Episode 74: Q&A – How do you increase exposure to the target for your family?

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I share the five top things that I do to increase exposure in Spanish in the home specifically: having a consistent reading routine, chat with family members over Skype, narrate what I do to my toddler, elongating my toddler’s sentences and playing!

Episode #74- Transcript

Hello and welcome to another Question and Answer edition of the Bilingual Avenue podcast!! In am thrilled that you are taking the time to listen and support the podcast.  I love doing these episodes where I can connect and chat about what’s on your mind! So many of you are working so hard at home with your little ones! It’s obvious from your email how much you care and your investment on your family’s language journey!

Now before I get to today’s question I wanted to make a quick announcement.  Starting next week, so starting episode 75, I will be releasing only one episode a week.  The one episode a week will be released on Tuesdays.  But I wanted to give you a bit of background on that decision.

During the month of July, we will be moving back to the United States from Germany.  For anyone that has done an overseas move or just a move in general, you know that there are lots of little logistical issues that have to be taken care off.  We want to make sure that we give ourselves some breathing room and take care of our personal needs while still providing Bilingual Avenue listeners with great content.

The second reason as to why we will be producing only one episode a week, at least temporarily, is that at the end of September we will be welcoming a new member to our family.  If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter you may have seen our announcement last month.  We are thrilled to be welcoming a new little linguist to our crew.  Many of you are parents and know how much work those squishy little newborns are the first few weeks and months so we wanted to be realistic and find a way to keep podcasting going while still dedicating time to our family.  So this was the second reason that led us to the decision of again at least temporarily, to produce the podcast only once a week.

Once things come down on our end for a bit we will reassess everything and determine whether to keep only one podcast a week or go back to two.  The format will still be the same.  We will just switch from week to week between an interview episode and a Question and Answer episode.

I want to thank you again for your support and your understanding.  I am always so thankful for the support I have received through the Bilingual Avenue community and look forward to sharing our upcoming adventures with you.

Alright, so now we can jump in to today’s question! Let me read you this email that came in from Szymon:

Hello Marianna!

Best wishes to you and your family.  I have a personal question to ask you.  I just listened to your episode 10 and in that episode you shared some tips on how to increase exposure to the target language. But I am wondering how do you do it at home? I am just wondering if you are struggling for ideas just like the rest of us! Thank you for answering my question.


 Well thank you Szymon for sending your question and for allowing me to share it with the Bilingual Avenue community.

Sigh, exposure! Exposure is just such a critical part of the language journey but I get it, it can be exhausting to constantly think of ideas that are always engaging.  For some kids, it seems like just when you come up with something that works, you have to move on to the next thing because they are bored with that activity.

This was actually a really interesting question for me Szymon because I had to reflect a bit on what it is that I do every day to keep exposing my daughter to Spanish.   Some of these activities overlap with what my husband does to promote English at home with her as well.

This is what I did to give you an accurate answer.  This past week I was very cognizant of my day to day interactions with my daughter and I jotted them down so I could share them with you on the podcast.  These aren’t earth shattering activities in fact I think many of you will probably resonate with these.  What I am going to share with you are the things we do consistently.  There are days where we’ll do a specific well planned activity but just like you are, I am a busy parent so I try to make things work where I can.

Alright, here are five things I do consistently to foster language development for my daughter.

  1. The first thing is we have a pretty thorough reading routine as part of bedtime. We set aside thirty minutes every night where we just read to my daughter.  We take turns so each one of us reads to her for about fifteen minutes in our respective languages. I would say that we are really good about setting those thirty minutes aside, they are kind of sacred for our family.  But it wasn’t always that way.  For a few months, we were getting caught up in the day to day with things like was wrapping up dinner, for example, and we were spending less and less time reading.  That reading was becoming shorter and shorter.  Both my husband Todd and I started to notice and we collectively decided that we wanted to make this a priority and we shifted our daily routine a bit so we could make sure to spend this time together as a family.  Not only do we feel like we are being purposeful with our time together but our daughter absolutely loves it so we are learning and doing an activity that she enjoys.


  1. The second thing we do on a daily basis is chat with a family member on either Skype or FaceTime. For some family members, we have a pretty set schedule.   For example every Thursday and every Sunday we chat with Todd’s parents.  For other family members, when either party sees an opening, we will send a quick text and hop on the computer or our phone.  We try to do this almost every day and again our daughter loves it.  She has a certain routine of things she likes to do for each family member and it is really neat to see her interact with family members considering we are so far away from them! It certainly makes it much easier to stay in touch.  When she is talking to my family, she is practicing her Spanish and when she is talking to Todd’s family, she is practicing her English.  It’s a win-win for everyone.


  1. The third thing I do is I narrate A LOT of what I am doing. Although I would love to sit down every day and dedicate all the time in the world to my kid, I can’t.  Just like you, I have plenty of other things to get done during the day so I just try to incorporate her into as much of what I am doing.  Sometimes the way I incorporate her is by simply narrating what I am doing.  I do that even if I am just doing chores around the house. When I can, I turn it into a game but if it’s not possible, I just tell her what I am doing and honestly I’ve been surprised by how much she has learned this way.  It’s actually quite funny.  Before she was even talking I started narrating about my day and just like I always say, even if our children are not yet repeating what we are saying, their little brains are taking it all in.   Well, she sure internalized what I would say so much that now she narrates what she is doing and refers to herself in the third person.  She’ll say things like “Little Peanut opens the door.” (She uses her real name of course and says it in Spanish when she is around me).  “Little Peanut puts on her shoes.”  “Little Peanut enters the house, etc”  All day she is now narrating what she does which I think is really cute.  She picked up on what I was doing and now she is doing it herself. The moral of the story here is that you don’t need to beat yourself up about always having the perfect activity for your child.  Even narrating your day can go a long way.


  1. Alright, let’s move on to the fourth thing that I noticed about my daily interactions with my daughter. I realize that I am constantly encouraging her to elongate her sentences. If she says something like “Mami, un libro” essentially “Mami, a book” I will encourage her to add more words to what she is saying.  I will say “Dame un libro mami por favor” or “Give me a book mami, please.”  I usually repeat what I would like for her to say and then I ask her “Can you say that?” and she so far gladly repeats it.  Sometimes by the next time she says it again to me she has incorporated it into her sentences, sometimes it takes a little longer. We do this a lot and so far she doesn’t seem to mind it.  There may come a day where she blows me off but for now I am taking full advantage of her willingness to add more words to what she is saying.


  1. Ok and that takes us to my last part of the routine and that is probably one of my favorites and that is simply playing. On episode 17, you heard Susanne Dopke talk about the benefits of setting at least thirty minutes aside every day to play with your child.  That episode is still to do this one of my favorites and one of the most popular ones I’ve ever had on the show.  You can check it out at bilingualavenue.com/episode17.  Susanne talked about how powerful those interactions you have with your children can be for language development and I have really taken that advice to heart.  We always find some time during the day to do some playing.  There are so many opportunities for language when you are playing.  You can talk about everything and anything.  You can leverage toys and manipulatives to convey meaning.  You can use movement to convey actions.  You can use gestures to act out emotions.  The sky is really the limit.  If you can find the time to dedicate a bit of your day to playing with your children, I would strongly recommend it.  It can be fun for all parties involved and very purposeful.


Alright Szimon, I hope that answers your question.  Those are the five things that I do consistently to support my daughter’s language development.  You always hear guests on the show say that you have to make it fun for the kids. Make sure they are having fun when they are learning the children.  I also believe that it has to be fun for us or else we will also stop doing it after a while.  Find something that works for you and that is sustainable and make it part of your routine.

Well that takes us to the end of the episode, I hope it has been helpful.  If you have a question of your own that you would like to submit, send it my way by visiting the contact tab at bilingualavenue.com

May you have fun travels on your language journey. Hope to see you again on the avenue.


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