Pamela and I "graduated" from our first nursery song in Spanish, Los Pollitos Dicen. Our goal this year is to build an ear for Spanish without obsessing over grammar, spelling, reading, etc. We watched the video a couple of times and Pamela managed to figure out some vocabulary words on her own: gallina (hen), pollito (chick), hambre (hungry), frío (cold), and pío (peep):
Los pollitos dicen, pío, pío, pío,
cuando tienen hambre
cuando tienen frío.
La gallina busca,
el maíz y el trigo,
les dá la comida,
y les presta abrigo.
Bajo sus dos alas,
duermen los pollitos,
hasta el otro día. Repeat all verses.
Cuando se levantan,
tengo mucha hambre,
I made one HUGE blunder in learning this song! I let Pamela see the words. For some reason, she correctly annunciates gallina (a "y" sound for the double l) but says pollitos incorrectly (an "l" sound for the same double l). I will strive to be more cautious as we start our next song, Los Elefantes.
I shared a story with Pamela about her father and sisters, who aspired to see how many verses they could manage in this counting song in which the number of elephants increases by one with every verse. Conceivably, one could reach infinity, given enough lifespans. Pamela guessed and guessed and even dared to guess a hundred verses. She fell short of guessing their actual achievement: one thousand. It must have been a very long car trip, especially for his parents!
I spent this week assessing the first phase of our language experiment based on the ideas of Francios Gouin (The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages). Charlotte Mason recommended his book, which she called "the most important attempt that has yet been made to bring the study of languages within the sphere of practical education" and went on to write, "Indeed, the great reform in our methods of teaching modern languages owe their origin to this remarkable work" (page 302 of Volume 1).
Gouin spends a good chunk of his book outlining all the false starts he had in acquiring German (which dovetail well with my lackluster efforts at learning Spanish and German). He tried focusing on grammar and irregular verbs, studying roots, listening to haphazard conversations, reading and translating, reading the dictionary, and buying the latest foreign language textbooks--all to no avail. Then, a great revelation hit him: why not try to learn a second language in the same way he learned the first? In light of how Steve taught himself to read and write English, I found the theory appealing.
Most children learn their first language through the ear. I say most because Pamela used the ear, eye, and hand to absorb the grammar and syntax of English due to her aphasia. At the beginning of the schoolyear, I was not completely sold on learning to speak and understand Spanish through the ear only, which is what Gouin recommends in the first phase of any language study, "Address the ear, then, first of all and principally. Afterwards take as auxiliaries the eye and the hand in reading and in writing. The ear is the prime minister of the intelligence" page 139. While Pamela's auditory channel has improved by leaps and bounds thanks to the extensive reading aloud that I did, could she learn new Spanish words this way?
I did hedge a bit about the ear only by using this free resource that combines the ear and eye because I am not a native speaker and at least the words sound proper. We did some review (colors, weeks, months, numbers) and some new words (feelings, pets, and fruits). Plus, I let Pamela see the lyrics of the nursery song (which I vow to avoid in the next song). Yesterday, I assessed Pamela's ear for Spanish reading stories about our pets and simple sentences to see how she would respond to an ear-focused method. She loved it!
The final two videos show this non-native speaker completely butchering the Spanish language. However, off camera, we did an experiment today. We have three fish in our fish tank. Steve described the red-bellied pecos in our fish tank very slowly in Spanish in short, full sentences, and Pamela pointed to the correct fish. He described the goldfish and, again, she nailed it. Steve was very impressed at her ear for understanding.
Phase II of experimenting with Gouin's ideas is rolling around in my brain right now, and I will share it with you if we make any headway.