Shortly after writing this post last week, I found a YouTube.com video reading of Mañana, Iguana. It’s only a portion of the book, but it’ll give you an idea of how fun the book is as a read-aloud story.
Also, we just read a fourth book from this particular series by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrator Ethan Long. It’s called Fiesta Fiasco, and it proved to be just as fun to read as the other three books. As an added bonus, the book demonstrates why it’s best to purchase a birthday regalo with the recipient in mind.
More stuff that I dug up over the last few days on the topic of early second language acquisition:
• Cognitive Benefits of Learning Language from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Noteworthy paragraph:
Furthermore, there is research … that shows that children who study a foreign language, even when this second language study takes time away from the study of mathematics, outperform (on standardized tests of mathematics) students who do not study a foreign language and have more mathematical instruction during the school day. Again, this research upholds the notion that learning a second language is an exercise in cognitive problem solving and that the effects of second language instruction are directly transferable to the area of mathematical skill development.
• Second Language Learning from Duke’s TIP program. A lot of this was “old news,” thanks to a college friend who was a linguistics/speech pathology major. Still, a good reminder that early foreign language instruction–even in a monolingual home–is a worthwhile endeavor:
For learning a contemporary language, younger is better. Babies are born with the capacity to learn any language. At age three, humans begin to lose the ability to discriminate among sounds that are not used in their first language. After age seven or so, for reasons that are not fully understood, it becomes much more difficult to develop a native accent in a foreign language.
• Foreign Language Software: An Alternative to Classroom Learning from Duke’s TIP site. This paragraph caught my eye in reference to Barcroft’s Five Principles of Effective Second Language Acquisition:
[In] addition to not forcing beginning language learners to produce whole sentences immediately, a vocabulary program should also avoid other kinds of elaboration that might produce negative effects on the learning of new words.
More research lead me to this site, which goes into more depth on this notion of “vocab first is best.” Hmm… I’m not sure that I agree 100%. While I don’t think that kids need to be pushed to conjugate irregular verbs, I do think they should be introduced to very basic sentences–enough to have a little polite conversation with a native speaker.
Full disclosure: I’m coming at this observation from my own experience. In my elementary gifted/talented program, we were taught basic Spanish vocab–numbers and letters. That was it. I was bored out of my mind. (Another post idea: how I got kicked out of gifted/talented classes in fifth grade.) Later, when I encountered grammar-centric language instruction in high school, I found that I had a knack for picking up languages (well, reading them at least) and sailed through three years of French. I took Spanish in college–easy, peasy stuff–and then sailed through a graduate level review course of French.
Yet even though I can read both languages decently, I still struggle with speaking them. Unless I’m in a situation where I’m immersed in a foreign language, I’m hesitant to speak them. Is that a byproduct of not hearing/speaking another language until my teens? I wonder…
The upshot of all this research/reflection: Given that our son seems to have a knack for language acquisition, we’ll keep chugging away at vocab and introduce some basic sentences soon, too.
Pamela Price is an award-winning blogger, writer, editor, and homeschooler in San Antonio, Texas. She can stumble through phrases in Spanish and French and is a fan of Google Translate. Pamela can be found on Twitter at @redwhiteandgrew.