How much time are you spending using the foreign language each day? To a certain extent, the more time yo spend using the foreign language, the faster your child will learn. Studies on children acquiring English as a Second Language show that under good conditions a child who is spending all day immersed in a language can become proficient in that language within six months to a year.
Six months to a year.
Under ideal conditions.
And, it still takes two years to fluency.
Under ideal conditions.
That’s for a child spending 6-8 hours a day with a native English speaker, whose job it is to teach that child English.
Surrounded by a bunch of other children who are native English speakers, who are constantly using simple, childlike language with each other and with the child who is learning English.
In my experiences teaching ESL I’ve seen children become proficient after a year of school in America.
It was rare.
I’ve also seen many students who spent 7 or more years in American schools, who eventually became proficient in English, but never learned to speak like a native English speaker, even if they started learning English in elementary school.
Children vary, schools vary, homes vary, parents vary, neighborhoods vary, etc.
Children who are raised speaking only English still continue to make grammatical errors in English up through elementary school. It’s developmentally normal.
Why would we expect any child to speak a foreign language after a few months of once per week classes?
It takes years to learn a foreign language. You can’t expect overnight results. It’s nice to start speaking some basic sentences right away, of course. Young children have a big advantage there because they’re not always as embarrassed about making mistakes. Older children have a big advantage because they know more about learning and how to teach themselves. They understand more about how languages work. This is why older children can learn a foreign language faster than younger children.
First, set your goals for language learning. If you are traveling or moving abroad, or have some reason why your children need to learn a foreign language rapidly, plan to dedicate more time and resources to helping them learn.
Next, figure out reasonable expectations for foreign langauge learning, considering the language you are studying, the resources you are using, the time you are dedicating, and the ability and inclination of your children.
If you can, start a little earlier and plan to continue with foreign language throughout your children’s school years.
Because you’re going to be teaching foreign language in your homeschool for so many years, everyone will be a lot happier if you find a way to make learning a foreign language enjoyable.
Even the most entertaining lesson gets boring after enough repetition. You’ve got a find a way to supply your children with fresh, new content in the foreign language.
How do you find foreign language resources for them? It’s harder at first when they do not understand much of the language because you want to find simple language, but nothing too babyish for older kids. Look beyond material designed to teach the language. Look for entertaining material that’s enjoyed by native speakers of the language.