Monday, September 16, 2013

Teaching a Second Language if You Don't Already Have One Yourself

I have not blogged our work in Spanish lately, and this week's Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival topic is a great time to do so!

Before I share what I believe was Mason's thinking near the end of her life, I would like to share what you should try first: get a head start in learning a second language before beginning lessons with your children. Knowing a year's worth of language develops confidence, prevents mistakes, and helps you become a better guide. Spend six months developing your ear for that language. What helped me was (1) listening to children's audio books in Spanish that I have featured in earlier posts, (2) the Learnables Level 1, (3) Spanish nursery songs and rhymes, and (4) stories written and recorded by my husband who is bilingual (you could hire a tutor to do this for you).

After six months, find more complicated audio books and songs and try the dull, but useful Basic Structures Level 1. Another very frustrating, but helpful, approach you can try AFTER you have worked on your ear for six months is duolingo. This free, online-course will show you why the ear-first approach is superior for you will quickly see how taxing a non-developmental system can be: learning to hear, speak, read, and type in Spanish is exhausting, and I do not recommend it for your students! I repeat duolingo could easily kill any spark of interest in learning a second language! While I do not care for the software's style of teaching, the price is right (free) and you can grind away at grammar, albeit unpleasantly.

People new to Mason tend to latch onto Gouin's work because she raved about his method in her first volume. While I am thankful Cherrydale Press has published audio and written files that apply his approach in our modern world, I do not believe their offering stands alone. Why? First, Mason did not mention Gouin in her last volume (pages 211-212):
Children in Form IIB have easy French Lessons with pictures which they describe, but in IIA while still engaged on the Primary French Course children begin to use the method which is as full of promise in the teaching of languages as in English, that is, they are expected to narrate the sentence or paragraph which has been read to them. Young children find little difficulty in using French vocables, but at this stage the teacher should with the children's help translate the little passage which is to be narrated, them re-read it in French and require the children to narrate it. This they do after a time surprisingly well, and the act of narrating gives them some command of French phrases as far as they go, much more so than if they learnt the little passage off by heart. They learn French songs in both divisions and act French Fables (by Violet Partington) in Form IIA. This method of closely attentive reading of the text followed by narration is continued in each of the Forms.
Mason does not even mention what she is doing for the early forms! Moreover, the Primary French Course by Otto Siepmann and French Fables in Action by Violet Partington are not based on Gouin's work. All is not lost! While the six volumes present Mason's theories, Parents' Review articles and programmes reveal what she did in practice. To find out what she did in Forms IB and IA (first through third grades), check out the programme for that form in 1922. To glean insight on what might have informed her change in direction, read Violet Partington's article on teaching French.

Did Mason recommend Gouin for the earliest grade (Form IB)? She used Hachette's Illustrated French Primer, which does not contain any series. Mason recommended to teach words orally based upon pictures from the book. In Form IA, students were ready to see words in print. Teachers read aloud and students narrated passages from Le Livre Rouge by Effie Magee and French Fables in Action.

So, what about Gouin? I believe that Mason gleaned two important ideas from him: (1) build the ear first and then apply Mason's developmental method for language arts to learning a second language and (2) find a context where the words live to foster meaning: songs, rhymes, stories, plays, games, and even series.

I have turned to Partington's article for ideas in teaching Spanish at Harvest Community School. Every morning, I spend ten to fifteen minutes on an interactive, conversational lesson with teachers and students. I have not found the need to spark interest because after the first few lessons everyone warmed up to Spanish. They enjoy learning new words. One of their favorite lessons was when Señor Glaser came to school, and they got to ask him to say whatever word they suggested in Spanish! I decided not to drill phonetics because Spanish is not as difficult as French or German. Two children can roll their r's, and I will encourage them to show their friends how!

Partington wrote,
What better way could there be of teaching a child a living language than by letting it live that language for the time being? Therefore, find out what are the children's favorite games and favorite amusements, and as far as possible, turn these into French, and above all let the children themselves help you do it.
The students have learned how to play "Duck, Duck, Goose" ("Pato, pato, ganso") and "Red Light, Green Light" (Luz roja, luz verde") at recess. I plan to teach them all the words in Word Bingo in Spanish to build vocabulary for common objects.

Partington wrote,
Memorizing of little pieces of poetry, nursery rhymes, riddles, etc., all these are helpful, too, in swelling the stock of everyday phrases and expressions which will come in so useful in the little "play building" lessons. And if the teacher is at all musical, what a delightful resource there is in the teaching of French songs and singing games.
Everyone loves "El chocolate" by José-Luis Orozco, and they are now learning his "Diez deditos." Both songs foster counting to ten. I plan to continue teaching songs and rhymes from his albums "Diez deditos" and "De colores" this year.

Partington wrote,
At Queens' College School, Harley Street, London, we started last year a French games and conversation class, which is held twice a week, and which is conducted entirely on the lines suggested above. The results have been most gratifying and encouraging.
Right now, our class has a conversational tone. We are working on greetings, simple conversations, counting, colors, etc. I am building their vocabulary with an eye toward being able to understand "Oso pardo, oso pardo, qué ves ahí?" by Bill Martin, Jr., available as a board book and audio CD. We might even learn lines to act out the story, "La gallinita roja" ("The Little Red Hen").

At the end of the article, Partington discusses spelling. If a teacher or child wants to know how to spell a word, I will show them. So far, none have asked. Once they can follow and understand the audio version of the two stories above, I will make the texts available for anyone to read.

I think the first thirteen lessons have gone well, but the real assessment of what they are learning will come during the term finale when we will find out what individual children can understand and say.


Carol said...

Thanks for such a practical post on this Tammy - especially the bit about the parent doing 6 months of the language before trying to teach it! Makes so much sense. My biggest problem was deciding which language to learn. We've been doing French but Italian would have been a better choice because I grew up surrounded by people who spoke it and it, it's harder to find resources for it though.

Carol said...

Thanks for such a practical post on this Tammy - especially the bit about the parent doing 6 months of the language before trying to teach it! Makes so much sense. My biggest problem was deciding which language to learn. We've been doing French but Italian would have been a better choice because I grew up surrounded by people who spoke it and it, it's harder to find resources for it though.

Lanaya said...

It's good to hear how you do Spanish for a class kids. Foreign language baffles me. But we do our best and I'm hoping my kids will at least have some recognition and appreciation. Songs and games are a great idea too.

Celeste said...

Thanks for the link to the Partington article. I agree with you about Gouin--his principles matter more than his method (though they cannot be completely separated). The programmes from the years just after the translation of Gouin's work into English actually do include several Gouin series per term for the early forms. But yes, they shift away from his work later on, and he was never used solo--always as one exercise among many in the classroom. I actually think that Gouin series add a lot to our coursework, so we're using some Gouin series in addition to all the other recommendations I found in the PR articles: picture narrations, rhymes, songs, plays, and whatnot. It's really nice to see what others are doing!