Out of the Games Cupboard

A random assortment of reflections, musings and a running commentary on life.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

French For Fidgets

Ellie and I have recently started attending 'French for Fidgets' with her best friend, Elen, and her dad, Jason. It is great fun. Lucy, the organiser/teacher, puts an incredible amount of effort into the classes. Every week she has baked biscuits (shaped like animals) which the kids love. Many of her props are beautifully homemade - I particularly like the happy and sad wooden spoons! She has printed out and laminated all the song lrics in French and English. Every week there is a structured art/craft activity which goes down well after the singing and games.

I think Ellie was initially a little shy around the new people but seemed to understand that most of the speaking was in French; Lucy says something in French first, then in English, then in French a few more times. But after a few weeks Ellie is tentatively saying, bonjour, au revoir, merci, s'il vous plait, oui, non, j'ai trois ans, je m'appelle Ellie, ca va bien and I've heard her singing "cinq fromages dans le fromagerie..." and "sur ma bicyclette..."! She's even tried teaching her peers at nursery to count in French and say bonjour.

Lucy has put a lot of effort into promoting the classes. She firmly (and correctly) believes that the approach to learning languages within our education system is all wrong. Young children below 5 can learn several languages as easily as they can learn one. This ability decreases as the child grows. By ages 10-11 its an upward struggle but this is traditionally when children first start formally learning other languages. It's crazy when you think about it! The saddest thing is though, as Lucy says, she encounters much resistance from parents of 2 or 3 year olds who think their child will fail to master English if they are confused by the presence of a second language. This simply is not the case. It is noticeable that the 2 year olds at the class pick up new words in French quicker than Ellie and Elen, and yet their Englsih is about where you would expect.

We are not expecting that Ellie will be fluent in French by the time she's five or anything, but at least she is starting out appreciating that their are other languages and cultures with their own songs to sing. She enjoys the company and the activities and therefore it is a good thing.

I strongly recommend language courses of this type to toddlers everywhere! It's good for parents to brush up on their skills to!

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