Many home educators find it difficult to integrate foreign language study into their kids’ coursework because they haven’t ever studied any themselves. BJU Press has written curricula for Spanish, French and Latin with the understanding that many teachers won’t have the luxury of prior knowledge, making each course usable by more than just fluent or native speakers. Each program has basically the same format, so teaching more than one language at a time to multiple students shouldn’t be too much trouble.
How Do These Work?
For Spanish and French there are three levels for high school (as well as two elementary levels of Spanish covering grades 1-6, reviewed elsewhere). Latin is high school only and there are two levels available. Each level of each language includes a non-consumable student text, teacher guide, activities manual with accompanying teacher edition, and tests with test key. For Spanish 1-2 and French 1 there are supplementary CDs.
The teacher editions are comprised of reduced student text pages with notes in the margins and a scope and sequence for lessons. The activity manual teacher editions simply contain answers to the student activity exercises, with minimal notes. Tests are matching, multiple choice, true or false, etc.
While the teacher editions are helpful and include the authors’ philosophy of language instruction, they aren’t necessary, especially if you have background in the language being taught. At the same time, having the answers to all exercises readily available will greatly cut the amount of time you need to devote.
Each level is designed for one high school year, 3-5 days per week. Student texts are colorful and attractive; all teacher materials are in black and white. Students read text and complete written exercises and that’s about it, though emphasis is placed on oral communication and review during the class period. Teacher involvement and guidance is important, and while not entirely necessary due to the comprehensive nature of the student texts, the idea of having students teach themselves a foreign language is absurd.
The approach of each program is part immersion, part grammatical. As little as possible of each student text is written in English so that students get more familiar with the language studied and don’t rely too heavily on “translation” to understand the material.
Many of the words are taught without using English at all—for instance, a picture of a car appears over the word for car and that is all—though translation is provided where this is impossible. Grammar is covered fairly thoroughly throughout, though not in an altogether systematic way.
These are Bible-based courses, and include lots of Bible verses, hymns to sing, etc. In the Spanish and French books students are encouraged to learn the material well in order to share the Gospel with native speakers. This isn’t too overdone, however, and more basic information is not sacrificed to make the texts seem more pious.
For French and Spanish, the focus is on cultural aspects of French and Spanish speaking countries; for Latin the emphasis is on Roman history. Students won’t learn a lot about either from the texts themselves (most of this information is in the teacher editions), but what is included helps frame a context for the language itself.
Our Honest Opinion:
A common complaint about Bob Jones’s foreign language program is that the texts are disorganized and hard to implement. There is no real progression to the information taught, and while the authors say this is so students get an organic feel for the language as a whole, it often makes for frustrated students and teachers. Even fluent or native speakers have voiced this opinion.
However, with application and diligence you can implement these texts with your high school student. If you’re looking for something more in-depth, less teacher-intensive and easier to understand, we suggest investigating the Tell Me More computer software-based French and Spanish courses. For Latin, you might want to look at Latina Christiana, written from a classical education perspective.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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