We got in touch with book authors, bloggers, curricula writers, and other important characters that share a passion for raising future generations bilingually. They will bring you a breath of fresh air into the world of Spanish language education through their story, their experience, and their advice.
The BEST Spanish advice comes from families that have spent their efforts figuring out what works for them and their families; adjusting, and continuing to move forward. The best advice comes from real-life experience and involvement with the language for many years in the past.
Last time we interviewed Colombo-American mama Ana Kim. She shared about her passion for bilingualism, the reasons why it is so important for her, the ways she incorporates her native language at home and the whys behind her Charlotte Mason-inspired literature-based resources. If you missed last episode, you can read it here.
Today we have the amazing pleasure to sit down and chat with Corrie Wiik. M.Ed., Founder and CEO of Mama Llama Linguist. She is a favorite in the Spanish education community and has so much passion for what she does. Grab your favorite drink and read on, friend!.
Corrie Wiik. M.Ed is a former Spanish teacher turned CEO of Mama Llama Linguist, a Spanish education site. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two bilingual children ages 6 and 5. She loves Mexican food, reading, hiking and her church community.
Thanks for accepting my invitation to interview you! I have been looking forward to thank you for being here today. I am excited chat and find out what fires you up to do what you do!
Corrie, when did you decide that you wanted to raise bilingual children and what stirred up that desire?
Languages have always been my passion and my whole education and career revolved around them. In my early 20s, I lived and worked in Spain and that season of immersion was life-changing. Spanish became a part of me, but I wasn’t sure how I would share that gift of bilingualism with my kids. When I became pregnant with my first in 2015, I thought it would be a breeze and it would just ‘happen’.
What I didn’t expect was how all consuming that first-time parent role would be! I was in the USA living very very far away from my family in England and my son had colic. It wasn’t until he turned one that I started to recover from that ‘survival mode’ of first time parenting. When my daughter was born, I felt far more confident and capable in my role as a mom, and everything just felt far more natural.
So it was then that we started the ‘Time and Place’ strategy (choosing a specific time and place to speak Spanish) and it worked so well for us. This looked like reading stories, listening to songs and watching cartoons in both languages.
A couple of years later when my children were both in preschool, and far more fluent, we merged into a mixed-language at home family.
I think it’s wonderful that you had the experience of living abroad in a Spanish speaking country! How wonderful that you had that experience that later on would come in so handy in raising your own bilingual kiddos! Life is wonderful like that- isn’t it?
Also as a Colombian mom living in the US with zero family here when I had my first child, I can almost feel your pain of those first years as a mother. Bless your heart!…They are truly shaping years, aren’t they?…
What are your favorite tools for teaching your kids Spanish?
We are a homeschool family and that has given me a chance to really preserve and nurture my children’s Spanish throughout the years. I use children’s literature as our main Spanish input. We are always reading beautiful books in Spanish as part of our learning experience. I also like to incorporate lots of music, art and poetry into our Spanish learning.
That is so neat! I think your approach sounds very appealing and fun for any child! I know thats the type of thing my students and my own kids enjoy.
Other than living abroad and enjoying the language yourself, when did you decide that you wanted to raise bilingual children? Why is Bilingualism important to you and your family?
There are several reasons why bilingualism is important to us. Living in San Diego, we are surrounded by Spanish, or Spanglish! Being able to communicate with our neighbors and the locals is essential. Also, for my kids, bilingualism can only be an advantage for them now and as they grow up and pursue their own careers.
Our children also have Hispanic heritage on their paternal Grandmother’s side. Despite only being a very small percentage Latino, since they are 50% English and about 25% Scandinavian, we still feel passionate about reviving that heritage and language, since it was not passed down after their Great-Great Grandmother, who only spoke Spanish, passed away.
Beautiful reasons! I love that you’re thinking about your community, their heritage and their future!
What are your favorite tools when you are teaching your kids Spanish?
Reading stories and singing songs were the biggest sources of input when my kids were little. As they grew, we then took advantage of outsourcing a lot more with Dual Language Immersion programs.
Music is a powerful way for children to acquire vocabulary. My kids love to sing and dance to Spanish nursery rhymes: Canticos on Youtube is a great tool for this. Jose Luis Orozco, 1 2 3 Andrés, Alina Celeste, Little Parade and Nathalia Música are some of our favorite Spanish musicians for children.
I would have to agree with that. When I was teaching Spanish Immersion classes at our home, music always brought the kids together in learning best. They still sing and share songs I taught them when they see me in other places. It’s so sweet 🙂 …It is also nice that you had the fortune of having Dual Language Immersion programs accessible locally to you. I think a lot more of those are needed around the U.S. although it’s something that is getting better, thankfully.
What are or were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the journey of teaching your kids a second language. How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge by far was when we lived in South Carolina for a few years and struggled to find Spanish speaking communities, and therefore lacked ‘real life context’. I was my children’s most significant source of input back then.
One day I remember my son (who was about 3 at the time) became frustrated when I was reading a book in Spanish, and asked “Why do we have to do Spanish anyway? Nobody speaks it except you.” That hit me hard and became a huge turning point. I knew he needed context, even at such a young age and I wasn’t able to provide that.
This is quite a drastic solution, but we actually moved back to San Diego in 2020, where my husband is originally from, and that was a game changer. We moved into a community where the majority of our neighbors are Latinos. So instantly the kids were surrounded and immersed in Spanish, or Spanglish as we most often experience here with the kids.
My children have never ever questioned the importance of learning Spanish since we moved to San Diego. That’s not to say everyone should move to San Diego, although we do love it here! My point is that context is key. Finding ways for them to speak with native speakers, or connect with children who are native or heritage speakers is important if you are serious about raising active bilinguals.
I completely agree with that, Corrie.
2.About Corrie’s Spanish Ed. business:
Could you share with us about Mama Llama Linguist?
I am the Founder of a Spanish curriculum company called Llamitas Spanish®. We provide homeschooling and charter schools and families with academic Spanish lessons that are rooted in the Hispanic culture.
Our lessons are thematic and open-and-go! They include bilingual scripts allowing parents and teachers to facilitate the lessons in English or Spanish. Lessons include songs, stories, phonics, math, readers, games, art and native speaker audio.
We have a few programs including a Preschool Spanish Morning Binder, which is ideal for preschool. Level 1 which is ideal for Kindergarten, then Level 2 for lower elementary. Level 3 for upper elementary is in the works!
So exciting, Corrie! I know first hand how lovely your products are as we have worked together in previous projects. And level 3 in the works…Amazing. So happy for you and of course for the community!!
But, tell me, when did you decide to start working on creating educational resources for Spanish learners?
When my daughter was born (my 2nd child) I started a Spanish education blog called Mama Llama Linguist with hopes to share my journey raising bilingual children. I shared about the resources we were using, and encouraged other moms with bilingual parenting tips.
As my kids grew, I really struggled to find a curriculum that was focused on early years Spanish academics, like phonics and reading. I realized there was a need and felt qualified to fill it. I hired a team of native speakers and bilingual educators and, con mucho amor, Llamitas Spanish was launched.
Initially I had planned to simply create the Preescolar program, but it soon became apparent that more levels were needed, and so my ‘hobby blog’ became my family’s full time business. We are excited to continue providing academic Spanish curricula over the coming years!
Could you share with us about what is the drive behind the products that you create?
As I began my market research for Llamitas Spanish, I started to connect with so many Latina moms who were either native Spanish speakers, or heritage speakers, but struggling to raise bilingual children in the USA. The common struggle I heard from them was: ‘I speak Spanish, I just don’t know how to teach it to my kids’. That’s when we realized we needed this program to support them too.
So we pivoted! Hearing from Latina moms in particular about how much joy Llamitas is bringing to their homes and how it’s helping them keep their heritage or native language alive is what keeps me showing up to the curricula writing desk each day!
How neat is that! As a mom trying to raise bilinguals and as a curricula writer myself I totally get where you are coming from. There is indeed a need out there.
3. Corrie’s encouragement:
What would you tell to families with low income or limited access to teaching resources?
I would say firstly that my heart is for helping all parents on all budgets. Teaching your kids Spanish shouldn’t break the bank. We have created a pretty sizable Freebie Library on our website that I invite them to check out. It has games, flashcards, rotating printables and guides to support them.
I would also encourage them to check locally for Spanish storytimes, playgroups at parks and even Dual Language programs. There are more and more opening up across the country and most are free (check Charters and public DLI programs). I also have a lengthy blog post that shares many more free Spanish resources out there.
If you could give a piece of advice to families that are considering teaching their kids a second language, what would you tell them?
Commit to providing daily Spanish input. It could be choosing a curriculum, an app, online classes, reading, whatever works for your kids. It requires consistent input and intentionality for your child to flourish in bilingualism.
yes, 100% agree. Raising bilingual children is such individual journey, isn’t it? But let’s not confuse our journey with our support and resources! We don’t have to do it alone. I always recommend to the parents of my students: Seek support, ask questions, find friends with similar goals, be proactive and consider starting or creating what your need and even go the extra mile and offer it to others!
Any additional thoughts that you would like to share?
You will never regret teaching your child a second language. It is such an incredible journey and has brought so many unexpected blessings and joys to my family’s life, and I know it will for yours too!
Thanks for being here today and for sharing your heart with me, Corrie. I appreciate your wisdom and all the tips you shared in this interview with my readers. I wish you the best of luck in all future endeavors.
Thanks for reading, friends. I hope you were able to catch glimpses of hope and practical ideas to incorporate and adjust to your own bilingual journey. As always, please let us know what you thought about this blog post and if you have any idea for future interviews or posts, let us know!
Here is Corrie’s website. She has graciously offered a 10% discount towards any order with the code: ‘CEDARHILLS’.
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