Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Charlotte Mason Living.
I love French. I just wish I could speak it.
I mean, I sort of can, a little. I have French-speaking colleagues, and when they talk slowly, I can understand some of what they say. And when I speak carefully, I can express a few of my thoughts to them in French.
What a gift it would be to my kids if I could give them the knowledge of French. Someday they may have French-speaking colleagues of their own. Imagine the doors it would open if they could converse with them in their native language. Mason said that learning another language is like learning to speak to our neighbors. And who doesn’t want to love his neighbor?
Mason thought that children should learn a second language the same way they learned their first: in conversation, in life. One resource that helps me do this is Speaking French with Miss Mason and François by Allyson Adrian. This book contains real-life scenarios, called “series,” which the child can act out and narrate in French. I have enjoyed working on these series with my nine-year old son. When he narrates these scenarios he learns French with his whole body, speaking, looking, running, and hugging.
Series five has a delightfully simple sequence:
I see my grandfather.
I run to my grandfather.
I hug my grandfather.
My son plays with this one a bit. He starts from far away and says,
“Je vois mon grand-père” (I see my grandfather)
Then he literally runs to me with great enthusiasm, saying,
“Je cours vers mon grand-père” (I run to my grandfather)
Then he gives me a big hug, and stops pretending I am his grandfather, and he speaks the literal truth instead:
“J’embrasse mon père.” (I hug my father)
There is such an expression of love when he says those words!
I decided to improve my own French in a living way by reading the ultimate living book. I now do my daily New Testament reading in La Parole de Vie, a friendly Bible translation that uses a vocabulary of less than 4,000 French words. Recently, my scheduled reading was the parable of the prodigal son.
My pastor had explained to me the utter disgrace experienced by the father in this story. In the culture of the Ancient Near East, the prodigal son’s behavior brought extreme shame to his father. When the boy came to his senses and returned home, he had nothing to expect from his father except total and complete rejection.
I came to the passage that describes the father’s actual reaction. The words leapt out at me from the page.
“son père le voit” (his father sees him)
“Il court à sa rencontre” (he runs to meet him)
“il l’embrasse” (he hugs him)
There was the series. The same three words in sequence. Voit, court, embrace. See, run, hug. But now, the one seeing, running, and hugging was my Father. I thought of my son running to me, and the love in his eyes. And then I thought of my heavenly Father running to me. And I thought, with tears in my eyes, could He really have such love in His eyes? For me?
Learning a second language opens doors. Doors to colleagues. Doors to neighbors. And doors to heaven.