Often enough, your grasp of two languages allows you to communicate with different generations.
You’re connected to the past, present and future. For so many of us, Spanish ties us to our families, while English is increasingly the language used at work and among friends. Knowing both means we’re able to inhabit several worlds simultaneously.
So, it goes without saying that Spanish is a language totally worth learning. However, you don’t have to wait until high school Spanish classes to pick up the language. In fact, learning a language is easiest at a young age. Doing so has added benefits too. Learning a second language has been shown to increase problem-solving, creativity, test scores and a greater understanding of one’s native language.
It only makes sense to start them young but don’t take our word for it. There are tons of celebrities who also understand this advantage. As such, both native and non-native speakers are setting their kids up for a bilingual future by teaching them Spanish now. Here are some of the celebs who are fostering a love for Español in their kids.
1. Ali Wong
Instagram / @aliwong
Funny woman Ali Wong is best known for making us laugh with her comedy specials and Netflix original movie “Always Be My Maybe,” but she’s also a really cool mom. In this Instagram video, the comedian is shown reading a Lil’ Libros book about La Catrina to her little one. She even encourages her daughter to read along. We can’t help but approve of her technique.
2. Ryan Gosling & Eva Mendes
Instagram / @gosling.mendes
Celebrity couple Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes have two adorable little girls who they are teaching Spanish to. In May 2019, the actress appeared on “The Talk” and shared her experience teaching her daughters.
“We’re trying to teach the kids Spanish, and it’s harder than I thought because I speak Spanglish, and that’s what they’re picking up. It’s adorable, but it’s technically not a language.”
3. Salma Hayek
Instagram / @salmahayek
Not every native Spanish speaker decides to teach their children Spanish — especially if their spouse doesn’t speak the language. That hasn’t stopped Salma Hayek, though. The actress has shared in the past that her daughter, Valentina, knows three languages. Her husband is from France so their girl has grown up speaking French, Spanish and English.
4. Perez Hilton
Instagram / @hxrrykidd
Gossip guru, Perez Hilton is a dedicated father of one and is passing his Cuban heritage on to his son through speaking Spanish. Back in 2013, the internet personality shared with MAMAS LATINAS about his strict Spanish-only rule.
“I speak to him only in Spanish in the house, and so does abuela.”
Though she’s Latina, Jessica Alba isn’t a native speaker. Still, she recognizes the importance of learning the language. Back in 2008, she told LATINA that she was determined to learn so she could teach her kids.
“Hopefully I can pick it up because I want my kids to speak Spanish. I don’t even want them to speak English for maybe the first two to three years, until preschool.”
6. Hilaria Baldwin
Instagram / @hilariabaldwin
Alec Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria, was ready to teach their daughter Spanish before she was even talking. The Spanish-national told US Weekly all about her plans.
“I was on the phone with my nephew, who’s seven. He called me…and he asked me, ‘Is she going to speak Spanish?’ I said, ‘Yes, but you have to help because she’s going to grow up [in the US] probably so you have to help speak to her in Spanish.'”
For JLo, her kids learning Spanish was all about la cultura. She and ex-husband, Marc Anthony, made sure to teach their twins the language while they grew up. She explained this mentality during an interview with AMERICA READS SPANISH.
“[It’s] Very, very important. I want my kids not just to speak in Spanish but to know the culture of their parents. We come from a rich and vast culture and I want to educate my kids knowing their heritage.”
8. Christina Aguilera
Instagram / @xtina
Christina Aguilera is another Latina who understands the value of teaching her child Spanish. She shared with People that she intended for her son Max to learn the language as it is a part of their Latino culture and he is half Latino.
9. Roselyn Sánchez
Instagram / @sueltalasopatv
Actress and producer Roselyn Sánchez is a native Spanish speaker and has taught her daughter how to speak it as well. However, her husband, Eric Winter, doesn’t speak the language at all. This led to Sánchez and her daughter giving their favorite guy a few adorable lessons in Español.
10. Ricky Martin
Instagram / @ricky_martin
Pop sensation Ricky Martin helped usher in the Latin explosion of the early 2000s. His culture is obviously very important to the star and he’s shared that gift with his twin sons. In fact, the Puerto Rican dad and his kids only speak Spanish at home. English is only spoken by his boys at school
11. Gwyneth Paltrow
Instagram / @gwynethpaltrow
Goop-founder Gwyneth Paltrow is raising her kids to speak fluent Spanish. Son, Moses, and daughter, Apple, are encouraged to only speak Spanish to each other at home. This immersion therapy is one of the best methods for raising bilingual kids.
12. Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas
Instagram / @allegraabla
Though she is now grown, Stella Banderas was raised by her parents to be fluent in Spanish and English. Born in Spain, the young actress grew up shuttled between LA and her home country so being bilingual was especially helpful.
13. Zoe Saldana
Twitter / @MichaelStone64
For Afro-Latina Zoe Saldana, the choice to teach her kids Spanish was an easy one. In fact, according to Girls Talk Smack, she decided to before they were even born.
“Of course [our children] will speak the languages that we speak; my sisters and I grew up learning French and speaking English and Spanish, and because of that, we’re able to understand Italian and Portuguese. But I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to speak Spanish to my children, because I speak Spanglish.”
14. Tiny Harris
Instagram / @majorgirl
Wife to T.I. and mom to Heiress, Tiny Harris is working on making her daughter as well rounded as possible. In a January 2019 Instagram video, the mom recorded little Heiress practicing her Spanish. Harris’ hope is that she can help her daughter learn a second or third language.
15. David and Victoria Beckham
Instagram / @beckhamxfamilystyle
Back in 2003, David Beckham and family moved to Spain when he signed on with Real Madrid. The soccer star learned Spanish while playing with his team and taught his sons as well. This goes to show that necessity can be a useful motivation when learning a new language.
16. Matt Damon
Twitter / @enews
Though he is married to an Argentine woman, Matt Damon was a Spanish speaker long before they met. He learned Spanish through immersion as a teenager and also backpacked through Mexico and Guatemala. As such, he and his wife, Luciana Barroso, have raised their four daughters to speak Spanish as well.
One of the biggest challenges faced by migrant families is deciding how to better get their kids to speak both languages. In the case of the Latino population in the United States and other Anglo countries, these idiomas are Spanish and English. Parents face the life altering decision of either fully embracing English at home or keeping the mother tongue alive. The choice might seem easy, but it involves a variety of factors. You might want your kid to be fully fluent in Spanish but don’t want them to feel left out when they go to school and their English is not there yet. You might be alone in the country and want your kids to fully assimilate, even though you don’t want them to lose your language and eventually forget your heritage. They say language shapes worlds and that is totally right: we use words to make sense of reality, to explain who we are to ourselves and to others.
Good news is, kids are really como esponjas, todo lo absorben. Children have an amazing capacity to assimilate words and concepts, and can easily switch from one language to the other if you give them the time and space to learn the difference between the two. By the time they are 18 months old, kids start categorizing the world: that is when they learn shapes, simple concepts like open/close and in/out, and also when they can start differentiating between languages. Like anything when it comes to parenting, there are no cookie cutter solutions or formulas, but here are some tips that can help out.
No baby talk, ever.
It is tempting to do baby talk with your little one. But it does them no good. Babies need to hear clear words, and going goo goo ga ga is not helping them. A good technique is to describe your actions: “I am changing your nappy, I am throwing it to the trash can, I am wiping your butt”. Or, the alternative: “Te estoy cambiando el pañal, ahora lo voy a tirar a la basura y te voy a limpiar las pompas”. Even if you are not raising a bilingual kid, this is the first rule: just dump the baby talk, porfas.
Be proud of your heritage.
Children are much more intuitive than we give them credit for. In the current political climate, it is easy to fall into the trap and feel like being bilingual is shameful rather than something to be extremely proud of. Give racist gringos the metaphorical finger, chin up, speak up and show pride. If you are afraid of speaking Spanish your kid will be too. It is easier said than done, but establishing the richness of multiculturalism is the only way to make society more inclusive, poquito a poco.
One parent speaks English, the other speaks Spanish.
This is an approach that is easy to take if one of the parents is a gringo. Kids can quickly understand that a parent talks to them in Spanish and the other one in English, and as they are learning to talk and bulking up on their vocabulary, they can categorize words. This is much clearer than saying “agua, water” while pointing to glass, as it might be too much information that is not put into the Spanish or English mental drawers right away. Also, it creates a great sense of complicity between parent and chaparrito.
Spanish only con los abuelitos.
Another good strategy is to have the grandparents speak to the child in Spanish, which also creates a special bond with the child. If you are lucky enough to have your Spanish-speaking parents or in-laws in your city, program regular play dates slash Spanish lessons. This can also give you and your partner some time alone, or some relaxing me-time if you are a single parent.
Language is fun, so don’t make it too serious.
Play games in your native language. For example, ‘I spy’, bingo or memory, key activities for incorporating new words into your little one’s vocabulary. You can also play a good old-fashioned LOTERIA.
Turn life into a lively musical!
All kids love, love, love music. You can sing songs, dance and play music in Spanish. What about a daily dance session with La Sonora Santanera or Los Angeles Azules? Melody is a great way to help them remember things, as new information sticks to their tiny and amazing brains by repetition. You can also play English and Spanish versions of their favorite songs… Let it go, let it go…..! Libre soy, libre soy!
Never underestimate the importance of numbers.
One of the first forms of abstraction that human beings learn is numbers. As your kids start counting, introduce both languages. There are some fun activities that you can do, such as taking them to the park and counting each push of the swing, first in English up to ten, luego hasta el diez. You can also get them to count characters or objects in books as you read to them at night.
Teach them the Spanish version of key introductory phrases.
“My name is…”, a key phrase that establishes a child’s individuality. There are such phrases that make social life possible. Teach your kids the Spanish formulation.
Listen to the radio.
Listen to radio programs in Spanish, including popular music programs and channels for kids. Thanks to services like Spotify it is easy now to listen to stations from all around the world.
Organize playtime with other children who speak Spanish. This will be key for building lifelong friendships. Parenting can sometimes be isolating, so this will also be beneficial for you, as you will be able to express yourself in your mother tongue, which sometimes makes for more intimate and lasting friendships
No te rindas.
Like all things concerning parenting, raising a bilingual will involve plenty of patience on your part. Some days it might seem like your chiquito doesn’t want to say hola. However, just hearing you speak your native language will help your child learn it.
Yeah, sometimes your kids end up watching TV.
But you can make the best of it in those times in which you feel you are the worst parent on Earth because you need to do the laundry or some work and your kids end up watching TV. Streaming services like Netflix provide the opportunity to change the language settings to Spanish, so the next time they watch PJ Masks or Paw Patrol they can actually learn some new words. Because dialogue in cartoons tends to be very descriptive, this will help them associate images and palabras.
Attend cultural events in Spanish.
Many communities in the United States organize events in Spanish, such as playtime, mother’s and father’s groups and concerts. Attend as many as possible, show your kid that your language is awesome, something that will open doors rather than close them.