Prioritizing language learning

Jarful of Pebbles, Balthagraphy, Flickr

Ever feel like there are just too many things to do? Me, too. I find that when I’m running low on energy, speaking French to my kids is one of the first things that just drops off the radar. It’s like my brain just can’t handle the extra effort of getting the words out when it’s already thinking about 15 other things at that moment. How can language learning stay a priority when life just gets crazy?

I had a bit of an a-ha moment on this issue a few months ago. I realized that if my children are not bilingual when they reach adulthood, I will be disappointed in myself and my overall performance as their teacher (we homeschool). Even if they designed the next rocket that flew to the moon, I’d still feel like I failed them in their academic education if they aren’t capable of speaking French. If I happen to forget to teach them something else, they can always look it up or learn it on their own if they so desire. However, learning a language without someone around you who speaks it fluently is very difficult. Sure, they could go and live in France for a while, but it’s still not the same thing as spending years of your childhood immersed in it in everyday life.

Given that French is such a high priority, why was I letting it fall off the shelf so easily? I was reminded of the cheesy (but true) illustration of the rocks and sand in the jar. You know, the one that says put the rocks in first or else they won’t fit? (If you haven’t heard the story before, you can read an example of it here). I needed to start putting the French rocks in the jar before it got too full of other things.

Practically, that means starting our homeschool lessons with French instead of leaving it until later in the day. This ensures that we all have more energy and we aren’t rushed in our discussions.   It also means staying on top of the written French my kids do on their own and making sure they are spending an adequate amount of time on it each week. It means planning my French club lessons ahead of time so that we make the most of that time together.

Taking it one step further, I need to make sure that I have enough energy and brain power to speak to them in French. This is trickier because “get more energy” isn’t something that can be put on a to-do list and checked off. There are too many variables. I haven’t got it all figured out yet (will I ever?).   For now, it means no new projects until I get my energy levels to where they need to be.

How do you prioritize language learning in your home?

This post has been linked to the Multilingual blog carnival, hosted this month by Where are we going, dad? 

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