We have been homeschooling our children since 2006, but for the past two years we have used a Classical model, which includes studying Latin. My husband was skeptical at first. Why does a 4 year old need to memorize Latin declensions? I was vaguely aware that at their age, the girls have an amazing capacity for memorization. But I mainly flashed forward twelve years and savored the idea of brilliant SAT scores and fantasized about replacing readings of The Polar Express during the holidays with this:
Reality is not my forte.
The truth is, my daughters weren't that thrilled with memorizing their Latin last year, but this year things are different. And I believe in large part, it is because they are studying French. We all know that French is a Romance language, meaning it is Latin-based, so we have found many opportunities to draw a connection between our Latin and French studies. Some of those connections are obvious: et in Latin and French means and; est translates to is in both languages. Illum is a form of him in Latin, while in French, il can mean he.
Other comparisons might be less solid, but still help them as mnemonic devices, if nothing else. For instance, one of the first French words they learned was lunettes (sunglasses) and they had plenty of occasion to tout their new word all summer (Mommy, could you hand me my lunettes? Or, more often: Mommy! Chloe took my pink lunettes! Her lunettes are the blue ones!). When we were learning the Latin word lucet (shines), they struggled. We settled on the idea that we wear our lunettes because the sun lucet. I started to go down the path of lune is moon in French and then the moon roof in our van cuts the sunlight and then their eyes glazed over and I decided the lu- connection and the kind-of rhyme was good enough. And it was.
This week, Carys (5) was having a hard time with the Latin word principio. It means beginning, so I plugged it into her Sunday school memory verse, saying "In the principio, God created the heavens and the earth." Enough said. She had it. A few days later, we were in the car and the girls were singing one of their little French songs about putting the trash dans la poubelle. The next thing I hear is Carys stating, matter of factly: "Mommy! Dans la principio, God created the heavens and the earth."
What shall we call this new language? Frengtin? Latfrish?
Whatever we decide to call it, it illustrates the real turning point in the girls' increased willingness to work on their Latin memorization and that's the confidence they've gained each week in French. They understand now that they are capable of learning a new language. I've watched their intensity shift: First, they were nervous they wouldn't be able to understand what Clémentine was saying to them. Now they know they can trust her to make sure they will understand. With this assurance, I see them challenge themselves and each other to be able to respond to Clémentine in French, quickly and correctly.
Our French vocabulary is growing weekly, but is still very limited. The girls are hungry for more, so on top of practicing with our Learning Stars handouts, we've added a translator app and a French tutor app to my iPhone to give us a boost.
In the meantime, we continue to speak in mash ups, forming sentences with a mix of French and English and, yes, Latin. Who knows, maybe one day we'll write our own Seuss translation: One Fish, Two Fish, Rouge Fish, Latfrish.