Friday, May 2, 2014

Foreign Language

A Charlotte Mason education includes learning foreign languages. Not one or two. Students in Parents' Union schools learned four: French, German, Latin, and conversational Italian.

Children began with French. Approximately 29% of English comes from French! (Another 29% comes from Latin; 26% comes from Germanic languages; only 6% comes from Greek; the remaining percentage comes from other languages.)

When William the Conqueror took the throne in 1066, French became the language of the English court. For 300 years after, England's aristocracy spoke French. While the peasants spoke English, and talked about day to day living (food, drink, work, and play), the aristocrats parlaient en français about court, government, fashion, art, and architecture.

"By the late twelfth century some Norman children were having to be taught French before they could be sent away to school... By the end of the fourteenth century Oxford University introduced a statute ordering that students be taught at least partly in French 'lest the French language be entirely disused.'"  
- Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way.

I took French in high school and did well. I even got awarded Foreign Language Student of the Month! But, because I wanted to fit four years of drama into my schedule, as well as be off campus tutoring elementary schoolers two periods a day during my junior and senior years, I couldn't fit more foreign language into my 4-year plan... which turned into a 3 1/2 year plan. (I was also of the mind that - because I only needed two years of foreign language to meet the California State University admissions requirement - I didn't need to take more French.)

But French is not the first language we've chosen for our daughter. We've chosen Spanish. 


1)We live in Southern California and a large number of Spanish-speakers live here. Being able to speak Spanish here is useful.

2)Daddy's first language was Spanish.

3)I want my daughter to have a linguistic connection to her grandparents. My father's parents were Armenian immigrants, and I never learned to speak Armenian. Though I was very connected to my grandmother, I always felt that not being able to speak her language separated us.

4)I took two semesters of Spanish in college. I could have taken Armenian - it was offered - but I felt intimidated by its alphabet and its sounds. The language has sounds I can't make and sounds I can't distinguish. Spanish was practical, and like English, it has a Latin alphabet.

When looking at the programmes from the Parents' Union schools, scheduling for multiple languages looks manageable.

After three years of French, students in Parents' Union schools added German. Three years after that, they added Latin. And a year after that, they were encouraged to substitute conversational Italian for German. (Writing original compositions in foreign languages did not begin until 10th grade.)

My interpretation, based on Parents' Union programmes:

Grades 1-3
FL #1
Speaking & Listening
Listening Comprehension, Copywork, Songs, Poetry Recitation
Reading focus continued,
add grammar
Reading focus and grammar continued
Writing focus
FL #2/#4
Speaking & Listening
Listening Comprehension, Copywork, Songs, Poetry Recitation
Continue with FL #2 (Reading) OR Begin FL #4 (Focus: Conver-sational)
Continue with FL #2 (Focus: Writing) OR FL #4 (Focus: Conver-sational)
3 lessons per term
3 lessons per term
3 lessons per term

This is doable.

My Armenian grandfather was able to communicate in more than half a dozen languages (English, Armenian, Russian, Turkish, German, Polish, Azerbaijani), and Dad says Grandpa had some understanding of Czech, Slovakian, Ukrainian, Romanian, and Bulgarian!

My mom, who in college was a linguistics major, studied French and German. Now, retired from her career as a graphic artist, she studies Croatian, Russian, Arabic, Mandarin, and Hebrew. (Whereas I am intimidated by non-Latin alphabets, my mother can't get enough of them.)

My homeschooled cousin studies Armenian, Spanish, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek!

Nos vemos mañana. Es la hora de la cena.

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