Choosing a Modern Foreign Language

While I see a lot of value in Latin, and will certainly have EG continue her Latin study to whatever level she desires, I also feel that she should study a modern foreign language. I have several reasons for requiring from my child what wasn't required out of me. Yes, my foreign language requirements in high school were fulfilled by taking three years of Latin, and no, I wasn't required to take foreign language at all in college.

The most important reason is that I feel it's vital in today's society to speak at least one other language. While that's a strong enough reason on its own, I also have been planning with the end in mind. Most colleges and universities primarily want to know how homeschoolers have handled two things - competency in laboratory science, and fluency in a foreign language. While Latin was an acceptable entry on a transcript from a institutional school, I do feel that there is a chance of a non-spoken foreign language being looked upon as an "easy way out," and I want to avoid that appearance.

Many people recommend Spanish for study, and for years I assumed we'd study Spanish. At some point, though, I started thinking. Yes, it would be handy to have conversational Spanish in our society, but conversational Spanish that would allow EG to speak with Spanish speakers around us, most of which speak South American or Mexican dialects, is not going to be the focus of a formal Spanish program, per se. I also began to question the wisdom of taking all languages from the Romance family. The biggest concern I had and have, however, concerns EG's difficulty with spelling.

Spelling is very difficult for EG. I believe it's one of the primary reasons she didn't progress as well in Latin until this year. I have concerns about her attempting to learn three different spellings of Latinate words - big concerns. I read a bit about recommended foreign languages for people with spelling difficulties. Many recommendations mentioned learning a language that doesn't use the same alphabet at all.

Aha! That made sense. It was taking the language in a truly new context.

Finally, I went to the College Board website. I wanted to see what was available at an AP level as well as what was offered as a SAT Subject Test with Listening. The "with Listening" was important; it's standardized verification for colleges and scholarships.

AP exams are available in Chinese Language and Culture, French Language, German Language, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin: Vergil, Spanish Language, and Spanish Literature. I included all of them for the sake of completeness. SAT Subject Tests cover a broader range of languages, but only Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean are available with the Listening Test.

When I cross-reference what's available, and discard the Romance languages, three languages are left: Chinese, German, and Japanese. No, German doesn't quite fit my earlier criteria, but I have left it in because it meets one final criteria: the local university, which has a large number of homeschoolers that do dual enrollment, offers classes in both German and Chinese.

Sold! It's down to German or Chinese.

I have a potential lead for a Chinese tutor for EG, if we go that route. If we go with German, I'll likely call the university, ask to speak to the coordinator for the German program, and explain that I'm a homeschooler who would like to find a tutor, and can s/he recommend any students or professors who might be interested.

I'm tempted by German primarily because it seems like so many mathematicians were German for so long, and math is such a strong area for EG. While it doesn't escape our alphabet, it's not a Romance language. Chinese, on the other hand, is a completely new system, and will likely grow in importance as the century progresses.

Luckily, a decision can wait for a few more months, even if EG starts next year, but I feel like I have a direction and a focus, now.


Anonymous said...

If you want a German tutor, at least for the first couple of years, I can probably put something together :) Gotta use my 6 months in Germany and language degree for something right?

Wendy Hawksley said...

We decided not to do Latin, but we are doing French because it is the most difficult of the Romance languages to learn. Italian is our next goal, and should be a cakewalk after French (especially as I know Spanish).

As for a non-Romance language, we'll be doing German, especially if we get our base of choice (we hope that next November's move will be to an Air Base in Germany)!

And it would be fun to pick up Celtic or Gaelic.

For now, we are surrounded by/immersed in Hangul - the language of Korea. :)

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