day. This fundamental background and
familiarity lends a certain level of comfort, particularly in regard to the lower
grades. A foreign language, however,
presents a completely different challenge,
and teaching an unfamiliar language requires steadfast parental involvement.
Thorough preparation of the lessons
cannot be underestimated, and the instructor would be advised to carry on a
parallel personal study with additional
materials, keeping in mind that children
and adults learn in different manners. The
adult may not respond as quickly to the
fanciful animal characters presenting the
material in a children’s book. In addition,
youngsters possess uncanny memories.
So, next to the little sponge with an incredible power of recall, the teacher must
conscientiously apply himself to even
keep up. Although learning a language
as an adult isn’t easy, there are many tools
available, from classic books and CDs to
the proliferation of study opportunities on
the Internet, not to mention the rich offerings of many public libraries.
Importance of the Interactive
As language is a system of human communication, language learning is most effective with a communicative approach.
While popping an educational language
disc into the DVD has merit on many
levels, particularly significant for listening skills and accent, the student must
not only be subject to the intake of information, but he or she must have experience actively producing the language.
There should be a back and forth between teacher and student, and amongst
pupils in a group setting. Engaged participation and curricular activities are essential, enjoyable, and worthwhile at all
levels—from simple games to role-plays,
from singing to problem solving.
When seeking out appropriate course
material, textbooks must always have an
audio and/or video component, and illustrations are very important in elementary and intermediate printed matter.
Selecting quality books is only the beginning, however. Materials should serve as
an academic support as well as a springboard for creativity.
Variety is also crucial. As one’s first language is acquired in the context of complete immersion, learning a second (and
third . . .) language should mirror natural
situations as much as possible. Also, not
everyone learns in exactly the same way.
Some students respond more to music,
others to movement or to visual cues, so
the teacher should be flexible and experiment with different types of activities.
Foreign languages are important in a
student’s curriculum, and not just to
eventually fulfill a college prerequisite.
Language study enhances cognitive development, broadens cultural awareness, aids social development, enriches
creative thinking skills, and furnishes its
learner with an excellent communication
tool, whether for personal interaction or
for a future work environment.
The earlier one begins, the better, but
as they say, “It’s never too late to learn,”
and that goes for the parent, too. Learning together can be fun, and the benefits
garnered from language study apply to
students of all ages!
Karen Haid is a certified Italian and ESL
teacher as well as an international award-winning writer. Based on her four-year
experience living and working in southern
Italy, her book Calabria: The Other Italy
explores the region’s rich culture, immersing the reader in European life from an
armchair at home. “Highly recommended”
by the Midwest Book Review and Order
Sons of Italy in America, more information and a study guide can be found on her
website, blog, and Facebook® page.
AN ITALIAN CULTURAL ODYSSEY
Capturing the essence of contemporary Calabria and Southern
Italy, Calabria: The Other Italy weaves observation, personal
anecdote, salient historical information and social commentary
into a nonfiction narrative that combines travelogue with an
exploration of everyday life and culture.
“An intoxicating blend of
humor, joy, and reverence”
“Part history, part travel
guide, part memoir—and as
informed and informative as it
is engaging and entertaining”
Midwest Book Review
For more information
and study guide:
Widely available in both print and
There are no shortcuts to language acquisition
. . . so the parent-teacher must be in it for the long haul.