Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Breaking It Down- Foreign Language

Teaching foreign languages has changed along with technology. is a free, online program to learn a number of different languages. Each person can set up their own account and the program keeps track of their progress.

Rosetta Stone, the Cadillac of language programs, is now online too. It is a wonderful program, but it is also expensive.

You can set Netflex to play movies in different languages, or just have subtitles in a different language (or English while the movie plays in Spanish, for example). Watch a movie a couple times in English, then watch it in the language of your choice.

Pretty simple.

Easy Peasy has links to many online programs on their sidebar under "Foreign language." These are all free.

There are several good language programs out there, if you want something more formal. 

Power Glide has upgraded to CD's (from the tapes they used when I bought them) and cover several languages. They teach by telling a story that is gradually in more and more of the chosen language. This is a very natural way to learn.
Latin programs out there. I have used the Latin Primer and Power Glide’s Latin. 

Latina Christiana sounds very good also. Arties Latinae is the best on the market, but it is expensive. 

If you don't want to use a formal program, you can begin by looking up words you run across every day and finding their origin. 

The word reject, for example, comes from the Latin roots re (back, again) and jactum (throw) meaning throw back. Object (ob=against, jactum=throw) means to throw against. Eject (e=out) means to throw out).

A dictionary, your library, or of course Google should have resources that can tell you some basic roots in Greek as well as Latin. 

Play with them with your children. Make up new words; photophilliac= lover of light, metropetra= measuring rock (What? it doesn’t really have to make a lot of sense. Your children will remember it better if it doesn’t.) Telebios=life far away. 

A good resource I have found for this is English from the roots up. It is a list of 100 Greek and Latin root words with sample derivatives. I have the child assigned to the book for the year write one word a day, plus its definition.

If you simply can’t afford or find enough resources to get started in Latin, have used everything you can find and are at a stale mate, or have a compelling reason to learn a different language (your father is Spanish and you want your children to be able to speak to him or you are going to China as missionaries), there are ways to go about accomplishing this.

YouTube has some instructional videos.

One woman I know let her children watch a certain Disney movie until they had it memorized. Then she checked out the Spanish version from the library (I am sure Netflex would have it too.) Because they already knew what all the characters were saying, they picked up the Spanish easily and naturally. They then would watch Spanish TV. The same can be done with books (how about The Cat in the Hat in Latin or Spanish? My library has them!) or maybe attend a church of the same faith as yours but that speaks a different language (Spanish, Vietnamese, even a deaf church)?

Look for families that speak other languages and get to know them. Or if you can afford it, hire help (a maid, cook, gardener) that speaks a different language and learn from them.Or volunteer as a family to help someone of a different language work in their yard or clean their house.

You might be able to exchange help; you speak only Laotian to them and they speak only English to you. You both improve in your second tongue.

Buy a Greek interlinear Bible (or check the internet). These have the Greek scripture with the exact English written underneath.This is how Mr Bowditch, famous navigator, learned many, many languages, simply reading the Bible in the new language of his choice.

Have John 3:16 memorized? Learn it in Greek! (For languages such as Greek that use a different alphabet, you need to find resources that teach their “ABC’s” to you. The Bluedorns at have several resources for Greek, Hebrew and Latin, the most important languages for Bible study.)

We have studied six different languages; English, sign language, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Spanish.

No, I am not a super mom. In fact, the only language I come close to “speaking,” besides English, is sign language. (I taught it to myself in high school and took a class at a junior college as an adult) I have already explained how we are studying those two under the Bible study and Language arts sections.

For Hebrew, we have gone through the alphabet, one letter per day, each making a list for ourselves of the letters. Then we made an ABC (or אבג ) book for a “little one.” When we were done with that we would spell English words with the Hebrew alphabet. Since I have a Strong’s Concordance that gives the original Hebrew and Greek words for every word in the Bible, we could at some time make children’s books with Hebrew words we find in it (They will contain just simple nouns such as dog, bear, boy).

I took a year of Spanish in high school, so sometimes when I am reading a book to the children that I have read 3000 times before I spice it up by using Spanish words instead of English anytime I can; “We looked and we saw him, El gato en el sombrero!” I speak to them in Spanish whenever I remember to and know the words, (“Buenos días, hijo. ¿cómo estás? Come into la cocina and help sustantivo desayuno.”)

Did you know that Microsoft Word has a feature that will translate from one language to another? Hmmm. I could write notes to the children and they would have to look them up in the Spanish-English dictionary we bought at the library sale for $.50 to translate them. I could write a story and change its language. So many possibilities!

Of course, I suspect the best “Spanish program” we will ever use is marrying my brother off to a Spanish emigrant. We are all already picking up more Spanish just trying to talk to Tia Mari.

We started with the alphabet the most different from ours because I kept getting confused when I tried learning the Latin alphabet. My resources say it is better for the children to start with the ABC closest to their native tongue, but mine are doing better this way. But then they really like secret codes and mysteries.

All of this takes less than fifteen minutes per day. My children are not going to be language scholars when they graduate, but this is all I can do at this time. Good enough really is good enough.

I also printed various ABC's, framed them, and hung them on our family bathroom wall when I redecorated. Captive audience.

Sometimes, I have been known to wait on a subject until I could find the “perfect” curriculum. Know what? There is no perfect curriculum. Nor can I be a perfect teacher. I am not perfect. Jesus is perfect, but He is not teaching my children Hebrew (directly, anyway). I have come to the conclusion that it is better for me to do it imperfectly than not to do it at all. As long as we are learning, we are OK. It is better than nothing and far better than most children have. My children will have enough of a foundation to study what ever they want to as adults and they will be able to understand more than if we did nothing. They won’t be afraid of new things.

Learning any second language is good for your child (and you!) The third and fourth will be easier. It will expand your horizons. And help you understand your native tongue that much more, besides increasing SAT scores (children who knew a second language scored higher than those that didn’t in one study, with the ones that studied Latin scoring highest.)


  • Teach the language’s alphabet.
  • Teach basic phonics rules if you can find them.
  • Learn simple nouns and verbs.
  • Expose yourself to your chosen language in spoken and written form.
  • Use your new language whenever possible.
  • Learn your new grammar.

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