We are often asked about parental involvement when children want to tackle a new language. Most often parents do not know the new target language themselves, and they feel at a total loss knowing what to do. How can they help their kids find the confidence they need to master a new language? We recommend keeping these five ideas in mind.
a) Pick an excellent language program, one grounded in everyday vocabulary, essential grammar, and a window into new cultures. Be certain that the program moves at a reasonable pace, one that allows your child to master new material while not having to spend an entire year speaking only in the present tense! I have always felt that programs that have a student speak only in the present tense for an entire year is a type of torture! Kids are eager to talk about what happened yesterday, last week or even last year.
b) Provide the structure that your child needs to succeed. A good first-year course will introduce students to the present tense, some past tenses and a way to talk about the future. For most high school students, a beginning level program should be finished in one year. For middle school students, they may want to spread a beginning course over two years. Help your child map out a plan of attack. Find a program that guides you, as a parent, to helping your child find a suitable pace. Make a calendar of homework and assessments, being certain your child sticks to it. Check in with them. Ask them to show you their homework.
c) Use a program where children can check their answers immediately! When little children learn a language, parents are right at their side modeling new vocabulary and helping kids learn immediately. If kids have a question, it is answered on the spot! When learning a new language, students should be able to check each answer immediately, whether with a written answer key, or, if online, by clicking on a button to see a correct answer. IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK helps a student tremendously. Even if they get something wrong, a correct answer will help them succeed on the following question. In addition, a parent can help their children by grading chapter tests using an answer key provided by the program.
d) Find some way for students to practice aloud with a native /fluent speaker. Even if it is only for 10 minutes a week, some conversational practice helps students connect their studies with real life communication. There is nothing better! Perhaps a neighbor? A friend? A friend of a friend? By Zoom. By phone. In person. There are also some wonderful programs, such as Time2Talk, where students can speak for as many minutes as desired, for a very reasonable price, with a native speaker. Breaking the Barrier has recently partnered with Time2Talk to offer conversation coaching for Spanish.
e) Consider learning a new language yourself. Taking the leap yourself as a parent shows your children that you, too, are willing to walk the path alongside them. Families learning together often find out how much fun it can be to speak a new language. I have always felt that learning a new language can make someone feel vulnerable. The ability to speak a new tongue that is understood by others allows you to share your thoughts, feelings and dreams. At the beginning, one can feel frustrated. Yet, working together can reap rich rewards: a built-in support system for the challenges as well as a built-in place for the joys of making progress together.
We want to thank our friends at Breaking the Barrier for sharing with us today.
John Conner is the Founder, Author and Series Editor of the Breaking the Barrier series and has taught Spanish for 40+ years. Breaking the Barrier provides a print/digital curriculum that serves the needs of a variety of homeschool learners in different settings. Homeschoolers across the country have embraced Breaking the Barrier for its standards-based curriculum for middle and high school students who earn course credits. Learners can access native Spanish-speaking conversation coaches through a mobile phone app providing invaluable on-demand live speaking and listening practice.
If you are interested in adding Breaking the Barrier curriculum to your classroom, now is a great time to do so. Ending today, 8/31, you can save up to 25% on Breaking the Barrier at the Homeschool Buyers Club!