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Article:    Helping Kids Learn French

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Starting kids on foreign languages at a young age seems to get the best results. Children's brains are primed to pick up and absorb languages almost effortlessly. Some products that teach kids French use an immersion approach, which literally "immerses" children in the language. Other products use a bilingual approach, where words are translated. Experts tend to agree that an immersion approach is better for younger children, and the bilingual method is best for older children and adults. 

We evaluate many children's foreign language aids. My children attend schools with 40% of the instruction in French and the rest in English. As such, we actually use the products and have naturally selected some of the products as favorites. What follows are what we feel are the best selections of music, software, and videos that will help kids learn French as a second language.

Music/Audio

One of our favorite series of children's foreign language products is the Teach Me series. Teach Me French (A Musical Journey Through the Day) is an exceptional and easy-on-the-ears product for children of all ages, but especially young children. The tunes are catchy, and both French and English are spoken (and sung) so that beginners are never overwhelmed. 

Both the CD and cassette versions come with an activity book so that kids can follow along. The songs roughly follow a child's day, and in between tunes, children talk about their day. Some standout songs include Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes, Alouette, and Six Little Ducks. Some of the things kids will learn with this set: the alphabet, parts of the body, days of the week, and numbers. 

Once kids have enjoyed this audio recording, they can graduate to Teach Me More French and Teach Me Even More French.

This audio recording and book set uses a bilingual approach—kids are talked to in both English and French. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Teach Me French (Paperback and Audio... CD/book; or for the cassette/book package: Teach Me French (Paperback and Audio... ]

Baby's First Steps in French by Living Language is a high-quality, professional, and well put together audio CD and book set specifically designed to be played when children are babies, from ages Newborn to 24 months. The CD offers a combination of songs, rhymes/rhythms, and dialogues that emphasize the unique sounds of the French language. The book in the set is designed to not only explain the philosophy behind the CD, but to offer parents some helpful tips for developing children's language skills. This is a superior product that is both palatable and useful. See our full review of Baby's First Steps in French for more information.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Baby's First Steps in French (Baby's First Steps) at Amazon.com.]

coverUni-Verse of Song: French by Music for Little People uses simple songs and basic phrases to introduce children to the language. Both French and English verse is included so that true beginners are not overwhelmed. Classic French songs like Frere Jacques and Sur le pont d'avignon are here, along with familiar children's favorites like Happy Birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and so forth. Conversations in between songs help round out a fine children's recording that teaches as it entertains.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Uni Verse of Song-French at Amazon.com.]

Top Pick. For kids a little older, an excellent audio CD and activity book set is Learn in Your Car for Kids: French by Penton Overseas. We love this set! Kids learn French words, phrases, and sentences as they follow along with the CD, in which children are on their way to a "fete".  The reusable, laminated full-color activity book contains exercises that help reinforce the vocabulary learned on the audio CD, and the set includes reusable stickers and an erasable marker.  Bilingual songs are featured on the CD, in addition to the dialogues and vocabulary drills. See our full review of this Learn French CD/Activity Book set. We rated this set with a grade of A+.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: French: Learn in Your Car for Kids ; Activity Kit (Learn in Your Car for Kids) at Amazon.com]

 

A nice book and cassette set, entitled Bonjour Mes Amis, Hello My Friends, provides a pleasant, bilingual introduction to the French language. The narrator on the tapes speaks English, and she is accompanied by a French-speaking guide on their tour of France. 

Songs, conversation, and an activity book bring French to life for young participants. This set is best for beginners in the language, ages 5-9.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Bonjour, Mes Amis!/Hello, My Friends! :... at Amazon.com]


Children's French Games & Audio

 

LinguaFun! French: Language Learning Card Game offers an ingenious approach to learning French words, numbers, phrases, and sentences, including sentence structure. Kids play popular card games like Go Fish, Gin Rummy, Solitaire, and Concentration with cards that include French phrases. Putting the color-coded cards together means kids instantly form sentences. This set includes an audio CD that helps model the pronunciation of the included phrases, which include cards from two decks: the Family series (everyday words and sentences) and the Travel series (words and sentences commonly encountered or used when traveling).  Appropriate for children ages 7 or 8 and up, and for adults too!

[See our review of the LinguaFun series. For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Linguafun! French: Language Learning Card Games (Linguafun)]

 

Children's French Instructional Videos and DVDs

Bilingual Baby: French introduces young children (not limited to babies) to basic French words and simple phrases in a step-by-step fashion. Live-action video is featured. The video is quiet, never frenetic, and well-paced. Children learn French vocabulary of familiar objects, like apple and dog, concepts, like numbers and colors, and learn common expressions, like thank you and you're welcome

The Bilingual Baby video series also includes videos for different languages, and each follows a similar format. The screens are uncluttered, and the vocabulary is clearly spoken. New vocabulary is introduced one word at a time before it is combined into a sentence. For example, in Section 1, the French equivalent of boy, eat, and apple are introduced one by one, and then the sentence, The boy eats the apple, is spoken and illustrated. Each new vocabulary word is illustrated in two different ways--for example, two women in different settings illustrate the word for mother.

Appropriate for children ages 1-6.

[See our review. For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Bilingual Baby, FRENCH, Vol 1 video]

Another video designed for young children is Brainy Baby: French. This video is designed to teach children simple words and phrases in the French language. 

The format is sequential and well-paced, quite repetitive, and rather predictable. This means that the video is best viewed in segments. The learning content is excellent, with questions and answers for review. Mostly live-action video clips are employed to teach children such things as action words, colors, numbers, and familiar phrases (like "bonjour"!). Brainy Baby French is also available in other languages, and has been released on DVD as well. Very recommended!

Note: This video is very similar to the Bilingual Baby French mentioned above--sort of a revamped version--so we wouldn't recommend buying both of them. This one is available on DVD, however. 

Appropriate for children ages 1-6.

[Buy Brainy Baby - French video or Brainy Baby - French DVD at Amazon.com]

 

Software

There are a number of software titles designed for kids to acquire foreign language skills--all with different approaches and styles. KidSpeak French, for example, is a full-immersion approach that involves kids in simple games. Language Excelerator, on the other hand, uses a straight-shooting approach to learning. Our favorite of the titles currently available is EazySpeak French.

 

Top Pick Ages 10-up: Eazyspeak French Levels 1 and 2 (PC & Mac)  
This is a very unusual program for a number of reasons: the cartoon characters are quirky, the humor is irreverent, and the format is free-style. What sets the title apart is the huge content spread over two levels, as well as the fresh approach that draws kids in. Read our full review of EazySpeak Spanish here for more details. (Note that the format is the same as the Spanish title).

Good Choice Ages 4-up: Rosetta Stone French Explorer  
This is a great program that can be used as effectively by a four year old and an adult. Mind you, younger users won't be able to participate in the reading and writing exercises, but they'll still benefit from the many other exercises that rely on beautiful photos and multiple-choice questions. 

Once users understand the different options, they sail through the exercises that painlessly boost their listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. Of the programs available, we like this one the best. Although you won't get a full foreign language course in one box, this one is the first program to buy. Unfortunately, this title is now difficult to find. It is included in Instant Immersion French Pro (see below), however.


Ages 3-6:
JumpStart Languages
JumpStart Languages is a moderately educational CD-ROM. Kids have the opportunity to explore any of 4 areas ("language pavilions"), each corresponding to a particular language (French, English, Spanish, and Japanese). There are a few few games and activities to play in each pavilion. Children play a board game, look for matching pairs, listen to stories, and more. Each pavilion features the same types of activities, but is hosted by a different guide. The learning environment is playful. We thought the program could be better, but it does a decent job of introducing languages to preschoolers. It is currently difficult to find, as it is a discontinued product.


cover Ages 6-9: KidSpeak 6-in-1
KidSpeak Languages 6-in-1 includes 6 foreign languages on CD-ROMs, including French. This is a strong title that uses a full immersion approach to learning new languages. The learning is embedded into games, and no multimedia flashcards are used. Consider this point when purchasing a foreign language software for your child. Your own child may prefer a more straightforward learning environment. However, the approach used in this title can be very effective because children learn the language almost effortlessly. Games include tic tac toe, jigsaw puzzles, dominoes, connect-the-dots, and bingo. Songs are incorporated into the program and include Happy Birthday and The Alphabet Song. Vocabulary learned includes days and months, greetings, fruits, school items, body parts, numbers, clothing, and more. A total of 6 languages are covered in separate sections -- Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Hebrew. See our full review.


Good French Software Buy:

Instant Immersion French Pro (7 CD-ROM)  

coverInstant Immersion French Pro includes two particularly child-friendly CD-ROMs mentioned above: Rosetta Stone French Explorer and the French CD-ROM included in Instant Immersion Language Starter. There are 7 CD-ROMs in this bundle, and the package is rather confusing as a whole, but it is a good buy simply for these 2 CD-ROMs.

 

Learn French with Popular Characters: Caillou!

The Caillou character is a native French speaker! Although the Caillou television show was only recently picked up by PBS, it has been running in the French (and English) language for many years. The television series is based on the Caillou books. 

Caillou's Holiday Movie

Released in the final quarter of 2004, Caillou's first full-length movie is a real treat. An advent calendar generates anticipation for Christmas, and Caillou takes part in many winter activities as he gets ready for the holidays. The movie explores and introduces children to holiday traditions in different cultures as well. The DVD edition is well worth purchasing, not only because of its extras in the form of an animated interview with Caillou and two multi-level games, but because it can be viewed in English, French, and Spanish. The multilingual feature is of particular interest to families who want to encourage second-language acquisition at an early age. Highly recommended. Our Rating: A

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Caillou's Holiday Movie (DVD) or Caillou's Holiday Movie (VHS)]

 

A collection of Caillou songs is found on the audio CD, Caillou: Les Chansons de Caillou. These songs are pulled from the original French series. Includes tunes like, "Gilbert, mon chat", "la chanson des chiffres" (numbers song), "manger, manger", "cours, Papa!", "Caillou au zoo", and more. Very fun--and educational! You can buy Les Chansons De Caillou (audio CD) at Amazon.ca. (American customers: remember that the exchange rate is in your favor. For example, if something is priced at $10.00 Canadian, you will pay approximately $8.00 US.)

coverAlso available are Caillou videos in French, such as Caillou L'explorateur (which is also available as Caillou the Explorer in English). The language used is perhaps a little advanced for young children just learning the language, but kids can benefit from the video, especially if a family owns both an English and French copy of the video. Surrounding children in a completely French environment, even for half an hour, can be helpful.

You can buy Caillou l'explorateur (video) at Amazon.ca. (American customers: remember that the exchange rate is in your favor. For example, if something is priced at $10.00 Canadian, you will pay approximately $8.00 US.)

 

Looking to buy books, music, and videos in Canada? Amazon.ca has a wide selection of French children's video, CDs, and books in their French Boutique. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related Reviews

 

 

 

 

 


Amazon.ca has a French boutique with a huge selection of children's videos, music, and books in French:


 

 

April 2002/Updated May 2003/Updated December 2004/January 2005/May 2005/June 2005
 

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