Donde es Huh? How to Teach a Foreign Language When You Don’t Speak It

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Donde esta? Esta los Estados Unidos.

That’s pretty much the extent of my memory of high school Spanish. Well, that, the numbers from one to thirty or so, and enough random phrases to get me into trouble.

So, how do you teach a foreign language when you don’t speak it yourself? You know, if for no other reason than the fact that most colleges and universities are going to expect your student to have two years of the same foreign language on his transcript. (But there are many benefits to learning a foreign language.)

Have no fear. Painless options do exist.

Learn together

A foreign language is fantastic subjects to learn as a family because languages are easier to learn when you have someone to practice with. If your whole family is learning, you’ve got built-in study partners.

When Brianna took a Spanish class locally, her instructor used an excellent resource, the Living Language series. (I bought the Japanese set when Brianna wanted to learn Japanese, too, but she wasn’t as motivated without a group of kids to learn with her.)

There are many foreign language programs for homeschooling families and non-homeschooling families alike. Some of the most popular include:

When the kids were younger, we used Latina Christiana to try our hand at Latin for awhile. We didn’t get very far, but you might be interested to know that having a 7-year-old say the blessing in Latin impresses the socks off of grandparents. So much so that even though they were initially opposed to homeschooling, they want to show said child off to other relatives. Just sayin’.

Private tutor

If you’ve got more than one high school student or if your family is committed to learning together, hiring a private tutor may be feasible. Or, pool the resources of a few homeschool families and hire an instructor for your small group of students.

Check within your local homeschool community, the bulletin board at your library, or area colleges to locate a tutor.

Take an online course

Unfortunately, the teacher of the local Spanish class was ultimately not a good fit for us. She had apparently never worked with any dyslexic kids and expected straight A students. From the way she talked, I really thought Brianna was failing the class. Then, we got her final report card, and she had a B! (For the record, I was quite pleased with the B.)

So, for Brianna’s second year of Spanish, we used the CurrClick Live classes and were very impressed. The instructor, Sre. Schere was so gracious and kind. Brianna wasn’t always crazy about the course (just because it was 2.5 hours of school on Friday), but she really loved Sre. Schere.

Although I haven’t used it, I’ve heard of Mango, which is another option for online learning. And, La Clase Divertida now has a live Spanish class for high school students, which sounds really cool.


One of the really cool things about being a foreign language student today is that the Internet and Skype provide an option to learn a language from native speakers. One option I’ve heard recommended is iTalki. I haven’t used it, but they’re worth looking into.

Skype also opens the doors for more tutoring options. There was a lady in our homeschool group who taught Japanese. When she moved to Florida, she continued teaching classes with students here via Skype.


Check with area co-ops. Because so many kids need it, most offer foreign language classes.

YouTube and videos

I wish I’d realized that many colleges will now accept American Sign Language as a foreign language. (Not all will so be sure to check.) That was something Brianna really wanted to learn – enough that she’s learned a great deal on her own via YouTube. She’s learned enough that she can serve the deaf customers who come into the movie theater where she works, which I think is really cool.

I went to school for a semester or two to be a sign language interpreter before the temptation of a full-time income led me into the workforce sooner than I really should have gone. So, I have always had an interest in learning sign language, too. That’s why I’m seriously considering our family learning together using the Learn and Master Sign Language course.

To find courses on YouTube, search the name of the language you wish to learn and the word “lessons.” Check your local library or online for DVD lessons.

Also, many libraries offer online lessons, so check that option, as well.

As you can see, there are lots of options for teaching foreign language in your homeschool – even if the best you can do now is count to 10 in one of the many languages out there.

Have you taught a foreign language in your homeschool? What did you use?


Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. If you can just learn the pronunciation, you can read your child books, or learn songs and rhymes. Even if you don’t understand most the words, you hopefully can trust the books have good grammar

  2. My daughter has taken 2 1/2 years of Japanese using the free videos of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Irasshai and the textbooks and workbooks that go with it. She REALLY needs someone to converse with, that I can afford to pay. Haven’t found that yet, so she is going to continue Japanese at the CC in the fall. She took the Mango Japanese course, too, in the beginning through our public library. I will say that for Japanese at least it was a VERY beginning course, but it did confirm to my daughter that Japanese was the language she wanted to pursue so that was a plus.

  3. Thank you for the link about the sign language. My younger daughter and I will be learning sign language together and will be checking that out! Another online option my older daughter is looking into for Spanish is https://spanish.academy/ (Homeschool Spanish Academy)

  4. My 10 year old daughter and I have been learning Latin this year. We are using Lively Latin and are enjoying it. This is my first experience with Latin, but I took French, German, and Spanish in high school (graduated with a total of 17 semesters of foreign language).
    So far, i have felt comfortable teaching her, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she passes me by at some point. She is very eager and seems to be drawn to foreign languages and cultures.

  5. For Sign Language, also check out https://www.lifeprint.com/. This is a great starting point and reference point. I’ve used the ASL Lessons The ASL dictionary and the Fingerspelling practice tool. All of this is FREE. Many of the lessons have review quizes and video instruction, where you’ll learn even more! Did I mention this is FREE?

    There are a lot of additional resources on this page that I haven’t fully investigated. I’d also like to point out, many college courses in ASL will refer you to LifePrint. So… check it out.

    This isn’t necessarily a ‘cute’ website or one that holds the attention of younger Elementary school kids. If you want more visual instruction… check out the Signing Time (https://store.signingtime.com/signing-time) videos. You might find many of these at your local library. My kids love signing with Alex and Leah! The first three videos (unless recently upgraded) are ‘old’ in terms of production quality. However, the material is awesome. The remaining videos were recorded when the company grew and are top notch in quality.

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