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How important is a foreign language in the grammar stage??


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We have yet to do any type of foreign language (and I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how to "fit" it in). Next year we will be doing Classical Conversations, so we will at the very least start doing the Latin memory work, but without any context behind it.

 

I wasn't planning on starting a full on Latin next year, but am starting to re-think this plan after spending time on this board. (this is happening quite frequently it seems with many of my curriculum choices after being here LOL)

 

So, my question, how important is it to start a foreign language (and is Latin the number one choice?) with my kids being in 2nd and 4th grade next year???

 

Thank you!!!

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In my opinion, the only things more important than a second language in elementary school are reading, writing, and math. In my view, a living language is the best choice.

 

The reason for this is because children of elementary school age are able to acquire a second spoken language much more effectively than most people are able to later on. To put it in a WTM context, teaching a second language in the grammar stage takes advantage of the natural abilities and strengths of that stage.

 

So no, I don't think Latin is the optimal choice for a second language in elementary school.

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I think it depends on what you want in a second language. The parts of the brain that are used in foreign language development close in stages. The first synapse closes at age 2, then age 5, etc. (I would have to look up the others) The earlier a language is learned, the more likely they are to be more proficient in that language. Also, early introduction to foreign language has been proven to further brain development in children. For us, learning a living foreign language starts at birth, we will study latin, but probably around 3-4th grade. Since latin is not a living language, there is not as big a need to be "proficient", it is more about memorizing/grammar/roots/vocabulary. IMHO the learning of latin has a much different purpose than learning a living foreign language. Both important, just different.

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Guest CarolineUK
In my opinion, the only things more important than a second language in elementary school are reading, writing, and math. In my view, a living language is the best choice.

 

The reason for this is because children of elementary school age are able to acquire a second spoken language much more effectively than most people are able to later on.

 

:iagree:

 

History and Science get terribly neglected here at times, I tend to go through chunks at a time when I get the chance. They are 'content' subjects which can be picked up later if necessary. However, French is done at least three times a week, sometimes more, especially with my younger two who really enjoy it. There is a window of opportunity for easy acquisition of foreign languages and DH and I feel it's very important not to miss that. (I do wish we had more time to do more History and Science though, sigh).

 

DS10 also does two days a week of Minimus Secundus Latin, which is a really gentle introduction to Latin. We've really noticed how it reinforces things we've learnt in both English and French (and it does also cover quite a bit of Roman history, too :001_smile:).

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The biggest reason we're starting a second language with DS6 (turning 7 in August) in the next school year is that it, we believe, actually provides a more thorough foundation in grammar than English. DH and I both feel/realize that English grammar really "clicked" for us when we learned a foreign language....so we're not waiting until DS is older, we're starting now, while he's young and learning English grammar in parallel with the foreign language.

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For us, learning a living foreign language starts at birth, we will study latin, but probably around 3-4th grade. Since latin is not a living language, there is not as big a need to be "proficient", it is more about memorizing/grammar/roots/vocabulary.

 

:iagree:, except we don't do Latin. But if you want your kids to speak a living language, don't delay. After 7 it becomes much harder to develop the skill of a native speaker.

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WELL DRAT!

 

I've missed "the window". Humph!!! I only found this board a few months ago and I can't believe how AWESOME all of this is. I have two sons, 9 1/2 and 7 1/2.

 

Is it too late, should I start something? WHAT? I'm not even sure. I guess living in Florida we should learn spanish, as it seems it is almost a primary language down here for many parts of the state.

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Guest CarolineUK

No, it's definitely not too late! Spanish sounds great, I love Spanish, and if there's a possibility that they can practice on native speakers then so much the better.

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It's not too late! You may have missed the first "window" but there is still time. Even into adulthood, it is still POSSIBLE to learn another language, just easier to start as a child.

 

Personally, foreign languages are very important to us. I tend to teach with a large worldview and we make efforts to learn about other cultures. Learning another language changes how you think about other people (many things are lost in translation), and opens opportunities for travel, education, and just being able to communicate with more people.

Plus, DD loves, loves, loves learning other languages. She is currently doing French, we are planning on adding Spanish next year, and this morning she saw a commercial for Muzzy and told me she wanted to buy it so she could learn a lot of languages. :D

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WELL DRAT!

 

I've missed "the window". Humph!!! I only found this board a few months ago and I can't believe how AWESOME all of this is. I have two sons, 9 1/2 and 7 1/2.

 

 

You haven't missed it :001_smile: I learned Arabic as a teen/adult and am now speaking it to my son/daughter so it can be a native language, so I learned enough to pass it on to them at least. I am not at the level where I can "think" in the language or be completely comfortable talking in it 100%, but certainly one can learn enough to become proficient speaking with true native speakers.

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In my opinion, the only things more important than a second language in elementary school are reading, writing, and math. In my view, a living language is the best choice.

 

 

Like many who have replied, I emphatically agree with this.

 

As far as the "window", the little guys certainly have an easier time just absorbing a second language. However, it's not an all or none deal. The younger you start, the better - but a person is able to learn a language fluently and speak it without an accent until about 12-14 ish.

 

Of course, a natural talent in that area, along with ideal conditions (e.g. living in a foreign country where the language is spoken) is clearly going to be an advantage...:) I learned Spanish that way when I was 9-10 yrs old.

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The biggest reason we're starting a second language with DS6 (turning 7 in August) in the next school year is that it, we believe, actually provides a more thorough foundation in grammar than English. DH and I both feel/realize that English grammar really "clicked" for us when we learned a foreign language....so we're not waiting until DS is older, we're starting now, while he's young and learning English grammar in parallel with the foreign language.

 

 

Absolutely! We, the parents have felt this too that studying a foreign language in which verbs and nouns change forms has helped make sense of English grammar. my 13dd just discovered this herself. She started with Prima Latina in 3rd grade and is now on 1st year Henle. The ligh bulb went on for her earlier this year, when very complicated grammar ideas made sense to her and she says its all because of understanding Latin!

 

Hooray. I love when that works out.

Edited by Jean in CA
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Are you going to have a native speaker living in your home? If not then I doubt your child is going to gain native like fluency and accuracy no matter how young they start.

 

Lexical items (vocabulary) are not acquired the same way as syntax, phonology, etc. You can't apply the same rules of language acquisition to them.

 

Unless you are a native speaker or hire one I doubt your child is learning the native pronunciation of these living languages being taught. I don't care how long you studied. I have heard many a Spanish major who taught ESL in a Spanish speaking country for a year come back and butcher the pronunciation.

 

How much grammar is found in the early levels of many of these programs? Not much I imagine. Of course I don't think young children need to be chanting verb paradigms, but I doubt they're exposed to enough grammar divergent from that found in English to internalize the rules to the complex things adult learners have issues with.

 

If you are going to do half a day everyday, or the entirety of every other day completely in the second language (and taught by a native speaker) then starting early is very important.

Edited by crstarlette
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I'm all in favor of Latin (that's why I wrote a program), but I'd just like to comment on the idea that a child's window for learning to speak another language without an accent closes by a certain (fairly young) age. I'm sure that the experts who say this have their good reasons for saying it, but I don't believe it's true for everyone, so I agree with those who say it's never too late to start.

 

This is only anecdotal, but I began French at 12 and acquired a good accent (not flawless but good), and I began Russian at 17 having only heard it spoken for about two hours out of my entire life previously, and acquired a very good accent, according to native Russian teachers. Perhaps there are some purposes for which this level of accent proficiency wouldn't have been good enough--I guess I couldn't have become a radio announcer in France, for example, and no doubt in some parts of Russia I couldn't have blended in as a spy--but there are enormous numbers of purposes, personal, academic, even vocational, for which the level of accent proficiency I'd acquired in those languages would have served me very well.

 

My husband has worked with many very capable people from other countries who have traces of an accent when they speak English, and yet it doesn't hinder their ability to function very effectively here. They don't lose respect and they lose few opportunities. Having a perfect accent is a wonderful goal--I loved applying myself to making the sounds of a foreign language, that was part of the fun, and when I teach, I teach pronunciation--but I hope no one worries too much about starting at the perfect age on this account alone.

 

None of this is meant to criticize those who raised this issue as a consideration. I just want to chime in on the "anytime is still a good time" side, even though there are wonderful benefits to beginning early.

 

Enjoy your journey!

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Are you going to have a native speaker living in your home? If not then I doubt your child is going to gain native like fluency and accuracy no matter how young they start.

 

Lexical items (vocabulary) are not acquired the same way as syntax, phonology, etc. You can't apply the same rules of language acquisition to them.

 

Unless you are a native speaker or hire one I doubt your child is learning the native pronunciation of these living languages being taught. I don't care how long you studied. I have heard many a Spanish major who taught ESL in a Spanish speaking country for a year come back and butcher the pronunciation.

 

How much grammar is found in the early levels of many of these programs? Not much I imagine. Of course I don't think young children need to be chanting verb paradigms, but I doubt they're exposed to enough grammar divergent from that found in English to internalize the rules to the complex things adult learners have issues with.

 

If you are going to do half a day everyday, or the entirety of every other day completely in the second language (and taught by a native speaker) then starting early is very important.

 

Sorry, but I don't agree with the need for a native speaker....DH learned French as a teen, in school, non-native speaking teacher - then spent some time in France (after learning a good level of the language in school here), in the last 30-odd years, when he encounters native speakers here and speaks to them, they ask if French is his native tongue, he's that fluent.

 

My sister learned latin and spanish in high school - spanish teacher wasn't a native speaker, in fact she was pretty bad (I had her too)....she then did a year in college and then decided in her senior year (three years after taking the college 1 course for an easy A) did a semester abroad in Barcelona.....to this day, when she speaks spanish, native speakers have commented on her fluency, her accent is indistinguishable from a native speaker from Spain. She's also taught herself French. Learned Italian in a summer in Italy. And is beyond fluent in Urdu after spending time on the subcontinent - to the point where she corrects native speaker.

 

My point - some people are just wired for language - their own and foreign.

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crstarlette, I see your point. For my family, giving adequate attention to our second language is one of the reasons to homeschool.

 

I stand behind the idea that learning a living language is very worthwhile for elementary-age children, but I am sure the benefits differ depending on the level of instruction and exposure offered. Acquiring near-native competence takes a lot of effort and is a big commitment.

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I'd like to start a foreign language with Doodle. I own both the Spanish and French version of Rosetta Stone. Any opinions as to which would be the better choice to start with? I am very hard of hearing and failed miserably trying to learn French myself back in high school.

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My point - some people are just wired for language - their own and foreign.

 

:iagree: My sister speaks German like a native. She took German in high school and then majored in Germanic languages in college. She is fluent and has lived there these last 12 years. Native Germans are always shocked when she tells them she is American. American soldiers are particularly funny when they approach her with pigeon German and she replies in flawless English. :lol: They look so stunned! :tongue_smilie:

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Here's something shocking, so you don't feel "behind" or pressured: we're NOT doing foreign language study. The sky has not fallen yet. I don't plan on working on it until my children are older, and then it would be with a native speaking tutor. We will, however, be starting the language of music in the fall.:001_smile:

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Learned Italian in a summer in Italy.

Offtopic: I don't know your sister so I can't comment on the state of her Italian - in fact, there is no reason to do her a possible injustice and assume it isn't excellent; however, I cannot resist clarifying something - "learned Italian" is more of a "I casually read some Dante before going to bed after I have returned from the opera where I just enjoyed Nabucco" level, rather than "I can say a dozen meaningful sentences on pretty much any conversational topic you ask me and do so for the most part in grammatically correct Italian" level. ;)

I feel very strongly about this topic, Italian really isn't an easy-peasy language that one can casually learn in one summer in Italy if they just have a knack for languages, despite the fact it wrongly gets portrayed as such in the anglophone countries (alongside Spanish, of course, the emblematic "easy" language in minds of many people - for which that's also not true). I'm certainly not saying it's the most subtle and intricate language out there, but for the most part, to even begin to know it somewhat well, it takes a lot more than that.

 

Ontopic, the ability to acquire a second language doesn't magically disappear at any given age, though each age is, in general, better suited for a different approach: thus immersion-like methods work the best with small children, while adults learn much more quickly than children, but within an academic setting, with an analytical approach to the language. Accent is mostly a psychology issue, far more than actual physical inability to reduce it - I have known people of all ages who don't have an accent when they speak Italian and aren't native speakers, as well as those that do have a relatively strong accent, both children and adults. It's just that children usually "blend in" sooner or later (school, the famous socializing, etc.), psychologically most of all, and let it go with time or feel less embarrassed mimicking the accent, while adults tend to conserve it longer and be less comfortable with truly blending in another culture. It's often not even a native language issue - I know people with accents in their native language too after a prolonged stay abroad, especially if that stay abroad occurred in their early formative years (say, ages 3-9), many of them retain something slightly foreign in their native language for years if not forever, some slightly different vowel or some odd nasal, even if they spoke their native language with their parents at home, it's insane how much psychology and "belonging" there is in the accent issue. I say don't sweat it - strive for an agreeable accent, but you're much better focusing on actually learning the language well than on every single phonetic nuance (which differ locally by native speakers too anyway - what usually gives away non-natives is the lack of consistency within a specific dialect, because strictly linguistically speaking, no such thing as "Italian accent" in Italian, in Rome only we could clearly differentiate a few of them, let alone in the rest of Italy; "Italian accent" is a generalization that might work for certain phonetic features in English, but in Italian, it gets split into many different local accents).

 

That being said, and not only accent-wise, the best time to start a MODERN foreign language is really toddlerhood and lower elementary, through immersion most of all.

The best time to start a CLASSICAL language, the one learned analytically, is roughly upper elementary / middle school (that way you cover the grammar by early high school and can focus on texts then).

 

If you wish to learn specifically Latin, I'd say wait for a little more. 4th grade is even fine, if you have an academically inclined kid, 2nd grade probably not, and certainly not together. You can purchase one of those "baby Latin" curricula, but I personally find it a waste of money, albeit not a waste of time as children still learn something, but I just think that the benefits of that don't come near the cost or your stress as a parent. Meanwhile, I do suggest getting a solid grounding in a modern foreign language, preferably a Romance one, if you wish to tie it somehow to your Latin studies. The 4th grader should even study the grammatical part fairly formally, the 2nd grader doesn't need to do so yet - but you'd still use this time better by focusing on a modern language as opposed to Latin, especially if you don't have a background in Latin to make it more palpable for the younger one.

 

I suggest wait a little for them to mature academically and then give them a tangible Latin program, if you're serious about Latin.

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If you want fluency in a foreign language, then you need to do it before about age 10. That is the age when you "window of opportunity" closes in terms of when the brain learns language best. But if you are talking about learning Latin, then I think that it doesn't matter so much, and they may actually get more out of it if they learn it later, because it requires some analytical skills that grammar stage kids don't have.

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Guest CarolineUK

I learnt French for many years, and Spanish from the age of 18. I studied both languages as part of my BA degree. I don't speak either language with anywhere near the proficiency of a native speaker. I don't expect my children will either, that was never my aim in introducing them to French at an early age. I do hope that learning it young will make it easier for them and that they'll develop a reasonable working knowledge of it. For my own part, despite not being fluent in French, I have always been grateful that it was an important part of my education. Here are some of the benefits I think I have gained from learning French, however imperfectly:

 

1 I have always found learning a language to be great fun in itself.

 

2 I had enormous fun during the year I spent in Spain and France as part of my degree during my late teens.

 

3 It has given me a much greater appreciation and understanding of language in general, much, I imagine, in the way that learning Latin does.

 

4 If I had never learned a foreign language I would have never learned anything at all about grammar, as the subject of grammar was never offered in any educational establishment I attended. I think this knowledge of grammar has generally helped my expression of English, both spoken and written.

 

5 At least twice a year we all holiday in France, it is a beautiful country and in recent years we couldn't think of anywhere we'd rather go on holiday. It has always been very useful and gratifying to be able to communicate in my far from perfect French.

 

It is not necessary to be aiming for native-speaker perfection to enjoy and derive great benefits from the study of a foreign language.

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