New Year, New Language Learning Goal

With January comes fresh hope for new year resolutions, which could mean a new language learning goal for your family. 

As a non-native speaker, I struggle with knowing how to support my family’s language learning at times. Discouragement dances at the edge of my mind. What do you know about Spanish? How can you help your children become better communicators in a language you don’t know well yourself? 

The truth is, I can’t. I lack a lot of skills in the language my children are learning. However, if I see my role as a co-language-learner mama, instead of a I-know-it-all master at the language, then I’m able to face the situation better. I suddenly see myself as the cheerleader and facilitator in my children’s language learning. And, like them, I am on the learning path.

There are many things I have incorporated into our family culture that encourages language learning (like classes with LOM), but I’m always looking for new ways to expand our language learning. I noticed that when I speak even a little Spanish to my children, suddenly my son bubbles with Spanish conversation and my daughter bursts into Spanish songs. So, with that in mind, and January here, we decided to set a family language learning goal this year.

Forming Habits 

The best book I’ve read about forming habits is James Clear’s Atomic Habits. In it, Clear gives advice on how to maintain new year resolutions, goals, and habits beyond January. His examples and stories are numerous and inspirational! One of his many tips is to first define your goal with details. 

We decided our family language learning goal was to speak more Spanish this next year. However, this wasn’t specific enough. “Speak more Spanish to each other when inside our home” became our next draft. But Clear recommends to take the goal even further. He recommends to define not only what the goal is but when you are going to do it. When will we speak Spanish to each other inside our house? 

Mealtime Makes for the Best Habit-forming Time!

One of Clear’s other strategies I like the most is “habit stacking” or attaching a new habit to an old one you already do. My go-to has been to attach new habits to mealtime. No matter how busy or distracted we are, my family always manages to make time to eat. (And every day at that!) Plus, they are seated and mostly a captivated audience. 

Our language learning goal now becomes: During dinnertime, speak Spanish as a family. This is a more measurable goal for us, and it will be easy to see when we aren’t successful. I imagine as we struggle through the first couple of times, we’ll need topics. So I’ve already started looking up helpful phrases like: What did you do in school today? ¿Qué hiciste en la escuela hoy? Or, What do you like about the food? ¿Qué te gusta de la comida?

My son is a more advanced speaker, but my daughter will need some vocabulary support. Perhaps we’ll have a meal-time-only notebook nearby so we can jot down words we want to look up later. 

When my son was younger, we had a goal of praying for the families on the Christmas cards we received. It took five minutes, but every morning, before our oatmeal breakfast, we bowed our head and prayed for one family. The way we remembered? It was attached to our habit of eating breakfast, and we had the Christmas cards near the breakfast nook as a visual reminder. 

The last thing we need to do before we can implement our goal is to make a visual reminder. How will we remember to speak Spanish during dinnertime? 

I haven’t quite worked out what this visual reminder could be, but I’m excited to see what my kids come up with! 

Little Steps Each Day

Learning another language is a process. Repetition, practice, and introduction of new vocabulary is hard work. Like parenting, it takes time and a vision to trust that the tiny steps made each day will pay off. A popular Confuscious quote says, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” On our language learning journey this year, one small step will be dinner conversations in Spanish!

Do you have any new language learning goals for your family this year? How do you help your family continue in the language learning process? We’d love to hear! Share with us in the comments below.

One great way of introducing kids to another language is through fun, interactive classes given by native speakers. Language on Mission’s spring session starts January 23 and includes classes in either Spanish or Mandarin. There’s still time to sign up!

Ashley Shannon | January 2022 (Updated January 2023)

One Response

  1. I was personally inspired/convicted by this post to bring Spanish back into our family’s home routine. I used to be pretty good about it, but with the birth of our third child I got kind of overwhelmed and my brain just couldn’t do it! haha But now that she’s sleeping through the night, I will make it a point this year to get back in the habit. Thanks for the very practical tips!!

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