French should be acquired as English is, not as a grammar, but as a living speech. To train the ear to distinguish and the lips to produce the French vocables is a valuable part of the education of the senses, and one which can hardly be undertaken too soon.
As regards French, for instance, our difficulties are twofold––the want of a vocabulary, and a certain awkwardness in producing unfamiliar sounds. It is evident that both these hindrances should be removed in early childhood. The child should never see French words in print until he has learned to say them with as much ease and readiness as if they were English. The desire to give printed combinations of letters the sounds they would bear in English words is the real cause of our national difficulty in pronouncing French. Again, the child's vocabulary should increase steadily, say, at the rate of half a dozen words a day. Think of fifteen hundred words in a year! The child who has that number of words, and knows how to apply them, can speak French. Of course, his teacher, will take care that, in giving words, she gives idioms also, and that as he learns new words, they are put into sentences and kept in use from day to day. A note-book in which she enters the child's new words and sentences will easily enable the teacher to do this. The young child has no foolish shame about saying French words––he pronounces them as simply as if they were English.
But it is very important that he should acquire a pure accent from the first. It is not often advisable that young English children should be put into the hands of a French governess or nurse; but would it not be possible for half a dozen families, say, to engage a French lady, who would give half an hour daily to each family?
(...text in the following passage goes on about Guoin's study
in regard to teaching language... also very interesting ;)
- train the ear to distinguish sounds
- train lips to produce sounds with a pure accent
- acquire a true accent by hearing
- learn vocabulary (in context of sentences and idioms)... steadily increasing acquired words daily
- use newly learned words, phrases, sentences and idioms daily
- teacher may use a notebook to record new words and sentences
- making use of a native speaker would be the ideal
*image courtesy of gleidson sávio