In preparing to teach homeschool foreign language, you may have many questions about what exactly you’re going to do. In particular if you had limited foreign language experience in school, you may not be sure about the best way to approach it. In this article, you’ll find some hints and tips. In the event that you haven’t yet visited your state’s homeschool curriculum website, you should find it here at the United States Department of Education webawritersite: nces.ed.gov
The National Standards and Homeschool Foreign Language
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages provides national standards for foreign language instruction on their site at: actfl.org. The five foreign language standards refer to Communication, Communities, Comparisons, Connections and Cultures.
- The Communication standards refer to reading, writing, listening, and speaking, showing that meeting the standards will require someone for the student to communicate with.
- The Cultures standard highlights the importance of studying the language in the context of the perspectives and products of the culture(s) in which it is spoken.
- The Connections standard focuses on the interrelationships between the foreign language and other subject areas, as well as recognizing and accessing material and information that are only available to those who know the language in question (such as news reports written in that language and not adequately translated anywhere).
- The Comparisons standard invites the student, with his or her newfound knowledge of a second language in the context of a culture to draw comparisons and contrasts with his or her native language and culture.
- The Communities standard invites the student to apply his or her foreign language learning as a member of a multilingual community.
References for Homeschool Foreign Language
Most people recognize that a dictionary is an essential foreign language reference, but let’s expand on that a bit. First, you want a bilingual dictionary that goes to and from the foreign language to American English (there are British English dictionaries as well), and you want to make sure that the student who it’s for can understand it. That may mean that you need to get a dictionary that is especially geared for students. If so, or if your student is mature, you should also get a “grown-up” dictionary that will include the mature vocabulary that your student needs/will need.
Besides this, it is a good idea to have a dictionary in the target language alone, once the student is at a level in which it can be used. And, as your child reaches sophistication in his or her mastery, a thesaurus will be useful as well. With a really dedicated student, or a student who is fluent, you might even invest in an encyclopedia, even if a one-volume edition.
Supplies for Homeschool Foreign Language
Most of what’s needed for homeschool foreign language is the same as homeschool English, except for a few items. Index cards to make vocabulary flashcards with are very useful (they can be cut in half or thirds in you don’t need the entire space). The other very useful item is a tape recorder and blank tapes. This both allows you to listen to recordings of native speakers (although you may find CDs a better choice for that purpose) and also to record and assess (or have assessed) your accent.
Projects for Homeschool Foreign Language
Projects for a homeschool foreign language class make the most sense when there is a real context for them. So you could, for example:
- Prepare a phrase book for a trip to a place where the language is spoken to be used by family members who do not speak the language
- Plan a meal of foods from a culture in which the language is spoken and prepare a menu with the names; the foods could also be announced as they are served
- Translate several fairy tales or folk tales into the language, print and illustrate them, and present them to a family with young children who speak the language.
Web Resources for Homeschool Foreign Language
If you’d like to compare your state’s foreign language curriculum materials with other states, or just see other material in order to gain ideas, try this page on the University of Tennesee at Martin site: http://www.utm.edu/staff/globeg/flstand.shtml It will take you straight to a range of state, district, and school-level foreign language materials. Some reference sites are also listed.
Field Trips for Homeschool Foreign Language
Here are some homeschool field trip ideas:
- Go to a country or area where the language is spoken and spend some time there. This could be someplace far away or a local neighborhood.
- Go to a restaurant that serves food from a country in which the language is spoken and speak only that language while there.
- Obtain permission to visit a public, private, or college class in the language, as appropriate.
- Go to a craft show or museum that features items from the country and explore as much as possible in that context.