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My six-year-old daughter is extremely interested in learning several languages. She’s expressed a pretty fierce desire to learn them for a while now, and she is a very determined young lady, so I would like to support her in this pursuit. We are an English-speaking family living in France, so she’s already exposed to those two languages, but she says she also wants to learn German, Italian, Spanish, and Tamil (my “native” tongue). I have a couple of years of German and Italian under my belt, but I know only a few words of Spanish, and, somewhat ironically, do not read or write Tamil (the only one of her desired languages with a different alphabet). My level of spoken Tamil also leaves much to be desired—if I wanted to be charitable I could describe it as an uneducated kind of Tamil grin .

The question is: have any of you home educators studied foreign languages with your children? How does one go about this with a child of 6? What are some good resources out there? I used to be an avid language learner myself, but it’s been years since I took any classes—honestly, not since the days of cassette tapes, and I am sure there are better things online now! We can’t afford to hire private tutors for all these languages and would prefer to find a way for us to study them together (just me and her), at home. But I don’t know where to begin. Do I ask her to pick one language first and start with that? Do we study them all simultaneously, on different days of the week?!? Please advise if you have any experience with this.

My foreign language skills are very poor, a smattering of French and that’s about it. I have started the Duolingo French course, and my DD (age 11) is trying Irish, there is also a Russian course on there soon which we will both do together… But Duolingo would be far too much for your DD, fine for you to refresh your knowledge though.
the best introduction to a language for my two was nursery rhyme CD’s, the language is simple, repetitive and memorable, and often the French ones I found had a book with English, French and illustrations which made it far more accessible than just a book, and made my DD feel more independent in her learning.
As you do have a bit of other languages, you could read her stories from those countries, not worrying about translating them, but getting used to the feel/ sounds the language uses.

I’ve just tried to PM you…not showing up in my sent again though so let me know if you get it!

I wrote a resources document for learning French, but the advice is the same for any other foreign language. You can download it for free from Enjoy, Bianca

Attachment and travelling mama, home educating Toby, 17.02.2012. Vegs. Neither telly nor car. Brompton bikes. Live in Reading, Berkshire.
Skills You Need to Change the World,,

Oh thank you so much, all of you, and Greeneve, I did get your message! I will respond shortly.

Great idea to use nursery rhymes and kids’ books—we already read the same books in English and French, so I don’t know why I didn’t think of that in the other European languages! Not sure how I will approach Tamil since I myself can’t read it yet, but I will give it a think—maybe focusing on speaking/singing first since that’s what I can do, and approach the alphabet a bit later.

[P.S. Bianca: I will text you today about HESFES! My husband has made all the travel arrangements, so I wasn’t sure about timing, but I’ll get him to tell me properly…]

Bianca, would you consider giving Skype lessons to the GP children ? x

Home Eding Mama of 2 gorgeous boys! Trying to live magically on this wild and crazy earth.

Hi My Legacy, I’m afraid I don’t have the time. Sorry. I’m still trying to finish a French grammar book which I’m going to make available free of charge. I announce it when the time comes.

Attachment and travelling mama, home educating Toby, 17.02.2012. Vegs. Neither telly nor car. Brompton bikes. Live in Reading, Berkshire.
Skills You Need to Change the World,,

We have 3 languages in our house- I’m Dutch, my husband Pakistani - and speaks punjabi- and we live in the UK. The kids learn Dutch through me speaking to them and reading them Dutch stories. My husband is often away and he would like the kids to learn punjabi/ urdu (which I don’t speak very well yet unfortunately) so the way that I slowly teach them is by watching appropriate you tube videos and we have bought some DVD series- my desi guru- where they get taught the basics. Ie numbers/ colours/ common words. We also play word games - we laminated word cards with one one side the English word and on the other the phonetic urdu version. My husband can’t read urdu/ punjabi either and we are just aiming for speaking and understanding for the moment. These games are very popular with the kids especially during car journeys etc when we have some time to all sit in the same place without anything else in particular to distract us ! Hope this helps, good luck!

Thank you, jmujis! That is quite helpful; we have been watching some little videos and songs, and my daughter is enjoying that. I thought also of reading stories she already knows in English, e.g. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I can manage German and Italian, but perhaps with Spanish I’ll stick with online resources for now as I don’t trust my own accent in that language.

My biggest question, though, is this: my daughter is 6, so not a newborn or toddler, and furthermore, these are not languages that we have been speaking to her since she was tiny, and they are not our own languages. In her case, the research on true bilingualism would only apply to English and French (which she already speaks). I know that children can easily be trillingual or quadrilingual with no problem given the right context, if they are raised with all the languages from birth (I myself was raised with English, Tamil, and Malay, and was trilingual as a child), but since that isn’t the case here, I wonder if learning all these languages at once will just be cause for confusion? These will all be foreign languages to her at this point; does anyone know of any research on this subject? Is it better for her to learn one foreign language (or at most two) at a time, or can children her age manage all at once?

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