Guest Post! Learning Spanish with Childrens Materials

Today we have a special guest post from one of our listeners, Andrew, on how to make the most of Children’s books, stories, videos and more, to learn Spanish. This is aimed mostly at beginners, but even Advanced learners will find something here to delight their ‘inner Spanish child’! Over to Andrew:

Hi, I’m Andrew, and I’ve been learning Spanish on my own, on and off, for about four years now. I’ve tried a wide variety of different methods and have achieved a fairly decent level of competency at this point (I hate using that word “fluency”, it’s too ambiguous), and I currently run a blog about how to learn Spanish where I document my experience with various resources and techniques to help others who want to achieve the same thing (learning Spanish from home, on your own, using mostly online, free resources).

One of my favourite recommendations is to use children’s resources, such as children’s books, TV shows, music, movies, and games, and today I’d like to tell you why, and to recommend a few of the best places you can obtain such resources online, for free.

Why? An adult beginning language learner is very similar to a child native speaker

Both beginner language learners and child native speakers have only a very basic grasp of the language and therefore require that the material in question cover, first and foremost, the most fundamental and essential aspects of the language that will be most commonly required for day-to-day speech and general usage.

Both require that the material in question be fun and interesting (kids have short attention spans and a very low tolerance for anything that bores them, adults frequently aren’t much better!), and both require that the material be taught in such a way that it’s very easy to understand.

That’s why you should use kids’ stuff, essentially – because it’s simple, fun, entertaining, and the explanations are perfect for beginner learners.

Ok, so where can I find good quality children’s learning resources for Spanish?

First of all, I love children’s books for this particular purpose, because there are so many of them to choose from, they’re fun, they’re easy to find, cheap to buy, and people love them because they can almost always find the Spanish version of their favorite childhood books.

The first place I’m going to tell you to go is your local public library. They’ll almost inevitably have at least a dozen or so children’s books in Spanish.

Next, I’d tell you to check out the International Children’s Digital Library where they have over 170 children’s books in Spanish available for you to read online for free.

I also really like a site called Book Box where they have dozens of videos in each language that are the animated version of various children’s books and, most importantly, all of them have subtitles in whatever language is being spoken. This way you can choose a video in Spanish with Spanish subtitles and then simply pause it and look up anything you don’t understand.

Additionally you can find classic children’s fairy tales in Spanish and English (allowing you to use the English version to learn the Spanish one) at Grimmstories.com (stories by The Brothers Grimm) and Andersenstories.com (stories by Hans Christian Andersen).

And, if you like comics such as Garfield or Calvin and Hobbes, I recommend you check out an article I wrote called Learn Spanish with Comics where I explain how to do it, where to find the Spanish versions of many popular comics, and some additional useful resources.

Un Saludo!

Andrew, from How to Learn Spanish

40 thoughts on “Guest Post! Learning Spanish with Childrens Materials

  1. chris

    Those are great resources. I started learning basic nouns by reading Spanish ABC books. Thanks especially for the link to the International Children’s Digital Library!

  2. Scott

    This is a good method. I have watched cartoons in Spanish as well, especially older ones from the 60’s that you can find on YouTube. This link:
    http://www.codyscuentos.com/
    is a free podcast of children’s stories,,,you can get the transcripts on the website and download the audios.

  3. Clare

    Thanks for the tips! There’s a free podcast called Cody’s Cuentos which tells fairytales in Spanish which might be another helpful resource!

  4. Seamus

    Thanks for the links.

    I am a big fan of using children’s stories to learn Spanish, as my son can learn at the same time.

  5. Richard Gillespie

    Don’t you find that a lot of children’s books are written in the past or future tenses? It seems like a lovely idea but I would suggest it’s not for beginners.

  6. Bertin Bahati

    hace un ano que estudio espanol pero no tengo nadie con quien puedo practicar acqui en Africa. Tus audios me ayudan mucho.
    Gracias

  7. Alison

    Splendid ideas – I’ve been looking for sources for children’s materials – because as you say they are good for learning Spanish – so this is really helpful. thanks!

  8. Vincent

    Thanks, Andrew! I changed my entire lesson plan for today to show my students a book on BookBox. I appreciate your help!!

  9. Liat

    Thanks, Andrew! I signed up to get Calvin and Hobbes in Spanish sent to my email daily. This might also help me convince my nephews that Spanish is fun- they are huge Calvin and Hobbes fans, but couldn’t care less about Spanish class, to my dismay.

  10. Jack

    He talks about some great methods on his blog. I signed up to his free newsletter to see what the 33 free resources were: Number 5. Notes in Spanish (although he thinks that the worksheets are overpriced and not necessary!)

  11. Ann Gentleman

    Another resource I have recently discovered is for iPad – flash cards for children – very useful for me too. I have them in Spanish and Italian. Free from the AppStore.

  12. Lesley Hedges

    I watched Dora the Explorer in Spanish when I was teaching English in Costa Rica (with the host families kids) and found it useful as she repeats stuff. I don’t know whether it’s available here on any of the satellite channels, I only have freeview. It’s useful talking to Spanish speaking kids too as they speak more slowly and love a chance to teach adults for a change.

  13. Erin

    Reading Little Red Riding Hood in Spanish was a lot of fun. Given I knew the story in English it was very easy to put words I didn’t know into context. I tried to find other tales in Spanish but failed – I’m excited to see they’re out there and am checking out the links right now. Thanks for the resources.

  14. Andrew

    @Chris and carin: You’re very welcome.

    @Scott: Thanks! That’s one I didn’t know about.

    @Mona: You’re very welcome.

    @Seamus: You’re welcome, and I agree, that’s another benefit that I’ve heard mentioned before by parents who want to learn Spanish with their kids.

    @maidinh: You’re welcome.

    @Richard: No, usually I find that they tend to be in the present tense as that’s the simplest one.

    @Bertin: Thanks!

    @Sue: Thank you and you’re welcome.

    @Alison: Thank you and you’re welcome, I really hope those help.

    @Judyta: Great to hear, good luck, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.

    @Vincent: Wow! I didn’t think I’d have this kind of impact on people, I can’t believe how many comments there are and now teachers are basing their lesson plans and something I recommended…thanks. This really is fantastic. I just love hearing that people found something I gave them useful, that’s all I really want.

    @Liat: Calvin and Hobbes is one of my favorites, second only to Garfield. I really do love using comics, plus I’ve found they’re a great way to do a language exchange with someone on Skype: you take turns reading the comic out loud and the other person, who’s a native speaker of the language that the comic you’re reading is written in, will correct you. That is, that website has the same comics in both English and Spanish, so what you do is have a skype call with a native Spanish speaker, they read a few of the English comics out loud and you help and correct them, and then you do the same with some of the Spanish ones. It’s really fun.

    @Jack: Thanks, Jack. And “ugghh”, how embarrassing, that’s a very old newsletter message I haven’t looked at in ages that I wrote a long time ago when I first came across this site, I don’t agree with that anymore, I’ve since edited it. Thanks for letting me know, and apologies to anyone who got the old one.

    @Jennifer: ¡De nada!

    @Bob: You’re very welcome, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.

    @Ann: Thanks, I’ll check it out.

    @Lesley: Thanks, you know I’ve heard of that show before but never watched it before, I really should look and see if it’s available online for free to watch.

    @Raktima: You’re welcome, I’m really glad it’s useful to you, that’s what I aim for more than anything else.

    @Erin: Yup, like I said, those classic fairy tales in Spanish are fantastic because people know the stories from their youth and so it’s really fun for them to re-read them in Spanish, which is the whole point: make it fun! You’re very welcome, and yes there are a ton of children’s stories, TV shows, and movies in Spanish that make for fantastic learning material, you just have to look for it.

    Ok, that’s all the comments I see so far, I’ll be sure to check back in later. I can’t tell you guys how much I appreciate the feedback, good or bad, all of it is useful. Plus, I greatly appreciate Ben and Marina allowing me to do this, this is the first ever guest post they’ve allowed and I really wanted to do it right so they didn’t feel like they’d made a mistake or anything of that nature. So far everyone seems to like it, which is great, and I also REALLY appreciate the additional related resources (e.g. Cody’s Cuentos) people are posting that I didn’t know about. Thanks, guys.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  15. Craig

    Es muy buena sugestion y me gustan las imagenes en los libros para niños tambien. Solo es una lastima para nosotros que vivimos in Montreal, Canada. Aqui es muy facil a encontrar los libros en frances o ingles pero los libros en esponol! Eso es otra cosa. Si se lo encuentra se suele ser caro. Para mi, el web es el mejor fuente. He encontrado muchos sitios en espanol. Solo se hace falta de buscarlos en google. El mejor aspecto es que todo se encuentra es gratis.

  16. Andrew

    @Craig: Estoy de acuerdo, y eso es porque recomiendo el internet principalmente para encontrar fuentes para aprender español en general, y este caso de fuentes para niños no es una excepción.

    @antonio: ¡De nada! Espero mucho que te he ayudado.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  17. Mary Ann

    Greatly appreciated your reflections on being un autodidacta en español, your great advice and your many terrific links! Thanks to you I spent much of the day immersed in Spanish: tu entusiasmo es muy contagioso! Just finished reading your comprehensive analysis of the first Shakira song–really liked your literal word by word approach. (I noticed a few of your commentators suggesting it would’ve been better if you had just given an idiomatic English translation but I totally disagree.) Thanks for your generous sharing of all this stuff.

  18. Andrew (another Andrew)

    The first time I went to Guadalajara, Mexico to study Spanish I stayed with a wonderful abuelita who had a daughter that was the principal of a primary school. Her daughter gave me a number of books that her school used to teach children and they were great. They really took me to the next level in my understanding of Spanish.

  19. Andrew B

    (yet another Andrew)
    I’m learning Chilean Spanish for my work and I have found several useful children’s fairy tales (Cuentos infantiles clasicos – mainly Brothers Grimm tales ) on Audio Kindle which I listen to on my walks in the bush (Australia). I am also addicted to the CD’s of Julietta Venegas (Otra Cosa, Si) – she has very good diction so you can hear every word clearly and she sings opretty good too!

  20. Andrew

    @Mary Ann: Thank you so much! I really need to write more, I’m working on a new blog post now but finding the time is really difficult. I agree on the translation bit, I personally think it works better if I translate more literally, then give the proper contextual meaning, so that people understand where that meaning is coming from. And you’re very welcome, please don’t hesitate to contact me (my site has a contact page, link in the top left menu of every page) if you have any questions or need help with anything.

    @Other Andrew: That’s really cool, I find that a lot of people have figured out that children’s books are a great learning resource just on their own at some point, it’s kind of intuitive.

    @Andrew B: Audio books are fantastic! They allow you to listen to spoken Spanish while having a word-for-word translation (the written version of the book) right in front of you, that way you don’t miss a thing and can look up anything you don’t understand. I’ll check out Julietta Venegas, never heard of her, thanks.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  21. Manolito

    Hola Marina y Ben!
    Muchísimas gracias por todo lo hacéis para nosotros- grandes aficionados y verdaderos amigos del castellano auténtico!

    Saludos y que os vaya muy bien

  22. Ben Post author

    @Manolito – Gracias amigo!

    Y gracias a todos por los comentarios hasta ahora, me alegro de que os haya gustado tanto este post de Andrew!

  23. lac

    I’ve been doing this for years, that is, using children’s materials as one of my Spanish-learning tools, but this compilation of resources is GREAT and most of them unknown to me. Hasta ahora, la mayoria de mis herramientas, o sea, ejercicios han sido con los libros infantiles, pero siempre estoy en busca de otras cosas. Excellent article, excellent resources. Mil gracias, de veras.

  24. Andrew

    @Iac: I think a lot of people have, I was first introduced to the idea by my French teacher in high school well over a decade ago. Thanks so much, I’m really glad these are something new and useful for you.

    @Judy: De nada, y sí, por supuesto puede hacer la inversa si alguien quiere aprender inglés. Recomiendo mucho también las películas ingleses con subtitulos en inglés–es muy fácil encontrarlas.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  25. Ronald W Garrison

    Thanks, Andrew, for a great set of ideas. The only thing I might add is that children’s books can sometimes be a good way to get an easy introduction to a new subject in your native language as well, so it’s a good option to remember.

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