Seven ways to keep your kids excited about language learning

I haven’t written about my children’s language learning progress in a while, but with Thanksgiving coming I know it’s one of the things I’ll be grateful for this holiday. Being able to introduce Emmett and Adrian to French is one of my greatest joys and privileges (and sometimes one of the biggest challenges). When I last blogged about language learning, I was ecstatic that my son had just read his first sentence in French.

We have actually have had a lot to celebrate since then – when we went to France this summer, Emmett spoke French to shopkeepers and kids his age, and he recently started working with his French tutor again and actually ENJOYS his French homework. Here he is doing a page of drawing sports activities while learning the difference between “à la” and “au”:

Emmett turned seven in September and I am proud to say he can speak full French sentences, hold up his end of simple conversations and is curious about new words and expressions. He is also an avid reader (in English) which has opened up new teaching opportunities. I have been trying to keep it fun by getting him series he likes in French (Scooby Doo is a favorite right now).

My younger son Adrian, now 3 ½, started attending a French Immersion School this fall and has already made huge strides in just a few months. He and his best friend, Paul Camille (I just love saying that name, it’s so French), love to sing French nursery rhymes and Adrian now greets me in the mornings with a “Bonjour maman!” and thanks me with “Merci maman!”  which makes my day every time.

Adrian-and-Paul-Camille-300x225.jpg

While my children are not yet bilingual in French, I am so thrilled to see them with good accents (thanks to starting young with Little Pim and other resources) and a solid foundation to work from. I always tell parents that learning a second language is a life long journey and each child will move forward at his or her own pace. The important thing is to keep showing your child that language learning can be fun and that the rewards will be great if they can stick with it (not unlike playing a musical instrument).

Here are a few things that have worked with my boys to keep them interested and “on the journey” over the past few years:

    1. keep speaking French to them, even if it’s only a little here and there. Never let it disappear from their daily lives entirely even if they are “rebelling”. It’s not all or nothing with language learning….
    1. mix in one French book to the 2-3 books I read them at night. right now it’s Little Pim Colors or Feelings for Adrian and Asterix comics for Emmett
    1. make extra efforts to experience the fun parts of French culture with them (go to a French bakery for breakfast, attend a chocolate making workshop with a French chef, make crèpes with friends, etc.)
    1. play the “flash card game” with Little Pim flash cards (you get a treat for identifying 10 right in a row – this is a subway, car ride and restaurant waiting favorite!)
    1. always encourage, never nag or tell them they “said it wrong”
    1. bring in help in the form of tutors to supplement when needed
    1. find other families teaching their children the same second language so our kids can speak together and also just see they are not unique in learning two languages.

What will you be grateful for this Thanksgiving about your child’s language journey?  Write in with your successes and challenges and I’d be happy to answer any questions about raising kids with two languages.