Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to Learn a New Language when Homeschooling

Learning a new language can be a daunting prospect for even the most determined homeschoolers. Where do you start? How can you keep the studies interesting? How can you practice when no one around you speaks your new language?
Most homeschoolers start with language software. Unfortunately, there are probably more programs to choose from than languages in the world! Naturally, this can be overwhelming.
Some of the more well-known programs include Rosetta Stone, Muzzy, Pimsleur Approach, Mango Languages, Learn to Speak, and Tell Me More. An excellent way to research each program's approach is to see if your local library has a copy. That way, you don't need to invest in, return, or get stuck with something you don't want. Some libraries even offer free online use of language programs to cardholders.

Of course, sitting in front of a screen is no way to learn how to use a language. Is that how you learned your first language? Highly unlikely.

No one should learn a language in isolation. Everyone in the family should take the time to participate in learning, even if it is only a few words at a time. Make the effort to use new words for everyday items, like food and clothing. Learn how to say "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome" right away, and use them regularly. This can be a fun activity for the entire family, and is a wonderful way to reinforce the lessons.

Speak as often as possible. Who cares if you make mistakes. Listen to the average three-year-old and you'll hear plenty of errors. It certainly doesn't stop them from talking.

Find children's books in that language. Look for board books, preschool-aged books, and children's books with familiar stories. Read these together, making sure to keep your sense of humor as you struggle with pronounciation or get stuck on seemingly simple ideas. This is the learning process.

Get a good translation dictionary. Do not rely on the free online translators, as many perform inconsistently at best. Besides, online translators cannot compare with leafing through a translation dictionary, where you will stumble across new words and ideas that you weren't even searching for.

Find a Yahoo group dedicated to your new language. The members of these groups are incredibly supportive of new learners. They will help with translations, give encouragement, and point you to many resources you never imagined existed.

Check out the public television station website for the country of your new language. Some state-supported television stations offer free online lessons in their home language. These lessons may be in-depth, or simply brief discussions of common phrases or ideas. Regardless, they offer yet another way to hear, practice, and learn your new language.

Watch television shows and movies in your new language. Many can be found online, if your cable company doesn't provide these. Live action shows, as opposed to cartoons, are better for this, as you can see how people move their mouths, their facial expressions, and other cues to help you figure out new vocabulary.

Visit museums. Check your area to see if there is a local museum dedicated to your language's home country's culture. Keep an eye out for traveling exhibits highlighting your area of study.

Reward your learning. Find ways to celebrate along the way. Maybe go to a restaurant specializing in your language's food. Order in the language. Cub Scouts can use their success to help earn their Language & Cultures belt loop and pin.

Plan a trip to the homeland of your new language. Research the country or area. Learn about its customs and history. Investigate its architecture, philosophy, and literature. Prepare foods from that area. Language is so much more than a bunch of words strung together. It is the verbal expression of a people. Learn about the people, and you will learn about your language. Plus, after much planning and saving, you will be able to show off your new language skills to people who will appreciate your efforts.

Ultimately, the learning experience should be fun and interesting. Combine different resources to create your personalized language program. Enjoy the learning journey!

Article by Sarah J. Wilson

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