I am often asked about how to accomplish immersion in order to better learn a foreign language. Immersion is the best way to learn a language but few of us have the time to go to a foreign country for six months. How then do we create a language-rich environment in our own homes? The following is a list of things that will help start you on your way:
- listening to native speakers in their language
- trying out your speaking: even if this is very limited. My programs contain lists of Everyday Vocabulary. Start with this list and use the word in proper context.
- feedback from a native speaker: this might be more difficult for some, but if there is a phrase that you have been practicing and you know a native speaker, then try it out on them. Most native speakers will be happy that you are making the effort.
- learn foreign songs: learning songs is sometimes easier then full sentences when you are starting out. I often tell homeschoolers to make personal copies of the CDs and put them on while you are traveling. You can also put on the CD while your family is doing housework.
Please remember that learning vocabulary is only part of learning the language. Programs that are heavy on vocabulary are missing vital elements of foreign language learning. All aspects of the language are important. A good foreign language program should include the following: grammar, syntax, orthography, phonetics, vocabulary, and culture. Now you might think that culture is not a necessary element in foreign language learning, but language is only part of the way we communicate. Understanding the people, what is important in their lives, and how they relate to each other is all part of being able to make a connection.
Listening to native speakers is so important that if you do not include it, you will never be able to understand native speakers in a conversational setting.
How can I listen to a native speaker?
One fun way to accomplish this task is to take a movie that you are familiar with in English. Put it on in the language you are learning with the same language as sub-titles. For example, putting the movie on with a Spanish audio track and English sub-titles won't do much good. Your brain will tune out the Spanish, enjoy the movie via the subtitles, and there will be little language learning. If you are listening and watching the Spanish words, however, you will get the most benefit. Remember you should have basic comprehension because you have already listened to the movie in English.
Feedback from a native speaker while using a solid foreign language program:
How do we find feedback?
One idea is to join or start a language club. Another suggestion is to start or join a Co-op that includes a foreign language component. Many co-ops are hiring native speaking instructors for feedback.
The creation of language in both spoken and written form is a necessary component of learning a language. How to you accomplish this? Here are some suggestions:
- This is the perfect time to find a native speaker to correct those sentences (or paragraphs) and give your child(ren) feedback about where the errors are occurring.
- Read in the language you are learning. Create a Language Lab station in your home by obtaining the recorded stories from your local library. There are many audio books available. If there are words that you do not understand, they can be looked it up in the dictionary. As homeschoolers we can treat the exercise as a mystery to solve; you will be surprised at how motivated your student will be. After listening to the audio a couple of times, read the page and then listen again. This will give you the type of immediate feedback that is needed to learn the language. Encourage your student to start reading an easy version of the Bible. The book of John usually has the easiest vocabulary.
- Create Themes in your home
- choose one theme per week and integrate it into your other homeschooling subjects. For example, if you are studying how to tell time, then look up time in French.
- choose a room, look up words and put up post-it notes on the items in the room; try to use everyday vocabulary and include those words
- choose cultural dishes for a special meal and try to only speak that language during the meal; you could write out cue cards for different expressions.
- choose idioms and decide to learn one per week. Remember to learn the exact meaning and the thought behind the expression. All of my textbooks are filled with idioms you can use.
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