Spanish Summer

Many niños Latinos in the United States learn Spanish each summer when they’re shipped off to live with their Abuela. My problem? The Abuela lives with us and my children’s Spanish is still not on grade level with native speaking children. The problem of course is that they have never experienced 100% immersion. They’re in the United States, they speak English with their friends, with each other, with me, even with their father. They watch T.V. in English, they listen to music in English. The Spanish they get is just a small dash each day, heard in the bedtime story, when they are nosy and try to understand what Daddy and Abuela are fighting about, or when their Abuela demands, “Cipote! Pongame el televisor! Quiero ver las noticias!”

It’s not enough and so I decided to do something drastic. This summer at our house is going to be…

I think it would sound better in the voice of a fútbol commentator. That would excite the niños much more than the way I say it. (They weren’t even impressed with jazz hands added in.)

Maybe they have reason to be cynical though. They know something you don’t. You see, ever since my children started school, I’ve always tried to make the summers slightly educational so that their brains wouldn’t turn to mush over their 3 month break, but let me be honest here. I hate schedules and I hate rules, so usually my good intentioned plans to “home school” my children, dissolve into chaos within days. This is a big commitment for someone like me, but I’m determined to stick to it. The main rule of “¡El verano de español!” is that I will speak only Spanish to my children. They are to answer me back in Spanish when they’re able to, but if they can’t, they can reply in English or Spanglish, at least at first. I will try to get my husband on board, but he has stubbornly spoken 90% English to our children all their lives. He made the common and unnecessary mistake of many immigrants who worry that their children won’t learn fluent English and will fall behind in school if they speak the native language at home, but all this does is rob your children of an opportunity and of their roots.

The one drawback of this “Spanish Summer” idea is that Suegra will be privy to our every conversation, but if I must sacrifice, so be it. Besides, I suspect she understands more than she lets on and I’d do well not to become too comfortable in the illusion that she doesn’t.

Anyway – here is where you come in. ¡Sí, tú! … In the comments, leave me your best idea for an activity or lesson I can use this summer with my children. It can be a nursery rhyme, song or poem in Spanish that you learned as a child which you think they should memorize, a recipe they should make, a movie they should see, a book we should read together, a field trip we should take – (we’re in the DC Metro area), or something else entirely – keeping in mind, the theme of this summer is to teach them Spanish.

As an example of what I mean, here are some things I’ve considered doing…

• Having them practice and memorize Spanish tongue twisters, particularly ones that teach the “rr” trill, (which neither child can do.)

• Playing Lotería often and having them read the dichos on the back of each card aloud.

• Going to the Latino market where they can buy a dulce, but they must complete the entire transaction at the register by themselves.

• Watching favorite movies with the Spanish language option turned on.

• Reading Latin American nursery rhymes together.

• Buying a tape recorder for them to play with and recording them speaking each week so they can hear their improvement.

• Teaching them traditional recipes.

• Having them write a letter to relatives in El Salvador in Spanish.

• Having them keep a daily journal/diary to their father, where they must write one sentence per day telling him what they did while he was at work, (in Spanish.)

• Taking a geography test and filling in the country names on a map of Central and South America.

Alright, now it’s your turn! (Best idea wins a Spicy Maya Chuao chocolate bar!)