To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth- Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. Proverbs 1:2-6

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Foreign Language Learning Programs

I’m researching foreign language learning curricula for my soon to be first grader. We have dabbled in French and Italian, via free language apps, youtube videos, and google translate. When I start out a new language I like to personalize it for us, so I find out how to say the things we normally say so we all can start speaking that language from day one. With that, we already know how to say things like, “good morning”, “good night”, “please”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, “clean your room”, “may I have...”, “I would like...”, etc. I need a bit more structure though for something we will be doing as part of our homeschool day. I don’t know enough of any language to wing it much more than I already have. So, back to my research. My goal is to gain fluency, not just vocabulary. I want us (notice I said us, I’m learning right along with my children!) to learn to speak it and be able to converse with native speakers about a variety of subjects. I don’t expect us to necessarily be able to speak WELL, but definitely with confidence. I hope to be able to switch after a couple years of using programs designed for foreign language acquisition to programs used for first language proficiency. In other words, I want to get us up to a level to be able to use the same language arts materials native speakers use to learn their own language. So, by the time my now 6 year old is 7 or 8, I want her (and the rest of us!) to have the same level of fluency and understanding of an average native 5 year old who is just entering school. From what I’ve seen around the web this would 1,000-5,000 words, I expect that I will need to supplement any of these materials with our own lists of vocabulary, like one of Usborn Book’s First Thousand Words books. But as long as the program has a good solid foundation I don’t think that will be an issue, right? I don’t expect us to sound like adults, and know as much as an adult, just a native kindergartener. Now I know this will likely change a bit with the other languages as they are added in, but for now I’m just going to focus on our Italian goals as they stand now.

Because I know how we learn, what works for us right now, and our goals, this is what I am looking for in a program.

-          -Audio done by native speakers
-          -Good use of phrases, not just single words
-          -A script to follow along (this is more for me)
-          -Workbook
-          -Some sort of teachers guide (this might be in with the script)
-          -Physical products, I’m not interested in something that is 100% online or 100% on DVDs)
-          -Bonus if it includes songs and games to do with the kids

Basically, I want all styles of learning involved (auditory, visual, kenesthetic) because I believe that that will help us get the most out of the program.

I am also specifically looking for Italian so my research will be geared toward that. If I like the program that we ultimately choose then we may get another version of it in the other languages that we are interested in learning in the future. For us that would be French, German, and Russian. I haven’t seen a lot of Russian curricula so I’m sure that when it comes time for that I’ll have to start my search all over again. French and German are common enough, though, that I might just be able to find one program in all three languages.

From what I have found so far, these programs fit what I am looking for:

Professor Toto
Comes in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, English

Comes in Italian, English, French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese
The full program with physical products to learn with is available on Amazon, but it appears to not be the new and improved animation, which doesn’t really bother me. Also, the older version has more languages available, like German and Russian.

Dino Lingo
Comes in so many languages that I’m not going to even attempt to write them all out here. If you are interested just click the link. ;)

Hocus and Lotus
This website is in Italian and from what I gather might be what I am looking for after I finish either Professor Toto or Muzzy.

I am including this only because it has French, German, and Russian. It’s doesn’t have Italian so I’m not going to consider it for now, but I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t save it somewhere I absolutely will forget it! It has a lot of computer games and activities to reinforce learning so it looks like something the kids would enjoy when they are a little bit older and more able to work and study independently. The website says it’ll introduce 500 new words, so I’d definitely need to supplement to us up to at least 1,000 words.

I have read a few reviews of each, but man it would be nice if I was given a real bonifide sample to thumb through. I know a lot of them offer a free video clip to watch, or maybe something you can print out, but I want to see what the real deal looks and feels like.

As it stands right now, I’m leaning toward Professor Toto. When I do settle on a program and start working in it I'll update with another post about exactly how we use it and any supplements.

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