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How are We Studying Foreign Language?

You've heard me talk before about the global economy that our kids will learn and work in! And what better way to ensure their vocational and future success than by giving them the gift of a second language! It will up your student's ability to land jobs and compete both locally and internationally! But how are we studying foreign language can make a big difference between actually believing that we can learn the language and do so and simply giving up!

Today on the podcast, John Connor, who developed “Breaking the Barrier” is here to talk about Foreign Language acquisition, how learning a second language opens the world up for our kids, reduces anxiety and fear, the importance of memory work as a study skill and so much more! John's hope is that by creating a fun and engaging program, more students will belive that they can learn a second language and do so! We had a great time chatting and I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did!

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Listen to the entire interview!

LISA I'm here today with John Connor, foreign language expert of Breaking the Barrier. John, welcome to the show!

We are going to talk about Breaking the Barrier! You have several products, Breaking the Spanish Barrier, Breaking the French Barrier, and you just came out with Breaking the English Barrier for Spanish speakers! That's exciting news. I would love to give our listeners a good idea of how you got started in the foreign language world because it's a unique place.

JOHN It sure is. It actually goes back to sixth grade when I grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and my dad was a Methodist minister, in fact, my Sunday School teacher happened to teach Spanish at the local junior high school and when I discovered that I switched my sign up from French to Spanish. And I would say the rest is history. I fell in love with the language. I studied it through high school and  college. I went to graduate school in the Midwest and was at University Wisconsin, and decided I would make it my life mission to teach Spanish. And then, like many people who teach, many people who love are passionate about learning, I had strong ideas about how language is best learned. 

And I looked through so many materials, and things that maybe crossed teaching books included things like the  font is too small, too much emphasis on specific nuances, whatever it is, I felt the fastest way to fluency is good vocabulary, understand the basics of grammar.  It is very, very important to understand how language is put together. And then tons of opportunities for kids to get confident by doing exercises where they realize, wow, I can do this. And I wanted to have materials that can be used at home by kids that may not have a parent that's a native speaker. So we have in our program right now, both print books, and we have an online companion for that, where there's videos where every sentence is recorded by a native speaker. There's a lot of interactive exercises. But my goal was to allow anyone who wanted to , to have the ability to learn the language, to give them what they need. And you know, I have four children who all learn Spanish, and they all use my materials. And believe me, they were honest and  about what worked and what was bad. Fortunately, every year I'm able to update the books, and we feel the 2023 printing of the books is gonna be the best ever.

LISA That's awesome. I love it. There is no better critic than your own family, right? Because they love you enough to be that honest.

JOHN That is totally true. And one thing that sets our approach apart is we like to have sentences that reflect things going on in the world whether there's a new head of state in a Spanish speaking country, I remember when there was a new Supreme Court Justice, the United States, the first Latina on the Supreme Court, we put her name in there, when the first Latino was named Pope from South America, Argentina, his name would go in. And so the sentences are very rich culturally. But when I first wrote the book, I put in like famous songs that were popular when I was 12, or 13. Like Sonny and Cher and the monkeys and my kids go Dad, this is embarrassing. So we're a little bit more up to date now! 

Today's Podcast is sponsored by Breaking the Barrier. Their mission is to help the world communicate- better- by offering the best materials to learn Spanish, French and English!

LISA I love it. It’s so important to understand a culture while you're learning the language. I taught Latin for a few years and I still joke with some of my students from way back about the Gaulsthe floating down the river. Like okay, Rome was a military culture, but come on, they did other things besides just chop up their enemies, right?! And so I think, I mean, it's humorous, but really, we've all had those language classes where it's like, how do you order a hamburger at a restaurant? 

JOHN Absolutely! The great reward is a student who learns enough language to be able to read a beautiful little poem or be able to read a short story, or to see a film and maybe it has subtitles at the beginning. But the reward for studying a language is being able to appreciate the culture through literature and art and movies and also through people that may live in your neighborhood or people that you can speak to over the telephone. With our approach, you're gonna learn how to conjugate the verbs and have a rich vocabulary, so it's meaningful, and the kids will understand that they can do this. And once you get to read short stories that were written in Central America, or in Spain, and in every chapter, we start off with a map of the country, heads of state, famous people, famous foods that are eaten there. And there's all that information there just to whet your appetite. While you're simultaneously memorizing great vocab and grammar.

Want to hear the rest of this fun and engaging podcast on how are we studying Foreign language? Tune in to the Podcast!

Lisa Nehring
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