It's tempting to sum my whole experience up with one sentence - In college, I took second year Spanish, four years of German, and one semester of French. But then, what is more important to know, is what I learned from the experience of studying these languages, than the actual languages I studied, but no longer really know.
- I learned, first of all, that mastering a language, like an instrument, takes time, discipline, and practice.
- I learned that very little language skill is actually taught during a freshman level university course, at American universities. Case in point, after sitting through, and enjoying, my first year of German, I spent the summer studying one of those Berlitz learn-Spanish-in-hurry type books, and skipped over freshman Spanish altogether (and no, I'm not super bright, just impatient, and occasionally, a little overambitious).
- Since, anyone who studied a language in High School, was given a pass on the freshman level in university, I have to assume, that very little language learning is going on in American high schools either, if four years of High School language study, amounted to what I learned from Berlitz in one summer.
- I learned I'm not a huge fan of immersion style teaching, or what I call artificial immersion. What I mean by this, is the type of class, or material, that tries to teach a language by dumping the student into it, in a sink, or swim manner. I've never been in a situation where I've found myself completely surrounded by speakers of a foreign language, so I don't know how I'd do then, but in a classroom setting, it's a frustrating, and time consuming way to learn.
- I learned that obtaining a beginning level of fluency in a new language is exciting, and opens up an entire new world of literature, music, and entertainment in general.
- Finally, I learned, that without constant use, language skills fade surprisingly quickly.
So, this is where I'm coming from. I was four years out of university, by the time we had our first son. My German had faded a good deal at that point, but I was optimistic, that with work, I could regain my fluency. And, by starting him off, right from the beginning, give him a huge head start into a second language, too. I had dreams of bilingual children, which morphed into dreams of university ready children, prepared to skip over that first year of language study, or even just children with a strong linguistic base to work from.
While I've pretty well given up on the first dream, the second two, look like they might actually be attainable. Which, I hope to share more about in another post.
It's great to be a homeschooler.