I speak mommy language and educationalist rather proficiently. I speak some botany and birdsong. English and Spanish are my mainstays. In addition, my vocabulary boasts a lot of Bible jargon, as well as baby talk. 🙂
Language. It’s how we communicate. It’s how we get what’s in our heads down in ink, and ultimately, into someone else’s head. Language is part of who we are and how we think. It’s how we tell what we know.
How would we communicate our ideas without words? Language is a wonderful gift. And it’s unique to human beings. But as I’m sure you’ve noticed, likely to your dismay, not all human beings share common knowledge when it comes to language. Boo-hoo Babel!
Post-Babel, it became rather complicated for a giant portion of earth’s population to communicate with each other. And I’m not referring solely to non-English speakers. Raise your hand if you have ever found yourself way in over your head in a conversation IN ENGLISH! Take for instance, an informative chat with a rocket scientist, or a heart surgeon, or a geologist… has this happened to you? um… I’d like to say it hadn’t happened to me. :S Have you ever found yourself groping for words, or struggling to wrap your mind around concepts described by a completely foreign English vocabulary? It’s dreadfully humiliating. I know.
But apart from English, with an estimated 6,809 distinct languages, we have overwhelming opportunities for language development. But, what’s the use? Why should we trouble ourselves? How many languages can one person speak, anyway?
The more words we know, the more precise we can be about expressing our ideas.
More languages = more words, and therefore MUCH more broad are our thoughts and ideas to begin with!
Learning another language, be it an entirely new area in English, but more specifically a foreign language, adds something to how we see things. Especially, when learned from a native speaker or in the country where it is spoken. I can’t say enough about that. With new words, new understanding comes, and our perspective becomes enlarged. The more we’ve read, the more useful we are to conversation. The more languages we are able to read, the more useful we are to conversation with an broader variety of people. Let alone the possibilities of spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ with a wider audience!
If they are so taught that knowledge delights them, they will choose companions who share that pleasure. In this way princes are trained; they must know something of botany to talk with botanists, of history to meet with historians; they cannot afford to be in the company of scientists, adventurers, poets, painters, philanthropists or economists, and themselves be able to do no more than ‘change the weather and pass the time of day’; they must know modern languages to be at home with men of other countries, and ancient tongues to be familiar with classical allusions. Such considerations rule the education of princes, and every boy has a princely right to be brought up so that he may hold his own in good society, that is, the society of those who ‘know.’
CM, Homeschool Series, vol 6 pg 88
Wouldn’t we like to be able to hold our own in good society? and to be at home with men of other countries? Yes and again, yes. The same goes for our children. And so, we apply ourselves to learning language.
How does one become more literate?
Education must be in touch with life. We must learn what we desire to know. Nobody talks to his friend about ‘stinks,’ about the niceties of Greek accents, nor, unless the two be mathematicians, about surds. But, when Jupiter is regnant, how good to tell and to learn! What a welcome companion is he who can distinguish between songs that differ in the vespers of the birds! How grateful the company of the reader of history who brings forward parallels to episodes in the great War! We are apt to work for one thing in the hope that we shall get another and a very different thing; we don’t. If we work for public examinations, the questions in which must be of a narrow academic cast, we get a narrow, accurate, somewhat sterile type of mind. We reap as we have sown.
CM Homeschooling Series, vol. pg277
Planning a trip to France? Learn French. Do you love birds? Learn the language of ornithology. Is Spanish your native language? Speak it to your children and develop it in yourself.
Living, working and setting up house here in Peru, out of sheer necessity (though interest came alongside early on), I was obligated to acquire Spanish. I had to communicate to survive, besides the fact that I’d probably have gone crazy not being able to talk to somebody other than my 2yo and 1yo boys for extended periods when my husband was away. I had no idea then, how learning another language would serve to widen my horizons.
Benefits to language learning:
- Increases flexibility in thinking, sensitivity to language, and listening skills.
- Gives ability to communicate with people we would otherwise not have the chance to know.
- Opens the door to other cultures and helps understanding and appreciation of other cultures.
- Is a real asset for possible job opportunities.
- One of the life-long benefits of learning another language is that you’re always learning, and it keeps the brain actively engaged. Recent studies have connected learning a second language with delaying Alzheimers for this very reason.
- …begin any language as early as possible and continue in a well-articulated sequence. Since research indicates that learning a third or fourth language then comes more easily. (last two bullet points quoted from http://www.actfl.org, Cognitive Benefits of Learning Language)
But learning another language can be a lengthy process… The saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” holds true here. So, as a part of my self-imposed education, I am requiring a minimum of 5 minutes Spanish reading aloud daily. This doesn’t include looking up unfamiliar words! Reading aloud, increases vocabulary while simultaneously working on pronunciation, which two activities have an amazingly magical carry over into the proficiency in speaking category. I incorporate this into my day by reading the daily Bible aloud to my kids from this book:
We are not stopping with Spanish, though. We’ve started the familiarization process as a family with French this year, and the older boys will begin studying Latin next year (was planned for this year, but there’s just too much with moving and all…). Apart from learning foreign languages, I’m reading books. Lots of books. And in that way, I’m increasing in language… and becoming a more interesting person. 😉
How about you? Are you learning another language?
What steps are you taking to learn more or polish what you already know?
amy in peru
PS. I’ve recently posted about narrating in a second language. Pop in over there and have a read about that, HERE.