This week, over supper, my eldest daughter was describing the building opposite our house. When it came to talking about the tiles on the roof, she called it the “toit” not roof. She surprised herself. The French word had come out first. Isn’t it wonderful when language becomes part of you?!
I love languages and have done since I was small. I am by no means bilingual (if only!) but I was exposed to lots of French and Russian as a child. This went on to influence my subject choices at both school and university and is where one of my passions still lies. To be able to visit another country and understand the people not just from a practical point of view but to engage with their beliefs and culture in their mother tongue is a real privilege and joy. These are moments I treasure and I long to pass on this gift to my children.
We decided to begin with French, and since we had already being doing some informal French learning there were some building blocks in place. I thought I’d share some of the resources and ideas we have found helpful, particularly for those of you with children learning French at school or at home.
We listen to a lot of French songs in the car when we are darting between places. Songs are a wonderful introduction to a language as we try and imitate the pronunciation and learn to understand spoken French, as well as exercising our lungs! We have tried to learn a number by heart – this week we are learning the classic ‘Alouette’.
Songs in French for Children – traditional French children’s songs
Kids’ French: First Steps in Learning – covers basic conversation
Baby Boom Boom – Fun French nursery ryhmes with verses alternating between English and French – our children have loved this
Chante et Découvre Le Français – catchy contemporary French children’s songs introducing lots of vocabulary. The CD comes with a colourful book illustrating the new words. This one has been a great hit in our family over the summer.
We often read short picture books in French and I leave them scattered around the house. It’s amazing what children can understand from the picture alone, but every now and then I might translate the key words for them. I have found quite a number of books in our local library, others are from French friends and still others in French supermarkets (as well as Amazon, obviously!).
Here are some we love:
Mon Imagier de la Maison – lovely interactive board book with simple questions for toddlers upwards (Part of a series by Kididoc)
Ernest et Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent – beautifully illustrated stories about the adventures of a bear and a mouse
Juliette fait un gateau by Doris Later – simple stories with different topics (again part of a large series) with bright engaging illustrations
Histoire de Barbar by Jean de Brunhoff – a classic and now available in different formats from board books to DVDs.
Marie de Paris by Isabelle Pellegrini – detailed story and pictures giving insight into Parisian life – we sometimes just read one or two pages at a time of this one
We also enjoy translations of some popular English titles such as The Hungary Caterpillar, We are Going on Bear Hunt, and lots more. A familiar story can be a good way to introduce new vocabulary.
First Fun with French – great introduction for toddlers upwards
Le Petit Nicolas – series of adventures based on the classic French book by Goscinny, aimed at native French primary school children with fast French but even our toddler loves watching it.
Ernest et Celestine – beautiful animation based on the stories by Gabrielle Vincent
In terms of curriculum there is so much choice out there and it may also depend on your own level of French. I have been trying in these early years to get them speaking as much as possible and constantly introducing new topics and vocabulary.
Skoldo French Elementary – a curriculum produced here in the UK for primary schools, which has bright engaging pictures, varied activities and supplementary material provided on Youtube. This is the first in their series aged at about 5 year olds and introduces lots of vocabulary, songs and games.
First Start French – a wonderful all round curriculum that teaches songs, grammar, vocabulary and conversations. This is our current spine for French probably aimed at 7 years upwards.
Getting Started with French by William Linney – I cannot recommend this more highly. No previous knowledge required. Great from about 7 years upwards to adults. This covers lots of vocabulary and grammar and is wonderful for consistent translation work. My eldest does this independently.
‘Jacques a Dit’ – French version of ‘Simon Says’
Kloo’s Race to Paris – a fun boardgame to help with language learning
Recently our eldest has started using DuoLingo to supplement her French learning. It is filling in some gaps, introducing new vocabulary and helping with her translations into French.
There are lots out there there. I like the CGP French workbook range.
Congratulations if you have read all this way, and happy learning!