Unless you are fluent in a foreign language, you have to rely on some form of foreign language program to teach your kids another language. We’ve tried several methods with different levels of success and I’ll give you my assessments.
Grammar based foreign language programs
This is the type of program we use for Latin. It has the student learn vocabulary and begins almost immediately with grammar: verb conjugations, noun declensions, tenses, and so on. This works well for “dead languages” like Latin that are not meant to be spoken, but only read. It doesn’t work well at all for modern languages that you want to actually become a fluent speaker in. Remember high school foreign language? It was taught this way. Do you know anyone who actually learned to speak German or Spanish or French in those classes? Neither do I.
“Learn to speak in ten minutes a day” type CD programs
These are great for adults on their commutes and do teach actual language speaking, at least enough to get by on a visit to a foreign land, but are very boring. They are not suitable for children learning a foreign language and there is no way to learn written language skills at all, since the courses are completely verbal. They may be helpful as a supplement.
Rosetta Stone and other computer-based learning programs
These are excellent programs, with the major disadvantage of being very, very expensive. But, you will learn to speak and read in the language with comparative ease. No grammar skills are taught at all, but the written word is utilized, including complete sentences, and so many grammar skills are picked up naturally. You will likely learn enough to read and write at a basic level in the foreign language. We used this program for awhile, but my kids ages 10 and 9 at the time, were bored by it. It’s probably more suitable for teens and adults.
Power Glide Courses
These courses teach using student books and audio CD’s. It’s expensive too, but not as expensive as Rosetta Stone and you can find used materials online. The signature feature of these courses is that they use stories where the foreign language vocabulary is interwoven with English so that the student picks up words without having to have the meaning explained. This course is designed to teach the student to actually learn to speak fluently. Grammar is not taught at all, at least in the first year materials. This gives the student a chance to learn to speak the language, and then later when grammar is taught, it will make sense. This is my favorite set of language learning materials. The kids are interested, learning, and the cost is do-able.
Here’s how I recommend you do foreign language instruction:
- Around third grade, after the student can read English well, have them start with Jump Start Spanish, a fun vocabulary building computer program. Let them just play with it. If you’re doing something other than Spanish see if your library has kids foreign language videos to watch.
- Then in fourth or fifth grade have them use Power Glide Junior. It’s a short course designed as an introduction. It uses the stories woven with the foreign language and an adventure to keep kids interest.
- Once you’ve finished with Power Glide Junior, move onto Power Glide, year one. It’s a full high school level course, but younger kids can easily do it, but probably at a slower pace.
- Next move onto Power Glide year two.
- Once you’ve finished with Power Glide, have your student use a foreign language reader to learn to read fluently in another language. Look for something with English on one page and the foreign language on the facing page.
- Now you’re student is ready for a grammar based program. A traditional high school type text would be appropriate to learn the grammar thoroughly. With their background and ease with vocabulary, your student will probably be able to progress much more quickly than the typical high school student.
- Finally, if you’re really serious about a foreign language, you need to be exposed to it constantly and practice it constantly to really learn it. You have to live with it for awhile.
Intersperse all of that with some fun games, language learning apps, and cool flashcards and you’ll have a fun, involved way to learn a language. You can check out the Layers of Learning Foreign Language Pinterest Board for lots of fun ideas for learning a foreign language.