I am happy to share a guest blog from Marie! She’s a dedicated “language mom”, who has had to find creative ways to expose and teach her young children, Regina (3) and Vincent (2) both French and Korean.
Read her story, learn from it, and be sure to let us know what you may be doing to make language learning possible in your home!
My husband’s father grew up in French-speaking Canada and moved to the States for higher education and to raise his family. However, my husband never learned French, and now as a parent himself, he wanted his own children to have something that he did not: more than one native language.
So, when our oldest was nine months old, we decided to try an experiment. We challenged ourselves to raise our daughter to speak French fluently. Since I had zero French experience and my husband’s was only from high school and college French classes, we had to basically start from scratch; we had to create the “program” as we went along AND we had to learn the language ourselves. And amazingly enough, it has worked. It took a lot of sacrifices on our part, and we also couldn’t have done it as successfully without the help of my father-in-law when he visits us several times a year. But today, now with two children and over two years of language learning under our belts, we have fluent French speaking children who are also learning a third language: Korean.
Our strategy of language immersion with our daughter has been a mix of music, books, movies, and speaking.
She was coming up on one-year-old when we started, and we knew we had time to figure things out as we went along.
Our first step was to buy some French children’s music to listen to in the car.
I know that kid’s music is not every parent’s forte, but we figured that we’d make the sacrifice for our daughter’s education. Only French music in the car.
Secondly, we bought children’s books in French. We had grown a decent collection by the time she was two and her brother was turning one-year-old. Since the books were simple, I was easily able to learn to read them and pronounce them properly. In addition to reading books and listening to music, we would reinforce words by speaking French to the children constantly. An apple was not just an apple, but une pomme. Milk was du lait. Naptime was dodo. Every day, everywhere, we spoke to our kids the words they needed for immersion. I figured it was easy enough to learn French myself if I was learning at a baby’s pace!
Finally, we invested in finding age-appropriate shows and movies in French. I know that many parents wait until age two to introduce television.
But, we considered the benefits and drawbacks, and concluded that television in a foreign language offered a major benefit to our family: perfect pronunciation instruction.
We found shows similar to “Sesame Street” that introduced songs, sharing, vocabulary, healthy living, grammar basics like “le” or “la” as well as everyday French culture.
Our children have really benefited from these shows and movies, and I, myself, have better French because of it, too.
I’d say the biggest hurdle we had to cross for this adventure was the commitment needed in order to make it happen. We had to constantly be thinking about French.
Since we are the primary teachers, we’ve had to be “on” the majority of the time. And after a while, it really became second nature.
It’s been fun adding Korean to our foreign language learning, because it gives us a whole new alphabet to explore, it expands our cooking and mealtime discussions, and it has even opened us up to Korean culture around us and new friends in our city.
I hope that as our kids grow, they will see themselves as part of a bigger world, always learning new things and connecting with people all over the globe.
If you have a story to share, we’re all ears! Don’t be shy – we’d love to learn more about what you are doing on your language learning journey 🙂 The more we share what is working, the better we are all able to teach our children the language skills they need now and into the future.