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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Second Language Learning for My Little Ones (and ME!)

     In case you missed it last week, I was telling everyone how I FINALLY opened the Rosetta Stone box and actually got started learning more Mandarin!  (insert applause here) For adult learners, I would highly recommend it.  I changed the options so I not only hear and learn the words, but the characters, too.  And, while I won't be writing the Chinese characters any time soon, my hope is that I will at least be able to read enough to know which public bathroom is the right one!  
     In fact, the way Rosetta Stone teaches the language is very similar to the way my kids are learning it at Language Stars*.  It's what I like to call the "sink or swim" method.  Nothing is directly translated.  Rather, you are expected to figure out what they are saying from clues in the pictures that are presented.  Similarly, the kids in class learn language in this natural manner by tying language to its usefulness.  It looks very different from the French classes I took in high school, which mostly relied on rote memorization.  For both Rosetta Stone and Language Stars, language is tied to necessity.  LS:  Where is the banana? (The child is expected to get it.)
RS:  Where's the picture of the girl with the banana?  (The adult has to choose the correct picture.)  
At Language Stars, children learn through play and real life situations.

I am finding that it is both easy and effective to learn this way, not to mention kind of fun!  At Language Stars, my children are learning through play and repetition.  With Rosetta Stone, I am learning in a similar manner through computer games.  
      Contrast this method of learning with that of the Pimsleur method.  While I have also found this to be a highly effective method (for adults, anyway), it relies on translation.  Therefore, I think it takes me a little longer and, unfortunately, encourages me to continue translating things into English in my head in order to understand.  For example, the CD says, "Say 'Where is the bathroom?' "  Then you have to say it in Mandarin.  Sometimes it has to answer questions directly from Mandarin with no translation, but this is not the norm.  I'm finding that the Rosetta Stone and Language Stars methods actually discourage translation.  Therefore, you learn faster.  The children and I are learning a second language just as we learned our first:  Naturally with an emphasis on communication rather than memorization.  Now I even find myself thinking of the Mandarin word for something first!  THAT is a very cool feeling!  
     So, we are all learning, slowly but surely.  While it would be great to get to spend six months or a year in China, I don't see that happening any time soon.  Language Stars and Rosetta Stone (for kids and adults, respectively) are the next best thing.  

Thanks for reading!

*We receive 50% off our tuition for blogging about our Language Stars experiences.

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