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Family Travel makes Learning Spanish Fun
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How the Brains Processes Languages?
Family Travel makes Learning Spanish Fun


Photo by Zoe De Simone

By María Laura Lecuona

Whether you are planning a trip to Cancun, Buenos Aires or Madrid, learning a few key words or phrases in Spanish before departing will double a child's fun. ¿Listos?

While experts may disagree on where and how the brain processes language, the notion that children are able to learn a second language, and even a third, as easily as the first is broadly accepted. A trip to one of the more than dozen Spanish-speaking countries provides an

excellent opportunity to initiate or consolidate the learning experience. In addition, it opens up a world of possibilities, from simple communication to making friends in a new language.

Children need not enroll in a full immersion language course to embrace the sound and flavor of Spanish. Familiarity with a few phrases will enable older children to hit the ground running and just a few simple words such as agua (water), gracias (thank you), helado (ice cream) or even uno (one), dos (two), tres (three) will ensure younger children experience the pleasure of communication.

Don't be put off by the need to conjugate verbs. Spanish is largely phonetical, meaning each letter has only one sound, making it very easy to read, write and even pronounce. Thus you are on your way once you learn the basic sounds.

Creating a learning environment that will feed a child's natural curiosity is easier than you may think. A variety of resources are available on the web. In addition to reading books in Spanish, listening skills can be sharpened by playing bilingual educational and video games online. Multi-language DVDs and television audio options, available in many countries, will help tune their ears to Spanish through music, movies and videos. Older children will enjoy researching key words and phrases on-line from a variety of resources from bilingual dictionaries to electronic translators and educational sites.

When you arrive, involve the kids in simple communication. Depending on age and interest let them order food in a restaurant, say thank you, read signs or even ask for directions. These situations provide real-life opportunities to speak Spanish, create a different kind of memory and turn a vacation into an adventure.

Whether children have studied Spanish or know only a few words and phrases, they will quickly be saying more than Hola.

Basic words and phrases

>> Hola
My name is...
>> Mi nombre es...
(mee nom-bre es...)
Good Morning
>> Buen día
(boo-en dee-ah)
>> Adios
>> Por favor
(por fah-bor)
Thanks/Thank you
>> Gracias
>> Agua
>> Comida
One, two, three
>> uno, dos, tres
(oo-no, dos, tres)
Can I play?
>> ¿Puedo jugar?
(poo-e-do hoo-gar?)
Do you want to play?
>> ¿Quieres jugar?
(key-er-es hoo-gar?)
>> amigo
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