Before our kids were born I decided I would speak to them in Spanish as much as possible. A fine plan! I’ve been low-key trying to get Alfie into Spanish since he was born. First with nursery rhymes, then simple peekaboos, the odd book, a cartoon here and there and visits to Spain. And he just wasn’t into it. Ever.
Over the years he’s had a tiny amount of exposure to French and about 6 months ago I noticed that he was far more receptive to French than he’d ever been to Spanish. I resisted switching languages for a long time but I’ve finally faced facts that, for reasons unknown, Alfie just doesn’t like Spanish! We jumped into French a few weeks ago and he LOVES it.
Here’s what we’ve done and what we’re planning on doing over the next few weeks. (Note that I’ve said weeks since I have no timeline in mind, just when the kids are ready) My French is very rusty so I’m sharing these plans in the hope that I’ll encourage other parents who aren’t fluent or don’t feel confident to take the leap and introduce a second language anyway! While we are using this approach for French it is easily adaptable to any other language.
I created us a calendar and every morning we spend a few minutes discussing the weather and what we will do that day. The phrases are very simple. What’s the weather like today? Do I hear the rain? I see blue skies! There’s the sun! Hello sunshine! I like the sun.
We also discuss where we might go and who we might see – though it’s getting a bit repetitive! Je Dis Bonjour is a cute hello song that uses a lot of words we need, it’s first in the playlist that I play every morning as I clean up breakfast. It’s followed by a few more songs featuring hello words or family members for the sake of repetition.
The real aim behind the calendar is as a first step towards working on a morning basket!
Now that the parks are open again we do a nature walk a few times a week. As we walk around the park I use as much French as I can. We’ve given different parts of the park names like The Stinky River, The Broken Bridge and the Pretty Hill, so I ask the kids “Would you like to go to the Stinking River? Great! We will walk to the Stinky River!” As we go I name all the animals we see. We use mostly the same sentences that we use in the morning. What is that over there? Do I hear a bird? I see a rabbit! There’s a swan. Hello ducks! I like squirrels.
When we get home from our walk I try to talk about what we saw. I use the present tense (“In the park we see… we hear….”) to keep it simple. As I talk the kids and I draw what I say, Alfie usually starts to add in his own details too which I translate for him.
Next weeks: I’ll include the names of our art materials and some colours and Alfie might be ready to guess what I’m drawing, that will mean he might have to say a word from memory without me telling him first, or perhaps pick from two options, we’ll see.
We play football in French which I loves nothing more that a few straightforward phrases. You’re turn. I caught the ball! Are you ready? Look out! There it is! Is enough to get us through. We also play some nonsense games like Fall on Your Bum and I’m Going To Eat You. Very simple, very fun.
Another game we play is Meunier Tu Dor, in this game we simply put the miller to bed and turn the windmill in time to the song. Alfie also likes to make the miller run around like a maniac to stop the windmill, but that’s optional! A nice follow on song is Tourne Petit Moulin, which is a simple action rhyme.
Next weeks: I’ll begin to introduce new words to expand on this game, simple phrases like “Wake up Miller!” and “Sleep tight Miller!” that will be useful for us in real life.
Books and Resources
There are some books and audio books I’ve used but I’ll pop them into a separate post as this one is getting a little long and I can hear the calling me!