Friday, August 29, 2003

Learning Languages
We have floundered around for several years trying to figure out what to do in this area. I always wanted to learn several languages myself, and I've wanted the children to learn too, but we kept pushing it aside, thinking that Other Subjects were more important. It's so hard to get out of the habit of thinking that we should be following some ideal program of study developed by tradtional schools, or even other homeschoolers, instead of figuring out what God wants for our children!

We've always prayed that God might call any or all of them into the ministry or to missions,* so a facility in languages will be important for them - both Biblical and modern. And now, our three oldest have been asking to learn languages, so we are even more motivated than ever.

Katherine, who has already invented at least one language of her own, wants to learn Gaelic. She has always been interested in our ancestry and dreams of visiting Scotland someday. She also has a Japanese penpal and would love to learn Japanese.

Stephen is fascinated with my copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in middle English and has spent a lot of time comparing it to the translation by J.R.R. Tolkien. He also started a notebook on Old English using the translation of Beowulf by Seamus Haney, which has the Old English and modern translation on facing pages.

Mary Rose wants to learn German, which she says is a beautiful language. I learned that two years of German is a pre-requiste for Old English in colleges that teach it, so I think it would be worthwhile for Stephen to learn it, as well.

Right now we're forging ahead with our Latin studies, thanks to the Lingua Latina curriculum that Matt recommended. Katherine began chapter five this week. She has been able to cover about a chapter a week so far. Stephen works at about half that speed, and Mary Rose is just finishing up chapter one.

They are all benefiting from studying Latin. This curriculum makes the student think hard, and this is especially good for my 12yos and 10yod who tend to want to be told the answer instead of having to figure anything out. I believe Matt said that Lingua Latina teaches the student to think grammatically and lexically.

Also, when Katherine begins studying Gaelic she will already have some experience with strange things like people's names changing depending on whether one is simply saying the name, or is addressing the person. In Latin, the change is fairly simple. For instance, Medus in the nominative case is Mede in the vocative. Davus becomes Dave, and dominus, domine. But it is much more complicated in Gaelic. In a man's name, an "h" is put in after the first letter and an "i" before the last, so Tormod becomes Thormoid. But this makes a big changed in the pronunciation. Tormod is "TAR uh mut" (with a slight trill on the "r"), but Thormoid is "HAR uh mitch" (don't forget the trill).

We haven't really started officially studying Gaelic, even though I've bought a Teach Yourself Gaelic tape and book set. I think the vocabulary and grammar of the language should not be too hard to learn, but the really hard part is the pronunciation and rythym of the language. Once or twice a week, we just listen to the tape and imitate what they are saying, not worrying yet about meaning, just trying to train our ears and tongues.

My younger children are still working on English. :-)

Nathan, who has apraxia, a neurological condition that makes learning to speak extremely difficult for him, is managing five and six word sentences now, but his pronunciation is still funny (Naythun, Ah b'leeve youh Chinese! as his great-grandmother, Nanny Jewel says).

Poor Grace, my four-year-old is still trying to figure out why she has to say "Yes, Man," to me and no amount of explaining that the word is "Ma'am" and that it is French for Madame and means "my lady," has enabled her to call me that. She thinks "sir" is prettier, so she calls me "Yessir, Mama," and her Daddy, "Yes, Man." :-D

John has that sweet three-year-old lisp, so that you have to pay special attention to the context to understand exactly what he's saying. For instance, the word "Toe-wee" can mean either "story" or "toy."

And last but not least, 7 month old Lilian is learning the sign for "please" so she can ask politely for more food at the table.

*Slight qualification - we pray that God calls our sons to the ministry or to missions. We pray that our daughters might either marry ministers or missionaries, or be the mothers of future ministers and missionaries.

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