Languages, Life & Work

Teaching Children a Foreign Language

I have been experimenting with methods of teaching languages to children in a busy household. Some things work, and some things don’t.

What works:

  • Flash cards.
  • Following a textbook that teaches grammar.
  • Translating.
  • Working with your child about 20 minutes per day 4-5 days per week. Older children should work on their own as well.

What doesn’t work:

  • Rosetta Stone alone. RS is a fine way to help children become comfortable hearing, seeing, and pronouncing a language, but it is only a supplemental tool.

Years ago, I taught our eldest the basics of Latin and our middle child French in a structured homeschool environment. This was extremely effective. However, when we put our children into school, we no longer had time for languages. The children lost most of what they had learned.

The older two missed their languages, so at their request, we resumed language training in the summer of 2011. They each chose a language: Latin, French, and Norwegian from oldest to youngest child respectively. Using two homeschool textbooks for Latin and a friendly college textbook for French, I worked with the older two. Our youngest was only 6, so we used home made flash cards and children’s books from Norway.

When school started last fall, the kids’ activities soon eclipsed their languages. Eventually, I settled for daily Rosetta Stone for the older two and flash cards for our youngest. Now that we are returning to the more active language schedule of summer, I find that our youngest has retained the most. Surely his age had something to do with this, but it also seems that good ol’ fashioned flash cards are simply more effective than Rosetta Stone.

For specific language resources, see coming blog posts on French, Latin, and Norwegian.

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