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Any Tips on Living and Learning a Modern Language?


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For those of us who are doing Long Term Language Learning with their home school students or who knows someone whose done it/doing it. After almost 2 years of dawdling, hee-hawing and not acting, I've decided to jump in the deep end of the language learning/teaching pool.


I don't need curriculum at this point. I have a ton of quality commercial products that I paid a lot of money for so I'll be using them. I'm pleased with the materials that we have currently and my spanish student (LilGal) is happy also.


I am reading Opal Dunn's book, How To Help Your Child with a Foreign Language and I'm so grateful for this book. It maybe nothing revolutionary to those with more experience or skills, but I was having a lot of trouble putting my ideas into reality, thinking up games that I could use simply to teach language etc...and this book is simple enough that I can follow along.

Fortunately, all my original plans have been thrown off track by the fact that many of the children who wanted to learn Spanish have changed their minds and no longer want to learn it, so I am left with only one very dedicated, very determined spanish student as I venture out into the 'Spanish Language Learning/Teaching Waters.' So long as I keep it moving, make it rewarding and show we're progressing LilGal is willing to stand by me and hang in there with me, which makes my job MUCH easier!



LilGals goal is to become fluent in Spanish,

my goal is to teach her (and master for myself) all the grammar in my college level begining Spanish textbook.

Both of us want to get up to snuff in Conversational Spanish. (we live in an area with a lot of Spanish speakers).


We need to do this as efficiently as possible. (I dont care if it takes 2.5 years to meet the basic goals...the idea is that we'll never need to repeat and relearn anything. Review tons, yes. ReLEARN no.) I want to be sure we're moving through learning phases and stages and not stagnating on drivel or trivial Spanish.


Right now, we're trying to use Learnables 3x a week and doing "Daily Spanish Time" for about 30 minutes a day. I'm using psuedo-immersion during DST, speaking 60-75% spanish and doing a lot of translating.



Right now, our immediate goal is to learn a couple hundred vocabulary words, a bunch of sentences/phrases and use them as much as possible and to build Lil Gal's understanding of Spoken Spanish. We're easing into grammar only as it applies, so right now we're just going to work on articles, plurals and noun+adjective agreement (El libro, unas mesas, los grandes zapatos, that type of thing). This girl a remedial reading student in English and Arabic, so I'm not focusing on Spanish reading at all this year, just speaking and listening with understanding and comprehension and a decent accent.


Right now, this is our 'Reception' phase, or step Zero of a grander plan, but we're not accomplishing a lot more than we were before. We're going to do 10 weeks of intensive study this summer to drill and master all the basics. Every time we learn something new, we use it right away and continue using it.


Does anyone have any tips or advise for me? I want to use a combination of deliberate, explicit study, Total Physical Response, Music, Games, living books, audio and videos to achieve our goals.



I'm getting a lot of ideas for activities and such from Dunn's book, but I'm having a hard time visualizing the stuff. I've been stocking up on carboard and I intend to make a lot of manipulatives for our Spanish program over my Spring break, but I'm not artistic at all, unfortunately and would hate to put in a ton of time making something thats going to be ugly or drab for my students to use. I'd like some ideas/templates that I could copy...


I'd love some links to blogs of (homeshooling) familes who are learning a new language as a spoken/modern language and who are making it fun and keeping it progressive, if there is one that anyone here knows of...


As time passes we're going to begin speaking Spanish to each other more and more outside of lessons or "Spanish time".


Also just a I'm using the books as a guide to vocabulary and grammar, but our program is very oral and aural in nature and application. I anticipate that if we accomplish our goals we'll begin watching cartoons in Spanish, I'm considering Destinos for sometime next year, but am not sure of the content level for appropriateness with a 10 year old. :001_huh:


Any body got any really good resources or ideas? I'm thinking that after she's learned all the material from my College level Spanish Textbook we'll just need to do a lot of maintenance work over the years to come. I'm thinking my current plans will take about 2- 2.5 years....

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Well. That's going to be tough. And this is not meant to discourage you, just to put things a bit in perspective, since you sound ambitious about this. :)


If you are neither a native Spanish speaker educated in Spanish (this part is crucial, since many heritage speakers who grew up abroad actually don't speak the language very well or correctly despite being seemingly fluent and aren't able to handle all registers) nor a very proficient non-native speaker (very proficient as in, you spent years upon years of living in a Spanish-speaking country in Spanish, or you're professional in the field and hold an advanced degree in language and literature), what you're aiming to do is going to be extremely difficult. And here's why. (If you are, disregard all that follows. :D It's just that I got the impression you aren't based on beginner college text, etc. - but I may be wrong.)


You specify that you don't wish to have to "relearn" things later - that's the hard part. You can teach anyone below your level of knowledge, even teach them much, but you wouldn't believe how many things are so intricate that to know them "properly", you need a significantly higher level of knowledge than the one you are teaching. Sometimes it literally takes knowing the whole grammar to be able to teach the basics well.


I'll give you a simple example from Italian (as I don't speak Spanish). In Italian, to tell somebody that they're right, you say Hai ragione. However, to say that you think they are right you say Penso che tu abbia ragione. See what I just did? It's subjunctive. In Spanish it's even more intricate, from what I understand: in this instance you wouldn't use subjunctive if the sentence is affirmative, but yes if it's negative (or something along those lines :D).

Now, what happens in practice is that people want to speak and use the language from the beginning - which is laudable! - but, they don't know those details. So what happens is that they do a mishmash of stuff they know and thus end up forming sentences which are incorrect. Then they get used to them. And then it's really hard to get it out of their minds if it's pretty much "cemented" in their mind that you can say it that way too.


This is only one example, such examples are numerous:

A dog is an animal that barks.

Il cane è un animale che abbaia.

See the catch? In English it's an indefinite article in both instances, but in Italian you have a definite one first and then the indefinite one.

And there's even further catch in Italian, while we're at it: un animale, not un'animale. Even if it's un'amica. Because in the case of many male nouns it's trocamento and not elision, as in the case of female nouns. You wouldn't believe how many heritage speakers, supposedly advanced students and the like don't know those petty little tricks which are important. Or who can't wrap their minds about auxiliaries. Really, I'm talking basics here. Basics which they were taught superficially and weren't taught well.


It may seem to you that the examples I'm providing are absolutely banal and useless. But let me tell you that it's exactly details like this that, later on advanced level, set apart those who really know the language from those who've learned it superficially and poorly and have to "unlearn" and "relearn" stuff. If you want to be fluent and literate in the language (and the two go hand in hand), and if you want your student to become so, you have to teach the language as a structure, which means knowing it as the whole. If you insist on not having to "unlearn" and "relearn" later, as you do in your post, you have to involve in the process a native speaker educated in the language and/or a very proficient non-native speaker, with a minimal idea of how the language works on a theoretical level. In any other case you will find yourself having to "unlearn" and "relearn" stuff later as you won't possibly be able to keep it all correct from the beginning and address the nuances you might not even know exist. That's the weak point of all methods that insist on using the language the most you can.


One way to go about it is to consume tons of native materials and hope that they, with time, "correct" your usage. Still, being taught grammar properly from the beginning is a very good "shortcut" to that process which usually takes many years. I can't tell you concrete resources to use for Spanish, but it's the best to at least try to use grammars aimed at Spanish majors who are native speakers, they are by far the most comprehensive ones, so at least you as a teacher will get to know things "properly" and notice which details to fix in your student which weren't addressed by the materials you are using with her.


Basically, if you don't want having to deal with "relearning", it's going to be really tough. Possible, if you're advanced enough. But tough.


It's really a shame that you can't get her reading right away, that's one of the very "handy" ways to get the whole thing started. Meanwhile I suggest emphasizing on enormous amount of audio/visual input and, if you can guide the conversation without reinforcing too many mistakes, speaking with you.

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I'm thinking my current plans will take about 2- 2.5 years....


I am not going to comment a lot because Ester Maria already answered you comprehensively.

I did, however, not see her addressing the time frame. In my experience, 2.5 years is nowhere near enough for proficiency (unless the student is living in a country where this languages is spoken and is fully immersed for several hours a day). I do not mean to discourage you, but rather point out that the expectation of fluency after two years is, IMO, unrealistic.


(It took me 8 years of English instruction to be reasonably fluent, not proficient.)

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I am not going to comment a lot because Ester Maria already answered you comprehensively.

I did, however, not see her addressing the time frame. In my experience, 2.5 years is nowhere near enough for proficiency (unless the student is living in a country where this languages is spoken and is fully immersed for several hours a day). I do not mean to discourage you, but rather point out that the expectation of fluency after two years is, IMO, unrealistic.


(It took me 8 years of English instruction to be reasonably fluent, not proficient.)


Oh I meant 2 years to drill and get a grip on the basics, to use up all our materials and products (About 18 programs/books/tapes, etc) plus all the online supplements, games, videos etc I've found to date and squeeze every library resource in the county for all that its worth.


I haven't planned beyond our current resources, so I'm thinking 2-2.5 years will be enough time to use up and master all our purchased resources for sure. I've not ruled out Immersion through skype either, but I'm not counting on it either.


I dont care if it takes 2.5 years to meet the basic goals


I'm thinking my current plans will take about 2- 2.5 years....



See? I'm not delusional enough to think we could even be advanced speakers in just 2 years, with neither of us being native speakers and no constant contact with Spanish speakers. I'm keeping my eyes open for Spanish speaking opportunities within our community, but for now, we're just winging it, all we've really got is some grit and a big ol' prayer!


I'm hoping that I personally will at least be an Intermediate speaker within the next 2 years. I'd love an opportunity to go abroad (or to Miami) for an extended stay to immerse myself in the language, but for now I just study my hiney off.


What I didn't mention in my original post is that while I've only had 3 semesters of Spanish in school, I'm still doing a lot of self study on my own level! I'm a Spanish minor but until I transfer I can't take any more classes at my current school.


My current goal is to master all the material in the books that I currently own on my own level, because it will probably be close to a year before I take another Spanish class.


I'm doing Pimsleur (all 4 levels) and using some self study books that I've never taken the time to do in their entirety. I've got several other audio programs lined up on my list as well as a lot of Spanish media (movies, books, etc) that I'm making the time to study from daily and I work with Spanish tutors at my school and hang out with Spanish speakers on campus.


Its hardly the most ideal situation, but I'm constantly working on my own Spanish and (sorta, kinda) I feel that I'm at the level where I can at least begin teaching LilGal....


@Ester Maria, you've definitely got the right impression. I'm not a native/heritage speaker (could've been, my mom was nearly fluent once upon a time, she learned it to an advanced level in university).


I'm going to keep your post in mind for the road ahead. I can attest to the fact that the Subjunctive in Spanish is a friggin nightmare. I'm not going to lie, the Subjunctive is going to be HARD but I'm thinking of just introducing it in context for a bit and letting her learn to understand it, before actively studying it. As a matter of fact, I foresee the subjunctive being the thing that takes the last 5-8 months of our "Beginning Spanish" time window.


If you have any ideas on how to help me with some of the trickier bits of Spanish, please post or PM me! I'm begging you!!!


For myself:

I'm going to focus on more and more audio input and oral output. This year I'm going to tackle Harry Potter series in Spanish. I'm also trying to watch at least 1 movie a week in Spanish and 20 minutes minimum of Spanish TV, (I'm not a big tv/movie person so this is HUGE)

I'm looking at Assimil and Learn Spanish Like Crazy for the next step after Pimsleu--slow, but steady and oh so very banal Pimsleur. I don't enjoy the series much, but I feel I'm benefiting and if nothing else it sets a good example!


I'm active on language forums where I get a lot of advice and guidance on self study of languages, but no one seems to be teaching languages, so I'm hoping that this board could be a life line for me.



Just to be clear: LilGals goal is to be fluent (or atleast very advanced) in Spanish by the time she graduates Highschool. Seeing as how she's in 3rd grade, I don't think its unreasonable, but I'm going to do the best I can to help her. I'd be happy to outsource her Spanish once we get to the end of what I'm considering 'Basic Spanish' but I'd want her to take conversational classes, not classes where they teach numbers, shapes, or even basic greetings and touristy phrases, etc...I'd like her to spend about 10+ hours a week with a Fluent Spanish speaker just hanging out; reading, watching TV, telling stories, discussing their day, talking about themselves and their future. doing crafts, studying something, etc...THATS the sort of lessons I want her to receive.

Edited by mom2bee
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I'm not really going to add anything substantial because Ester Maria has pointed out some issues that I realise we need to deal with ourselves :D


My advice has more to do with the practical aspect: be VERY consistent with the language lessons (honestly, I could notice a huge difference when we took a break - for whatever reason - from our language lessons. They would have to go back several steps and relearn a lot.) And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, any kind of immersion in Spanish will make a huge difference, especially if she can be with other Spanish-speaking kids. You wouldn't believe how the motivation to speak another language suddenly manifests itself when it means they can play with their peers :)


I also remember Nan in Mass had some good advice years ago. Maybe she will chime in :bigear:

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From what I understand, it takes 1200 hours to become proficient in spanish. I am planning on tackling spanish along with teaching my son. BUT my husband is bilingual which helps. I believe you can do it, but I think it is important to be around native speakers. Good luck!

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From what I understand, it takes 1200 hours to become proficient in spanish. I am planning on tackling spanish along with teaching my son. BUT my husband is bilingual which helps. I believe you can do it, but I think it is important to be around native speakers. Good luck!


yeah, I've been wondering about where we're going to find 1000+ hours to practice and study and how I'm going to get her some native exposure.

I'm trying not to think to far into the future, as it only makes me feel discouraged. For now, we're just going to make it through all the materials we have on hand and practice daily, hoping that the consistency + hard work will push odds into our favor. We're learning a lot of vocab and she's gaining a passive understanding of Spanish.


I'm doing more self study all on my own, like Pimsluer and Grammar books and such. I'm trying to read more in Spanish daily, so that I can get ready to read to her, she'll be more than ready to listen to simple stories in Spanish soon. I'm scared that I'll ruin her with my pronunciation, (I have a hard time with the accented words) so I'm really working on that.


But I've had people ask me several times which country my parents are from (because my pronunciation is good, but my grammar/vocabulary was limited) so I think as long as I don't backtrack, I'll be okay...for now...:001_unsure:

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I am from Taiwan. My husband is a Texan.

Before we had family, I knew I want my kids to speak my native language.


My oldest daughter didn't speak English until she was 3. Now my 2 & 1/2 yr-old is just testing her English with their dad.(DH's level of Mandarin is sufficient to fool them up till she turned three.)


We got Satellite program of TV programs from Taiwan. Since they were born, they stay home with me and use Mandarin. We have a wall full of books in Mandarin, DVD, CDs in Mandarin.


I also make sure I hang out with many friends from Taiwan to let the girls hear more conversation in Mandarin from other people. Everyone has their unique way of expressing ideas and using vocab.


I also spent money to fly my parents here to TX to hang out with my girls for months.


Now both my girls can view TV shows in Mandarin and fully understand the content. My 7yr-old speaks Mandarin like native kids in Taiwan. She reads and writes in Mandarin.


It is very hard for my in-laws to understand our decision for such a serious language immersion. But both my DH and I know it is worth-it.


Although we don't live in Taiwan or China, it is possible for us. So good luck.:001_smile:

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This is our adjustment phase. Our zero step, our chance to feel out the water and see if this is really something we want to commit to down the road.


The Main Resources in Order of Use: (scheduled end date)

1a ) Me (none)

2a ) Complete Book of Starter Spanish (3/23)

2b ) Learnables Spanish 1 (5/5)

2b ) Kids Everything Learning Spanish (4/31)

3a ) Complete Book of Spanish (4/20)

4a ) Spanish for Beginners* (N/A)


Additional Print resources: 3 Adventures with Nicholas Books, Play and Learn Spanish, Mas Spanish con el Ritma. The Everything Learning Spanish Book, Realidades HS Spanish 1 wkbk*, Entender y Hablar, Mas Practicas Spanish 2 Workbook, AMR Spanish II set, Help Your Child with a Foreign Language, Spanish: Student Dictionary, Easy Spanish Reader**, Pimsleur Spanish. Super Language Spanish: Las Aventuras de Tomas Sawyer.


*I'm thinking that along with Spanish for Beginners, we'll begin doing this workbook together and use it for simple reading material.

**Missing at the moment. :(...


Library Resources: Teach Me...Spanish, Teach Me More...Spanish, Teach Me Even More...Spanish, Muzzy Spanish 1. Spanish Picture Dictionary, First 1000 Words in Spanish, Spanish Story Books, Spanish Language DVD's


Internet Resources: Come on, its the Internet, we all know how much is out there! I'm still compiling and sifting through all the potential sites to find out things I would want her to use.


Right now, I just have a topically themed paced schedule to use up my 6 main resources and I'm going to supplement and enrich with the print materials that I own as needed. I'm going to try and get lots of Spanish story books, maybe even read some on tape or something.


Environment: I wan't to get a Spanish Corner set up, where she (and any of the others) can easily access all the materials and such. I really want it to be nice looking, so I'll see what I can come up with. I'm going to make a banner to hang in the Spanish corner, but I have no idea what it should say...recommendations? Something 'motto-ish' and in Spansih would be a bonus! I'm thinking of a map of South America and Spain, because ff we make it beyond the 10 weeks, we can do a weekly study on Spanish Speaking countries.


One of the trickiest parts here, is she that isn't able to read in Spanish and I can't teach her, not yet anyway. She doesn't want to learn that and I'm not pushing it cause she's a remedial reading student. I'm hopeful if that if we get started with The Phonics Page, we can re-mediate her English reading within a reasonable amount of time, maybe by the end of the summer she'll be ready to begin reading in Spanish, but thats a huge maybe.


What I Lack: I'd like to incorporate some simple crafts into our DST. But I haven't any idea what type of crafts/projects, and I'd like the instructions to be in Spanish. Anyone got any good links, for simple crafts, ?


For now, we're just going to keep plugging away at Spanish and the goal is for her to still really love Spanish at the end of our 10 weeks. She's been saying she wants to learn for a couple of years now, but then she's only had to learn colors and numbers to 10. I hope her desire is genuine and that I can really foster this love of Spanish in her. It'd be awesome to have my own little Spanish buddy to chat with. :lol:


Wish us luck...


We began 3/1/2011. Today was such a hectic day for LilGal that we didn't have DST, but we did a few phrases earlier today. Thankfully, I built some 'fall behind' time into the schedule :).

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