going to the Insert Menu, and going down to Symbol. Then you will find a plethora of accented vowels, and punctuation marks that can be used to type in Spanish correctly.
You can find anything you need in Spanish online by going to search engines in Spanish. Instead of Google.com, try www.google.com.mx. This is the Google used by Internet users in Mexico to find what they need. You can also change the language settings on other programs such as word. Go to the Tools menu, and then drop down to Language. Then change the settings to Spanish. This way kids can practice reading and writing in Spanish and even creating stories and presentations.
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Using the computer can be a fun way to practice learning Spanish. Today's world is one full of technology, and the more practice children get communicating effectively and learning the functions and benefits of computer use, the better. Using the computer to practice Spanish can open doors to children outside of just class activities like reading and writing, but also communicating directly with others.
Yet instead of looking for a chat room in Spanish for kid to use, which can lead to contact with unsavory people, you can contact other schools' Spanish classes or classes from schools in Spanish speaking countries to develop options for pen pals for your children. Make sure that this is highly supervised to ensure that your children are in contact with other children only and not giving out personal information.
Really, there is no limit to what students can learn in Spanish when they use computer games. As technology grows, so does the learning potential.