Antea wrote:So, the questions are these:
If a child starts learning a language early (age 5, for example), but only 1 hour per week, do you think he will eventually learn the language and be able to speak and understand it later, at 18 for example?
Or do you think that this conventional method is a waste of time, and that with only 1 hour per week he will never be able to reach a good level?
Have any of you had this experience in your childhood with any language? And was it useful for you?
I learnt German, French and Spanish this way, albeit 2 hours a week, but this was before everyone had internet at home, or at least something better and cheaper than dial-up that severely restricted the amount of hours you could use it, so I never really got exposure to them outside the classroom.
When it came to German, which I started at age 12, I could understand and speak it fairly well after four years, at least the standard variety. Sure, there were quite a few things we never had the time to get to, but the stuff I did know I could use fluently, and had I continued to study it I would probably have been completely fluent today. But German is very closely related to my native language and on top of that Swedish got as many words from its sister Low German as English got from French, so the threshold wasn't too high.
Now French and Spanish on the other hand, those I studied for three years starting at age 16, and I never really could hold a conversation in either of them that didn't include a lot of stumbling and mistakes even though we went about it much more intensely and by year three we had formally surpassed the level of German that I ended on. Or well, in Spanish that was true for me trying to hold a conversation, but at least my teacher did a huge effort to get us talking, in French the only oral exercise we really did was reading out loud so venturing beyond a few basic sentences was a huge effort. I could read French a bit better than Spanish though, but I think that could be because of all the French words in English that look identical or very similar.
Bear in mind that when I was a teenager learning languages came very easily to me - I picked up on patterns, vocabulary and subtleties a lot faster than almost every single one of my classmates - and this approach still only worked for a language that is a close cousin of my own.
English though, the language that I've been exposed to through media since before I was born, the language that the library even in my small town had a pretty large selection of books to choose from in, the language that I started to actually use instead of merely study early on in high school? Yep, that's the only language apart from Swedish that I'm fluent in and that I didn't forget most of pretty much the second I stopped actively studying it. Actually it was the opposite, that there were no more English classes didn't do any harm at all, I continued learning through simply using the language, and here I am 12 years later and a lot better at it than I was back then.
So no, I don't think only using a language in school one or two hours a week is a good approach at all, especially since it's a sure way of making the child associate it mostly or only with a boring classroom, homework and exams. And there's really no need to go about it that way these days with the internet and all, finding books, TV programmes, radio programmes and films in foreign languages has never been so easy before
Starting early is of course always a good idea, but by that age you don't really need a classroom, at the age of 5 it's pretty useless since they'll pick up a lot by for example simply watching cartoons in that language, like a friend of mine did. Sure, she couldn't speak it before she started learning it in school, but when she did, what came out was without the usual mistakes and with a much better pronunciation than other kids the same age.