How to Prepare Your Child to Take a Foreign Language

Jun 27, 2017

Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.    ‒ Dave Barry

For many years now, homeschooling families have been able to register their homeschoolers for online classes, usually for subjects in which the parents have little expertise. This has been a boon to families needing foreign language courses. Whether homeschoolers take a foreign language to actually become fluent or just to satisfy state school board requirements, homeschooling families are flocking to online foreign language programs.

Parents oftentimes register their homeschoolers for an online, introductory foreign language, just like they would for beginner’s courses in science, history, math, etc., not aware that their children may end up struggling because of a deficiency in one particular area….

…. English grammar.

Foreign LanguageAs a former Chair of Foreign Languages and German instructor for many years, a recurring issue I see in my own classes — and in those of my colleagues — is that students do not have a solid foundation on parts of speech in English.

Granted, most students do know about nouns, verbs, adjectives, past and future tenses. But, when studying a foreign language, regardless of which one, students must have broader grammar knowledge of their first language to be successful in learning the grammar of another.

Here are lists of parts of speech in English that students will need to know for each level of study in German. It’s pretty much the same for other foreign languages, but there can be a few differences, depending on the language and which curriculum is used.

First year:

  • Definite and indefinite articles
  • Compound and collective nouns
  • Personal pronouns (first person, second person, third person/singular and plural)
  • Infinitive form of a verb
  • Nominative, accusative, and dative cases
  • Modal auxiliaries (helping verbs)
  • Prefixes and suffixes
  • Possessive adjectives
  • Prepositions
  • Imperative (commands)
  • Direct and indirect objects
  • Present perfect tense and past participles
  • Conjunctions

Second year*:

  • Genitive case (possession)
  • Reflexive verbs and pronouns
  • Demonstrative pronouns
  • Coordinating and subordinating conjunctions
  • Past perfect tense
  • Narrative past (simple past)
  • Comparative and superlative

*Note that the same parts of speech covered in the first year are included in the second and third years as we build on what was learned in the previous year.

Third year:

  • Relative pronouns
  • Present and past subjunctive
  • Modals in the present perfect, past perfect, double infinitives, and narrative past
  • Passive voice

 

You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.  — Geoffrey Willans

By learning a foreign language, you improve your English.

But, don’t think that making Junior review his modal auxiliaries will only help him in learning Spanish or Arabic! Foreign language students soon realize that they not only learn how to communicate in another language, but they truly learn more about their own mother tongue, as well.

Anne Merritt, an EFL lecturer currently based in South Korea, maintains that learning a foreign language draws your focus to the mechanics of language: grammar, conjugations, and sentence structure, thus strengthening your command of English. “This makes you more aware of language, and the ways it can be structured and manipulated. These skills can make you a more effective communicator and a sharper editor and writer. Foreign language speakers also develop a better ear for listening, since they’re skilled at distinguishing meaning from discreet sounds,” she says.

So, brush up on your English grammar and join us on an Excelsior Adventure to other countries and cultures!

Since 2011, Susan Gleason has taught German online. She has an extensive background in foreign languages.

Traveling internationally since she was eight years old, her travels include Europe, Scandinavia, Estonia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, South and Central Americas, and South Africa. Susan studied German in college and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1986. In 1985, while still a college student, Susan led a Bible-smuggling operation into Soviet-controlled Estonia. She lived in Germany from 1986-1991, experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall, and had some daring adventures outwitting East Berlin border guards. Susan did post-graduate studies at Universität Würzburg, Universität Bonn, and FAS Germersheim. She worked as an interpreter at the international trade fairs in Cologne, as well as a translator and private tutor.