Foreign Languages for Homeschoolers
1. The Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone offers a unique system called Dynamic Immersion that actually makes learning a language fun. Rosetta Stone's interactive software program features small groups of colorful photos illustrating people engaged in different activities. When the image is highlighted, each photo provides a written and spoken description (in the studied language). In the next frame, the descriptions are removed, and the goal is to match the spoken and written phrases with the appropriate photo. Correct answers are indicated with a bright check mark, then the student progresses to a new set of photos. Twenty-four languages are currently offered.
My kids, aged 13 and 8, loved this program. (I have to confess, I continued to play on it long after they were in bed.) I was amazed how quickly we learned new words and phrases. The game became progressively more complex as elements of grammar, sentence structure, and new pronunciations were introduced. Kids 6 to 8 may need adult assistance; those 9 and older can study independently. Rosetta Stone's Level I program is equivalent to 2 years of a high-school language course and meets nationwide requirements for language study. Depending on the course selection, costs run from $24.99 to $195.00. When ordering, be sure to mention you homeschool -- you'll receive a stand-alone classroom edition (student workbook, study guide, teacher's guide, answer key, and manual) for the same price as the personal edition -- a substantial savings!
Power-Glide offers two editions: Children's (pre-K through fourth grade) and Standard (fifth grade and higher). The Children's Edition may be used for very young kids who wish to learn a new language. (My eight-year-old thought it was too easy.) Kids listen to a loosely structured story on audio CDs or tapes while writing or coloring in the program's workbook. A helpful parent's guide is included. The children's edition is offered in Spanish, French, German, and Latin.
The Standard Edition consists primarily of a series of audio CDs or tapes that describe an adventure taken by a group of secret agents on a remote island. The listener follows along with a comprehensive workbook. Periodically, indicators instruct the listener to pause the tape and read or review a portion of the workbook. As the story progresses, more of the targeted language is utilized, and more complex concepts are developed. You'll find Spanish, French, German, Latin, Russian, and Japanese in the Standard Edition. Power-Glide is a nice deviation from the traditional drill-and-kill method of language study, and my 13-year-old likes to listen to it at night in her room. Depending on the course you choose, costs run from $79.95 to $159.95.
3. The Learnables
Homeschool families have been praising The Learnables no-nonsense approach to foreign-language education for 25 years. Designed for kids as young as 7, the beginning program consists of two books: Lesson Book 1 ($49) and Basic Structures Book 1 ($49).
Lesson Book 1 consists of ten picture lessons with five accompanying audiocassettes. Students looks at hundreds of pictures and listens to tape recordings of words and simple sentences by native speakers. After completing this book, the student moves on to Basic Structures Book 1, which introduces reading and additional vocabulary, following the picture lessons and cassette method. These two components are considered one level.
There are four levels, each equivalent to approximately one year of a high-school language. Because of the comprehensive nature of this program, the fourth level is equivalent to one year of college study. Available in Spanish, French, German, Russian, and English in both beginner and advanced programs, and beginner only for Chinese, Hebrew, Czech, and Japanese.
Because Latin is so popular with homeschoolers, here are three highly recommended Latin programs:
Learning a new language is fun, but as time goes by, it can be a challenge for parents to keep their kids motivated. If you're lucky enough to find a good teacher, you can easily enhance the lessons with games or listening to a language tape in the car. If your kids are totally self-taught, you may want to try learning along with your child or supplementing your studies with additional language-education materials.
Calliope Books (Rte 3, Box 3395, Saylorsburg, PA, 18353; 610-381-2587) provides high-quality foreign-language materials for all ages and abilities in over 30 languages. Calliope's owner, a homeschool mom, offers very friendly, personalized service and will recommend inexpensive, practical language resources to fit your specific needs.
One of the most amazing resources for foreign-language education is Audio-Forum, where you'll find 285 courses in 103 languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu, including a large selection of courses and cultural materials for Native American languages. Besides books and tapes, there are games, videos, feature films, and more -- in 103 languages!
For the homeschooled students I know, foreign-language education is an enjoyable pursuit. Clubs or classes, supplemented with self-teaching materials, are helping kids learn new languages effortlessly (well, almost!). Now if someone will just lend me their villa in the South of France so we can work on our French pronunciation ....
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