Teaching languages to young children. Keep it simple!
Did you know that you won’t find a single verb form uttered by Speekee which is in any other ‘time’ than the present?
Let me explain why…
As the development stages for Speekee got underway, we began looking at other Spanish learning products on the market, and it quickly became clear that while the accuracy of the Spanish could rarely be faulted there were two aspects which should trigger alarm bells for the well informed customer*:
1. APPROPRIACY. In other words, what Spanish words and phrases are contained in the program… are they suitable for children to learn? Is the Spanish ‘everyday’? Is it truly useful? For example, I wouldn’t want my child learning how to distinguish between different types of rock mineral in Spanish, when he could be learning the really practical stuff instead, like how to ask for an ice cream.
And yet, there are Spanish programs out there which remain stuck in the Dark Ages when it comes to appropriacy of language.
2) LEVEL. A Spanish program for young children starts from the very beginning, right? It presents its new language in a gentle and methodical way, doesn’t it? And it won’t try to complicate things too quickly either, surely!
For reasons which may have to do with oversight, there are Spanish programs on the market which do not see all this as blindingly obvious.
And it’s particularly the verbs which they single out for ‘treatment’.
Now, you probably know, even with only a smattering of knowledge of foreign language learning, that learning verbs is tricky. They are always changing, and the process of transitioning to the past tense from the present tense is akin to getting a headache. Yes – for kids too (sponges though they may be, the new language needs to make sense).
So here’s a message to inexperienced language teachers: Go slowly… take your time – and treat your students with the respect they deserve!
* The fact is that most buyers of language learning products, through no fault of their own, don’t know what marks of quality they should be looking out for.