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How to Bolster Budding Language Skills

Rather than a school-based program, you can introduce Claudia to a foreign language at home. It might be easier than you think, particularly if you pick a language that holds special meaning for your family. If, however, she shows an interest in learning a totally new foreign language, that's prime time for learning a new language together. And for finding a book she won't mind reading once she gets to first grade!

Start by taking yourself to the library or your neighborhood bookstore to look for books, cassettes, videos, or CDs, or on the Internet to help you teach a foreign language to kids like Claudia, aged 4-8. The following are excellent examples of many on the market:

  1. Learn Italian Together: An Activity Kit for Kids and Grown-Ups, Ages 4-8 by Marie-Claire Antoine, published by Living Language. Package containing an activity book, cassette, and learning stickers. A teacher's guide is also available.

  2. Berlitz for Travelers. Cassette series recommended by FLEX teachers for helping teachers and parents learn proper pronunciation. Berlitz Multimedia Publishing.

  3. Picture Word Book. Versions in English, French, Hebrew, German, Italian, and Spanish. Dover Publications, Inc.

  4. All-in-One Language Fun! CD-ROM for ages 3-12 which uses native speakers and colorful graphics but no reading, writing, or spelling. Syracuse Language Systems at 800-797-5264.

  5. Romance Language Resource Page. University of Chicago program using native speakers to teach samplings of French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish at www.humanities.uchicago.edu/humanities.
When you work on a foreign language with kindergarten students like Claudia, use a popular foreign language instructional method called Total Physical Response (TPR). Its multisensory approach responds well to the needs of a broad range of learning styles and differences.

In the TPR method, listening is what promotes language acquisition, and it must precede speaking. In other words, you do the speaking and she does the listening, at first. But don't let the phonics of a new language make you cranky either. Show Claudia that listening, mimicking, and practicing soothes even the wildest and strangest new letter combinations. Let her respond at her own pace.

Rely on familiar objects and experiences in your work together. Incorporate short lessons (10-20 minutes) into her normal routine several times a week. For example, play language games when you're driving together to the supermarket or at bedtime.

From Teacher Says by Evelyn Porreca Vuko. Copyright © 2004. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, visit amazon.com or click on the book cover.


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