My Child Won’t Speak Spanish

Even if you have the complain: my child won’t speak Spanish, don’t give up! Speaking a second language can be a huge asset to your child.  Through my experience I can share that It will not only help broaden their understanding of and appreciation for Hispanic culture, but also help them in their future careers.

Kids at a young age don’t really understand this. So they need different motivation and encouragement for speaking Spanish. With some patience and consistent practice you can overcome this challenge. Consider these 10 reasons why you might be saying “my child won’t speak Spanish” and ideas for how to overcome them.

Your Child Won’t Speak Spanish – How to Fix the Problem

1. Your Child Doesn’t See a Reason to Speak Spanish.

Often, parents successfully teach their kids to speak Spanish at a young age, but as the child matures they abandon their Spanish because they don’t see any reason to keep it up.

In other words, there is nothing special about speaking Spanish that they can’t get by speaking English. To keep your child interested and engaged, set up Spanish-only activities like Spanish immersion trips or visits to Spanish-speaking family members that will make them excited to use their Spanish.

2. Your Child Won’t Speak Spanish Because Your Spanish Use is Inconsistent.

child won't speak Spanish

Learning to ride horses in Colombia
All in Spanish

I am guilty of this one. I used to be more consistent when my son was younger. I now know that if you don’t use Spanish consistently, your child won’t either!

For sure you don’t want to switch between Spanish and English randomly, or else your child will do the same thing, answering you in English when you speak Spanish or vice versa.

Try to set up a consistent pattern for practicing Spanish. You might make your entire home a Spanish-only zone, or you might set up a special daily bonding time to speak only Spanish like during story time or family game time.

3. Your Child Doesn’t Hear Enough Spanish.

We dealt with this one also as my husband is American and speaks a very crude Spanish. Passive listening plays a huge role in language acquisition and is a key part of how to teach your child Spanish at home.

One way to fix the problem is to expose your child to a lot of different Spanish voices and vocabulary by keeping the radio tuned to Spanish music or encouraging your child to watch Spanish TV and movies.

Right on this website I have a great section of Spanish Learning Songs that are a rich source of vocabulary for small children and even kids who are just starting to learn the language.

4. You Treat Spanish Like Homework.

If you’re teaching your child Spanish from a textbook, STOP! You don’ want your child to associate Spanish with boring stuff. Instead, build a love of the language with stories, games, and songs first. Then, as the child matures, you can teach more advanced grammatical concepts. Try to find language teaching moments in your daily life rather than always heading to a textbook.

5. Your Correct Your Child’s Spanish Too Much.

I know, I know, it is difficult to live with the horrible Spanish they may speak however, if you immediately make a picky grammar or pronunciation correction every time your child opens their mouth to speak Spanish, they will quickly stop trying!

Don’t be overly critical. Instead, encourage and reward your child when they try to speak Spanish even if they can’t express themselves perfectly yet.

6. Your Child Wants to Fit In at School.

Your child won’t speak Spanish as an effort to try be like all the other kids at school. Make sure your child feels comfortable talking to you about school problems, and be sensitive to how they are feeling. Maybe you will need to stop speaking Spanish in front of their friends for a while to help them feel comfortable and I say so as an alternative even though I never stopped.

7. Your Child Feels Embarrassed.

Your child won’t speak Spanish because he doesn’t feel confident in his Spanish.  If this happens he won’t want to speak it—especially not with strangers. Make sure your child gets plenty of opportunities to speak Spanish with other people besides you.

Start small to build their confidence. For example, you might prep them by going over a few key phrases and then take them to a Hispanic shop or restaurant where they can practice those phrases.

8. Your Child Feels Pressure from Another Source.

If the child’s other parent, grandparent, friend, teacher, etc. doesn’t approve of Spanish, you child may not want to learn. You can approach this problem from both sides—talk with your child about being an individual and talk to the other person about supporting your child’s learning when appropriate.

9. Your Child Is Bored.

If the majority of your child’s books, video games, toys, and other entertainments are in English, they will naturally prefer English. Be sure to provide a fresh supply of Spanish-only entertainment to engage and excite your child.

I make sure every time we travel to Colombia I buy many books his level to guarantee he has excellent reading material. Also, thanks to the internet you can find tons of options from books for every reading level to songs, games, and DVDs.

10. Your Child Simply Isn’t Ready.

Your child won’t speak Spanish maybe because every child learns differently, making it important not to compare your child’s progress to their cousins or siblings. Don’t stop speaking in Spanish to your child, even if they won’t speak back right now.

You can still get them to have a fluent understanding of Spanish which will add a great benefit and enrichment to their life.  To know more about how their brain changes by learning another language read my article Children Learn Spanish.

Now it is your turn, keep on teaching that beautiful language of ours!  If you want to learn more how to encourage your little one to speak Spanish check out these articles Raising Bilingual in Spanish Children and 5 Benefits of an Spanish Immersion for Your Chid.

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