Language Challenge 101: Let the Spanish Language Learning Begin!

by Corey · 12 comments

Getting Started

There are a number of ways we can jump-start our Language Challenge 101.  Here are some ideas:

  • Visit a country where the language is spoken (this is the BEST way!)
  • Parents and children take language classes together
  • Hire a tutor who will teach the whole family
  • Hire a nanny who will teach the children and the parents learn separately
  • Parents take a language class and share the language with their kids
  • Parents organize with other parents and have language-learning gatherings to learn the language together
  • Parents and kids obtain as many resources as they can and learn what they can together

How you go about it is less important than finding the motivation and fun that will be needed to stick with it for 101 days.  Anything is possible when we are excited and involved.

What is my family going to do?

We are going to follow the last point above: gather as many materials as we can and then see what we can learn from them in 101 days.

We are going to hit the library for all it has, incorporate in materials that I reviewed for Multilingual Living Magazine, use YouTube and other online resources, and anything else we can find for language learning.  Not only will we be learning a language, we will be finding out which resources have the greatest impact for our language learning.

Week 1:

If you would like to join us for Language Challenge 101, here are some action items for the first week:

  1. Decide on a language. See my reasons above for why we chose Spanish.  Find a language that you’ve wanted to learn for a long time.  Your excitement about the language will be your greatest asset during these 101 days.  Honestly!
  2. Get your family on board. This may not be as easy as you think.  If your family has no idea why they should join you in this crazy adventure, then you are going to have to be creative in “selling” it to them.  Remind them that it is only 101 days and that you will do most of the leg work.  In the end it will be so much more wonderful to do this with your family – it will be a bonding experience you will never forget! And learning as a family means you will be able to benefit from different learning styles, methods and approaches.
  3. Find resources. Start with the library!  The library here in Seattle has amazing free resources from books to online language-learning programs.  However, if the library won’t work for you, then start doing some serious Google searches to see what you can find.  Keep a running diary of interesting links and resources, even if you aren’t sure you want to use each of them.  Just write it all down.  You can always ignore it later.  And if you decide to purchase some language-learning products, that is great as well!  Just do your research on what others say about the products.  There is a lot (and I mean A LOT) of junk out there!
  4. Plan it out. When are you going to focus on language learning?  How many hours a day?  What is your goal?  This is just a general plan.  You don’t need to plan out every day of the 101 days.  Just have an overall outline so that you can see the path from here to there.

Some things to remember:

  • People learn languages differently. My husband likes to learn a language in a more “traditional” manner by incorporating one-to-one translations and writing things down.  I like to hang out with the kids and watch language DVDs or listen to CDs.  I find immersion to be the best.  So when you plan out your resources, try to find different kinds so that everyone will feel satisfied.
  • Keep things fun! Enjoyment is the most important in all of this.  If in the end all you do is discover a new appreciation for a culture and learn how to cook some ethnic meals, that is fabulous in itself!  Don’t get too focused on the goal – it is only there to keep you motivated and moving along.  You are allowed to change the course of your Language Challenge 101 as things evolve.

Are you ready?  Let’s go!  Which language are you going to challenge yourself and your family to learn?  Let us know in the comments below!

Not quite ready to commit? Give it some thought this week and join in next week.  Talk with your family and see if they are motivated.  Check out a few language-learning DVDs from the library and see what everyone thinks.  Even that is more language exposure than nothing!

Corey Heller is the founder of Multilingual Living and the Editor-In-Chief/Publisher of Multilingual Living Magazine. Multilingual Living is the place where she shares her knowledge about raising multilingual and multicultural children. Corey, an American, and her German husband live in Seattle where they raise and homeschool their three children, ages 15, 14 and 12, in German and English.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen July 9, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I really like this idea because frankly I need a kick in the pants. Summer is a great time to start since schedules are more relaxed. 🙂


2 Corey July 11, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Thank you for the comment, Karen! You said it: needing the kick in the pants. That is so very true. Your blog is fabulous and I am going to find a lot of inspiration, tips and support there, I know it!


3 Alexis July 9, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I’m in. I’ve been thinking about having the family learn Spanish together for a long time. I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you guys!


4 Corey July 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Hope you are inspired to get some Spanish-language learning going. This week has already been so much fun for us. The kids and I are asking simple things in Spanish whenever we can and giving our simple answers. It cracks us all up and makes it so much fun! Thank you for your comment – let me know if you decide to do this and how it goes.


5 Alice July 9, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Excellent idea! As a variation to this, instead of adding a new language (we have 3 already after all), we could try to use this to boost our minority language Spanish. I can’t wait to read what resources you all use!


6 Corey July 11, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Yes! Definitely a great inspiration for keeping the second language alive. I love it! I was thinking that our next Language Challenge will be getting my German stronger… I could so use that and I know we’d all have fun and benefit. Ditto on the resources – let me know what you recommend. We are hitting the library up for whatever we can get. I notice that we are finding a lot in Spain-Spanish vs Latin and South American Spanish. Interesting!


7 Chitty July 11, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Dear Corey,

I’m so excited to see this! Last year, I started a community blog for people reclaiming their mother tongues – languages they grew up with but lost or never had the opportunity to learn. Over time, participation and enthusiasm waned and I wasn’t able to sustain it. I’ve been thinking seriously about restarting it because I love the solidarity of learning in community even if people are learning different languages (my language is Tamil). I was hesitant about restarting the group because I don’t think I have the energy to put into working on my Tamil and running a group, but now I don’t have to – I’ll just join yours!

For Spanish, two resources I love are and Good luck!

Thanks again for the challenge.


8 Corey July 17, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Thank you so much for your comment, Chitty! There is something about sustaining language learning that is so very hard. It is so exciting at first, isn’t it, but then over time it kind of plateaus and becomes less interesting. I am so happy you joined the Language Challenge 101! And I also hope you will be able to start your community blog again. Maybe now that language-learning is becoming more “in” you will be able to find more people who can stick with it over time? Either way, welcome to this challenge!


9 Lisa July 11, 2010 at 10:37 pm

I don’t have a family of my own yet, but my boyfriend and I are trying to give this challenge a try as well. I highly recommend 🙂


10 Corey July 17, 2010 at 10:55 pm

I am so excited that you are joining the challenge, Lisa! What language are you and your boyfriend going to try?

I haven’t tried yet but now I will thanks to your comment. So appreciated! Happy language learning.


11 Shelley July 17, 2010 at 11:37 am

I remember seeing an article in the Seattle Times about El Centro de la Raza and their tamale making classes … could be something you might be interested in doing with the family, especially if it is a bilingual lesson 🙂 and I appreciate what El Centro does for our local Latino community, somewhere you might be able to surround yourself with the language…

Some libraries have Spanish language ‘story times’ too, so that you and your children could join in…learning through simple picture books is a wonderful way to solidify what you’re learning through other sources. Just reading an old familiar picture book that’s been translated (Oso Pardo… by Carle is one that comes to mind) is a fun way to increase your vocabulary.

I second the JLOrozco suggestion, and, take a look at bilingual songs written by Sarah Barchas … very catchy tunes ! I will have to take some time to explore MangoLanguages (through our library) in Spanish to see if I will be recommending it to my students (the Chinese section does seem to have very natural/authentic sounding voices/accents which I appreciate)

¡ Buena suerte !


12 Corey July 17, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Thank you, Shelley, for your comment about El Centro de la Raza! I have been meaning to check them out more but haven’t gotten to it. I am on their mailing list and they are always doing something fabulous in the community.

Thank you for the idea about Spanish language story time! I’m sure my shy kids will demand that we not go but I’m sure once there they will really enjoy it. I have put it on my list of activities for one of these coming weeks.

So appreciative for the additional recommendation of Sarah Barchas music. We definitely need some catchy tunes!

Yes, check out Mango Languages – as it is free to try out via the library you can get an idea of it. It is pretty straightforward and pleasant. It doesn’t have any visual element (other than text) which I personally respond well to. Where do you teach?


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