For me, teaching language, has been an ongoing learning curve. Intuition is first on my list, when it comes to teaching. Being tuned in to see if one approach works, and if not, having the creativity to try another… is very important to me.
Children need to relate to language in a natural way, it has to be part of them, rather than an abstract subject they grapple to take hold of. If one approaches the initial learning of a language from a technical perspective, one might never bond with the language in the natural sense.
The important steps in learning language, for me, are these:
Hearing, reading, writing, conversing.
I have introduced a very simple approach in the last few weeks, that you could give a try… you could use it alongside your existing curricula, or use it as an initial introduction to Afrikaans for a time, until they are more familiar and comfortable with the language.
I use the Bible (you could use any good literature) as my text, and do a simple verse or two every week. I start off by letting them read it in English. Then, they read it in Afrikaans. I pull words out for vocabulary learning, that they have to write out and learn for the following day. I emphasize the various sounds found in the new words, so they recognize them whilst learning. The next day, they write the whole verse or two from dictation, which they then self-correct, giving attention to punctuation and capitalization. They can then re-write it in cursive for handwriting practice. At the end of the week, I ask questions about the verse, giving them the chance to converse in Afrikaans.
One can also use keywords from the passage to open up further studies, branching out into new topics with more vocabulary words. For instance, a scripture about ‘living waters’, can open up more studies about water conservation, our water crisis, rivers, aquatic life etc. The key is to keep the studies really simple, focussing on adding new words to their list, and simple conversations that they can partake in.
This approach covers the basics of learning the language, without it being too technical. The key is, to open their ears to the language, and give them a feel for the sentence structuring… just by hearing, reading and speaking.
Most English-speaking children don’t speak Afrikaans naturally. They are uncomfortable, self-conscious and lack any confidence to speak it, unless required. I believe the reason for this, is because they never bonded with the language the way they did with their mother-tongue. Afrikaans-speaking children, on the other hand, often are fluent in both Afrikaans and English. The simple reason being, they hear it and speak it regularly… it is not just a subject in school, but a language they actually use.
Afrikaans is such a beautiful, colourful and expressive language… I hope that I can present it in a way that will make your English children warm to it, enjoy it, understand it… and want to speak it. Feel free to use my songs and poetry as a springboard… let them memorize it, sing/speak it, write it, and converse with you about it!
Please feel free to share some of your creative ideas in teaching Afrikaans to your children, with me! I am always open to new ideas and ways of doing things.