The following post titled How to Teach a Foreign Language Even if You Don’t Speak It, is a guest post by Adriana Zoder. I was so excited when she reached out to me to guest post on my blog. I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did! Oh and we’ve used Middlebury Interactive Languages before and LOVED it too!
Because I was raised in Europe, Romania to be exact, foreign languages do not seem like such a big deal to me. Granted, I have been told that I have natural abilities in that realm, but most people around me learned French and English to a certain degree. If nothing else, because these two languages were school subjects for us since the fifth grade all the way through our senior year in high school. Also, because most of the movies and TV shows we watched were in English (or French or Italian or Spanish or German). Daily exposure to other sounds de-mystified them.
That’s the secret to learning or teaching a foreign language – daily exposure to those sounds. So here’s a seven-step strategy for you to teach a foreign language in your homeschool even if you can’t remember any of the Spanish – or whatever foreign language – you “learned” in school:
1. Find a radio station online in your target language. For us with French, it’s Radio France Internationale. Turn it on for 10 minutes a day. Even if you don’t understand what in the world they are saying, your ears will start getting used to the sounds and flow and rhythm of that language. Obviously, your children must be listening to this. They are the ones that should learn it, but don’t exclude yourself. You may be surprised how you will be able to distinguish certain words after a month or so of radio listening, especially if you add.
2. YouTube videos – in the target language, of course. We watch Caillou, mostly. But there is also Léo et Popi and Tchoupi et Doudou. Not only do we get all sorts of French vocabulary, as the episodes are organized along specific themes (feelings, Christmas, friendship etc), but we also watch very polite family interactions. Let’s face it, Caillou’s parents are perfect. Their responses to Caillou’s childish actions and reactions should be gathered in a parenting book. Just saying.
If you don’t know of a show in your target language, just Google “videos in German” or whatever language you want to teach your children. My advice would be no more than 30 minutes per day of videos, no matter how quality the content is. Children must learn skills in the real world and their brains must actively engage in 3D experiences. Screen time should be minimized.
3. All this exposure to the sounds and rhythm of a foreign language would not take you far unless you had a curriculum that steadily and systematically taught you vocabulary and grammar. I wrote about how we use PetraLingua and Middlebury Interactive Languages in French, but both of these websites offer many other languages. Recently, I discovered DuoLingo, which is a free app for your phone or tablet or computer. No excuses anymore, right? It’s free.
4. Look for play groups in your target language. Google, your local library and your local newspaper should help you locate them. Some areas will be better equipped at this than others. If nothing else, start your own. Here’s how I started my own French Play Group. Sure, I am fluent in French, but you can also do this with a local foreign language teacher or with youtube videos and an interactive language curriculum. Especially for beginners, it should be easy for you as the coordinator to keep track of their answers. Besides, many of these online curricula are self-correcting.
5. Join your local chapter of Alliance Française if your target language is French. We did and the kids enjoyed greeting people in French. Even if you don’t get anything out of it, just the fact that there is a place where your children can go and it is considered normal to say “bonjour” and “au revoir” to a real person will boost their confidence. For any other language, I would call or visit the website of an embassy of the country where they speak that language. Ask for similar organizations which work on promoting their language and culture.
6. Search your local homeschool co-ops. Sometimes there are foreign language courses offered there and some of the teachers may be native speakers. For those of you living in or near Blount County in Tennessee, the Blount Home Education Association offers French language teaching on different levels by a French national.
7. If you are fluent or at least advanced in a foreign language, read to your children in that language. Start with picture books even if your children are older. It will be short and sweet and the pictures will help with translation, which makes the work less tedious and boosts confidence. Schoenhof’s, Harvard University’s foreign language bookstore, offers free shipping on orders over $50. If you don’t know what titles to get, call them or join their Facebook page and ask. They have very friendly staff.
8. Invest in a foreign language magazine. The Bayard-Milan representative for the US will help you select an appropriate title for your children’s ages. They have magazines in French, German and Spanish.
Here’s hoping you got inspired to learn a foreign language while teaching it to your children!
Adriana Zoder is a homeschooling mom of two, living in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. She has published two books on Amazon, 101 Tips for Preschool at Home and 101 Tips for Kindergarten at Home(reviews of these coming soon by me–Erin!!). Get Adriana’s FREE ebook 21 Days to Jumpstart Your Homeschool at her award-winning blog,www.HomeschoolWays.com.