I've had many attempts at learning French, my foreign language of choice. In elementary school, my dad encouraged me to use CD Roms and listening CD's (those were the days!) As I got older, I studied French in high school and college. Beyond college, I decided to keep learning through online programs, real-life meet-ups, and travel. All of these different experiences have led me to one conclusion: most of these learning attempts, except for the real-life experiences, were pretty much meaningless. You might think that I'm fluent in the language. You would be wrong.
When Miss H started showing an interest in learning French, I paid close attention to Charlotte Mason's approach to language instruction. In this series of posts, I'm only looking into her recommendations in her first volume, Home Education. You can find the rest of the series here.
Those meaningful experiences I mentioned above were made meaningful for one reason: learning real-life words was interesting. In the classroom, I learned French grammar, first and foremost. Charlotte Mason said that learning a foreign language should be like learning a first language. When your precious little one learned to speak, grammar was not your top concern. You said words like, "Daddy!" and "Hot!" repeatedly. I imagine that you did not have your young child repeat the verb conjugation of "to be." Yet, this is how foreign languages are often taught.
Learning a Foreign Language
"French should be acquired as English is, not as a grammar, but as a living speech." Home Education, page 300
"Again, the child's vocabulary should increase steadily, say at the rate of half a dozen words a day. Think of fifteen hundred words in a year!" Home Education, page 301
In order to learn a foreign language, it should be integrated into a child's daily life. This poses a challenge for modern moms like me, who only speak one language! Charlotte Mason knew that this was likely, and, in Home Education, described the Gouin series method of learning a language.
In this method, a series of phrases is taught, both in English and in French (or the language of choice!) There are often actions to go with the phrases, to solidify understanding in both languages. Through this approach, grammar is also taught, although it's in order to articulate a thought instead of to practice conjugation.
Foreign Language Curriculum: Talkbox Mom
I chose Talkbox Mom as our French "curriculum" for several reasons. The first is that it's not really a curriculum. It's a series of charts, cards, and audio files so that you can integrate foreign language into your day. The first box starts out in the kitchen, and contains full phrases to use while you share meals with your children. I often allow Miss H to practice with the audio files while I'm busy taking care of her brothers.
I also like that I am involved in it. I didn't want to turn her loose on a computer program and not know what she was learning. This way, I am brushing off that dusty French as she's learning, by practicing the phrases and incorporating them in our everyday lives.
You can use my referral code REFVH6Y7G4ITQ for $15 off of your first box.