Foreign Language

Foreign Language
Our Curriculum

I always wanted bilingual children.  I think that ship may have sailed already, but I'm still trying.  To be fair, I do spend many hours a day teaching English.  Here's an interesting podcast about how children learn their first language.  I love being the "feedback loops" in my children's linguistic development.  

We're working on Italian as a family this year.  At some point, I would love to switch to Ancient Greek, then to German, then to Spanish, then to Mandarin, and then to French.  Yikes!  This still leaves out Sign Language, Latin, Gaelic, and Tagalog.  The problem is, I really ought to develop a rotation so that we're reviewing and adding complexity.  Any ideas?  Hire a bilingual nanny?  Live abroad?

The good news is, we have so many more resources for learning foreign languages now than when I was growing up.  

For studying Italian, the older two kids use Rosetta Stone.  I think it is excellent, (maybe the best software out there) but it has its limits.  We all wish the user-interface was faster.  I want it to think as fast as I can.  We wish it had grammar rules and explanations linked to every question.  Sometimes we want to know why the correct answer is correct.  It turns out, that even though they are trying to imitate the way small children learn their native tongue, the program's speech recognition is too primitive to understand their tongues, and it is frustrating for a 5-year-old shooting for a perfect score.  Another problem, is that they really need to have some reading and spelling skills at the ready to go very far.  This will be easier in a year or two.  Finally, it's not enough on its own.  We progress much faster when we practice as a family later on in the day, and use other resources to supplement it.

So, at the recommendation of some very smart friends, I have also started using Duolingo.  I love it for its phone application.  I love that it's free.  The interface is clean with little fake points that keep you motivated.  It's addictive.  It's social.  It's fast.  You can connect to friends (I'm Anita380570), and discuss grammar points with the community.  My biggest problems with it are that again, children need to be able to read well and spell adequately to use it, and that you have to log out and back in again to be a different user.  If we each had our own device, this would solve that problem.  I suppose we could just use their website, but then I have to monitor them more, etc.

I have also liked Memrise , another free app that uses some clever memorization techniques.  I haven't tried the kids on this one. 

Finally, I supplement this with a grammar book, read in little snippets to myself at the lunch table.

We've got a long way to go, but everyone is eager to learn.  

And now, a random picture of a spider's web for your enjoyment, because apparently I don't have any pictures of our foreign language curriculum.  


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