I have been learning French with my six-year-old daughter for a few months now, but we’re taking it slow and not putting any pressure on ourselves. My feeling is that with children of this age the emphasis should be on fun and enjoyment so when using the Rosetta Stone programme we tend to focus on the speaking sections more often than not.
Listening and then repeating without inhibition, I believe, is the key to successful language learning and of course, my daughter loves to hear the ‘you’re correct!’ sound! But how else can you keep things fun and enjoyable when you’re introducing your little ones to languages? Here are my top five tips on how I am managing to mix it up and make things playful…
- After we have covered some vocabulary, I try to keep it going throughout the day. For instance, I will point to a piece of fruit or our dog and say “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” My daughter loves to feel that she has learnt something valuable and even if I spend all day saying “c’est un chien”, I don’t mind to see the smile on her face.
- Mix up language learning with fun songs. We particularly like Sing & Learn French. My daughter sings the words by heart and doesn’t even realise she is learning a language!
- Although we are primarily using the Rosetta Stone software to learn French, I think it is also important for children to make contact with a French teacher in real life. As we are often on the move, this is not currently possible, but we have found the Internet to be a brilliant substitute. In particular I have found Heidi and her puppet Tonton to be brilliant. My daughter adores watching Heidi’s fun videos and I find her approach to teaching French hilarious and engaging.
- For true language immersion it is important to find ways to listen to your chosen language as much as possible. I have found the best way to do this (when we’re not travelling in France) is to watch a favourite DVD in French. Most come with French as an option and although I am never sure exactly how much my daughter is picking up, I do know that she is getting more comfortable in hearing the language.
- Children love nothing better than to receive post – even in this day-and-age of technology. So I have found that a great way to encourage even young children to practice their French is to encourage them to send notelets, or drawings with a few words on, to a friend in France. There are numerous websites to enable this, or you can just choose a family friend who lives there!
I believe the most important thing when it comes to teaching children languages is to make sure it’s fun. They will have plenty of time to knuckle down and study in the future, but in their younger years singing, chatting, writing, even if it is the same thing over-and-over, seems to be the approach that is working for us.
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