At the request of ALCE Australia, SRAP member Dr. Alfredo Herrero de Haro (Senior Lecturer, University of Wollongong) gave two talks to ALCE Australia families on how to work on Spanish language at home with their children. These talks took place on May 15th, and July 29th, 2022.
Dr. Herrero de Haro began his presentation by breaking myths and it is worth highlighting the advantages identified by numerous researchers in terms of acquiring more than one language. He also addressed how numerous researchers have busted the myth that learning more than one language from an early age can confuse children, slow their progress in school, or give children a foreign accent in English.
Following this, Dr Herrero de Haro covered a series of problems regarding the maintenance of heritage languages at home in Australia and suggested a series of strategies that parents can put into practice to maintain Spanish at home.
Of all of them, the most important is to speak to the children only in Spanish, or as much as possible. This is due to the strong correlation that many researchers have found between hours of exposure to a language and mastery of it. Watching cartoons, series or movies in Spanish (e.g. Netflix), listening to songs in Spanish in the car, and using Spanish language while playing with children are also very important strategies.
There is no need to despair if a child replies in English when spoken to in Spanish; the fact that the child follows the conversation, even though he/she answers in English, proves that the child understands Spanish and that learning is taking place.
Finally, it is important that the child engages with Spanish actively, not just passively. This does not mean that the child must answer in Spanish, but it may be that the child responds to stimuli in Spanish (e.g. “give me the red car, put the tiger on top of the house”) or sings in Spanish. Songs are the easiest and most effective way to practice productive language with the little ones.
Watch the talk given on July 29th (in Spanish) in this YouTube video:
Apart from his academic research, Herrero de Haro has just published his second book, «A Dead Man’s Ice Cream», available in bookstores, on Amazon (paperback) and ebook.