Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Learning French

I've been thinking over what we are going to do about language study in our homeschool.
Teaching our kids the French language is very important to my husband, as he sees the bilingual way in which our New Brunswick economy functions, and also the workplace restrictions that being unilingual place on a person. And so, it has become important to me, too.
Loving the Charlotte Mason method as I do, my first thought was to find out what she would recommend. This is not as easy as it sounds, because there is no universally recognized and loved French curriculum among CM educators.
I did find some recommendations for the Pimsleur method, which looks really good to me.  This method teaches you a phrase (audio, so there is no confusion about pronunciation), and then another phrase, with review along the way. It felt very good to me; so good, in fact, that I looked up the price. *cough* I think it is more suited for older children. Older, rich children.
I kept on looking, and then found Speaking French with Miss Mason and Francois. This method seems to be very close to what CM recommends (this link goes to a blogger who has read CM, since I haven't, yet!).  I will be taking a closer look at this, even though it isn't free (I'm trying to homeschool for free this year, but that's another post).
A few things that I think are the important aspects of language learning for my girls at this point:
1. Correct pronunciation

"The child speaks with a good accent, pronounces correctly, when his nurse or his mother speaks with a good accent and pronounces correctly. Where, indeed, can he acquire a bad accent if he never hears any other than a good accent: How should he be likely to pronounce badly when he has never heard anything pronounced other than well?" (136)
Similarly, he claims, an improper accent may "falsify pronunciation" for good. (58)  As Miss Mason would say, a word spelled incorrectly creates an incorrect visual image in the mind that may never be undone. Better for a child to listen, listen, listen until he is ready to speak correctly:
"Talk yourself, talk continually. At the commencement let the pupil speak as little as possible; it is in his ear and not on his tongue that it is important to fix the word or the phrase. When the spring is abundant it will flow of itself, and the liquid supplied by it will have the advantage of being pure. Let us not forget that the little child listens for two years before constructing a phrase, and that he has possession of both the sound and its idea, that is, the spoken word, long before attempting to produce it himself." (140)
(Quote from  the 'CM recommends' link above)

This is easy for me, because I hope to have a native French-speaker teaching the initial lessons, with my role being review at home. That is, if she is on board with this method and book, because otherwise, I'll have to adjust to suit us both!

2. Being able to talk in French first. Learning to write in French is something for a few years down the road.

3. Learning sentences that have meaning to the child (sentences that speak about daily life, like "I love my daddy.") rather than learning random words (you know, like those books you get at Costco. Dog picture. "Chien." Cat picture. "Chat." "Yes! I am speaking French!!"  Euh, non. )
I realized, incidentally, that I know a lot of random French words, probably from that high school French course, as well as living in a partially French province. What I do not know is how to put everything together.

Looking at all the blog posts, sorting through the information, trying to find out what method is most effective for learning French, but also for keeping things simple and blending language study into daily life, I find myself really excited about this. I think I might learn to speak French, too. Just as a matter of course.  Awesome.

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