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Guest Blogger — Steve Funk

So first off, let me tell you about myself, I am just an average guy, except that I speak Spanish fluently. In fact, I am a high school Spanish teacher! I am in my 8th year of teaching this wonderful foreign language and during this time I managed to earn a Master’s Degree in Spanish literature, linguistics and civilization. It has been quite a ride. One of the classes I took in my Master’s program was Second Language Acquisition–it translates well to homeschooling.

Children learn their own native language during the first six years of their life. Once they hit that six year milestone, any language they learn will be considered a non-native language. So if you have kids under the age of six, they should be able to learn a second language the same way as their first language–and it should be rather easy.

If your children are over the age of six, then just give up and not try…kidding!

They can still learn a second language, and there are ways that you as a parent can teach them even if you don’t understand the language yourself, but in my opinion, it will require you to learn with them (which is never a bad thing anyway).  I would like to share some ideas on how you can teach your children a foreign language in a homeschool setting–

·    When teaching a second language, I suggest getting your hands on a text book–this will be more for your benefit than theirs. The reason you want one is because it is organized in a logical way, you can refer easily back to other lessons, and the lessons are pretty consistent with each other throughout the book. This is important since sometimes the chapters focus on vocabulary that will be repeated through the book.  For Spanish, I currently use books by McDougal Littell and by Holt. You can easily find a used Spanish book online for as little as $5.00. You might even want to buy a couple just to browse.

·    One of the important aspects of teaching a language deals with phonetics. Learn the phonetics of the language, which you can easily do online. I found a pretty good one here at Athabasca University – http://www.athabascau.ca/courses/span/resources/02_spanish_phonetics.htm. When you learn the phonetics, it becomes easier to teach vocabulary. Now, you can either focus on vocabulary from a text book, or use vocabularies dealing with specific subjects you are learning. My favorite way to teach vocabulary is through power point slide shows (since it’s easy). I write the word in Spanish, and then show a picture illustrating it. I tend to stay away from showing Spanish then English because when you really understand a language, you realize that you are not necessarily translating words as much as meaning. My purpose of using pictures is to create a visual tag with the word. I prefer to use funny pictures to maintain interest as well. Sometimes it will be necessary to just use the word, but try not to do it too much, it gets boring and then you and your child can lose interest.

·    As far as grammar goes, the best way to teach is through making connections. Every time I teach, I try to encourage the students to make connections to what we are learning with what they already know. If the concept is similar to English, I point that out. If the concept is similar to another we have already learned, I point that out too. The more connections made, the easier it is to recall the language when needed. Also, the student must practice, practice, practice! The more you use the language, the more you will remember it. Some other useful resources are watching movies in Spanish. We are blessed to live in a world of DVD’s which contain a Spanish track and subtitles. Sometimes I show a movie and play the Spanish track with English subtitles, that way students can hear the language spoken in a “native” way and compare that with what they see written in English. Other times I play the English track with Spanish subtitles for the same purpose. I even play the Spanish track with Spanish subtitles to see what they learn and how it’s said. If you want them to just hear the Spanish, you can use a movie they are very familiar with and just play it in Spanish.

As I mentioned before, practice. When you are driving in the car, practice saying things you see around town, whether it’s different types of food like at the grocery store, colors, numbers etc. Use everything to learn, take advantage of it all. Wherever you look you can find a learning opportunity. And finally, just keep at it. It can get frustrating at times, but anything worth knowing is worth working for.

You can read more of Steve’s blog (and see free videos of his lectures) at http://themostawesomespanishblogever.blogspot.com/ .

And as always, fun learning is forever learning.

Ann Simpson

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