Foreign Language Instruction

Foreign Language Instruction

I’ve read that the older a person gets, the harder it is to learn a new language.

I’ve never understood why we wait until seventh grade to start a language. Last year, during class registration, I panicked that middle son would not have a language (required to graduate and go onto college!) because he had to take a study aide class and I didn’t feel it was fair to prevent him from taking a “fun” class. He signed up for theater, by the way. I expressed my concern to the ESE advisor for the school and she told me that foreign language credits were not required unless the student is going onto college. After I picked my jaw up off the floor and gave her an earful about how my son is most definitely going on to college. She backtracked and said he has “plenty of time” to get two language credits and he “may not need learning strategies” forever. Ok. He doesn’t have “plenty of time”. He has six years that are going to fly by before I even know what has happened. While I hope he won’t need the helper class “forever”, I’m not holding my breath. Last year he utilized that class to get his “time and a half” to complete projects and tests.

If foreign language had started in first grade, this would be a non-issue.

I know, I know. Jenn, you love homeschooling! Why not start a foreign language on your own? Truthfully, this never occurred to me until the last year or so. Beyond that, I never excelled at a foreign language myself. I’m passable in French. If it’s written and I can take my time to translate it. I did fairly well in Israel, but that was immersive, and I had a literal lifetime behind me of intermittent Hebrew instruction. I know the same few phrases most people know in a variety of languages. I took a year of Japanese. That was… interesting. But to teach a language that even I don’t have a grasp on? You should have seen me trying to help the eldest with Spanish last year. Imagine me speaking Spanish with a French accent. And speaking it poorly at that.

So I have visions of Muzzy (remember Muzzy?) and like, Shalom Sesame, and the lot of us watching/using Rosetta Stone together. And I sort of chuckle quietly to myself, because this is just never going to happen and I kick myself because I totally should have remember about Muzzy when my kids were toddlers and started a second language then. Let us ignore that two of my three kids didn’t speak verbal English until they were at least three. Let us side-step the fact that the child who brought up this concern is still in speech therapy and barely speaks understandable English some days and if he did start a language this year I am well aware that I’d be worrying and blogging about that fact and how can they expect him to pick up a second language when he hasn’t mastered his first.

It just goes to show there is always something to be worried about, and by the time I’ve spewed this mess out of my head (and it’s been percolating for quite some time) I have convinced myself there is nothing, and everything, to worry about and none of it (all of it?) is important in the big picture.

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