Teaching French or Spanish when you don't speak the language?
It's the most common question we run into when speaking with people at conventions. You want to teach your kids French or Spanish, but you either don't speak the language or haven't for years. What do you do? Of course The Easy French and the The Easy Spanish, like most foreign language curriculum, comes with audio to help with that. Slowly spoken, clearly enunciated, high quality recordings by Native French or Spanish speakers. But we take it a step further!
Let's take a look at the first few lines of the Lesson 1 story from The Easy French level 1:
Prepare your child(ren) before the audio by telling them that they are going to be listening to two characters talking. One is a little girl and the other is her cat. Ask them to listen and try to figure out who is talking. Tell them that there will be some French words in the story and you will have to try to figure out what they are saying by what is going on in the story.
Listen to the audio and follow along.
Marie: Je m'appelle Marie.
Chérie: And my name is Chérie.
Marie: I am a little girl.
Chérie: Et je suis un petit chaton.
Marie: Chérie is my little kitten.
Did you have any trouble following what the characters were saying? It was pretty obvious who was the girl, who was the kitten, and what their names were just from the context of the conversation. Even if you don't speak French at all, you would be easily able to follow that conversation, and gain that context, due to what we refer to as the French (or Spanish) Weave technique.
French and Spanish Weave
This is exactly what it sounds like - as you saw, French and English are interspersed (or weaved together) throughout the conversation. This makes it easy for English speakers to follow the conversation. But it's about more than understanding the context. When an English speaker hears French or Spanish being spoken, the brains inclination is to discard it as background noise. In fact, the language centers of the brain aren't even activated without a conscious, deliberate intention on the listeners part to try and interpret the "noise" as language. This can certainly be done, but by including English components we can trick the brain into perceiving the entire story as language, even if some of the French words aren't already known. This is a powerful technique to help accelerate initial learning, and reduce frustration on the part of the learner.
In the beginning there's a fair amount of English within the stories. As you move on, there will be progressively less and less English.
In addition, did you notice the different characters voices were coming from different stereo channels (this is more obvious with headphones or external PC speakers)? And that there were different voice actors speaking their parts? More complex stories further along in the program can include more than two characters, and will use these same techniques. Different actors for different characters, and the audio will be mixed in a way that every character sounds like they're in a different position in the room. These form additional cues to help the learner differentiate which character is currently speaking. Which helps them to follow along visually with the written story, avoiding the frustration of losing your place
You must have noticed the tiny pictures of the characters at the start of each line. While this is mostly for the benefit of younger learners (these pictures aren't incorporated in the Level 2 programs), it's one more thing to help learners of all ages easily keep track of where they are in the story as the audio is playing. In addition to the pictures, did you notice that the French words are italicized? Again, more cues to keep on track and eliminate frustration. After all, the goal here is to keep this fun and easy to help our students stay engaged!
Relevant, fun stories
Finally, every lesson in all our programs revolve around homeschooled kids doing fun and interesting things. Whether that's just being playful and joking around with each other, or going on an international adventure, your students won't be bored. Who wants to sit and be drilled on every word you might possibly hear while at the dentist (that pun May have been slightly intended) or similar material suitable for falling asleep to? Our goal with The Easy French and The Easy Spanish is to reinforce the idea that French and Spanish learning is fun, and something your kids can and will want to do!
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If you've been searching for an easy to use French curriculum or Spanish curriculm that anyone can use, whether they have any French/Spanish background or not, then your search is over!