Learning French As A Family
Since 2012 my family has focused on French language acquisition. What started as a simple idea of exposing our children to another language soon transformed into a family goal: to raise children who are bilingual and bi-literate. We have tried many methods and activities along the way to learn French as well as expose our children to the cultures whose predominate language is French. People often ask about my process (a non-native French speaker learning a new language) and tips about how to incorporate language learning in their household. Here are a few of my family’s favorite things:
Apps and learning programs: There are a ton of wonderful learning apps for most devices and phones. Rosetta Stone is a popular one but search for “French learning for kids” or “German for kids” or insert any language and several options will come up. We do limit screen time but when our daughters do use devices, it is solely in French. Also, Leap Pad has awesome tablets with a nice selection of reading and math games in languages other than English.
Music: We are constantly playing music in out house and we make sure that 50% of all of the music that is played is in French. Google popular musicians in a country that speaks your target language and see what comes up. Pop music usually gives a catchy beat and this type of music is great for kids to memorize and practice speaking the language because of the simple language. My children love United Kids, an awesome children’s group from France. (add link)
Get a tutor! We have relied on online tutors for a huge portion of our French learning. My husband and I have a tutor and so does our oldest daughter. Preply.com is an amazing site and there are so many tutors to choose from. You can work with a tutor via Skype through Preply for as low as $12 an hour (sometimes lower). A few hours a week with a native speaking tutor will truly push you towards fluency.
French Programs: There are tons of amazing shows to watch on YouTube and Netflix (just change the language options). Recently I found out that Spectrum, our cable provider, offers “Multicultural Channels” including Filipino, French, Latino/Spanish speaking, South Asian and Japanese channels. Having several cable channels with access to the second language that you are learning is convenient and a great tool to utilize.
Language Organizations (per state and national): Organizations such as NABE (the National Association of Bilingual Education) or state focused associations such as CABE (California Association of Bilingual Education) are great organizations to be members in order to stay current with the trends in multilingual education at the national and state level. Plus, they provide wonderful opportunities to network with other parents and educators that are focused on multiple language acquisition.
French books: We have been building a French library in our house for years but purchasing books in French – especially with over seas shipping - can be pricey. We have a family allowance and purchase books every month but frequent book festivals like the Festival of Books at University of Southern California every year. There are usually international book vendors
Schools: If you have school aged children, it is a benefit to enroll them in an immersion program. There are many amazing private, charter and local public schools that offer second language programs. If you live in Los Angeles and are looking for a wonderful French preschool for your children, please visit www.wonderskidsworld.com. Nathalie Bensimmon is a phenomenal teacher and I credit majority of my oldest daughter’s French proficiency to her and her amazing program. Her preschool is located in West LA down the street from Hamilton High School. Now that we live in Atlanta, I am looking forward to enrolling my children in a French immersion program as well as having my children participate in the Saturday programs that are available through the Alliance Française (https://afatl.com/).
Please keep in mind that it is never too late to have your children learn a new language but the earlier the better. Plus many multi-language schools will not admit a student after the 2nd grade without prior language exposure as the rigor of the program and learning a new language will be confusing.
And Speaking of Alliance Française, every major city has a cultural center for most countries. Google the cultural center for a country that speaks the language that you are studying. These organizations usually provide educational opportunities for non-native speakers including classes, family events and informational nights. Involvement in these organizations helps to build community and make your journey to acquiring another language even more rewarding.