How did you decide what foreign language to teach?

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  • Katrina in AK

    I’m having a really hard time deciding what language to start with my boys, who are nearly 4 and nearly 6, and am wondering how you decide? 

    I am not a native speaker, but French and Japanese were my minors in college.  We live in Alaska, where Russian and Spanish are very useful.  I’d love for them to learn Arabic, too.  There are just too many choices.  (smile)

    So, if you had to pick ONE to start with, what would you do?




    That’s why I haven’t started….

    We live in an area that is predominately French (our church is French, too)

    My MIL, who lives in town, is Korean (but I’m sure wouldn’t be up to teaching the kids)

    My minor in college was Latin.



    Can’t wait to here what others say.  Both of our girls are Chinese so Mandarin make so much sense as far as heritage goes, but living in the US Spanish would be very useful.  Our girls are 4.5 and 5.5 so I better start figuring out what and how we will do it pretty soon.  ~April


    I, too, put off foreign language because I couldn’t decide. I have 4 semesters of college Spanish; dh picked up some German in the Army. The past 15 years have seen an influx of Spanish speakers; we recently got a Toyota facility and the ps are starting to offer Japanese as a result. All that to say, ds decided for me. He’d been exposed to Spanish through the PBS Kids programming block, so that’s what we’re doing. He’s interested and catching on quickly. And lucky for me, he picked the one I knew, so I can translate the parts of the Salsa episode that he misses.

    BTW, ds is 8. We’ve been doing Spanish for about 3-4 months now, once a week. Every day he asks, “Is this Salsa day?”




    We picked German because my dh learned some when he lived in Germany, and there is some German community where we live.  But it was a hard choice.  I’m in Canada, so French is an official language.  There are many Spanish speaking people in our church… so that was considered (and is useful in the States…)

    As I said, we picked German – partly because my husband said he would help.  But I’m really struggling with it.  If we had picked French, there would be so many more resources (there are a few French books in every library here – french on many of our movie DVD’s, etc…)

    We are also doing ASL, which I think will be quite useful.


    We decided on Italian because I already have a good working knowledge of that language. I’ve been speaking it to my DD since birth (she’s almost 3) so it’s nothing formal yet, just a natural, everyday usage similar to how she’s learning her native language.


    Suzukimom, you have some great choices and it sounds like there’d be support for any of those languages!


    Katrina, I understand the “too many choices” thing! LOL They’re all so beautiful in their own ways… if you love languages, it’s really difficult to choose! 🙂

    Rachel White

    For us:

    Modern Hebrew- both started at age 6- my children are Jewish, we’re a Messianic Jewish family and we use Hebrew at synagogue and the children will use it in their B’nei Mitzvah ceremonies. I expect both to travel to Israel in their young adult years with our synagogue, which is active there, so they need to be able to communicate.

    Latin- both start age 11-for critical thinking; is the foundation of all other romance languages, so they can be more easily picked up if so desired later for practical purposes; improves English language skills; to be able to translate the classics (and all the other reasons Bookworm has given in past posts!).

    Biblical Greek – son start at 9th gr.- for New Covenant studies so as not to rely on others; is easier to do after Latin, since Latin borrowed from Greek.

    Biblical Hebrew- both, start in 9th; to read the Tanakh(OT) in the Hebrew. Is relatively easy after doing Modern Hebrew, since there are not many differences between the two.

    So the reasons are based on religion and religious studies/faith deepening, a connection to a specific country other than the US and for the improvement of the mind.




    For me it was an easy decision since I have always spoken French w/my kids since they were born. I want my kids to be able to communicate with my family when we go to Quebec.

    French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian are all very close so if you choose one of these it will be pretty easy to pick up another or more in the future. I guess Latin would help too.

    Russian and Arabic sound very ambitious to me but if you love those languages it could be fun.


    We might have several good choices with good resources – but I feel like we aren’t getting anywhere with German.  We started 3 years ago… and I hardly know any and same with my kids…  they can count to 10, kinow their colours, have a few phrases….   and about the same with me.  My husband had said he would help teach them, but hasn’t really.

    French I could have done a little better with, as I took it for 6 years in school.  I don’t like it much, but it would sure be easier for me.

    I have never done that well with languages… I have always been interested in them – but just don’t seem to learn them well.  

    ASL I did as a night school course for a couple of years and so I know some of it… surely not fluent.


    I had originally hoped to start German in Grade 1 (and before with exposure), possibly French in Grade 4, Latin in Grade 7, and possibly (if interested) another language in Grade 10….    

    But – German just isn’t getting anywhere, and I think adding in French would just mess it up…..  although I’ve wondered if we should just switch to French.



    Please forgive me if you’ve posted about this before…but, what/how do/did you begin and continue with Modern Hebrew and the Biblical Hebrew? Is it taught at your synagogue? Or, do you use any particular curriculum resource(s)?



    Rachel White

    @suzukimom- my vote is you switch to French. If my husband says he’s going to help with something in schooling and that’s really the main reason why I’m doing it, otherwise I wouldn’t be and he doesn’t come through within a reasonable amount of time (determined by me, since I’m the main teacher) then that subject gets changed to what works for my schedule.

    With ya’ll living there in Canada, it makes so much sense to have French, then Latin.


    We are learning Hebrew (modern) because my husband is a Hebrew linguist and he can help – he’s been speaking and reading Hebrew to them for years.  We’ll learn Biblical Hebrew as the kids get older.

    We’re also learning Portuguese.  I lived in Brasil for 18 months and speak it more or less fluently.  It’s close enough to Spanish that I can understand it when spoken (and they me) as well as written.  Da pra entender.

    And we just started Latin last year.  Well, the two older boys did, the youngers will start when they’re 10 or so.  I’m learning with them.  This one is more for the knowledge and application to other areas of scholar (grammar, word roots, etc) than practical application like the first two.

    Mainly we made our decision based on convenience and what we could best help them with….as well as the fact that we both love the languages we speak!


    We are doing French because we are living in France right now and preparing to move to French speaking West Africa.

    My suggestion is (assuming you really want your children to be able to speak the language, and not simply understand it), is to choose something either that you speak (even if only a bit) or you know someone locally who speaks it who is willing to help you. We are finding that conversational practice is absolutely essential to the language learning process. Without you may learn to read and understand, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into speaking. French was a really obvious choice for our family (I also had French in HS so we may have done it anyway even if we hadn’t been moving to a French speaking country), but if I was in a position of having to choose between several languages of interest, I would choose the one that I thought we’d be able to get regular conversation practice in. I also think that learning ANY foreign language now will make it easier to try and learn another one down the road if your kids find they have interest or need to do so later in life.

    We will probably do Latin eventually too – probably in the middle grade years (starting around 5th or so). That’s a long way off for us though – my oldest is only in 1st right now.




    I had this dilemma also. I am fairly fluent in Dutch, have had a lot of exposure to both French and Greek, and a little Russian. So why am I teaching my children (and learning along with them) Spanish? Because we live in the US where it’s widely spoken and it is the language most likely to actually be used. Dutch isn’t spOken anywhere but The Netherlands so I knew it wasnt a wise choice as I’m not planning to go back there. I almost chose German since I’m halfway there with knowing Dutch and English.

    I had a lot of thoughts. I want to further my French so I almost chose that. We just have so many Spanish speaking people here and knowing the language is a huge plus in the job market anymore.


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