As people travel more, the ways to stay in touch with people get more and more advanced and the world gets smaller, it is becoming very important to speak more than one language fluently. Just think about all the possibilities out there! Children learn languages a lot easier than adults, and the earlier you start to teach French for children, the better. So, what’s the best way to help your kids to learn French? I will first talk about bilingual families and go on to give some suggestions on how to teach French for children who come from a family with one native tongue only.
A tiny bit of neuropsychology to get started
One good reason for starting very early is that when a baby is born, the new brain is ready to learn any language in the world, and that’s how all of us have become fluent in our native tongue. We listen to the people around us and the brain starts reorganizing itself and supporting the native language’s sounds and “forgetting” the ability to learn other languages’ sounds.
However, if a child is in a social interaction using other languages, they will learn those languages’ sounds as well. That is why people who have learned a second language as a kid don’t have a foreign accent whereas adults often never get rid of theirs. The speed children learn vocabulary is amazing, and they grasp the grammar rules without having to study them. That’s all natural language development. There would be a lot more to the neurological side of the language development, but let’s go on now.
How to Teach French for Children in Bilingual families
If you live in a bilingual home, it will be easier. All you need to do is to communicate with your child, and they will learn both languages naturally. Also get some books, films and music in both languages. If each parent sticks to their own native language while communicating with their children, the kids will learn both languages naturally without any problems. Having social contacts in both languages will help the children use the language in everyday situations and learn more from their peers as well, so try to find playmates and other contacts to practice both languages, especially if one of them is not usually spoken in the country you live in.
However, it is good for you to know that at some point the bilingual kids’ vocabulary may appear smaller than in general, but that is because the assessment is usually done in one language only. Kids often learn one word per item first, so when only one language is tested, the kid is not able to show all the skills they have. However, the kids will reach their peers when they get a bit older, so that is nothing to be worried about.
More than 2 languages?
You can even throw in a 3rd language, like some friends of mine did: they are a French-Finnish couple, who speak English together. Their English is excellent but still not their native language. This is how they did it: the mother speaks Finnish to the children, the father speaks French and the kids go to an English-speaking daycare, where the teachers are native English speakers. That’s how the children have learned all three languages, and speak fluent French, Finnish and English.
How to Teach French for Children in Non-bilingual families
Stick to your native language
Some parents in non-bilingual families might be tempted to start speaking a foreign language to their children to teach kids French or some other language of their choice, but that is really not a good idea for various reasons.
First, when you speak your native language, you can communicate everything you want to as good as you possibly can, and the child will learn a complete, versatile language. That is vital for thinking and problem solving and helps them verbalize their thoughts and feelings. Knowing your native language well also works as an excellent base for learning other languages later. Everyone needs at least one complete language to be able to think, communicate and learn more.
Another possible issue which might appear if you choose to start speaking some foreign language to your children is that no matter how well you have learned the language, you will still make some mistakes here and there for sure. Your children will learn all your mistakes as well, and it is hard to unlearn them.
That’s enough for warnings now. You can still teach kids French, even if you don’t speak it yourself. There is a lot of material for learn to speak French for kids. The first thing you can do is to support your children while they are learning how to speak French by taking French lessons or using a French language learning software.
Offer your child learning opportunities
There are numerous ways to help your kid learn French. One was already mentioned: put them to a French-speaking kindergarten. It can either be an immersion daycare, where all the kids are non-native French speakers but the teachers still teach them in French. The younger the kids, the faster they will learn fluent French.
You might also be able to find a submersion class where most of the kids are native speakers, and they only have a couple of kids there who are just learning the language. Both choices are demanding for the child in the beginning, but that shouldn’t last long. In the submersion group the language acquisition might even happen faster and your kid will start having French conversations, because the kids communicate together in French all the time and don’t switch back to English while playing. And of course you can take them to study French in France!
You can also offer your child some more traditional language lessons. The teachers teaching how to speak French for children know how to show fun French for kids. They sing, play and play games and those are just excellent ways to learn French! The main thing is to keep it interesting for a child. Even if the child doesn’t continue taking the lessons throughout their school years, early learning experiences might be enough to help them learn the language more easily later on.
If language lessons are not an option, you can encourage your child to learn French with French learning games and software for kids. There are some excellent choices out there. These softwares and games are a lot of fun and make learning French as a foreign language easy. Your child will learn the basics of French in no time!