Military families have quite a few opportunities to go places where people don't speak English. Most of the families I know are always trying new language programs or books in an effort to be able to order food, find a gas station, or (of utmost importance) find a bathroom in a foreign country with three children under the age of five in tow.
So it was with great glee that I got the chance to try the French language program "Take Off in French" from Oxford.
Now, a bit of background here: Air Force Guy was born in (what was then) Leningrad, so Russian is his first language. Not that you could tell if you spoke to him in English, he's got no residual accent. But he is definitely bilingual!
I, on the other hand, was born and raised in California. Which means that my first language is English, but I'm wicked quick at deciphering Spanglish. To add to this, my Godmother is French, and up until I was about 18 I was able to uphold a decent conversation (with no depth) in French. I haven't used it since. It's VERY rusty.
So the end result in our house is that our kids know several curse words (oops) in three languages, can inform you that, (transliterated from Cyrillic) "Semelyot letit!" when a plane flies over, we use the word "papeecee" (pee pee in Russian) to tell our dogs it's time to take care of business, and the kids have developed a remarkable ability to roll their r's when they speak.
They can't, however, actually speak another language. And I consider this a deficiency it is HIGH time to remedy. Since the logical languages for us to dive into are French and Russian, this is precisely what we are doing.
We are currently using (and ADORING) the Rosetta Stone comprehensive programs for both Russian and French. Let me tell you, for half an hour a day, you can't beat the way it teaches your mind to think in the language you are speaking rather than thinking in English, translating, then speaking the sentence in the foreign language.
What Rosetta Stone doesn't offer, however, is practice off the computer. And that's what I like about the Oxford Program.
Currently, daughter #2 has been using the CDs in her room at night, and it has been reinforcing what she is learning on the computer incredibly well. In addition, Oxford's book First French Words has been quite the favorite with the younger children, who enjoy quizzing each other and substituting French words for various items around the house (thankfully the cursing has slowed down lately). In fact, no matter what program you are using, if you are trying to teach younger children this book is a must have resource! It is laid out well, the illustrations are engaging and well drawn, and - well, it's just cute! Laugh if you must, cute works. That's why my children have survived those many, many, many "episodes." Like the time my son knocked over the fountain in the hotel lobby at SpouseBUZZ Live Hampton Roads.
One further plus in the Oxford program is the price. While Rosetta Stone is excellent, it will also set you back over 250$. That's not exactly chump change and not always lying around. The Oxford program costs about 45$ and is an excellent course for that price, easily worth more.
If you are willing to devote the time to the activities and cd's included in the program, you will not be stranded in a foreign country unable to ask for a bathroom. You'll be able to communicate your wants and needs - and we all know that from that point on, all it takes to learn a language is practice. Just watch a two year old. Once the begin to figure out the basics, you can't quiet them down.