Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Isolation and Language Learning Do Not Mix
How do you keep up a language during quarantine? If you think about it, foreign languages are the only subject that you need to have social interaction in order to maintain and advance. Up to age 13, students are risk of losing a language, even their native one, if they don't interact with it enough. It is called language attrition.
It´s caused by the isolation from speakers of the language. But what about foreign language learners? As parents and teachers, we’re sitting here trying to think of how can someone practice, and meaningfully interact in a language, with all of the restrictions that exist.
Welcome to Distance Education
America had the worst introduction to online education this Spring. It was sudden, unoriganized, unprepared, and by all accounts - a disaster. Teachers that I have observed, simply loaded the kids with flashcards, grammar exercises, studying, memorizing... and a bunch of other assignments (that I like to call busy work). They know that it’s not effective.
But what else were they supposed to do? No one was prepared for this. We were all thrown into an unprecedented situation. With no idea of when it will end. But now it’s been 5 months. It’s time to come up with some options.
#1 Live, Online Interaction
The best idea is if you can have live interaction in Spanish through video conferencing software. Get together with Spanish-speaking classmates, family members, neighbors, etc. and have a virtual birthday party, game night, escape room, or other event. More than anything - make it fun! If you don’t have any Spanish-speaking friends or family available, look into online classes. We have our own private and group options here.
Phone calls are another form of live interaction. But many students find it difficult to understand foreign languages by phone. It’s much harder when they can’t see the person. They aren’t able to read body language and expressions. (Another reason why students suffer with listening comprehension to begin with).
#2 Try Asynchronous Communication
As adults, we do this all the time. We leave voice messages for each other on messenger or other apps. Our friends get back to us when they have a chance. One way that you can implement that into Spanish, or another foreign languages’ curriculum, is to use FlipGrid. It’s an APP which allows for asynchronous video messages by students. It has a lot of great features that lets students personalize their videos, edit them, blur out their faces, put emojis, draw, and more. I’ve had great success using this in my own Spanish classes.
#3 Journals and Pen Pals
If you can’t speak, the next best thing is going to be writing. Because you’re still practicing language output. You have to form sentences, and use grammar and vocabulary in the correct way. I suggest a Spanish language journal to write in, with different prompts. You can find a host of prompts for teens here. If there is someone on the other end, a Pen Pal relationship is a lot of fun. Just make sure to follow the safety advice below when engaging with unknown people online.
#4 Video Games and APPS
Check the supported languages for your child’s favorite game in the APP store. Many support Spanish. Just make sure it has a level of interaction for it to be the most effective. For example, reading directions, choosing options based on the information given, guessing, communicating, problem solving, socializing, etc. One of the main reasons why Duolingo fails is that it relies on memorization and translation. Look for unpredictable games instead that can turn out differently each time. Options may be limited during the quarantine, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up. ANY exposure is better than nothing. And every sentence counts.
If you are a student who attends a Spanish bilingual or immersion school, who comes from a multilingual family, and/or has relatives that you need to be able to communicate with now, contact us for a Spanish level test in order to begin immersion classes.
Keep in mind that involving any unknown person in your, or your child’s, life has risks. Read about internet safety precautions here. You can record any live meetings on Zoom automatically if you are the host. If not, you can always screen cast. It works by recording a device’s screen also. It can be used on a computer, tablet or smartphone (But beware it also works the other way around. Someone can be recording without your knowledge).