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04 April 2018

Learning Languages: Moving Beyond the Textbook {part 1}

Education is the Science of Relations’; that is, a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of those first-born affinities that fit our new existence to existing things.”
-Charlotte Mason, 12th Principle

When we begin to study a foreign language, we are beginning a whole new set of relationships. The serious student of an additional language will eventually open the door to relationships with a whole new culture and the people who inhabit that culture both in the local community and also, through technology, gain the ability to communicate with people in the areas where the “foreign” language is the local community language, even if they cannot travel there in person. The student learns new ways of describing all sorts of things, and (perhaps more importantly) new ways of thinking about the things they describe. No wonder learning a language is a daunting task! Sadly, too often, students of languages learn little, and retain less: even reasonable fluency is a distant goal that few seem to achieve outside of those favored few able to spend several years living in an area where the new language is spoken.

When I decided that I was going to teach a foreign language in our home, I decided that I want my kids to be able to converse with each other in it. However, my own education was of the typical variety: I had several years of Spanish in high school, but I did not speak it. I majored in Japanese at college, but though I did manage to get around on the trains when we visited Japan, I was a long way from being conversational –and I didn’t know how to get there. So I spent time reading things written by two groups of people: successful adult learners of foreign languages, and expatriate parents who were highly motivated to pass their heritage language to their children. I found that both the adult learners and the heritage language families talk about many of the same things, and that those things are things that I, even as a non-native speaker with a very incomplete grasp of our chosen language, can imitate. Since I began seriously studying Miss Mason’s educational methods, I found that these ideas are also very much in line with what she suggested.

These are the first two things that I learned:

Read more at By Study and Faith

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