By Robin Morris-Wilson
If you have considered learning a foreign language with your child, it is never too late to open the door to foreign language learning. A French speaker, author, and educator, Robin Morris-Wilson has conducted research on French language learning in an urban community. Now, she is offering helpful tips for parents who want to bring French language learning into their households.
You’ve dived into learning French! Maybe you have used some of the language learning strategies mentioned in the first article and you want more ideas to get your children excited about learning French.
Does your family love to cook? Do you have tech savvy kids? From cooking to technology, here are some additional ways that you can help your children fall in love with French:
1. Recipes: Do you have a special recipe from a mother or grandmother? You can use International Food Dictionary to translate your family recipes and invite your children to cook with you. This is a fun way to build French food vocabulary around dishes your family naturally enjoys. For free recipe translations, visit www.internationalfooddictionary.com/recipe-translate.php.
If you enjoy tasting cultural cuisines, purchase a copy of Cuisine futée Magazine at www.boutiquecuisinefutee.ca. There is a translation tab on the magazines’ website. From soupe de poisson (chicken soup) to floral flavored macaroons, there are many great French recipes to taste and explore. Santé!
2. Write, Draw, and Paint: Consider leaving quick notes in French and English for family members. A simple “I love you” or “je t'aime” is a great way to start your day. This will give you and your family practice in reading and writing in French. Also, get creative and draw or paint images to represent French words that your family is learning. You can even label the images and hang them on your refrigerator to display.
3. Public Libraries and Community Spaces: Contact your youth librarian to learn about language learning story times, programs, and English to French books at your neighborhood library. If programs and materials are not available, request a language learning play group, story time, and bilingual books for your community library. Also, visit neighbors and community spaces where French is spoken to practice hearing and speaking the language.
4. Apps: All of the following language learning apps can be downloaded on either iTunes App Store or Google Play Store: Penyo Pal, Mindsnacks, Gus on the Go, Duolingo, Mango Languages, and Memrise. These apps are interactive and useful for child or adult vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, and pronunciation learning.
5. Language Learning Camps/After-School Programs: Many local universities and colleges have foreign language departments and offer programs for elementary and middle school students in the surrounding community. Therefore, contact your local colleges and universities to inquire about language learning programs and scholarships for kids.
6. Alliance de Française: L’Alliance de Française (AF) is a respected international organization that offers French classes and programs to individuals interested in learning the language and culture. They offer beginner to advanced French programs for children and adults at locations throughout the U.S. and abroad. If you are a member of AF, you can access an online database of books and music in French. Still, membership fees and program costs may vary from location to location. Therefore, inquire about pricing with your local AF chapter. To learn about a location nearest you, visit https://afusa.org/chapters-map/.
7. English Foreign Language Immersion Schools: Look for schools that offer early language learning programs. There are three main types of immersion approaches. Schools can offer total, partial, or two-way immersion programs. The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) provides descriptions of the differences in programs. CAL also has a directory of foreign language immersion schools nationwide. Therefore, research schools in your area using webapp.cal.org/Immersion/.
8. Travel: If your budget allows, plan a language learning travel experience to Québec City, Canada. If you live in New York or Michigan, a 15-hour train ride will land you in the beautiful French-speaking city with plenty of arts and cultural attractions to explore. This is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the language and experience the culture. Some great family stops include, “The Céramic Café Québec” (http://leccs.com/en/quebec/), “The Museum of Civilization” (https://www.mcq.org/en), and “Citadelle de Québec” (www.lacitadelle.qc.ca/en/).
Compared to other international destinations, depending on your location, you can buy plane tickets relatively cheap to fly into Québec City. So, do some research, apply for your passports, pack a language journal, and take photos along the way to create a French literacy gallery. Here is an example of a digital literacy gallery: https://myalbum.com/album/neWyqq3p1oXx.
Sometimes, it only takes one positive experience to spark a lifelong passion for language learning. So, continue to encourage your children to learn French while celebrating their unique identities. It can be a wonderful way to bond with family and it can be an avenue to the world!
Robin Morris-Wilson is an educator, children's author, poet, and freelance writer. An enthusiastic French language learner, Robin has studied French at Ecole Québec Monde in Québec City, Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Reading and minor in language from the Unversity of Michigan-Dearborn. As an undergraduate student at UM-Dearborn, she conducted academic research on early French language learning in an urban context.