I was sure my kids would be speaking a foreign language at early ages, but it didn’t happen. I learned German in school but wanted my kids to learn Spanish. I was thrilled when I met Anne Guarnera of Language Learning at Home, who not only has a Ph.D. in Spanish, but homeschools and helps homeschoolers teach their kids foreign language.
Anne graciously agreed to an interview for The Homeschool Sanity show and answered these questions.
Why teach your kids a foreign language?
It allows us to serve others. A huge 75% of people in the world do not speak or understand English. We can serve people internationally or the large number of non-English speakers in our own communities.
Maximizes verbal skills. Learning a second language doesn’t impede the development of your child’s first language. The more languages you speak, the faster your brain functions. Kids who study foreign language improves processing speed for all subjects.
Teaches the importance of habits. Regular practice is the foundation of language learning, just as practice of a musical instrument is to music learning. Habit formation serves our students well in the study of all subjects.
What age do you recommend starting the study of foreign language?
As soon as possible. This isn’t to discourage students who haven’t started until middle or high school. I learned foreign languages when I was older. Older students have the advantage of understanding grammar and can learn more quickly.
Starting early is a real advantage for homeschoolers. You can make the decision to incorporate foreign language into preschooling. Formal study isn’t required, however. Picture books, CDs, and apps are a great place to start.
What are some tools parents can use to support their language learners even if they don’t speak the language their children are studying?
There are three types of resources I recommend. There are language learning apps. For younger students, the Little Pim app. For older students, I recommend Duolingo and Mango Languages that is often available through your public library.
A second type of resource I recommend is audiobooks in foreign language. The audiobooks teach accents. They can be paused and words looked up or used along with a print book.
A third type of resource is other people. I encourage parents to be creative about finding real-life opportunities to connect with foreign language speakers. That might be something like volunteering places where there are foreign languages spoken. Your child might join a Skype group to speak with native speakers with your supervision.
How can parents help motivate their kids who might not see the point of language learning?
Know your child. Help your child make the connection between what they’re doing and a larger goal. Because it requires so much deliberate practice, it can be hard to see the end goal. Introduce real-life scenarios in which they can use the language. Again, interacting in a community activity where the language is useful can be motivating. Or connect language learning to a future career plan or mission trip.
Even parents who are raising their children bilingually struggle with motivation. My own son recently told me he wanted to be a normal kid who just “talked English.”
I give other ideas for motivating your students at Language Learning at Home.
Where can we connect with you for more help with teaching foreign language?
I will send a list of the best resources for teaching foreign language to subscribers to Language Learning at Home. We also have a Facebook group and homeschoolers can connect with me on Twitter @LangsatHome.
What challenges have you had in teaching foreign language in your homeschool?