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For years we have tried to find a foreign language resource that we could recommend without hesitation. One that was truly Charlotte Mason in style. One that used the same methods Charlotte did. One that worked well in a family setting. One that didn’t require the parent to know the language already. One that could also be a great help to a parent who did already know the language. One that was interesting, not childish or twaddly. One that would work with all ages of students or adults. One that allowed you to linger and ponder and absorb rather than hurry you through the process.
Really, we weren’t asking for much, were we?
Well, we’re excited to announce that the search is over! Cherrydale Press has launched the first in their new foreign language series: Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and François. At last, a foreign language resource that is delightfully CM!
Who Is François?
Some of you may be wondering why a French guy (François) would help you learn to speak Spanish. The name in the title of the book refers to François Gouin, who created a technique known as the Gouin series. Charlotte used the Gouin series method to teach her students multiple foreign languages.
With the Gouin series, the students learn to narrate everyday activities first in their native language (we’ll say English, for this example), then in the new language. So the students might learn a series like this:
I take the book.
I open the book.
I close the book.
Students say that series as they do the actions: take a book, open it, close it.
Once they have the series learned in English, they simplify it to just the verbs—take, open, close—still doing the actions as they say those key words.
Now they learn each of those three key words in the new language, still doing the corresponding actions.
As a final step, they add the rest of the sentence (“the book”) in the new language and practice the entire series in the new language with actions.
The beauty of this method is that by coupling everyday activities and actions, they begin to think in the new language. What other things do I open and close? A box, maybe. By learning one more new word (“box”), they can narrate a new activity and are beginning to feel at home with using the language for themselves.
Younger students can do the series completely by hearing and speaking; older or more experienced students can add the reading and writing component by copying the series into a notebook.
As with so many of the methods that Charlotte Mason used, the Gouin series is a simple yet wonderfully effective approach!
Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and François is a little hardcover, durable volume (two volumes, actually) full of Gouin series in English and in Spanish. It gives the English series to learn, the simplified version with just the verbs, the verbs in Spanish, and the series in Spanish. (It can also be used “backwards” for Spanish speakers who want to learn English.)
Ideas are also given for variations on the series, additional exercises, some grammar points, and recitation passages that can be used for variety. Going at the pace recommended by the publisher, each slim volume will last two or three years.
Audio files are available for those who need to hear proper pronunciation. Those files will be extremely helpful for parents who are learning the new language right along with their students.
The teaching guide may be different from what you are expecting. It does not contain language-specific lesson plans. No, it is more of an in-depth look at the Gouin series method, how it fits with Charlotte Mason’s approach, how best to apply the methods in a group, and how to create your own series for languages you already know. I’m finding those details fascinating, but the teaching guide would not be necessary to get started using the volumes with your students. The volumes are wonderfully simple and complete in themselves. Just add the audio files, if needed, and you’ll enjoy learning Spanish the Charlotte Mason way!
Best of all, other languages are in the works. Well done, Cherrydale Press!