Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Magistra: Hola, tovarish! Sprechen zie francais? Discipulus: Hei!- a.k.a. Foreign Language Suggestions

Are you Considering Homeschooling?  If so, please don't allow this post's title to scare you away.  Instead, feel free to visit my sidebar to find links to all articles in this series.  Thanks, now, let's talk about everyone's favorite subject- foreign language...

I began my college years as a French major.  I was inspired by the cartoon character, Pepe Le Pew.  Silly, I know, but I was a pre-schooler at the time.  I always wondered why everything was "le" this and "les" that.  And why did all the buildings have Chez Something on the front?  For most of my childhood, I could not wait until I was old enough to take a French class.  It was the first class I registered for in high school, and I enjoyed it enough to go on to major in it in college.

When I met my husband, he was completing his degree in Spanish.  Within a few months, the Romance Language majors were in love (yeah, I know... ha ha), and I decided that I did not want to have a confusing home where Mom spoke French while Dad spoke Spanish and everyone spoke English and our poor children had to decide which language best suited them or ended up speaking something called Sprenchlish.  So I changed my major to education and took Spanish classes even though my new major did not require any foreign language credits.

All of that is to say that my husband, who went on to complete a masters in Romance Languages, and I consider the study of a foreign language very important.  We are also VERY picky about how language is taught.

You have been warned.

Proceed with caution.

We began our home study of Latin when Orville entered third grade.  I tried different curricula and did not like any of them.  At all.  PERIOD! 

I think most of the elementary Latin programs introduce too little, too slowly, and it makes the study confusing.  For instance, the curricula we used only presented the 1st person singular conjugation for each verb.  In trying to take baby steps so as not to overwhelm young learners, the information was so limited that we felt frustrated.  All we could ever say was "I go.  I do.  I make."  And we could not talk about where we were going, what we were doing, or what we were making.  I know Latin is a dead language and conversation is not the goal, but, to be perfectly honest, this approach was just annoying.

Told you it was coming.  Caution, I said... caution.  :)

We also tried two different Latin curricula designed for older children.  These studies, although good, were too intensive for younger students.  Too many vocabulary words.  Too much grammar.  Not for older students, mind you, but for our littles, it was definitely too much to handle.

Last year, I found Lively Latin.  How I wish we had found it earlier and started both boys in 2nd or 3rd grade.  It is thorough without being overwhelming.  It includes just enough vocabulary and grammar instruction, in my opinion.  My boys think it is fun, too.  That includes math/science boy who cried any time we opened the other Latin books.

We did not intend to introduce a modern language until at least middle school, more likely high school; however, our son, the linguist, asked if he could learn Japanese at age four.  Michael and I had mixed feelings about this.  We both wanted to learn foreign language from a young age (I was four when Monsieur Le Pew captured my interest.  Michael's parents used to speak Spanish as a code which piqued his interest early on.).  However, neither of us knows more than a few words in Japanese.  Could we even facilitate this study?  Spending a large amount of money for private lessons for someone so young was out of the question, but we wondered if the Lord gave Orville this interest in Japanese because He has a plan for our son in which he needs to speak this language.  We prayed and researched and decided to give Orville exposure to Japanese through Rosetta Stone.

Downside- Rosetta Stone is expensive.  The Lord provided for us through ebay- two levels of RS Japanese for $50, so keep an eye out for a used copy.   If you must purchase new, however, it is well worth the cost for a serious younger student or for a high schooler in need of a foreign language credit, particularly if neither parent feels equipped to teach a foreign language.

Another downside to Rosetta Stone is that the conversational approach sometimes creates confusion.  If you are unfamiliar with how RS works, vocabulary is introduced through a series of defining pictures.  Only the language being learned is used; there are no translations.  This often leads me to wonder things like Is the man in the picture speaking, talking, yelling, or saying?  I don't like the ambiguity of the immersion method and would prefer for my son to learn grammar rules (and in the case of Japanese, the alphabet and writing).  However, students can become proficient speakers through Rosetta Stone instruction, and it does enable a non-speaker to learn without the aid of a fluent teacher.  If Orville wanted to learn French or Spanish, we would probably choose another, more grammar-intensive program, or at least couple RS with this type of program. 

Another foreign language curriculum I have recently come across which has my attention is La Clase Divertida (The Fun Class).  This Spanish curriculum was written by a Spanish teacher for home educators.  It includes hands-on activities and most of the materials needed to complete them along with an instructional DVD.  I have not used La Clase Divertida but have looked at samples and think it looks fabulous.  If only someone in this family would ask to learn Spanish!  Ay, ay, ay!!

My husband's school has adopted a new curriculum for next year.  McDougal Littell offers 2-4 levels (middle school and high school) per language (Spanish, French, or German).  They have great online activities that can be accessed by anyone for free.  I am unsure if the curriculum itself is available for homeschoolers, but it is worth looking into.  My husband and his native-speaking colleague, who is also an excellent teacher, hold this curriculum in high regard.

One more post and this series is toast!  Join me again soon as I share The Plan for Next Year!

Happy Curriculum Hunting!

p.s.  If you were wondering what in the world the title of this post means, the translation is "Teacher (Latin):  Hello (Spanish), friend (Russian)!  Do you speak (German) French (French)?  Student (Latin): Yes (Japanese)!

And it was my husband's doing.  You can thank him.  :)

Disclosure:  I am an affiliate for Amazon and will receive a commission from any sales that result from you following one of the links from my blog to their site.  I am not an affiliate for any other company mentioned in this post.  I have not received any compensation for writing this article and have offered my honest evaluation of each item mentioned.


argsmommy said...

I've heard great things about Lively Latin. We've been pretty happy with Latin for Children, but I always like to know what else is out there (one of the many symptoms of a curriculum addict).

Anna is using Rosetta Stone French, mostly for fun, so if you ever come across some good French materials, let me know. I'll remember to come to you with my French questions!

Sadly, foreign languages have never been a strength of mine. I took Latin in HS, and it was a joke of a class (I've learned more through homeschooling than I ever did in HS) and my two years of Russian in college were not pretty. : P

I am blessed! said...

I love languages Dawn! My dad took Russian lessons as a child then studied Latin and Spanish in High School and majored in German in college. My mom was an Air Force brat who lived in Panama and Austria, as well as here where she met my dad. When my dad was in the Army later and stationed in Germany, my mom studied at the Goethe Institute. I took Latin and German in school (I was even on the Latin team!) then German and also French and Hebrew in college. And I was a science major!

I also tried Latin with my kids our first year of homeschool and to be honest we were all bored by it. This year we studied Greek, at first together as a family and recently individually. The kids are in the 3rd Hey Andrew book and we are loving it. Our thinking is that this way they get many benefits of Latin, vocab, Grammar, etc. and the bonus of being able to read the NT in its original language. Since I studied Hebrew in college I have a soft spot in my heart for it. My plan is for us to study Greek for 3 yrs then Hebrew for 3 yrs then Greek again for 3 yrs to include our younger kids in the cycle.

As far as modern languages, Spanish would be natural since we live in Texas. I have a spanish-speaking housekeeper that has worked for us 1-2 days a week for almost 11 years, but oddly enough the kids have taught her English instead of the other way around! We plan on visiting China at the end of next summer so I'm thinking we'll spend the summer studying Rosetta Stone Chinese. Glad to know you approve of their format. Fun topic.