Language Learning 101: LOVE the Language. (Tip #8)

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One of the greatest privileges of motherhood, for me, has been watching my children learn new things.

I mean, what is more fun than watching a baby figure out how to walk? Right now, I’m experiencing this for the second time with my younger son, who is just learning how to coordinate himself while upright. He applies himself so diligently to the task, cruising along the walls of our apartment and pushing his little walker around the living room, one awkward stride after another. When he falls, he doesn’t get discouraged—he just gets up and doggedly tries again. And when he’s able to take a few steps on his own, boy, is he proud of himself—and so am I!

If only we could all approach learning the way a baby does!

Yet sometimes, despite our best efforts to cultivate wonder and joy in our homeschool, children can mistakenly come to believe that learning is drudgery. Let’s be honest: sometimes we can feel that way too. Even the most enthusiastic adult learner can become discouraged by challenging material or by long practice sessions with new skills.

When learning a new language, the potential for burnout is very real. The beginning stages of language study—particularly for older learners—require lots of memorization, conjugation practice, and sometimes, necessary frustration before any true learning can occur.

For that reason, I love the idea of prioritizing delight in foreign language study. There has to be a balance between hard work and enjoyment in learning. My thinking on this has been deeply informed by Julie Bogart of BraveWriter, who writes the following in a post entitled "What Enchanted Education is Not:"

The goal is to remember that for kids and teens, rote learning using pen and paper (abstraction) and receptive learning through reading text books is rarely enough to keep the enthusiasm high and the learning applied. Anyone can “enchant” learning because you have heart, connection to resources, and a home filled with space for exploration and coziness.

So what are some ways to infuse delight into your language learning? I’ll have plenty of posts on this soon, but here are a few ideas to start with:

  1. Work with your child to cook a recipe from the target culture. If you’re studying Spanish, I adore Rich Bayless’s cookbooks (like this one and this one) for the way that they integrate cooking and cultural learning. 
  2. Take an hour to Google photos from a target country and compile them into a daydream-worthy calendar
  3. Visit a bodega to buy a paleta, or some pan dulce, or a package of tamarind-flavored candy. If you’re studying a language other than Spanish, seek out an ethnic grocery store!
  4. Watch a movie set in a country where the target language is spoken--even better if it's in the target language!
  5. Buy your child his/her favorite book in the target language. As an intermediate language student, I improved my Spanish by reading Harry Potter. Win win!

What are some ways that you have brought delight to language learning in your homeschool? What have been the most enjoyable learning experiences that your family has shared?

[Slighly modified image provided by Flickr user Dermott O'Halloran and used under a Creative Commons license]