Editor's Note: Read Part I here.

Choosing a Language Program

Once you have decided on a language, the next step is choosing a language program. This alone can seem like a daunting task. If you choose a major world language, you will be confronted by a multitude of choices, many making dramatic claims about their effectiveness. If you choose a lesser-known language, you may be faced with the opposite problem—a limited number of choices. Sifting through the plethora of foreign language materials without knowing what to look for can be frustrating. The following points will help you find a program that is both effective and a good fit for you.

What Sort of Course Is It?

Although there is a large quantity of foreign language materials and programs available, you can begin to narrow the field of choices by eliminating programs that are not suited for your goals. For example, many programs you will find at bookstores or online cater to travelers who simply want to learn some words and phrases to assist them on vacation. A program like this will typically teach the learner how to say some useful things, but will not often address grammar or the language’s written form. While a program like this is useful for its intended purpose, it will not provide the learner with an understanding of the language that will facilitate further progress once the student has moved beyond the basics. Students who want to understand and speak a language should avoid courses such as these, because while they can be very useful for travelers, they are not designed for serious study.

Another class of programs that are widely available offer instruction that exceeds that of programs designed for travelers, but still fall short of being genuinely complete language courses. These programs often make impressive claims about their effectiveness, advertising that they will make you fluent and have you discussing physics with a country’s native residents in no time at all! As with many things that seem too good to be true, these programs often fall far short of their claims. You can often spot these courses by evaluating the materials they include against the claims they make. For example, if a course claims to make you fluent, but includes three CDs and a twenty page booklet, you will easily know that the claims are exaggerated. Also, compare the claims with the cost, because while you shouldn’t need to take out a loan to learn a language, many programs like these have low price tags that reflect the limited amount of material they include.

Full Language Programs

After eliminating language courses that are geared toward travelers or are insufficient in content, you will be left with full language courses. While you may find one or two examples of this kind at a local bookstore, you will not typically find many. Rather, they are more often found online, through a university’s distance learning center, or through a homeschool bookstore. This sort of course is designed for a student who is going to consistently spend time throughout the year studying a language. Quite often, courses like these will be grouped into years (Spanish One, Spanish Two, etc.), to indicate that they are equivalent to a certain amount of study in high school or college. These courses often include textbooks of substantial size and may also include audio and video components. If your student is seeking to speak and understand a language, and make the language a part of their daily curriculum, this is the sort of course that you should look for

What to Look for in a complete language course:

1. Good organization

Having a well-organized language program is helpful to any student, but for homeschoolers, it is vital. There is nothing quite so frustrating as having a lot of material in front of you, but no idea of how, or in what order, it is supposed to be used. A foreign language course designed for home use should have a syllabus or study guide that guides your learning step by step. Be wary of courses that were originally designed for classrooms but are being sold as home study courses. Often, this type of course can be hard to follow without a teacher in the room.

2. Quality instruction