We live in the United States, but my European background inspired me to raise my children with at least the languages I am fluent in: Romanian, English and French. It’s one of the reasons I homeschool.
I have been speaking to them in Romanian since birth. I introduced them to French about a year ago, when I started speaking to them during our normal routine.
My husband and I made the decision to limit our children’s screen time to 30 minutes per day and, instead, read to them extensively. We read to them mostly in English, but I also read to them in Romanian and French books. Lately, I have been more intentional about reading to them at least one book per day in Romanian and French.
What I realize more and more though is that my kids need more immersion into the sounds of French and Romanian. So here are some ways that I have allowed media into my children’s life. I call it “screen time with a purpose.”
1. Free books online
The Internet – the ultimate modern technology – has put me in touch with multilingual bloggers who inspire me and share their own findings. I also research the Internet to find book titles and ideas and methods. I even found a free bilingual book on Little Bilingues.
When my kids’ vocabulary picks up, we will read more advanced books in French. I found some free ones on Children’s Books Forever.
2. Google searches
A simple Google search for French books helped me find Schoenhofs, the bookstore which boasts the largest selection of foreign language books in North America. It is located in Cambridge, MA, on the campus of Harvard University. For orders over $50, shipping is free. Some of their titles begin cost under $5. So affordable.
3. Amazon Prime
Amazon remains a great source of books as well, especially because we have a Prime membership. While Amazon cannot rival Schoenhofs in selection or prices, Amazon carries certain bilingual books which Schoenhofs does not.
Youtube helps with French nursery rhymes (comptines) and cartoons like Caillou, Léo et Popi and Trotro. These are wholesome cartoons in French which use simple vocabulary and short sentences. The dialogues help my children hear French spoken in a conversation and retain it.
Very important note: I sit with them and translate expressions and repeat the French terms. Not for everything, but for the most important words and phrases. I do it in Romanian. That way, they practice two minority languages at one time.
The other day, my son was imitating Mousseline, Caillou’s sister, who was saying, “Moi, moi, moi!” while holding her empty bowl up. Then he looked at me and said, “Mousseline is so cute. What does ‘moi’ mean, mama?”
Bonus: they don’t even realize they are having a French lesson while watching.
Even though it helps them learn French, I still limit their cartoon time to 30 minutes a day. That way, if they watch some English cartoons as well, they spend a total of one hour daily in front of a screen. I counterbalance that with three hours spent outside every day.
5. Petra Lingua
Last but not least, I have found Petra Lingua to be a fun way to allow modern technology to teach my children French. Try their free sample lesson and you will see how much your children enjoy the experience. I will have a more thorough review of this site in July, so make sure you sign up for updates from Homeschool Ways on social media or via email.
So far though, this site has boosted my children’s confidence with French. My daughter told me the other day, “I understand THIS French, mama” as we were going through the fruit and vegetable lesson for the third time.
Repetition is the mother of learning, and children know it instinctively. They ask to repeat the same lesson several times and they love that I oblige. In the process, they have just memorized 20 French words.
We Skype with my family who live in Spain, Sweden and Romania. Even though my children still answer my relatives in English and I have to translate, now and then they will answer in Romanian – miracle of miracles! If we keep this up, I think we will see even more progress.
7. Radio France Internationale
Listening to RFI has become a daily routine in our home. Even if it is just Le Journal En Français Facile, which takes 10 minutes, I make it a point to turn it on when the kids are playing nearby. They don’t get any of it at this point, but, over time, they will start hearing more and more familiar words.
I remember learning Swedish while living in Sweden (from TV, radio, conversations at work and at language school) and not understanding anything. After a few weeks, I could catch a phrase here, a word there. In the meantime, I learned the rhythm and the melody of the Swedish language. Four months later, I could carry on a conversation with the natives.
So, based on that experience, I immerse them into the sounds of French. Hopefully, a few months from now, I will be able to report some major victories on another multilingual blog carnival. Until then, I say au revoir!
This post is included in a Raising Multilingual Children blog carnival hosted by Rita of Multilingual Parenting.