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French for babies

(19 Posts)
Petradreaming Tue 23-Feb-16 07:44:29

I wonder if anyone can help? I would like to introduce French to my baby grandson ( his mum is 19 and they both live with me & DH) I always regret not being able to speak a second language and I have read that ages 0 - 5yrs are when a child is most able to absorb a second language. I have seen DVD's etc. on Amazon that I could buy to play in the house, which have English 'help' for the adult. Given that only have the most basic understanding of O level French - do you think this is a good way to start? I plan to take conversational French as well so I can perhaps engage a little bit more with him. Any ideas welcome. Thanks

Jellybeam Tue 23-Feb-16 12:52:21

No good advice OP as I'm in the same situation. My DD is 8 weeks and I really want her to pick up French. I've already started singing a few French nursery rhymes and I'm looking for French baby books online and in libraries.

I'm an intermediate level speaker, so not fluent, my French is pretty rusty. I've never even been to France, I know what I know from studying Up to A level. I plan on taking DD to france in the near future, sometime this year to expose her to the culture and the language. Maybe you could go on a few trips to France with DGS to not only get him used to hearing French by native speakers but to also improve yours?

How old is DGS?

cestlavielife Tue 23-Feb-16 12:53:42

First fun with French on YouTube

Muzzy french on YouTube

Petradreaming Tue 23-Feb-16 16:08:59

He is 6 months old. I go to France reasonably frequently, so hopefully he should get used to the sounds and culture. I will look into getting some DVDs etc. I would love to improve myself and get him comfortable with it. Such a life skill for him to have.

cestlavielife Tue 23-Feb-16 17:29:08

you can get first fun with french dvd cheap on amazon its a good start.

vestandknickers Tue 23-Feb-16 17:37:08

I always spoke in French to my twins when they were babies but then was too embarrassed to do it once we were out and about so it tailed off. Now they're ten and just as rubbish at French as any other 10 year olds. It's a lovely thing to do, but unless you can keep it us as he grows up I doubt it will make much difference.

merseyside Tue 23-Feb-16 17:40:41

It's a bonkers idea.

Bilingualism is actually not that easy and almost impossible if your child is not exposed to high quality French (or whichever language) a lot of the time.

It takes a lot of work and you don't have the skills to do it if you're not a very proficient speaker.


Branleuse Tue 23-Feb-16 17:43:22

its hard enough even when they have a parent who speaks it fluently if it isnt the community language.

FuzzyOwl Tue 23-Feb-16 17:45:07

Bilingual children generally start talking later. Probably because they have double the amount of words to learn. If you can't speak the language fluently yourself, I doubt the child will be able to pick up anything more than a few key words.

There are bilingual nurseries around that you could send the child to, although they really need to be spoken to in both languages all the time and not just for the odd hour here and there.

ThisIsNotARealAvo Tue 23-Feb-16 17:49:17

Only by hearing native speakers daily will your DGS learn French properly. I worked in a bilingual nursery for 4 years and most children took a year of immersion to start speaking any French.

It would be fun to get him interests in other languages though when genus a bit older.

mercifulTehlu Tue 23-Feb-16 17:49:30

I agree with merseyside I'm afraid. I'm a French teacher and I don't speak French to my dc because it's not my native language and it would have been very difficult to get in the habit of doing it in a natural way when they were small. Encouraging them to be interested is great, but doing much more than that is not really practical unless you have a very high level yourself (or get them a French nanny or something ).
It's true that young children pick up languages very easily, but only really if they are immersed in authentic native-speaker-quality language, not by watching a few dvds. And it has to be kept up. My dh lived in French-speaking Switzerland for two years and was fairly fluent aged 5. Then moved back to the UK and was hopeless at French when he started it at school.

mercifulTehlu Tue 23-Feb-16 17:53:00

Sorry - that sounded a bit defeatist! It's not just me though - I've taught in MFL departments for 20 years and I have never met an MFL teacher who has chosen to speak the language to their dc except those who were native speakers.

Diamondjoan Tue 23-Feb-16 18:26:25

Ours is a bilingual household (not French). It took a fair amount of commitment and discipline, I spoke only my native language to them from birth, DH spoke English. By the time they started school they had a slight preference towards my native language, but after starting school and socialising more with schoolmates English took over. They continued to speak to me in my language, and do to this day so they're totally native in the two languages. But it took a lot of discipline to keep it up when they were young. Friends in a similar position left it later (5 plus) to introduce the second language and it failed with all of them. Now teenagers, their kids can understand a little of what we are saying but can't speak. So the younger the better I think, but it has to be a sustained effort to have any real results, I wouldn't expect much/anything at all by playing foreign language videos from time to time.

cestlavielife Wed 24-Feb-16 14:17:20

there is no harm in introducing other languages thru play.
child and op can pick up bonjour, etc.

of course, this wont make child bilingual!

butteredmuffin Mon 04-Apr-16 09:42:05

I think it is a lovely idea and I can see why you want to do it, but it will not make your grandson bilingual.

Even children who grow up with parents speaking different language usually end up with a "dominant" language - usually that of the country they live in and are educated in. A huge amount of what children learn after their first year or two gets picked up in the playground.

Consider this: mum is English, dad is German. Each parent speaks their own language to their child. They live in the UK and their child goes to school. In this scenario, the child will most likely speak German, but English will be their dominant language. This is particularly likely to be the case if the dad is not strict about speaking to the child in German all the time, or if the child for some reason decides that they don't want to speak German (which happens a surprising amount).

Now consider this alternative scenario: mum and dad are both English. They move to Germany for work. Prior to the move they spoke very little German. They enrol their child in a local school. What is likely to happen? The child will learn to speak German very quickly, probably with a near-native accent, and will soon be better than his parents.

This happened with my friend's daughter, who went to school in Spain. At five, she had no Spanish at all. At seven, she was translating for her mother. However, her written English is appalling because she has had no formal education in English even though it is her mother tongue.

Children's language development is mostly influenced by the environment they live in. If your grandson is not living in a French-speaking environment, he will not grow up bilingual in French, despite your best efforts. (My mum is a languages teacher and I didn't grow up speaking any of the languages she speaks.)

That's not to say it isn't worth bothering with. But for now I would just enjoy your grandson as he is and let him be a baby. Once he's confidently speaking English, you can start trying to teach him some French. There are lots of resources you will be able to use which are aimed at little kids. You can start with basic vocabulary and conversation, find kids' TV programmes for him to watch, when he starts confidently reading in English you can introduce him to basic children's books in French. Take him on holiday to France and say he can't have an ice cream unless he orders it himself in French. All this stuff will be an advantage to him, and will hopefully spark a love of language learning in him which will inspire him to actually go and learn foreign languages throughout his life.

But unless he has a parent with a first language other than English, or lives in a foreign country, he will not grow up bilingual.

Gwenhwyfar Tue 05-Apr-16 21:35:16

Did OP say she wanted her grandson to be bilingual? I think it's always useful to introduce the ear to a foreign language, if only to encourage enthusiasm for languages when they're older.

1frenchfoodie Mon 09-May-16 19:23:30

You can get bilingual french/english childrens books on amazon and CDs of french childrens rhymes - some of which you'll recognise from the english version. If the like the hungry catepilkar in english he'll recognise the pictures and concepts in the french version. Not sure of his age but as you say baby I think you'll have to wait until he is a bit older - to pick up as a dual language you'd need to be speaking French full time and with your level that is not really feasible.

cardiganlover Fri 27-May-16 13:09:50

Hi everyone,

I just had to comment on this thread - I am the founder of Lingotot ( where we aim to help non-native speakers introduce a foreign language to their children. We teach around 10,000 children per week French, Spanish, Mandarin, German with Arabic coming soon.

I agree with other comments which say you need a lot of language input, which is why in our classes we educate the whole family - we teach parents and children together and equip the parents with some skills and ideas on how they can continue to use the language at home outside of class.

I highly recommend a book called The Bilingual Edge, great practical tips! And if anyone would like to come and try a class as a freebie we'd be happy to welcome you smile

Droogan Tue 07-Nov-17 21:33:54

What I would do if starting with a young child, is not worry about it until they're 9 or 10, and then send them on a long term exchange to France. There are organisations that organise this - they match families, with each child spending 6 months in the other family. After 4 months or so they are fluent.
We missed the boat, but I am doing what I can with my 12 year old - she is spending 2 months in a German family and 2 months in a French family, with some learning at home, and then shorter exchange holidays. I don't expect fluency, but I think she'll be very proficient.

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