In the past I’ve read countless books over and over to all the children at once, translating the words they didn’t know. Now that doesn’t work, because Miss 17 is almost fluent, and Miss 8… well, she has a long way to go. Instead, I’m consciously working with each child individually, something I’d planned never to do. It does take extra time, but this is quality time spent together, so I don’t mind.
Miss 17 researches in Dutch for essays (written in English), is preparing to go to the Netherlands for a few weeks, and can function in the language. We lived in the Netherlands for almost two years and she spent those two years speaking Dutch to our many friends. She certainly had a head start.
The rest of the children, however, were too young to benefit hugely from living in the Netherlands. They did enjoy the songs we used to sing before I got ill, and now that I am almost well, we’ll be singing more. We learn folk songs, Psalms, and hymns and even have a few recordings of Dutch songs. Singing is great for learning to speak the language and it also builds vocabulary.
However, our favorite way of learning Dutch is reading stories out loud. Currently I’m not reading any story to all the children at once. That may come, but for now we’re concentrating on each child’s individual reading time with me.
Mr. 15 has almost finished Snuf de Hond, an exciting, Christian boy-and-dog story set during World War 2. We read this out loud together, alternating paragraphs. That allows him to hear how the words should sound and also gives him a chance to read. This method of studying requires a very interesting book, and Snuf is fascinating. I read it over and over when I was young, and even now I often can’t put it down after our reading for the week is finished. It has been translated as Scout, and I’ll be reviewing the English version soon.
Miss 12 has almost finished Ot en Sien which we read in the same alternating paragraph way. This old ‘living book,’ used as a reader in Dutch schools long ago, presents fascinating glimpses into Dutch culture at the turn of the century. Since it is a reader, the vocabulary is relatively simple, although certainly not dumbed down. Miss 12 still has some trouble matching the vowels with their Dutch sounds, so we need to go over Dutch phonics regularly.
We have a beautiful little tool for phonics that was used in Dutch schools many years ago. It is called a “lees plankje” or “reading plank.” On it are the vowels with pictures representing their sounds. Dutch phonics is fairly simple compared to English, and this little board covers most of it. This year we’re planning to read the board daily. It will be a tiny investment of time that will pay huge dividends.
I’m reading a series of cute children’s stories to Miss 10 and her vocabulary is growing rapidly. Once she knows the phonics and can understand the stories comfortably, she will be ready to read aloud with me. That may even happen this winter.
Miss 8, however, is still struggling with basic word meanings. She also is not yet a fluent reader in English, so it will be a long time before I ask her to read Dutch. She and I can look forward to many more years of read aloud stories. I’m also singing extra songs with her.
There is no actual studying involved in our study of Dutch except in the final grades when we learn formal grammar. Instead, Mr. 15 and Miss 12 do some copywork from the week’s Rosetta Stone lesson or from their current book.
This low-key, low-stress way of learning a language seems to be working. Consistency is the key, and we haven’t always been consistent. When we are, however, the progress is remarkable.
This method would work for any language if a parent feels comfortable in it and has suitable books.