I recently wrote about how our Spanish learning went dormant for a while. Now that we’re back at it, I’m leaning on the wisdom of Charlotte Mason–the founding mother of teaching–to help with lesson planning. Her methods make teaching feel natural and (almost) effortless.
Since reading all six of her volumes could take a while, it’s nice that Ambleside Online has collected all of her writings about foreign language in one place. I highly recommend it for ANY PARENT wanting to help their child learn a foreign language–even if you are not a home school family. Just insert the word SPANISH (or whatever language you’re learning) where you see the word FRENCH below.
Here are some of her main points and how we’re trying to make them happen.
“Children should learn French orally, by hearing and repeating French phrases.”
The three main ways we’re doing this are:
You’ll want to do two things with poetry: 1) find one to recite over and over, and 2) find a collection of poems to just read aloud from a few times a week.
SpanishPlayground.net is the BEST place to go for easy, accessible poetry. She has curated a plethora of poetry themes and printables. (Just click on “POEMS” in the menu.)
Finding ones to go along with the season makes it more fun too! Find one or two that you like and work on reciting them/memorizing them. Less is more! The longer you can spend with one poem, the more it sinks into the brain and becomes meaningful language. We’ve been practicing the same two fall poems for at least four weeks now.
If you want a good Spanish poetry book, check out Arrorró, mi niño. It’s our favorite right now. It has some poems and finger plays, each written out in Spanish and English. Our local library has a copy, and I’m sure yours does too. If reading poetry in a language you don’t already know intimidates you, music is another great option. See below for music suggestions.
I found the website TheSpanishExperiment.com from the lovely Delectable Education Podcast. We chose the “Three Little Pigs Story,” and listen to it in French and Spanish. It’s great to use stories where the story line is already familiar to the kids and that has repetition.
Books are another great resource! I would suggest different ones depending on the ages of your kids. Funny board books like this one, or this one would probably work great for kids birth to 5 years. Elementary kids just beginning Spanish would probably enjoy the bilingual Spanish/English-mixed-text-books by Susan Middleton Elya (the text is mainly English with Spanish words here and there, and a glossary to go with). Or if you want an all-Spanish text I suggest starting with a story your child already knows (bonus if it has repetitive lines) that has been translated into Spanish, for example Green Eggs and Ham. Then try out a bilingual book. Some of our favorites come from this series! You will love the main character.
Here the methods of Francois Gouin come into play. Charlotte Mason refers to his book, The Art of Teaching and Studying Foreign Languages, in her writings. You can actually download his book free from Google books, but if you don’t want to take on the project of reading an entire book, you can lean on this concise explanation I found at World Language Classrooms. Basically he uses logical series of actions to teach meaningful language, claiming verbs are the key to linking thought and action. I’m hoping to be able to expound on this in another post soon.
“They should learn a few new French words every day, maybe 2-6 words.”
This is probably the easiest way to begin learning a language. Babies start by learning isolated words. We point and say “ball,” “dada,” “momma,” “clap,” and so on.
A great way to start is simply with vocabulary or flash cards. If your kids are already reading, you’ll want to make sure to find ones with a picture on one side without any text. This will keep them from trying to pronounce the new language with English phonetics. Here is a good Spanish/English set that has the words on the back. Of course this takes a little time for the parent learning how to pronounce the words. We are learning French this year (which I don’t speak), so I know how hard that can be!
How to Use Them
I would suggest finding a place in your house where your family spends a lot of time, and hanging up 2 cards each day after you go over them a few times. This gives your brain a visual trigger to practice them all throughout your week. 2 new words a day for 5 days a week for 36 weeks of school adds up to 360 new words in a year!
“But it’s very important that he acquires the correct accent right from the beginning.”
Don’t freak out. Charlotte Mason even points out it’s not feasible for each family to hire a private tutor that is a native speaker of the language. She suggests that multiple families get together to hire a tutor together. But there are other ideas that might work just as well . . . especially in the younger years. Here’s a quick list:
1) Spanish story hour at your local library
2) Getting together with a friend from school that speaks the language
3) Spanish-speaking kid vloggers
4) Music – especially folksongs
5) Your kids’ favorite movie dubbed in Spanish
6) Mundo Lanugo – the bonus here is it introduces Spanish-speaking culture too
7) Habla Jorge – awesome YouTube videos for kids
“By age twelve, children . . . should have some ability to speak and understand French, and they should be able to read an easy French book.”
I end with this one to encourage you. If your kids are young, you have many years to work on reaching the goal of speaking and understanding a second language. If your kids are twelve (or older) and just starting a second language, no worries. By that age they’ve already learned how to learn, and applying these same methods above will have them making progress in no time!
This post has so much information. Take just one piece at a time to digest and apply. Any little part you implement will help you get one step closer to your language-learning goals. Remember to always have fun and keep it simple!
What part of teaching your kids a foreign language seems the hardest? What kinds of ways are you learning a foreign language in your house? What is your favorite resource for teaching foreign language to kids?
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