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18 May 2018

It's Working: Foreign Language Learning the Charlotte Mason Way

I've put a lot of time and effort in the past month or two into studying the method that Francois Gouin developed for studying foreign languages, and about 2 or 3 weeks ago, I started putting some of what I learned into practice in our home. Oh wow, guys, this is amazing. I am learning so much! And my kids are learning quite a bit! This is definitely something that we're going to continue to do.

Our first efforts have been in learning what I think of as my "Applesauce Series": we're learning to talk about what happens as you make applesauce. These are our main props (the bowl was handy, and it's pretending to be a pot today)

A progress report our efforts to use a Charlotte Mason approach to foreign language learning: it's working!

With these things, we are learning how to say this stuff:

Open the bag.
Put your hand in the bag.
Pull out an apple.
Wash the apple.
Put the apple on the cutting board.

Pick up the knife.
Cut the apple. 
Put the cut up apple in the pot. 

So many useful sentences! We've swapped out several of the nouns: everything from apples and bread to airplanes to grandma has gone into the bag. And into cups and boxes and pots. And now we're starting put things onto things like cutting boards and notebooks and books. And heads and little sisters. Giggles make the lesson both fun and memorable. Right now the kids are doing pretty well with the receptive language stage of building the vocabulary: learning to comprehend and respond precedes actually being able to say things. And the receptive language is definitely making lovely progress, plus they're all starting to be more willing to try speaking, too.

The next set of words will have us grabbing a measuring cup, filling it with water, and dumping that in the pot, too. While we learn the vocabulary to talk about all kinds of ordinary things that we really do in our home, I'm also helping the kids to start to learn to conjugate these verbs into a handful of the most common forms (present, past, and the command/connecting te-form). This part of the process is taking just a little bit longer than learning the nouns, but that's ok with me. Already, after just this first exercise, I can feel that because I know more words for the kitchen, I'm using our language more there, both when we are working with our Series, and also just naturally as we're doing stuff in the kitchen. I think that once we get the Applesauce Series learned, we might do a series on doing the dishes. Or maybe making bread. Either one would give us a lovely collection of new nouns and verbs. Gouin talked about how there are 3 types of language: objective, which describes facts; subjective, which reacts to facts; and figurative. He said, and I think he was right, that the objective language is at the base, the foundation that the more complex types of language uses, and I think that's a really insightful observation. I know that the first things that I want to be able to do in talking to my kids in the kitchen are all objective language kinds of things: I'd like to be able to cook with them and discuss and direct it in our adopted language. Maybe after that we'll learn a bunch of words about the garden or something. But already it's apparent that these ordinary common words are going to be hugely useful in deciphering what is going on in the media that we listen to, and that is so encouraging.

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