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Learning A Language - Parents Page

Why include A language In Home Schooling

The National Curriculum offers up only three languages in Modern Foreign Languages: French, German or Spanish. These choices are entirely down to firstly cost and the problem that given the rest of the world learns English - what should we learn? Traditional, we have learnt French, as they are our biggest neighbour. German came about after the world wars and Spanish after we joined the European Community. Two of these are useful: Spanish for travel in South America and French in various parts of Africa. German has less of an overall spread and number of countries it is spoken in. In Primary school, you will be taught one of the three depending upon which is spoken by the class teachers. In secondary school, you may do French and Spanish before being made to choose for GSCE.  

Therefore, as home schoolers which language should we learn? As our learners are home-schooled, we don’t have to follow the National Curriculum. Therefore, I am going to say something very controversial – think very carefully about whether you need to learn a second language.


I have been recently working with an autistic gentleman who was made to learn Spanish at school. In the ten years, he has been living independently he has not left his home town let along his home county. He is not realistically likely to go overseas at all because he is unable to cope with changes to his environment. The subject he should have learnt was health cooking because at 28 stone he needed help, which is when the Service Provider brought me in. Ten stone lighter he now asks “Why did they waste their time teaching me Spanish - it is not a useful skill to me!”


As a dyslexic, before I had sufficiently mastered to read and write my home language I learnt German and consequently this meant when I wrote in English my verbs were placed at the end of the sentence.  I have often been asked if English is my second language as a result of this. When I learnt French, I would start off in French and German would pop up randomly and I could not tell when this would happen or predict which words it would trigger the swop of language, leaving my conversation companion confused as well as amused. Whilst all the time making reading and writing of English harder to master and hampering my “O” Level (now GCSE) grades.

Choosing Which Language To Learn?

When I became a teacher I quickly understood I needed to learn a number of languages, I would frequently have children in my class who did not speak any English at all.


To make them feel comfortable, welcome and safe it was necessary to master key phrases like “Yes, you can go to the toilet,” “Hang your coat up,” “Put your P.E kit on,” “It is lunch time” and “it is going home time” etc. I can do this in serval languages from Mandarin, Italian, Urdu, Norwegian, Berber, Arabic, Gujarati, Tamil, Amharic to Japanese.  I have learnt this by repetition and the desire to learn it for those children in my class - this made it so much easier.


Encourage your learner to pick a language they want to learn and not one everyone else is learning because it part of the National Curriculum. Chose one where they can talk with other people whilst they are learning.


So, if your parents or grandparents have a first language talk about the possibility of learning that one, where the family can help.


If you holiday in the same country, every year, suggest learning that one. If they want to become an electrician then learning French goes a long way to get a job with EDF Energy. If they are going into Floristry then Dutch is a useful language. If you want to work in around around Woking, Slough or other outer London Boroughs then Urdu might be useful. If you live in Wales then seriously consider learning Welsh. 

The point is - it doesn't have to be French, Spanish or German if you don't want it to be - but it can be if you want it to be.

Chalkboard with Different Languages

Following A Set Programme of Learning

If your learner has the capacity to learn a second language then I can highly recommend going down the technical route. This will allow them learn at their own pace and be able to get the pronunciation correct before practicing in front of anyone who might laugh and knock their confidence. You can repeat any section as many times as you like until you have learnt the lesson before moving on. Any of the commercial companies like Rosetta Stone or Babbel provides a comprehensive programme of learning.

I was challenged this year to learn Spanish with one of my learners. He had learnt some Spanish in school before coming out from formal education and was keen to continue. We have set up a Spanish Learning Buddy Group  and you are welcome to join this group.

Including A Foreign Culture In The Learning Routine

Here, at Orchard Training we try to embed foreign culture   into our projects, where it sits naturally and can be enjoyed. 


You don’t need any fancy, expensive equipment to teach a foreign language you can up load a language program on to your phone.  For foreign culture learning our project will list the resources you will need and suggestions of where to visit. They are written with the home-schooler’s budget in mind. 


The biggest expense will be visiting attractions. Whilst some don’t charge - others do. The main cost is the travel and ticket price: plan ahead, combine the visit with other activities, take a packed lunch – just like a real educational trip!

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