Friday, July 6, 2007

Help Your Child with a Foreign Language

Help Your Child With a Foreign Language (Berlitz Kids) by Opal Dunn provides a simple guide for teaching a child the beginnings of any foreign language. She outlines the process, but also gives a great deal of explanation of how children learn foreign language as well as many examples of how to proceed.

Certainly this small volume embodies Charlotte Mason’s advice from Volume 1, p.300: "French should be acquired as English is, not as a grammar, but as a living speech." My familiarity with Gouin is limited to CM’s description in that same section of Volume 1. I would say based on that description that Dunn’s work applies some of Gouin’s principles:

  • ". . . we must acquire a new language as a child acquires his mother tongue . . ."  (And CM follows this remark with an observation that Gouin’s application of this principle may or may not be the best way to apply it.)
  • ". . . the ear, and not the eye, is the physical organ for apprehending a language. . ."
  • ". . . the child thinks in sentences, not in words. . ."
Dunn encourages us, just as CM did, to delay exposure to the written form of the target language until the child is reading and writing the native language fluently.  I believe CM also encouraged waiting until the target language is *spoken* fluently, which is not something Dunn addresses.

Dunn’s method uses immersion, even when the parent doesn’t speak the target language.  It uses whole sentences primarily, rather than individual words.  It uses real activities.  It uses rhymes and songs.  She shows you how to do this yourself, and explains the principles behind the method so you can see why it works.

Although Dunn’s method is not the same as Gouin’s, I don’t believe that represents a conflict with CM.  In my reading of the Volume 1 comments on teaching French, at any rate, I sense that CM was ambivalent about Gouin’s actual method.  She thought his principles were well founded, but she suggested his method might have to be significantly revised to be practical.  I would suggest that Dunn’s method might fill in for Gouin’s in the homeschool of today.

I'll Tell You a Story, I'll Sing You a Song

I’ll Tell You a Story, I’ll Sing You a Song by Christine Allison should be a great help to any parent wishing to incorporate story-telling and singing. For Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, telling stories in the early years is a must, since Charlotte Mason herself emphasized its importance:
Every father and mother should have a repertoire of stories––a dozen will do, beautiful stories beautifully told . . . .   Away with books, and "reading to"––for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child’s vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets. It is contrary to nature, too. . . . And here is another advantage of the story told over the story read. Lightly come, lightly go, is the rule for the latter. But if you have to make a study of your story, if you mean to appropriate it as bread of life for your children, why, you select with the caution of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls. Again, in the story read, the parent is no more than the middleman; but the story told is food as directly and deliberately given as milk from the mother’s breast. Wise parents, whose children sit with big eyes pondering the oft-told tale, could tell us about this.
Volume 5, p. 216
Allison’s book provides the tools a parent needs to begin to develop that repertoire of stories in an age in which storytelling is not a common skill.  She provides sample stories, songs, rhymes–material to help you get started.  She also provides tips on how to present this material and make it your own.

The material in the book is aimed at preschool-age children and younger.  However, while the stories might change for older children the tips would still apply.