Our Path to Learning Spanish
Prefatory notes and ideas:
  • Learn to say "Bible", "God", "Jesus" in Spanish (Biblia, Dios, Jesús). You need to hear these words spoken.

  • Learn the alphabet. Focus on properly pronouncing the vowels (a, e, i, o, u)--listen to a native speaker or someone with good pronunciation (a general pronunciation guide is found further down in this article).

  • Learn where to lay stress on the syllables (see below).

  • Learn basic everyday words and phrases and information. Start with basic verbs e.g., "to be". With that comes I am_____. Another basic verb is "to have". With that comes I have or you have... A list of basic verbs may be forthcoming.

  • Go to Genesis 1:1-2:7 to find words that cover all of creation (heaven, earth, sea, water, man, woman, etc.) and then work outwards bit by bit as you need the words. For example, from man we might go to I, boy, girl, food, I am hungry. Just ordinary things that you would often encounter everyday life.

Our Path to Learning Spanish

This is a rough overview of our path to learning Spanish. This path can be adapted to any Foreign Language Acquisition program. It is said that if a child begins a foreign language before five (some say eight) years old, they will speak without an accent. This was the case with us. I speak intermediate Spanish and that is why I decided to teach Spanish. I felt that my child should at least know what I know.

  • Learned the alphabet song (it can be adapted to the English ABC song. I taught my daughter an older version of the Spanish alphabet (the official alphabet has been changed) because it is what I learned and it includes sounds I wanted my daughter to know. She knows that it is not the current official alphabet.)

  • Learned other songs about common things and phrases--colors, animals, days of the week, greetings and farewells, etc. Many children's CDs (and books for that matter) are not intelligently developed. Some are but may have objectionable music, etc. that has to be skipped.

  • Learned useful common sentences.

  • Learned to pronounce vowels well.

  • Learned where to place stress when speaking. There are only three main easy rules:
    1. If the word ends with a vowel, n, or s, it is stressed on the second to the last syllable (casa, mañana).
    2. If the word ends with a consonant (except n or s), it is stressed on the last syllable (canal, doctor).
    3. If the word has an accent mark, it stress on that syllable (está (es-TA) versus esta (ES-ta).

  • Conjugated regular ar, er, ir verbs as well as common irregular verbs such as estar and ser (501 Spanish Verbs is a basic resource. An older Spanish dictionary useful. Modern Harpers-Collins full of profaneness--expensive but I discarded it.)

  • Learned more basic words and phrases worksheets

  • "The Cards"--an amazing, divine answer to my dilema of how to teach my five year old Spanish. It is this step that got us where we needed to be. A few index cards (go here for the basic sentences) and Genesis 1:1-2:7 set the stage for a one-month intensive that laid the foundation for the rest of our foreign language program. Watched a a very good Bob Jones DVDs that acting out scenes in Spanish (no English) using basic words, total 33 minutes--see http://www.bjupress.com/product/205088?path=1674) during the intensive.)

  • Translation work and Bible readings (we could not use the Spanish Bibles, they do not read like the Authorized Version. This slowed down our Spanish program immensely. We did some translating ourselves and learned a lot about the rules of Spanish grammar.

    Summer of Year 2 (maybe beginning of Year 3) we did our own in-house cassette production entitled, "Rosa" with all the sound effects (Rosa walking across the floor, etc.) and coloring sheets to accompany the recording. Rosa was attending her first day of school. In listening to Rosa, we encounter family things and school things and songs, etc.

  • Conrad Schmidt--found his materials useful for a short time, used books.

  • Conversing during the day in Spanish. We made a lot of ground here until I let it go. If things get boring or too much, letting it ebb is okay. Ebbs and flows, ebbs and flows, just like the waves lapping up on the sea shore and retreating, up and back, up and back--and not too much new learning at one time. Introduce rudiments/basics of a subject based on the word of God and then go forward with thought out, incremental progression.

  • Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Basic Spanish Course (the other steps above had to have come first in order for the FSI to have meant anything to us. FSI materials can be found at http://fsi-language-courses.org/Content.php?page=Spanish%20Basic This link includes--the textbook and the audio FREE ONLINE. I had found this for about $6 at a secondhand bookstore, was impressed with it, looked it up on the internet and found it online. This website offers many other languages as well.)

  • Spanish became an Independent Study class.

    There is written work (Foundation in Spanish) and
    Audio and oral work (Continuation of FSI coursework)

  • A secondhand Defense Language Institute video course was helpful and so was a secondhand Pimsleur level 3 course.

  • Other: Fieldtrips, e.g., Spanish restaurant; books about Spanish-speaking countries, e.g., on Mexico; speaking only Spanish throughout the day and developing cards for the words that we had to look up.

The Spanish Alphabet

Pronouncing the Spanish letters. The following list is how to say the alphabet/alfabeto itself, like when we say the ABCs in English. It is best to hear someone say the alfabeto (alphabet) correctly and then imitate them. My daughter learned the Spanish alphabet via a song, which is the way she learned the English alphabet.

Spanish is phonetic and is not difficult to learn. The letter "a" always sounds the same unlike in English (e.g., ape, apple, father, etc.)

This is the old Spanish alphabet (which is the the way that I learned the Spanish alfabeto.) The Spanish alfabeto was officially changed some years ago, but I do not know why. I taught the old way to my daughter because that is what I know and because the sounds are useful to know--but I did tell her that this is not the official alphabet (at some point, I should make a note as to which letters they took out.). Next to each letter is a general idea of how to pronounce it.

a     (äh) [ä is pronounced like the a in "father"]

b     (bāy or beh) [e like in "egg"]

c     (sāy)

ch     (chāy)

d     (dāy or deh)

e     (ā or eh)

f     (f´-āy) [say "f" like when you say "f" when saying the English alphabet and "a" like when saying the English alphabet, "f - a"]

g     (heh, a little gutteral)

h     (ä´-chāy)

i     (ē)

j     (hō´-ta)

k     (kä)

l     (el´-ay)

ll     (eh´-yeah)

m     (m´-ay) [say "m" like when you say "m" when saying the English alphabet]

n     (n´-ay) [say "n" like when you say "n" when saying the English alphabet]

ñ     (n´-yeah) [say "n" like when you say "n" when saying the English alphabet]

o     (oh)

p     (peh)

q     (coo)

r     (ehr´-ay)

rr     (ehrrrr´-ray) [roll the r]

s     (s´-āy) [say "s" like when you say "s" when saying the English alphabet]

t     (tāy)

u     (oo)

v     (bāy)--Latin America

w     (doe´-blāy-oo) or (doe-blāy-bay)

x     (eck´-ease)

y     (ē-grēē-egg´-ra (igriega))

z     (sāy´-ta)

Drilling the vowels is important for good pronunciation. I had a college instructor who made us focus on vowels for eight weeks, and I am glad that he did.

a, e, i, o, u

a     (äh) [ä is pronounced like the a in "father"]

e     (ā or eh)

i     (ē)

o     (oh)

u     (oo)

The basic sentences for the cards. These are the important truths to know in any language.

For the sentences you need index cards, a marker in order to write on them, and the following five sentences--

  1. La Santa Biblia es la palabra de Dios. (The Holy Bible is the word of God.)
  2. Dios es el Padre. (God is the Father.)
  3. Jesús es el Hijo de Dios. (Jesus is the Son of God.)
  4. Jesús es la palabra de Dios. (Jesus is the word of God.)
  5. El Espíritu Santo es el Espíritu de Dios. (The Holy (Santo) Spirit (Espíritu) is the Spirit of God.)

Each sentence will require multiple cards because the words will be introduced by building up the sentences. For example, sentence number one would have a series of index cards that said the following (in this order)--

La Santa
La Santa Biblia
La Santa Biblia es
La Santa Biblia es la
La Santa Biblia es la palabra
La Santa Biblia es la palabra de
La Santa Biblia es la palabra de Dios.

Do this with all of the five sentences. These are the basic flashcards. They are fun to do and it will not be long before your student knows them. There are five basic questions to ask and answer about the cards once they are learned--

¿Qué es la palabra de Dios? (What is the word of God?)
¿Quién es el Padre? (Who is the Father?)
¿Quién es el Hijo de Dios? (Who is the Son of God?)
¿Quién es la Palabra de Dios? (Who is the Word of God?)
¿Quién es Espíritu de Dios? (Who is the Spirit of God?)

After these initial cards, we did a few more sets which included basic verbs like ser and estar (both of which mean "to be."). Some examples of these may be forthcoming.

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