Language Challenge 101: Week Two

by Corey · 13 comments

General highlights from our experiences as a family:

  • Cards around the house
    When I first moved to Germany back in 1992, my husband wrote in German the names of as many things in our house that he could find on small cards and then taped them to the items around the house.  Many of those cards were still there two years later when we moved to Seattle!  This week my husband did the same thing but this time he wrote each item in three languages: English, German and Spanish.  The kids had a great time taping the cards onto the corresponding items.  I hope we’ll make more this coming week!
  • Flash Cards
    I’m not a big fan of flash cards but we got some samples from in Spanish/English and Spanish/French.  The kids got really excited about the cards and had a great time helping out one another in trying to remember the answers.  We are going to add these as one of our language learning activities each week for sure.
  • Local Restaurants
    Jackie Friedman Mighdoll, a friend and the founder of Sponge School, sent me a wonderful email this week with recommendations for local restaurants where we can practice our Spanish and experience some Spanish language in action.  She emphasized the value of the cultural experience from such places: “There’s nothing like having a real-life interaction with a Spanish-speaker to make it worthwhile.”  She is so right!  If you live in the Seattle area, two of her recommendations are the Salvadorean bakery in West Seattle and La Venadita, a little taco place in Issaquah.
  • Your suggetions!
    Please make sure to check out the comments from the past two Language Challenge 101 postings!  Did you know that there is a blog specifically dedicated to Teaching & Learning Spanish – check it out!  Thank you everyone for your amazing support and fabulous recommendations!

Please continue to share your thoughts and experiences with us! It is so exciting to hear from others out there who have been inspired by this challenge to step up their language learning and exposure.  Keep your emails and comments coming!

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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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Susan July 23, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Check out This website has stories in Spanish. They have stories for beginners, intermediate and advanced learners. All stories are read by native speakers. Some are well known stories and others are new. The blog also has free transcripts for many of the stories.


2 Corey July 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Thank you for your fabulous suggestion, Susan! I remember talking about that site in Multilingual Living Magazine a while back but as we weren’t learning Spanish back then I totally forgot about it. I checked it out and it is great! Just what my kids (and probably most kids) like: lively colors, cute characters and an appealing speaker. The truth is, I’ll probably spend the most time there. Hah! I’m a sucker for all the kids’ Spanish learning materials. I can’t help it! I’m becoming an addict! 🙂 Thank you for leaving this comment!


3 Maria July 23, 2010 at 11:23 pm

For more interesting videos you might try finding a dvd of a short video they know in English in playing the Spanish language option. That way the story is one they already know but they hear it in Spanish.


4 Corey July 30, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Such a great idea, Maria! We need to do this more, for sure. In fact, most of the DVDs that we have at home have Spanish as an option. I think we’ll probably put it in Spanish with English subtitles – at least at the beginning so that I’ll have some idea what is going on. The kids really get into some DVDs and will watch it in any language just to see what happens. I love it!

I also really want to find some good telenovelas on Univision for ME. I know that I’d get addicted and would desperately want to learn Spanish to understand it. Talk about NEED!

Thanks for this reminder! I’m hitting the library again soon and will see what we can find.


5 Christian July 26, 2010 at 4:11 am

Hi there. Relatively new to the website and possibly going to ask a question that has already been answered……
Pertaining to the lego skit – can your boys read? For a first week’s worth of practice, they were saying fairly complex sentences in the skit. Were you helping them on the side and they were repeating what you said?
I need you secret!


6 Corey July 30, 2010 at 10:10 pm

So glad you asked, Christian! Yes, the boys can read and were reading their lines from a piece of paper next to the lego set. They understood what they were saying because we picked out the dialog together but no, they didn’t come up with the Spanish on their own and didn’t memorize it. I guess they could have memorized it if they had had more time. But we are usually not very organized and spend Thursdays coming up with the skit, building the lego set, filming it and then uploading it to YouTube.

I wish I could say that I had a special secret! Other than what I write up in our weekly Language Challenge 101 posts, we aren’t doing anything in particular. They do speak Spanish randomly throughout the day with one another. And in the Week Three skit they helped their sister (age 5) say one short sentence (she can’t read yet). So sweet.

Thank you for your comment! Please share any tips that you have! I am all ears – 100%!


7 Adriana Ross July 27, 2010 at 5:07 am

Your website is so inspiring and fun! On the subject of books, I’d like to add that I visited a public library in Los Angeles recently and as you can imagine they had a HUGE section of children’s books in Spanish. But as you know, not all of the books are created (or translated) equal. As a native speaker I have hand picked some titles that I found to be excellent and have listed them on my website:
The very best ones (I think) are the ones that are written in native Spanish because they have a lovely rhyme and rhythm that is often not achievable with translated materials (“Ramon y el Jamon”). The only downside is that these don’t have the English words so if you are not a native speaker you may have to work up to this level.
There are also some very good ones that have both languages (i.e. “Me Gusta Cuando”). With my five year old we take turns where I read the Spanish sentence and he reads the corresponding English one. We are working up to the point where he reads the Spanish and I read the English.
And finally, there are some books out there which “mix” the languages ( incorporate both in one sentence). I generally don’t like these with the exception of one that I found which elegantly delivered a lovely message about a little boy was special because he was bilingual (“Tito el Bombero”).
I am very passionate about this topic and hope you find my comments useful!


8 Corey July 30, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Thank you so much for this comment, Adriana!! I am definitely going to go through your list of recommendations and get my hands on everything that I can. As I say in our Week Three post, we are enjoying finding books only in Spanish and taking the time to translate them until we can understand them. This together with general language learning. So your recommendations for books like “Ramon y el Jambon” is fabulous! And if they are just too tough right now, we’ll get them down the road.

We love the dual language ones. I feel lucky that we have so many Spanish-English ones at home from reviews I did for Multilingual Living Magazine. It is great to not have to start from scratch. We are also extremely lucky that our library is so packed with Spanish-English books.

The “Tito el Bombero” recommendation is great! I will see if we can find that one for sure. Books about kids who are themselves bilingual is always a plus, indeed!

Thank you, thank you!!


9 Alice July 28, 2010 at 12:04 am

The videos are a hoot! My kids love it! Isabella remembers your kids well and she says, “hi!”. She was very impressed by them speaking Spanish (also by Marie sticking those pens together). She now wants to do a similar Lego skit … in Spanish…AND video taped! So your strategy’s certainly infectious! 😀

I totally agree that most DVDs that are out there seem to be for younger kids, or toddlers, with too basic Spanish. We are looking for DVDs for kids that is a little more advanced!!!! Anyone have ideas, suggestions? (not meaning regular movies, though, but something along the lines of “Speekee”, or Spanish for kids).


10 Corey July 30, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Hello Alice! I can totally imagine Isabella watching the skits and wanting to do her own. She is so dang industrious! I can’t wait until you guys do one and share it with all of us. If you don’t have a place to post it, let me know and you can post it under the Multilingual Living YouTube page ( I should let others know that too! It would be fun to have a bunch of multilingual videos there for everyone to share.

As for the DVDs, we are finding items for young kids and then a jump up to items fully in Spanish (intended for native speakers). That middle area is tough. We are thinking of having the kids watch the Destinos videos with us and then do some lessons together afterward! That as well as books in Spanish. Have you checked out Mommy Maestra’s site: She is starting homeschooling in Spanish and has some great ideas. Also check out Karen’s site: There are more, of course, but I have been finding some great Spanish-learning resources there.

Let me know what you find along the way!


11 Ana Lomba July 28, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Kudos to you, Corey! How fantastic what you are doing!

I used to teach Destinos in Princeton University 🙂 The courses were divided so that one grad student taught the telenovelas 3 days a week and another grammar 2 days a week (or something like that). They always gave me the grammar section, grrr! BTW, my teaching partner one year was Pedro Pérez del Sólar, the illustrator of Play and Learn Spanish (he taught the telenovela, of course). As you can see, we continued working together even after Princeton 🙂


12 Karen July 30, 2010 at 10:38 am

Thank you so much for mentioning my blog! 🙂 I’ve been super-busy at work this past week, so I’m just now getting around to reading your updates.


13 Corey July 30, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Hi Karen! It is my pleasure to mention it! It has been so helpful and inspiring for me as we take this Spanish-language journey. I just wish I had more time to hang out there. You have such a wealth of resources. Course, we do still have many days of Spanish learning so I’m sure I’ll have checked out a bunch before we are done.

Always feel free to point me to specific items if you think of them! I am always appreciative of that!


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