Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to get started?

All anyone needs to get started is Volume 1 of one or more languages. Each volume contains a detailed introduction of the method and how to use the volume. Each volume is designed to last you two years if you follow Miss Mason’s pace; three years if you go a little more slowly.

If you as the teacher are unfamiliar with the language you choose, consider buying the MP3 audio files for the volume. Note that the audio files are not an audio book; you still need the corresponding volume.

If you know the language well and want to create your own curriculum for your children or students, then our ebook Teaching Languages with Miss Mason and François would be a great aid. It is a teaching guide that outlines the process of teaching a language lesson. It also talks about what Miss Mason brought to François Gouin’s method and how her contribution makes a difference in the way we teach. It includes Miss Mason’s words about why this method is so effective and also what we know today from the latest research in neuroscience. The guide includes Miss Mason’s ideas for language assessment, teaching grammar, and some occasional alternatives to series work.

Can I just purchase the audio files?

There are MP3 audio files for all lessons and exercises recorded by a native speaker. But teaching with Charlotte Mason’s method requires the full lesson text, both the English and the target language. By themselves the audio files will not make sense unless you also have a corresponding language volume.

Are the audio files necessary to teach with Charlotte Mason’s method?

No. If you already know the language and the correct pronunciation, you do not need the audio files to teach the language with Charlotte Mason’s method.

Is the teaching guide Teaching Languages with Miss Mason and François necessary to teach with Charlotte Mason method?

No. An explanation of how to teach with Charlotte Mason’s method is included at the beginning of each volume. However, just as with Miss Mason’s books, there are some deep subjects here so in the teaching guide I cover some aspects of teaching in greater depth. Miss Mason had several things to say about the effectiveness of the method-which are included in the guide-but modern neuroscience also supports many of Miss Mason’s ideas and so I discuss that. The guide also addresses how to assess languages using Miss Mason’s methods, how to teach grammar, and ideas for both taking breaks from series and creating series of your own.

Should I buy the ebook or the printed book?

The hardback book has a linen cover with an inlaid, gold foil design, and it is printed on high quality paper. It is printed in the spirit of high quality books preferred by Charlotte Mason. The hardback volumes are typeset so when the book is opened, the two language series (English and language under study) are presented as mirror images on opposite pages.

The ebook is a cost saving option (lower in price, no shipping cost) with the same content as the hardback format. The ebook does not maintain the mirrored display of the two languages but is typeset for readers that generally display one page at a time. The ebook is designed to be used as an ebook, e.g., a user navigates through the ebook with icons and links; there are no page numbers. A series can be printed out, if desired.

What ages can use these these language books?

Gouin used this method with all ages. In his series, he sometimes switched the nouns learned based on the age of students. For instance, children learned to open a book; adults learned to open a calling card case. He thought children were capable of learning quite long series, so there was no difference there.

Our volumes have been used for students from pre-K to high school. The major difference would be the pacing and the kinds of additional exercises done with the series. Pre-K students might learn 3 series in a term while 5th graders learn 7 series. High schoolers might learn 7 series and put 5 series into “yesterday” or “today.” Sixth graders might learn 6 series and go back and add adjectives to 4 of them, e.g., What color book do I open? What color is my backpack? What color is the rose I give my grandmother? Acting out the verbs is key to the method for all ages. Older students can also use sign language for the verbs; online sign language dictionaries are available to facilitate that process.

Can we use these language books for high school?

Yes. If you compare our volumes with high school texts, two differences will strike you:

  • High school texts are heavy on learning nouns
  • High school texts are heavy on explicit grammar lessons

Students using our volumes will use (not simply conjugate) more verbs than those covered in high school texts. They may also use more verbs in various verb tenses, however they will not necessarily know the name of the verb tense they are using. That is, they will know how to say, “I did this yesterday” or “I will do it tomorrow” but they will not necessarily be able to tell you whether they are using the past tense, the preterite, the future, or the subjunctive. The explicit grammar vocabulary is not provided. François Gouin believed it was better for students to first gain familiarity with the language before teaching them the grammatical names. For most of us, that turns our language learning on its head. My high school classes were largely centered around learning grammar, memorizing tables, and taking tests.

Miss Mason believed in having 5 grammar lessons per term–roughly 15 lessons per year. The beginning of each lesson started by asking students what they already knew about the subject in English. Sentences were put on the board in the target language from which students could deduce the grammar rule. The sentences in our volumes can be used as those model sentences. One will also notice that Miss Mason and François Gouin are most interested in grammar concerning verbs rather than prepositional phrases and adjectives. There are plenty of prepositional phrases in our sentences, though, for practice and deduction and students can enjoy adding adjectives to the series.

We recommend that high school learners who have never studied the language previously spend the first six months to a year simply learning the series as they are given. Once they reach the point where series are introduced in new cases and tenses, they can begin the process of deducing the rules, e.g., how verbs change for the third person, how verbs change for “yesterday”, and so on. Allow students to make hypotheses. We recommend allowing students to learn 2-3 series in a specific case or tense before asking them to start the deduction process, but each teacher will be the best judge of her students. Allow students to create hypotheses and see if they are true. A good way to do this is to have them revisit previous series and copy them out in the new case or tense. Obtain a copy of 501 Verbs in your language of study so that work can be checked. Students who do so and ask questions of each other and their teacher using the new tenses and cases will know more of the language than most high school courses cover. Once students are comfortable using a case or tense, feel free to introduce the name for it. If they understand how to speak the language, filling out language tables will not be difficult. Let the speaking come first.

What about grammar?

Mostly Miss Mason believed in deducing grammar rules from the series. Students are more likely to remember rules they have deduced than rules that they are given to memorize. But her books contained some explicit grammar lessons; we have followed that example. The grammar exercises are there to provide a lesson in-between series. Some of the lessons are explicit, e.g. definite articles in the language that change according to gender. Many of the lessons are implicit though, e.g. instead of teaching “the past tense,” we learn to say the series for “Yesterday, I … ” The idea of changing how you say something for yesterday (or tomorrow) is taught, rather than the more abstract idea of “past tense” or “past perfect tense.” She taught 5 grammar lessons per term–essentially 15 per year. It is okay to introduce a single grammar idea at a time and let students digest it as they learn more series. The goal is to speak the language.

Some students may ask grammar questions. That is ideal for we are more likely to remember the answer to a question we have posed. Just because a question is posed, however, does not mean it requires an immediate answer. Let students keep a list of questions in their notebooks and let them investigate the answers–not through a Google search, but by figuring out the answers from sentences they learn.

We are currently writing a grammar aid for those who do not understand the grammar issues in their language of study. Until then we recommend using a resource such as the Side by Side series, e.g., Side by Side English and Spanish Grammar, Side by Side English and French Grammar, and so on. But we cannot emphasize enough that teaching explicit grammar at each lesson is not part of the method. Comparative Grammar of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French: Learn and Compare 4 Languages Simultaneously by Mikhail Petrunin is another resource for those who enjoy investigating grammar.