Isn’t it amazing sometimes how coincidences can point your thoughts in a new direction?
Many teenagers in our neighborhood are starting high school this week. They all needed to pick a language to study for the next few years. How do they do it if they have never heard or seen any other languages? How do they decide which one fits their needs and personalities best without prior exposure?
Then I met a lovely young lady who speaks several languages, such as Spanish, Portuguese, French and English. She studied to all these languages from a very young age. She has had many unique opportunities because of her language abilities.
Finally, all those high school students are now thinking about standardized tests, like the SAT. Part of these tests assess a student’s vocabulary. What better way to build vocabulary than to learn about languages such as Latin and Greek (and many others) that have contributed to English over the years.
Taken together, through these experiences I was reminded of the importance of introducing children to foreign languages throughout childhood. What is the best way to do this? One great way is to pick up children’s books written in different languages. For the next few weeks I plan highlight some examples of the kind of book that introduce languages and at the same time appeal to children.
Ferdinandus Taurus by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Roberto Lawson, and translated by Elizabeth Hadas is a wonderful classic that could be used to acquaint children with Latin.
The advantages of using a children’s picture book is that the story is familiar, and even if it isn’t, you can glean much of the plot from the illustrations. The vocabulary is amazingly useful, too, even though it is a simple story. For example:
sedeo, to sit – root of such English words as sedentary and sessile
mater, mother – leads to maternal and matronly
apis, bee – scientific name for bee, such as Apis mellifera, the honey bee, as well as the root of the word apiary
Do you need to know Latin to share this with your children/students? There is an “Index Verborum” of all the words used in the text. It might be hard to figure out things like verb tenses without at least some Latin background, but remember that the idea is to let them see and hear the language, to get some idea of what it is all about.
With the wonders of YouTube, you can even have an expert read it.
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: David R Godine (October 1, 2000)
Be sure to look for more information about children’s books at today’s Book Talk Tuesday.