Foreign Language Philosophy

Charlotte Mason's philosophy on foreign language makes a lot of sense. Natural language progression begins with listening, progresses to speaking, followed by reading and then writing. Much of listening and speaking happen simultaneously, as well as reading and writing. This progress is clear when we watch babies grow into young scholars.

Once the listening and speaking phases are well understood and work on reading and writing begins, another language can be introduced. This is basically the philosophy we have used to study foreign language.

When my children were toddlers, I worked as an engineer and they were watched by a wonderful Mexican lady. During that time my kids learned to understand Spanish, but because she understood English, they never really learned to speak. Regardless, I am confident they could speak in a very short time as the Spanish language is in their heads.

Before they began studying written Spanish we moved to Germany. For that reason, we quit studying Spanish temporarily and began studying German. Once they could speak and understand German, they began learning to read in German and resumed listening to Spanish.

It has been over four years since we moved to Germany and the older two kids have begun studying a third language. My eleven year old chose French and my son chose Chinese. They now spend between 30 and 45 minutes per week studying each language.

The materials we have used to learn languages are very natural. Instead of trying to follow a curriculum or read a picture dictionary, we have listened to children's music and watched children's television and movies targeted for native speakers of the language. Occasionally we have listened to CD's that help to learn such things as colors, numbers, months, and body parts, but have found that music targeted for native speakers of the language is much more enjoyable.

Living in Germany it has been easy to find resources in German. Spanish resources were also easy to find as so many children's DVD's are available in several languages. We watched shows such as Dora the Explorer in German, and Plaza Sesamo which is the Spanish version of Sesame Street. Chinese resources have been more difficult for me to find. My son currently follows the Transparent Language on-line curriculum.

Recently we have been using the iPad to study German. I typed in the key word "Lesen" which means to read in German. From there I was able to download several audio books and simple kid games. In the past I've written about the materials we use for Foreign Language study. The posts can be found by visiting my Language Arts page.

If you use other language immersion resources I would love to hear about them.

Here are links to how other families study foreign language.

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  1. You make it sound so easy! Thanks for a great post.

    1. Ha! The philosophy is easy, but learning a language takes a lot of time and effort. We've been working at it for years.

  2. You do make it sound easy. :) Thanks for sharing. We are missionaries and have few resources to teach our children the language. They are very shy of trying, even though they are immersed in the culture and language (though we don't speak it solely at home). I have thought another method would be to listen to the radio. :) But TV would beat that if we had one, and if this African language were on it!

    1. Your blog is very interesting and it looks like you've been in Africa for a long time. Your kids are very young and probably understand a lot more than you realize. Even though you speak English at home, they are immersed. I once heard a story about a young man who was not very successful in school, but learned Greek very rapidly in his 20's. Although he was too young to remember, it turned out he had a nanny that spoke to him in Greek when he was under 1 year old. I don't know if the story is true, but I believe it.

  3. Those are some great ideas and thoughts about teaching foreign language.

  4. Language fascinates me! I have a cousin who has an American father, German mother, and spent her toddler years in Albania. She communicated in a mix of all three - often using the grammar of one language with the words of another. As she grew, she naturally sorted it out. I suspect it is time for me to begin considering foreign language study. Thanks for the thoughts you shared.

  5. Your kids are amazing! I understand them learning German, but 3 that is impressive =)


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