7 tips to encourage you to communicate more in your native language if you find it difficult to speak it with your child at home.
I was recently interviewed for The French newspaper Le Figaro and on this occasion, the subject was about how best to maintain a child’s language skills and culture for French children living abroad.
It inspired me to write this blog to share my thoughts on this! As a teacher and a mother, I know that it is a challenge.
1. Language and culture are connected!
Speaking a language is not only the use of words to communicate, it is how we share our culture and traditions, as well as our history, sense of humour and emotions!
2. Analyse your context: It will help with any expectations or frustrations.
Not all children with a French parent hear French being spoken to them every day. Ask yourself…
- How often does my child hear spoken French during a week?
- Who speaks French to her/him?
- Does my child understand when I speak French?
- Does he reply in French or English?
- When my child tries to speak French, are they confident?
3. Make a plan!
The most common strategies
- One person – One language / each parent speaks in their native language.
- The minority language is spoken at home. In this case French
- When & Where: Plan moment(s) in your daily or weekly family routine which are always in French.
I advise choosing and adapting any strategy to fit in with your own family lifestyle!
4. What to avoid?
First try not to worry too much about it, remove any stress around the language!
- Don’t force your child to reply in French or repeat all the time, they will be discouraged to speak!
- Avoid systematic translation: It is not necessary, and this would be a missed opportunity to teach more and expand their vocabulary in a natural manner: you could explain the meaning of a word in French with other words, discuss possibilities with your child and/or you can mime, draw while explaining this in French.
- Don’t expect perfection. One learns by experimenting and therefore making mistakes is part of the process.
- Don’t give up, even if your child replies in English or mixes up both languages.
5. The importance of making it fun and meaningful.
- When your child is having fun, she/he is not frightened to experiment, so in this case not frightened to speak.
- Your child needs a reason to speak. They will naturally communicate if it is useful.
- Ideally your child forgets you are speaking in French and just communicates with you (even if in English sometimes or with an imperfect French) and feels that there is no pressure!
6. Several practical ideas to keep it as effortless as possible for you and your child!
- Speak French during everyday life routine: morning and evening routine, meals…
- Read stories: will improve their language skills.
- Play together: with any toys or board games that you both enjoy.
- Cook together: when following instructions, they will develop their listening skills and expand their vocabulary.
- Sing songs: children’s songs but also your favourite adult songs in French! When singing they will effortlessly absorb grammatical structures.
7. Learning a language is a journey.
Children learn a language through hearing it first. Their progress will depend on the amount of exposure they get. Therefore don’t compare their progress with friends or siblings. Each child has their own journey depending on their daily life.
Alors keep at it, having fun will have a positive effect on everyone’s motivation!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call or send an email!
Article in Le Figaro LINK