Leveraging TV for language learning with Alice Jansen

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I host the very first consulting call podcast episode.  I chat with Alice Jansen, a member of the Bilingual Avenue Members’ Club! We talk about games for language development, the pros and cons of TV and how to establish a solid foundation for her daughter to learn Spanish!

with Patricia Zaballo (4)

This episode is going to be a little different from previous shows and I know you are going to love this format. I am thrilled to have one of the Bilingual Avenue Members’ Club joining us on the show, Alice Jansen.

For those of you that may not be familiar with it, the Members’ Club is an exclusive community devoted to helping parents raising bilingual children in English and Spanish make their language dreams a reality.

In this episode, we are going to be doing a consulting call on air so that hopefully you can also learn from our discussion and incorporate the take aways from this consultation.

Let’s take a look at the THREE questions we discussed during our conversation.  For more details, make sure to tune in to the episode!

The Question

 I spend all day with my daughter doing lots of different activities and speaking Spanish, but I don’t really play games per se what are some good games in Spanish I can play with my 2 year old?

The answer

The two year mark is a very exciting stage for language development.  The average child will double their vocabulary during the 2-3 year range.

During this time period, kids are learning about concepts, their grammar is becoming more sophisticated and their memory is developing quite a bit.

For games for this age group, we are going to focus on concepts and memory.


When we speak of concepts, we are referring to adjectives like hot, cold, clean,dirty.   Two great games to play to internalize concepts are:

  • I SPY where you identify an item and describe it by talking about it with adjectives you are working on with your child
  • Container Play where your child puts items in and out of a box and you describe it as they play with it


This is a very valuable skill because in order for kids to be able to produce a word they must understand it first, memorize it next and then they can start saying it! 

Three of my favorite ways to enhance memory with games are as follows:

  • Play a regular game of memory tiles (make sure they are colorful)
  • Pick a few objects from around the house and hide them. Go on a treasure hunt to find the hidden objects.
  • Place five objects on the table and talk about each objects with your child.  Hide one object at a time and ask your child which object is missing.

The Question

I haven’t let my daughter watch any significant amount of TV and we don’t let her play games or apps on our devices. As she approaches 2 years old I’m considering letting her watch videos in Spanish on TV and devices for educational purposes only and only in Spanish. I view screen time as a slippery slope so I am very cautious about incorporating it, but I can see that it might be very helpful for getting more Spanish exposure. What might the pros and cons of this be?

The answer

Research that if TV is on all the time in a home even as background noise it reduces the number of conversations and we know that any decrease in conversation impacts language development.

Sometimes it can be a lifesaver and it can provide exposure to a target language which comes in handy when there are not necessarily a lot of speakers of the target language.   Here are some ways to get the most out of TV interactions:

    • In a perfect world, you would be sitting beside your child pointing this out, making comments, repeating certain key phrases and making connections to the world around her.
    • That does not always happen, sometimes we may need to be doing a chore while your child watches TV.  But even in this case you still can do something similar, to a lesser extent.  In these cases, try to see if you can help your child draw connections or point out certain things from the show that you want to highlight.
    • Another thing you can do is to act out the show after you are done.  You can reinforce some of the new vocabulary that you learned.

Once you feel comfortable to introduce screen time, experiment with it a little bit.

At the end of the day, you, your husband, other adults in her life are still going to be the best resource for good language development.  There are well made education programs but one-on-one interactions will still far outweigh any show.

The QuestionWhat are some things we can do now to provide a solid foundation for Ayla to learn and maintain Spanish language development over the long term?

The answer

The first thing I always encourage families is to set some goals. Revisit them as you go along and challenge yourself to make them even more concrete.

The second thing is to work on a language plan. Be as open and as thorough as you can because that is going to give you the clarity and help you execute the steps that you will need to achieve your goal.

Pay special attention to the exposure and need to use Spanish as you work through your plan.


Alice hopped on the Autobahn and answered a few questions to help other families on their language journey:

  • What is your favorite resource for supplementing Spanish in your home?

Books!  Other favorites include flashcards and song books. 

  • What is the best advice you have received as a bilingual parent?

Bilingualism is beneficial to children and learning multiple languages will not confuse your child or delay their language development. Bilingualism can teach our children to be global citizens.

  • What is one children’s book in Spanish that you recommend to other parents?

El Conejito Knuffle by Mo Williems

To learn more about the Bilingual Avenue Members’ Club and meet other connect with other members like Alice, head over to www.bilingualavenue.com/club

Get access to a library of training with practical advice for raising bilingual children, participate in our live members only calls, and join the supportive community of bilingual parents who will not let you quit on your language dreams for your family!


If you found this episode useful, head on over to iTunes and kindly leave us a rating, a review and subscribe!

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