The Easy French
The Easy French
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Frequency was also to be used in carrying words to future lessons. For example, the words used in Lesson 1 were carried through and used as needed in further lessons, thus building on their necessity, worth, and logical connection. This also helped the student to understand the words in different contexts. The repetition of the sounds and their linkage enables the student to feel safe in this repetition of subjects and complements. It allows for a more natural experience, experiential learning, and places the memory under more advantageous conditions.

This repetition was to be done with less bridging from the original language in order to facilitate thinking in the foreign language. There is also a further step. Once the word or phrase has been understood, it must be conquered. Our minds must incubate this knowledge. To take possession of knowledge is to make it pass through successively by way of the senses. The activities and exercises we do must be more than mere book work.

One of the first conditions or prerequisites for comprising a series is to have lived it. Monsieur Gouin believed that the experience was far more important than just learning words or grammar. In this the student must experience the action himself or hear of the action in story form. This in reality is very central to the Charlotte Mason Method.

Monsieur Gouin states, "Obedient, therefore, to the participation of nature, we will begin, like her, by entrusting the language lesson to the ear." (page 129). And again on pages 133-134 he states:

"Before everything else, it must be understood that the eye and the hand only take possession of the exercise after the ear has entirely conquered it for itself and transmitted it to the mind. Indeed, change the order, and begin by the writing, or even, by the reading lesson, as is now everywhere done, and the lesson ceases to be fruitful. The pupil no longer thinks - he translates; he no longer assimilates - he dwells upon the written word, the written line. The visualizing faculty is no longer brought into play to look at the fact itself taking place before it, but is content to notice the place of the expressions is to be seen on one page or over-leaf, at the top of the page, or at the bottom, or in the middle. What is the consequence? The consequence is that the lesson now only yields the fruits we know of old. The child leaves the morsel of intellectual food which he has been able for one brief instant to separate by the reading, carelessly to fall back into the book; giving it back faithfully to the book, instead of seeking to wrest in therefrom. Truly there is little profit in such morsels."

He further elaborates that children need to listen to lessons before they do exercises, write sentences or work on grammar. He stresses the importance of the ear before all other senses. Many believe that because they have visual learners they need a highly visual program, but in reality these learners are best at expressing themselves visually. Even if they are drawn to colorful medium, it is the act of the mind, through the ear, that allows them to express themselves visually. Their creative juices are most activated by hearing great stories that they may act out or draw, and not when all the work is done for them by giving them elaborate pictures.

If we choose this approach something amazing happens - the child begins to speak the words within his own world. As Monsieur Gouin writes on page 140, "when the spring is abundant it will flow of itself, and the liquid supplied by it will have the advantage of being pure." Allowing the child to hear the sounds without the contamination of many exercises produces such a pure accent. Activities, not exercises, should be our first tool.

When a child is learning words and phrases, asking the child to memorize and spell those words will interrupt the natural way they learn. If they instead experience the sounds of the language, working with these sounds in context, then reading and spelling will develop instead of being forced from the child.

His discussion on grammar compares programs built on grammar and those with no grammar. He states that neither one of these methods work. Grammar is taught much the same way that vocabulary is taught. First it is modeled, then experimented with, and finally slowly introduced as the child is finished building the foundation. Monsieur Gouin calls this method "an infinitely less painful labor." What more could a mother ask for?

Monsieur Gouin talks about the gravest of errors that are done in foreign language training. This is the omission of logical observation. He felt that these observations concerning grammar should be made and pointed out to the student. He suggested giving the dosage as needed and not as a neo-Humanist would - in one fell swoop.

In his discussion of sentence structure, Monsieur Gouin compares Latin, French, English and German. Latin phrases are constructed differently in form than French or English, and the German phrase differently than either of these two types. Someone who has spoken only French or English is incapable of constructing properly a single phrase in either Latin or German, even if they possess all of the elements of those languages. With the learning of our mother tongue we have learned the construction directly while learning to think, and we apply it intuitively. Caution is given in learning Latin and German using our sentence constructions. The use of the verb as central is then in order. Allow me to explain.

Monsieur Gouin desired to construct a language learning model that could cross over into any language, and as such, with the sentence construction being different in certain languages he suggested that the verb be the starting point. If your mother tongue is English and you are teaching your child either French or Spanish then this will not be an issue. If you choose to teach Latin or German than teaching from the verb will be vital. Miss Mason knew the basis of Monsieur Gouin's theory as evidenced in her "Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six." She writes:

16. to name 20 common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences
17. to sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song

If she had thought that Monsieur Gouin was insistent on starting with the verb for every language, then number 16 would read "name 20 common verbs." Charlotte Mason, in her wisdom, always examined the whys of a theory and measured them to the child's abilities and best interest.

Monsieur Gouin suggested the inclusion of drawing as a means for children to transfer what they had learned into the concrete. On page 293 he states, "Language and drawing are two revelations of Nature which cannot do otherwise than complete each other without even contracting each other." A foreign language with this element would then be in order and most welcome by all learners, but especially the visual learner.

Charlotte Mason suggested learning French first. Some have suggested that this was due to her living in England and being influenced by her French neighbors. I believe that Miss Mason was influenced more by her evaluations than geography. Since English was and is the most spoken language and French is the second, then choosing French would be a logical decision. As Charlotte Mason was an astute observer she would have also noticed that children have more of an ability to learn languages. She might not have known about frequency bands, but surely knew that children need to be exposed to these foreign sounds and the younger the better. For modern technology and the theories of sound tell us that a human's ear gets closed to certain frequencies we do not use. The younger the child, the easier it will be to pick up these foreign sounds.

Interestingly, French is a harder language to learn for sound then Spanish because French frequency bands run from 100 Hz to 2000 Hz, while English runs from 2000-12,000 Hz and Spanish runs at 125 Hz to 750 Hz. Spanish is easier to learn due to its shorter frequency bands. I believe that Miss Mason would have observed this phenomena and this could have very well played into her decision to suggest learning French first. Since the child's frequency bands close as the child gets older, the harder language should be tackled first. To clarify, French is harder for its sounds, but Spanish is harder for its grammar. This could also be a reason why Charlotte Mason would suggest learning French first. Since a child is naturally wired for sounds and not for grammar, French would be an easier second language. Once the child has learned French, Spanish would come more quickly because the child now has two grammar structures to build on. Significantly, they also would have already trained their ears for the necessary frequencies since the entire Spanish frequency band sits entirely within the French frequency band.

Monsieur Gouin states that series need to be written with the particular audience in mind. He likens this to a suit that is tailor made; only this type of suit fits the best. As Monsieur Gouin desired, I have done. I have written and developed a well tailored and fitted suit for you and your children. This suit fits into the homeschooling life, it does not strain or bind, but breathes with you and your children.

Allow me to leave you with this quote from Charlotte Mason:

"The French Lesson. -- The daily French lesson is that which should not be omitted. That children should learn French orally, by listening to and repeating French words and phrases; that they should begin so young that the difference of accent does not strike them, but they repeat the new French word all the same as if it were English and use it as freely; that they should learn a few -- two or three, five or six -- new French words daily, and that, at the same time, the old words should be kept in use -- are points to be considered more fully hereafter: in the meantime, it is so important to keep tongue and ear familiar with French vocables, that not a lesson should be omitted. The French lesson may, however, be made to fit in with the spirit of the other out-of-door occupations; the half-dozen words may be the parts -- leaves, branches, bark, trunk of a tree, or the colours of the flowers, or the movements of bird, cloud, lamb, child; in fact, the new French words should be but another form of expression for the ideas that for the time fill the child's mind." (Vol.1, pg.80-81)

note: this is part 2 of 2. Have you read Part 1?

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