If you’re thinking about living in France or you have a holiday home across the Channel for example, it makes a lot of sense to help your child learn French before living or holidaying in France. And what’s more, there is now more proof than ever that children who grow up speaking more than one language have a far better understanding of language full stop.
This ability relates to a process called metacognition and this is what you will be helping your child develop if you teach them French before living in France and then keep assisting with their French language development once you have relocated – whether permanently or just for the summer holidays!
In London there are special language schools for tiny tots, the likes of Club Petit Pierrot take children in from the age of eight months and immerse them in the French language until it become second nature to all pupils to converse happily in French when at class during term time. Other methods that parents might like to consider if they have children who have attended some lessons already is practicing their own French language skills around their children so that vocabulary and sentence structure can be improved upon.
If one parent is better than the other at speaking French – perhaps one parent is of French origin – it can make sense for that parent to converse in French with their child from the moment they are born. The second parent can use English and from the word go the child in question will be developing bilingual language skills.
If you know you’re going to be living in France in the near future and you have so far given no thought to teaching your children French then more drastic action will be required. Consider hiring personal tuition for your children at least twice a week and work with them to make learning fun. Label everything in the home with the French name for the object in question and you can even make this into a game so that the child helps you look up the words and write out the labels.
Finally, if you have plenty of warning of your relocation or you are just very keen for your child to learn French as a foreign language from an early age, why not hire a French au pair or nanny and ask them to communicate with your offspring in French. It will be tough going for both parties to begin with, but because the younger a child begins to learn a second language the easier they find the transition, they will soon be fluent and putting you and your language skills to shame!