Language Challenge 101: Learning Spanish – Week One

by Corey · 12 comments

As I say in today’s video diary, this week we focused primarily on getting used to the language: listening to CDs, watching DVDs, reading books out loud.  It has been hilarious as we practice speaking words and sentences with one another – definitely fun!

Getting Started

It is easy to say that we spent most of the week listening to Spanish and repeating what we heard but what, exactly, does that mean?  Here is a rundown:

  • Repetition. You know how your young children can drive you up the wall when they ask you to read the same book over and over and over again?   Or when they ask to watch the same DVD repeatedly?  That is what we did this week – on purpose!  We basically chose a few DVDs, CDs and books and simply watched, listened and read them over and over again.  Each time the sound of the words and the structure of the sentence became more melodic and smooth.  So pick out a few items to focus on and stick with them for a week.
  • Simplicity. Many of the DVDs, CDs and books we used were aimed at very young children.  That is exactly the level that we wanted to start with.  This did not mean that the products only had simple vocabulary – many had very complex sentence structure and vocabulary.  But just as young children learn a language, we weren’t trying to decipher grammar or translate into English or German, we were getting used to the flow of the language.  Rhyming was a big hit (especially for me when reading books out loud)!
  • Jumping in. What we did not do this week is spend a lot of time planning out how many hours we would be learning Spanish and when.  We let it flow.  If we hadn’t done any Spanish learning the day before, then we stepped it up the next day.  We did not worry about pronunciation or grammar or any of that.  We would start sentences in Spanish and finish them in German.  If someone knew the Spanish word for something, we’d use that in a sentence rather than a German word.  Just taking the leap to get started was key.
  • Free. So far we haven’t spent any money on the products that we’ve used.  My husband found an online language-learning program which is free to members of our local public library.  We checked out DVDs, CDs and books in Spanish from the library (both language-learning and for Spanish-speakers).  If our library didn’t have so many Spanish-speaking resources, then I’d ask friends, family and others if they had anything we could use/borrow.
  • Need. As there is absolutely no need for us to learn Spanish, it is hard to force ourselves to use it.  We will be giving this more focus in the next few weeks as we try to build up a repertoire of sentences and words.  The key will be to create need, even if artificial.  We can trick ourselves into believing there is a need – we just need to find out which tricks work for each of us.  For example, telling myself that I can not do something until I have finished listening to a Spanish lesson actually gets me motivated.  For someone else this would feel oppressive and cause frustration.  This is the tricky part but it also forces us to get the creative juices going!

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen July 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Good to see some of my favorites on your lists (Play and Learn Spanish, Professor Pocket, Hop, Skip and Sing Spanish). I would highly recommend some José-Luis Orozco music cds. I would also recommend the books that go with them for the lyrics and finger plays. (Diez Deditos and De Colores are two of my favorites.)

This week I’ve been reading more in Spanish which in turns makes me speak more Spanish to the kids. 🙂


2 Corey July 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Ohhhh, THANK YOU! That is exactly the kind of feedback we can use. I was so disappointed with the music CDs and it bummed me out as the kids and I like to listen to things in the car (even though we rarely drive) and together in the kitchen/living room (my daughter in particular). I’m going to do a super search and see what I can find from José-Luis Orozco. And you are so right about how our children’s language exposure increases the more WE increase it for ourselves. I was just thinking about that this morning – how clearly the success of this will be dependent upon how motivated my husband and I remain (as is raising bilingual children in general, isn’t it!?). So fascinating! Thank you so much for posting!


3 Karen July 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Hope you don’t mind me posting this, but here are all the posts I’ve written with the tag: podcasts.

There’s also an article in that group about adults learning Spanish.


4 Corey July 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

YES, yes, yes! I love these kinds of links and your site is just FULL of valuable information. I appreciate the direct links like this as you know exactly what we are needing right now and help direct us there. So appreciated!!


5 Susan July 16, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Wow! I love all of the resources you included especially since we are raising our kids trilingual–Spanish and German. I thought I knew all of the best resources for Spanish, but Speekee is one I have never heard of. Is it possible to order it in the U.S.?

Maybe others working on different languages can add the resources they use. I am looking for similar resources in German. It is much harder to find these resources.

I would also recommend Susy Dorn both music and DVDs. Check out her Rimas and Rimas CD. (Rhymes and rhymes) You can order individual songs from for only $.99.


6 Corey July 17, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Thank you for your comment, Susan! You can order Speekee but it is only in PAL for right now. Do you have a region-free DVD player? If so, then you’d be good to go. Jim, the cofounder, told me that they are working on a downloadable version – woohoo! He and his wife are linguists and really know how to use repetition in engaging ways. Plus, the kids in the DVDs are locals from the small community where Jim and his family live.

I’d love it if people took the time to add their favorite resources for the different languages they are focused on! So many of us would benefit, I’m sure.

Than you for the Suzy Dorn music and DVD recommendation! I am going to check those out.


7 Tatiana July 17, 2010 at 5:12 am

Hi Corey!!!
Your site is really interesting,that’s tottally about what I believe, teaching the kids while little other languages!!!Thanks God(and part of it, to my father..rsrsrs) I speak 4 languages and my 2 kids already speaks 3!!Corey, your have great tips here and a lot of things that I didn’t know how to start praticing!!!
If you don’t mind I linked your site at my blog and retweeted!!
For sure I’ll be coming back !!!


8 Corey July 17, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words about Multilingual Living, Tatiana! I’d be honored if you linked to it from your blog (which looks great, by the way… even though I can’t understand what is written). 🙂

Please do come back and also let me know what you’d like to see more of here! So much more fun to provide information that others can really use.


9 Beverly Cornell July 17, 2010 at 5:18 am

Hi Corey-

Thank you for mentioning Mango Languages in your post. There are a lot of great language learning resources out there.

As the marketing director for Mango, I am curious as to how we could spice up our program so that you and your husband would love our software?

Your feedback is helpful to us and for improving our program. 🙂

Thank you again and I look forward to your feedback.


10 Corey July 17, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Thank you for visiting Multilingual Living, Beverly, and that you left a comment! I love the fact that you are interested in finding out what people think of Mango Languages and their recommendations for improvements.

The perfect language learning method for me is the French in Action method ( My husband and I purchased this long ago when everything was still on cassettes. I used it daily and couldn’t get enough of it. It made learning so fun for me.

Why do I think French in Action so good? It works for me because it incorporates three key elements: (1) fabulous storyline that I want to follow (2) repetition without boring the viewer (3) workbook with drills that are not too complex.

How many people have talked about learning/improving their Spanish by watching telenovelas (Spanish soap operas)? They have the NEED to learn the language because they desperately want to know what is happening in the story and they are practically salivating in anticipation for the next installment in the series. I like to call this “language living vs language learning.” The learning part also must happen but the living part must be the most important element for it to take place over the long term. I’m not saying that I was salivating over French in Action episodes but it was the closest I got compared to other language-learning programs.

For what Mango Languages offers, it is great. As I mention in my post, my husband appreciates having a systematic approach. However, it IS pretty boring to be sitting in front of a computer repeating sentences and then being quizzed on them. I can’t handle it for more than a few minutes and my eyes start to glaze over and I start looking out the window. I don’t know if my husband will have the motivation to stick with it unless he has more stimulating input (like today when we watched a movie in Spanish with our kids).

I’m not sure if that is what you were looking for in terms of feedback. I do have to say that the fact that Mango Languages is FREE from the library is a big benefit! We are so appreciative that it is there for us to use.


11 Giovanna July 20, 2010 at 10:07 pm

I am so excited and happy for your family that you have decided to learn Spanish. Spanish is my first language and I was born and raised in Peru. Now I am teaching my kids Spanish so I wanted to share the name of some DVDs we like. “Peep and the big wide world”
There are several shows. They are cartoons and they teach some science concepts, they are designed for preschoolers. I think they are originally made in English but many of them are dubbed in Spanish. So for my kids I just make them watch it in Spanish. So when looking at DVDs at the library look in the back and many will say that they have audio in Spanish. My kids also liked Bob the Builder in Spanish.

My favorite place to buy used books in Spanish is at the Friends of the Seattle Public Library Sale. It’s so exciting to get Spanish books for $1

Hope your family continues having fun with your language adventure.



12 Corey July 30, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Thank you for your encouragement and fabulous tips, Giovanna! We are having such a wonderful time, I can’t even describe it. I love the idea of the DVDs from the library – you are so right about them often having Spanish as a language option. And I forgot about the Friends of the Seattle Public Library sale. I had no idea that they had such inexpensive books in Spanish – we will definitely aim for that. Inexpensive is definitely what we are looking for (especially after spending quite a bit on the Destinos books for me and my husband). So wonderful to hear from you!


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