Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tackling the Foreign Language Requirement

You are probably planning (or will get to it within the next few months) your subjects for the coming school year. Now is a great time to give some thought to foreign language requirements. “What? Is it necessary to include a foreign language in my child’s home education?”  Glad you asked! Foreign language classes are often required in college and are a requirement for graduation from all high schools when students are on the college prep track. Quoting the South Carolina Department of Education’s website: “For a student in a College Prep program to meet the state high school diploma requirements, one unit must be earned in a foreign language (most four-year colleges/universities require at least two years of the same foreign language).”

Did you study a foreign language in school? If you didn’t, you may feel woefully inept as a teacher. If you did, you still may face the idea of teaching a new language with fear and trembling. However, if there is the slightest chance that your child(ren) will be attending college, they need to study a foreign language for a minimum of one year. Even if they are not, studying a foreign language can be beneficial.

Reasons to include a foreign language in your homeschool are as follows:
  • It’s good brain exercise.
  • It gives you the ability to communicate with more people in your community and around the world. Anyone headed to a mission field where English isn’t the primary language must learn the native tongue!
  • It can give you an advantage when competing in the job market. (I landed one of my past jobs because of my background in Spanish. Spanish cinched it for me during the interview; I was offered the job then and there!)
Studies have shown that it’s easier to learn a language earlier in life. Introducing a language in early elementary years is a good idea. You as the teacher don’t have to do anything difficult at that age. There are lots of DVDs, videos, CD-ROMs, and audiotapes with books for young children. You may be able to borrow some of these materials from your local library. Your students can learn fun little songs in the new language. You don’t have to include it as another subject at that age. It doesn’t need to be turned into “work.” It can be fun!

By high school, you will need a curriculum complete with tests and conversation possibilities. It’s nearly impossible to learn a language without practice speaking it! Some homeschool co-ops offer classes in a foreign language. A number of presses (homeschool and otherwise) offer foreign language courses. These will mainly be on CD-ROMs, DVDs, or satellite programs. A sampling is as follows:

Rosetta Stone
Alpha Omega Switched on Schoolhouse
The Learnables from Sonlight Press
Power-Glide
Abeka
BJU Press
Standard Deviants (supplementary)

By the way, many homeschoolers choose sign language as a foreign language for high school. This option has special ministry possibilities. However, if a foreign language is required for your student’s college degree of choice, he or she needs to choose a spoken foreign language for high school. If a person hasn’t been exposed to a foreign language by the time the college class rolls around, he or she is practically doomed to fail college level foreign language courses. I saw it happen to classmates. College level language classes are extremely difficult. I believe my own success in college Spanish courses can be attributed to my exposure to Spanish in third grade as well as several years in high school. Even with prior experience, Spanish Lit, taught completely in Spanish, was rough!

Typical languages offered are Spanish, French, and German. Latin is another possibility. Several companies offer even more choices, such as Russian, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Japanese, Thai, and Swahili! See if you can obtain a Bible in the chosen language. It can be fun to learn memory verses in another language!

Feliz escuela del hogar!
(Happy homeschooling!)

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