Did you take a second language in school? Do you feel the need to teach your child/children a second language? Do you feel overwhelmed by all the types of programs and learning styles out there? I have been, as well. I have wondered also when is the best time to begin teaching a second language. Middlebury Interactive Languages gave me the opportunity to look over their elementary German level one curriculum, and I chose to let Caleb give it a try.
Middlebury Interactive Languages offer digital language courses for grades K-12. Level one is recommended for grades 3-5, but I wanted to see if Caleb would be able to manage it with me assisting him. He was very excited to give it a try. MIL is an immersive program, starting the student out right away plugging in clues from the context of the lesson to figure out what is being said. The lessons were broken down by theme/subject material, such as family names or numbers. There are also classic fairy tale stories made into videos, completely told in German. I thought these were great fun! The course works on reading, writing, listening and speaking activities to give the student a very well rounded lesson.
The first lesson was a little challenging for Caleb. Not so much that he couldn't handle it or learn a lot from it, but he was slightly overwhelmed by the first story being told in German. He figured he'd never understand any of it since he'd never heard German spoken before! But when we got half way through the lesson, I could see he was engaged. When we got to the questions, even he was surprised that he could figure out what they were asking him about! From then on out, he was thoroughly enjoying it.
We had some trouble with a few of the videos. I am not sure if it was more the website having issues, or our internet being difficult. Either way, there were times when we would have to skip the story portion of a lesson. I couldn't tell that it made a difference in what Caleb was taking away from the course. I felt like he was getting plenty, and he was definitely picking up on the language/words. It was just a little disappointing to miss out on the stories. There is a great link in the introduction that had all the stories in English and German, so I could read them aloud to Caleb as we had time. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time trying to get videos to load, so I didn't do this often.
While I believe Caleb enjoyed all of the lessons, his favorite portion by far was the Speaking Lab. Every lesson, the student is required to go through several activities to reinforce the vocabulary for the day. In Speaking Lab, you have a picture of a vocabulary word. Underneath it is a button with a speaker and a button with a microphone. He can tap the speaker to hear the term if he can't remember it. Then (or without tapping the speaker) he can tap the microphone and speak the word himself. He clicks the microphone again when he is finished, and the microphone becomes a play key. When he taps play, he hears what he sounds like saying all his vocabulary words! It is a lot of fun, and he was meticulous about it. I think hearing himself made him more aware of enunciation than I ever could. I really was surprised at how much he cared that it sounded correct.
While we only have been doing this for a short time, I am seeing the benefit of starting languages young. Caleb is already pointing things out and spouting off words in German. It is by no means fluency, or even full sentences most of the time. But I am seeing his confidence grow in his new ability, and his excitement for learning something completely different is a joy to watch. I am excited to continue watching his knowledge base of German grow, and I hope to see him continue this far into the future!
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