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Helping Your French-American Child Maintain and Grow Their French Skills

 In our modern world, interculturality is no longer something rare (without speaking of dramatic situations in which people have to flee their own country). Thanks to the development of transportations and the decrease of their price, traveling has become easier. Then, the internet made the world even smaller, allowing people to apply to foreign jobs with just one click. Knowing an other langage is a chance .

You don’t come without a luggage, you bring your culture, your souvenirs, your native language with you. And when a child comes, you may want to transmit this to them. 

BENEFITS OF SPEAKING THE FRENCH LANGUAGE

WHO SPEAKS FRENCH

You may have come with your spouse to the US, and after years living here, a child was born and raised in your host country. The only bilingual place in their life is their house. It is even harder, if the family came with children; they will have to learn a new language, putting effort to be integrated without losing their native language.

Or you came alone, found your spouse and you are the only one making your child a bilingual kid. 

Over the years, if nothing is done to preserve it, the minority language will be replaced by the dominant language. In the end, family bilingualism will only have been temporary. When we consider bilingual education as a long-term project, it is mainly a matter of taking care of the weak language, the one that is in a minority position compared to English.

It is going to daily fight to keep the minority language alive, but, for many reasons, it’s worth it.

BENEFITS OF BEING BILINGUAL

It is a chance to be multicultural. How not to be open minded when you come from 2 different cultures? The empathy, the understanding of others and the capacity to adapt are increased thanks to the acknowledgement that different people, way of thinking, way of living exist. 

 Being bilingual is an asset , not only because you can speak with many more people than others, but becauseit also gives you a biological advantage, because the brain has to adapt to its new environment, even if you are not bilingual by birth.

smiling girl studying home

 A study, published in 2017, involved 16 bilingual individuals who had been exposed to Spanish from birth and to English by the time they were 8 years old.

The paper shows that bilinguals’ ability to seamlessly switch between two distinct communication systems masks the considerable control exerted at the neural level.”

In fact, when a bilingual person hears words in one language, the other language also becomes activated. Scientists think that the brains of bilinguals adapt to this constant coactivation of two languages and are therefore different to the brains of monolinguals.

This has a direct effect on the brain and its neural plasticity. The cognitive function is impacted and the child will develop the ability to focus attention on relevant information and shift attention as needed. Therefore, the child is going to be better at task switching, depending the importance given to the task. Not only this skill is important during their school years, but they will be able to be adapt better during their career. Some studies suggest that the changes affecting the brain could protect the brain from dementia as well.

HOW TO HELP YOUR LANGUAGE LEARNER

How to help my kid? This is the question that all parents ask themselves. First, reassure your kid , they are still allowed to speak English language. But they will need to live a little in a French world too.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR BILINGUAL CHILD

A bilingual child has a multicultural identity. He is bicultural, he has access to two different worlds. 

It is going to be easier to maintain the minority language if the child arrived in the US when they were already speaking really well their mother tongue. You can’t easily forget something you already know; you will just have to reactivate the memorywhen it’s needed. Plus, the emotional connection with the home country, family and friends over there should be sufficient motivation to maintain a good level in that language.

 It could be different for the child born and raised in the US by a bilingual family.

Because he has grown up with two languages, both languages are equally important. This is why it is often very difficult for bilingual adults to determine their mother tongue. Bilingualism is their mother tongue. To say that language A is more native than B would be to underestimate one of the two languages.

Language is not only a communication tool, it is also an important symbol that shows that you belong to a group. When a child starts school, he/she is adapting to a new environment, this environment has a language and that is why some children will reject the language of the house if it is different from the language of the school. This is how they build their identity. Same thing for teenagers who all want to be like the others and don’t want to stand out from the crowd.

Don’t be surprised.  You will need to encourage them to keep using French, at least at home. Make a list of all the benefits of speaking a second language. At some point, your child is going to understand that being different can be an asset.

FRENCH IMMERSION

You will have to set up a French environment for your bilingual child. Foreign language learning is an everyday life job. Studying French may seem difficult for English speakers, who will keep a lovely accent, even after years go by . Bilingual children just have to remain bilingual. How lucky they are!

SPEAK FRENCH

If both parents are French natives, decide that your house is a French kingdom. French is the official spoken language and being French speakers is mandatory. It is going to be harder if only one parent speaks French, but ask your spouse to get involved by learning French with your child, for example. Remind them that they loved and married you and your French personality and that it would be sad to not share the same with your child.

You can also add French traditions and French food to your learning plan. It will be more interesting to learn French with the French culture at the same time, especially tasting crepes, eclairs and cheese.

 VISIT FRANCE OR A FRANCOPHONE COUNTRY

The best way to learn French is to go to France. You will be totally immersed in the language and culture of the French society. You can find many cheap flight deals to Europe during the summer. Unless you still have family there, you don’t necessarily have to go to France; you can choose any Francophone country, in Africa or Canada, for example.

You can also find many cultural events in big cities in the US. Many Francophone countries have embassies and they are often organizing free events open to the public. This is a great opportunity to meet people and learn about the culture.

pexels stas knop 1143755

READ FRENCH

Are you a fan of bedtime stories? If the answer is ‘no” it’s never too late to change that. What is better than a quiet time, cuddling with your child, to read a French book before saying goodnight? If your child can already read in English, why does not try to read in French? Sounds and spelling are different but it won’t be as difficult as learning to read in general. 

There is no better way than reading to learn vocabulary, new words, native popular expressions, styles etc. You can even read French History books to kill two birds with one stone.

  • Le merveilleux dialogue d'un enfant et d'un loup aux destins extraordinaires... Dans un zoo, une enfant et un vieux loup borgne se fixent, oeil dans l'oeil. Tout la vie du loup défile au fond de son oeil : une vie sauvage en Alaska, une espèce menacée par les hommes. L'oeil de l'enfant raconte la vie d'un petit Africain qui a parcouru toute l'Afrique pour survivre, et qui possède un don précieux : celui de conter des histoires qui font rire et rêver. Sku 9782266126304
    Pocket Jeunesse – L’oeil du loup
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  • L'univers des dinosaures à explorer en 3D ! Plus de 70 questions pour tout savoir sur les dinosaures grâce aux animations : - dans une enveloppe, des os à replacer sur un squelette de stégosaure pour jouer à faire comme un vrai paléontologue - des pop up : le stégosaure, le combat des tricératops, l'extinction des dinosaures - des flaps pour les rubriques petits mystères rigolos - une grande page déployée finale pour retrouver toutes les familles de dinosaures ... et une roue évolutive, des tirettes, des rabats et plein d'autres surprises pour explorer le monde des dinosaures avec Manon et Lucas. SKU 9782092579367
    Nathan – Le Kididoc des dinosaures
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  • 9782324020476
    Grund – Timoté visite le Louvre
    $9.25
  • Nathan – T’choupi a peur du noir
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 LISTEN TO FRENCH

 Take advantage of the technology and download French movies and TV shows, find interesting websites and apps to help your child practice his/her French.

You can set up a schedule within your child will have listen to French audiobooks or  watch television in French or with French subtitles. You can find all the cartoons you want on YouTube. With a VPN you can have access to French television too via a subscription-based streaming service like Nextflix or Salto. 

They will hear accents, tones, speed of speech different than yours; it will widen their ear and refresh their French.

Have them speak to your family overseas using a phone or video call. They will have to make effort to speak correctly and you can even challenge them with a little French contest between them and a cousin of the same age.

FRENCH WORDS : WRITE IN FRENCH

 Writing in French will keep their spelling , but also their writing, since, in France, people learn to write in cursive. You can try to find a pen pal; a former friend, a cousin, an association etc

You can also buy French activity books or use the book you read at bedtime to practice dictation tests. Even if it might be look like old school, you can give them a French English dictionary. Contrary to a phone, they can bring it to school and look for French words translation during class.

  • N°1 des dictionnaires scolaires, Le Robert Junior permet aux enfants de 7 à 11 ans, du CE à la 6e, de progresser dans la maîtrise de la langue, d'enrichir leur vocabulaire et de comprendre le monde qui les entoure. Pédagogique et largement illustré, il est recommandé par les enseignants. Maîtriser la langue et enrichir son vocabulaire 32 000 mots, sens et noms propres des exemples clairs et vivants les synonymes et les contraires, les homonymes, les familles de mots des remarques sur l'orthographe, la grammaire, l'origine des mots... la nouvelle orthographe + un dossier Langue française : grammaire, conjugaisons, orthographe, petit dictionnaire d'étymologie Voir et comprendre le monde 1 500 noms propres une frise historique illustrée, de la préhistoire à nos jours un atlas du monde 2 500 illustrations 92 planches encyclopédiques 32 planches Histoire des arts + un cahier d'anglais Le dictionnaire pour l'école recommandé par les enseignants et conforme aux programmes. pour l'achat de 5 dictionnaires Le Robert Junior : Le dictionnaire vidéoprojetable, idéal pour vos " séances dictionnaire " ! Vos élèves visualisent directement vos explications Toutes les images zoomables, des vidéos et des outils d'annotation Pas de problème de dictionnaire oublié ni de cartable trop lourd SKU : 9782849027356
    Le Robert Junior illustré
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  • Bordas vacances - Je rentre en Moyenne Section, un cahier de vacances qui permet de réviser l'essentiel du programme (Lecture, Graphisme, Maths et Explorer le monde), en donnant confiance à l'enfant de Petite Section. Des exercices, des jeux, des devinettes, des stickers à coller, un cahier d'activités détachable et tous les corrigés. Pour des révisions complètes et amusantes, ce cahier de vacances de Petite Section propose 20 séances de graphisme, lecture ou maths, chacune développée sur une page : Deux exercices autour de la notion abordée en maths, graphisme ou lecture, conçus par des enseignants et conformes au programme Un petit jeu en bas de page (devinette, rébus, intrus, etc.) en lien avec la notion Et en + : Des pages pour explorer le monde Un cahier d'activités à détacher Des stickers offerts à coller tout au long du cahier lorsque l'enfant a terminé sa page Un diplôme à afficher dans sa chambre Tous les corrigés détachables SKU 9782047400098
    Bordas Vacances – Je rentre en Moyenne section
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  • Bordas vacances - Je rentre en CE2, un cahier de vacances amusant et complet pour réviser l'essentiel du programme dans toutes les matières (Français, Maths, Histoire-Géographie, Anglais et Sciences) de CE1. La collection Bordas Vacances permet à votre enfant de vérifier ses acquis avant son entrée en CE2. Pour des révisions stimulantes, ce cahier de vacances CE1 adopte sur chaque double page une structure en 4 étapes : Une lecture courte qui raconte les aventures de Miléna et Jules en vacances ; les frère et soeur que l'on va suivre au fil des pages : un entraînement idéal à la lecture. Une rubrique "le sais-tu ?" pour que l'enfant renforce sa culture générale Des exercices de français, maths, histoire-géographie, emc, anglais et sciences conçus par des enseignants et conformes au programme Un quiz en fin de page pour mémoriser les notions qui viennent d'être vues Et en + : Des pages "pause récré" proposant des jeux et activités créatives à partager avec ses amis ou sa famille Des stickers offerts à coller tout au long du cahier Des mémos de maths et de français pour se rappeler l'essentiel des cours Tous les corrigés détachables SKU 9782047400135
    Bordas Vacances – Je rentre en CE2
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  • Bordas vacances - Je rentre en Grande Section, un cahier de vacances qui permet de réviser l'essentiel du programme (Lecture, Graphisme, Maths et Explorer le monde), en donnant confiance à l'enfant de MoyenneSection. Des exercices, des jeux, des devinettes, des stickers à coller, un cahier d'activités détachable et tous les corrigés. Pour des révisions complètes et amusantes, ce cahier de vacances de Moyenne Section propose 20 séances de graphisme, lecture ou maths, chacune développée sur une page : Deux exercices autour de la notion abordée en maths, graphisme ou lecture, conçus par des enseignants et conformes au programme Un petit jeu en bas de page (devinette, rébus, intrus, etc.) en lien avec la notion Et en + : Des pages pour explorer le monde Un cahier d'activités à détacher Des stickers offerts à coller tout au long du cahier lorsque l'enfant a terminé sa page Tous les corrigés détachables SKU 9782047400104
    Bordas Vacances – Je rentre en Grande section
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TEACHING FRENCH

It is time consuming and it is required patience to make your child want to maintain French. There is no shame to feel helpless or not motivated. That is why teachers exist. Because if a child makes you a parent, they don’t turn you into a teacher. But where to find a French school?

Go on your Nextdoor  app and ask for a French teacher. You can also log in in a tutoring website like Wyzant and find a tutor, on line or in person.

You will also find organizations that offer classes for kids and parents such as Alliance Francaise.

As we live in Florida, you can create an account for free on FLVS ( Florida virtual school) an enroll for free in French classes, that will give your child high school credit. 

Download Duolingo for free on their phone: this awesome app is very engaging and educational, and kids with a phone or a tablet can bring it everywhere. There is a premium version, but the free version is just as great!

DON’T GIVE UP

With all these tips, you will make sure that your child won’t lose their French and might even improve it. Knowledge of the second language will give him/her an edge when he enters the job market. Bilingualism will help the child succeed in school and in life.

Go to a French School

If you want your child to be able to do more than have a French conversation, and have the ability to write more than an email, you can send him/her to a French school.  The French schools teach not only the language but also all the other school subjects, including History.   More than a language, children are educated and learn French culture in a way that adheres to the French Ministry of Education.  This education gives students the possibility to later chose between France, the US, Canada, and much of Europe for higher education. French-American Schools (PreK-12) are part of a worldwide network of over 495 internationals with a French curriculum, in 137 countries (AEFE network).  The US alone has 47 such schools LinkWith over 17,500 students.  The education provided in these schools conforms to the curricula defined by the French Ministry of Education which accredits the qualified schools with a “Homologation”. You can find most of these schools in more populated regions throughout the US and in large city centers like N.Y, L.A., Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, etc. Florida is catching up with 6 schools in the state, two of which in Boca Raton: French American International School of Boca Raton (FAIS) and l’école Française Internationale de Boca Raton- Le Petit Prince.  You may ask “but what is the difference between a French school and an American school?”.  The benefits are many. Take a look at FAIS, you will see that they teach in a way dear to French people: learning grammar at a young age, correct spelling, writing legibly and neatly in cursive.  As your child learns using the French pedagogical method for half the day and the American method for the other half, all the while in full language immersion, he/she benefits from the advantages of both.  It’s a real win-win!

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