Learned Seven Languages, but Mastered None
In my academic life, I have learned Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarin, German, Italian, and French (in addition to English), but unfortunately I do not keep up with any of my foreign languages. I have forgotten most through disuse or never learned them well enough to speak properly anyway. I have lived in the Philippines and spent summers in Germany, but always spoke with everyone in English. I attended Chinese elementary school and Mandarin Summer Immersion. Although I was great at the academic tests, I never proved to be a good conversationalist. I learned Italian and French to improve my opera studies, so my accent is excellent and I understand a little but fail at any dialogue. At most, my foreign language education allowed me to learn about different cultures, accents, mannerisms, and ways of thinking, but the academic learning did not help me express myself in them in a daily context. I loved growing up in an international environment, but I always wished I had learned foreign languages a more natural and informal sort of way. After all, what use is learning a foreign language if you can’t speak it naturally?
Foreign Language Learning for Kids: Through Informal and/or Academic Context
Exposing my son to different foreign languages is a priority in our homeschool. Not only is it important to me that he learn another language and be comfortable expressing himself informally and formally, but that he becomes more comfortable tasting different foods, communicating with people of different nationalities, accepting of their practices and mindsets, and exploring and appreciating other cultures.
Unlike myself in my younger years, my third grader knows exactly how he wants to learn a language. After just a handful of years of homeschooling and using various curricula, he has made it known that:
For his elementary foreign language education, he wants an overview of many languages before he actually chooses to focus on just one or two.
When he was a toddler, I exposed him daily to Mandarin, German, and Spanish through videos and songs. After a few years and more academic lessons of Mandarin and Spanish, he wanted to stop those and learn other languages: Tagalog because “it’s Mama’s language” and Arabic because of the beautiful calligraphy. Now, after reading Percy Jackson, he wants to learn Greek, which happens to be his paternal great-grandfather’s language. In other words, he’s interested in a “tour” of world languages and cultures.
He wants to learn through watching videos by native speakers.
He loved German-language videos when he was younger. He loves YouTube videos in Tagalog, too. He wants to watch videos by native speakers and is pretty discerning about which videos he wants to watch.
He wants to watch the videos he likes repeatedly.
This process, though it may look like mere “fun” actually helps him with speech, comprehension, vocabulary retention, and cultural understanding. Watch this teen polyglot and his use of YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km9-DiFaxpU
No more boring textbooks.
Got it. Pure academic learning without organic interaction with the language made the learning stale.
He wants to learn to speak before he learns to write.
Although he loved Arabic calligraphy, he wanted to learn how to speak and express himself better before being able to write it. Although I thought he learned better by writing Chinese characters too, his preference was to have a proper conversation first.
He wants to interact with native speakers.
When he becomes comfortable expressing himself, he wants to communicate with native speakers.
I Discover FluentU
In search of curricula for my son, finding native speakers for him to converse with are important for me. Unfortunately, this may not always be possible. He may also not be interested at first. What he really wants is to learn it organically on his own first, if that’s possible.
Enter FluentU,a video-based program where one can learn English, Chinese, Spanish, French, German, and Japanese. My son absolutely loves it!
As it says on the FluentU website:
“We've searched far and wide for real world video content that's entertaining, timely, and ideal for language learners.”
Cultural context and motivation to learn vocabulary and syntax. Check!
“Movie trailers? Music videos? News? Inspiring talks? No matter what your interest or skill level, we have you covered.”
YouTube videos that inspire my son? Check. They even divide them into six levels, from elementary to native speaker. Score!
“Our interactive captions will bring real-world videos within reach for you. All captions are subtitled and translated. Click on any word to see an in-context definition, along with example sentences.”
No boring textbooks. Video translations, subtitles and annotations. Check!
“Our quiz teaches you using videos from the real world. The rich, engaging experiences will naturally help you remember and master new vocabulary.”
Quizzes and progress tracking based on this self-paced learning. Check!
“[W]hat we've found is that we learn best through rich, engaging experiences. It's easy to remember words when they're reinforced by experiences that move you. We also believe early exposure to engaging content helps prevent learners from giving up before they're fluent.”
An immersion learning process through informal context. Check!
Want to learn more? Check out FluentU
Interested a group academic pricing? We plan to buy together to have access by June 1st. Join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/495777743962084/.
Affiliate link: https://fluentu.refersion.com/c/cb0762
Carissa Leventis-Cox has not been paid or compensated for the time she took to write this post or organize an academic group price for FluentU. She’s just a homeschool mama who is excited about the opportunity of having FluentU at a big discounted price for her budding linguist.