Lisa Sarafidis – Guest Blogger
I have a confession to make. My kids don’t speak French. Not that they should, since we don’t live in France (“Hello, Captain Obvious”, as my daughter would say). However, I had assumed that we would have made more progress in French by now, since it is a goal of mine to have multilingual children. And my kids really want to learn French. And I speak French myself. And, and, and…
Apparently, just wishing it were true does not a multilingual family make. And my efforts so far have not been very rigorous. We work hard on the Greek, since that is my husband’s native language, but the French lessons have been few and far between. So, I am issuing a challenge to myself, and to any of you out there that have been thinking, “Gee, I really want my kid to speak French” (or Chinese, or whatever language you choose): let just get started! I’ll share what I am doing, and we’d love to hear what you are up to.
I’ll document for you (and myself) the steps I take with them, and share what works, and what doesn’t. The one overriding principal will be “Keep it fun!”. This isn’t about lesson plans, but ways of introducing them to French and French culture (or which ever language you choose) so that they think it’s a game. I am going to try something new each week, whether it’s a theme, or a book, or a website. So, without further ado, here we go!
Since I love to eat, and my kids love to eat, I decided food would be a great place for us to begin. I recently read this wonderful book called “French Kids Eat Everything“, which documents how a Canadian mother, married to a Frenchman, was able to transform her picky, snack-obsessed children into fabuous eaters. Sign me up! In a nutshell, the book describes how French kids are trained from a young age to eat very well during their meals (lunch and dinner are usually 4 courses), and they are only allowed one snack a day, called the gouter (pronounced goo-TAY), which is generally served to them around 4:30. While they only get one snack a day (so as to not spoil their appetites), it is an awesome snack. Think pain au chocolate, croissants, or other yummy pastries. At all other times, they are served what the adults are eating, with the theory that if they are hungry, they will eat it. I’m going to write more about this book at a later date, because there are lots of other ideas in it I want to share, but for now, I’ll just say that so far, it really does seem to be working.
I explained to my kids that in the spirit of learning French, they were going to start eating like French kids. We were going to be making the table fancy for every meal, including using a….wait for it…tablecloth (gasps from the kids…looks of puzzlement as they try to figure out the purpose of the strange blanket I am putting on the table). They would be having no snacks, except for the gouter, but I would let them pick the gouter, and they could help me make it every Sunday. For all other meals in the house, they would have to eat exactly what I made for myself and my husband. I had expected a full-scale revolt, but much to my surprise, they are 100% on board. And I think it is due to the gouter. Above is a picture of the first gouter we have made, Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes, from one of my favorite food blogs, The Smitten Kitchen.
While we were sitting at the table on Monday evening, all civilized with our table cloth, glass cups and fancy plates, my son asked me how to say “Please pass the milk” in French. And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the French word for milk. I told him to wait a second, and I would look it up on google on my phone. To which he responded, “Why don’t you just look it up on Lingo’s Market?”. Oh. Right. The grocery shopping app that has 100 food items in French, Spanish, English and Chinese that we spent 2 years of our lives making.
My kids often play with the app- sometimes to mess around in one of the languages, but frequently just to watch him burp or fart (to those of you who have bought the app, you are welcome!) I hadn’t yet purposely used it for language-learning…and not to toot our own horn, but it totally works! As we were sitting at the table, whenever there was a food item they wanted to know, they would use the app as a dictionary, and scroll through the store to find the word. Or to watch Lingo eat garbage bags, which is apparently hysterical. So this is now part of our evening routine, if only for a few minutes at the beginning of dinner.
The last thing I am adding this week is actually one of the first things we put up on this website a few years ago…sight words for around the house. These are a series of images that describe things in different parts of the house, written in French, Spanish, English and Chinese. You print them out, and tape them to the item they describe, so kids can easily absorb the word. We have them for the kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom so far, and they are free! Just download here, print, and tape up! For this week, I am only putting up the kitchen words, but you could do all of them at one time if you want.
So that’s what we are doing this week. It was actually pretty easy and took minimal time to set up. We’d love to hear from you guys- any tips to share? Post it on our facebook page, leave it in a comment below, or drop us an email at email@example.com.
Let’s stay in touch! Please sign up for our newsletter!
Filed Under: App Reviews, Cultural Experiences, French, Games to Learn a Second Language