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We are very seriously looking at the possibility of a trip (possibly even two!) to France in the near future. My kids are all really keen to learn some French.
We will probably get Rosetta Stone French (though eeek at the price!) but does anyone have any other really good resources for kids?
The issue we have is that my older child (9) struggles a lot with spelling, writing etc although he reads English fluently (and constantly!) so we do really want something aural/picture based. My middle child (7) reads and has no real problems with spelling or writing but is…7 and my youngest is 5 and can’t read much yet. So realistically we need something computer based. I’m using Duolingo which I really like but it is too writing based for my kids. Oh and I’m not a Muzzy fan, I don’t think..mainly because the muzzy stuff I’ve seen has always had very unclear speech…but convince me, if you can
My kids are complete beginners to French. My oldest has studied Latin.
We probably can’t work out a way to enrol them in something like La Jolie Ronde because we are away sporadically for the next few months, but
Oh and any tips re taking kids to France much appreciated . Our aim is that they experience France as far as possible . We’re trying to work out if it is worth taking them to Paris (we’re probably staying in Rouen, so around 1 1/2 hours away). Or we might just take the older two (9 and 7) and leave the youngest with grandparents (who are coming too-they are fluent French speakers). My experience of trying to speak French in Paris has never been positive, because, like any capital, people tend to be hurried-that is what is putting me off…?
Wow! Sounds like you have some exciting plans. I can’t help much with the language resources, but would be happy to discuss travel ideas with you. We live in France, in far western Brittany, actually, and there is just so much to France outside of Paris. I don’t know the area around Rouen, but my guess is that if you just get in the car, and head out for drives you’ll stumble upon some pretty amazing places. That was always our tactic….at least before children., when things are more flexible. I do like Paris, although haven’t really tried it with my kids yet. I have found that as long as I put forth a good-faith effort, the Parisians have been very welcoming. Granted you may have to extend your definition of welcoming, but nonetheless, my experiences have been positive. And this is before I spoke French with any reasonable ability. Plus, if you go in August, most of the Parisians are gone to the beach, so the city is empty except for tourists (much is closed though, so it can be frustrating for other reasons).
In terms of language, I don’t know Muzzy, or Rosetta stone, and it sounds like your schedule is pretty sporadic, but is there an Alliance Francaise nearby you, through whom you could meet a Francophone family and get together from time to time with the kids (telling them they must speak French)? Kids pick things up sooooo quickly, it amazes me. Or is that what La Jolie Ronde is? If you want, I’ll see if I can find a French equivalent to Cbeebies online, that may have some educational games….I’m thinking something along the lines of Alphablocks, which my son (4.5) just adores.
Good luck and have a wonderful trip! If you want to talk about travel ideas, pm me!
SAHM to DS- 10/08 and DD 11/10
Sorry, don’t have time to write more. There’s a series of animated French films for children called “Il était une fois…”, for example, “Il était une fois… l’homme”. Also, the children’s film “Kirikou et la sorcière”. Basically, children’s films and music is great to pick up the language. They might even get interested in children’s books in French. Our local Oxfam has occassionally a few. I think children will pick up French as they go along, not from a structured programmed. You can find the French version of most of English children’s books and films; see what’s their favourite, and get the version in French. While in France, making friends with the local children, it’s the best to pick up the French language. See if they can attend there any local children’s group. Have fun!
Have to make this really quick right now but I’ll be back to say more later—I agree with Amphitecna that your best bet for an “authentic” French experience would be to spend as little time as possible in Paris—perhaps just a day or two for sightseeing if that interests you. We live in France too, in one of the least touristy/developed areas of the country (the Limousin)—it would of course be super to meet you if you journeyed this far south, but if not, I’d seriously recommend getting away from major cities, perhaps renting a countryside gîte or holiday apartment. You’ll be forced to use your French every day, and you’ll also be immersed in French culture in a way you won’t be in Paris or even other large cities.
These are ones I kept for reference when doing my A Level French…
So now the kidlings are in bed, I had a look to see what there was equivalent to cbeebies here in France. Sad. Very sad, and this is why my kids do not watch network TV. I suspect your older two would be beyond it, anyway, but since my eldest is 4.5 I’ve no idea what the 7+ set is into these days.
I did google “Learn French” and found this site at the BBC. Dunno if it’s any good, or what even you’re looking for.
Preets suggested movies- if you have a DVD, I bet most of what you have does have a French language track, and maybe even French subtitles. Even after 2.5 years here, I STILL have trouble with French TV/Movies and rely heavily on the subtitles to identify the words I’m supposed to be hearing. But it might work better for your kids, and you probably already have it lying around the house.
Someone you might want to contact on these forums is GeorgeinFrance. I don’t know if he’s still around or not, but he was in Burgundy, and was trying to establish a gite. He got frustrated with guests wanting money back for things like rain and mud (I believe this was on a farm, too [sad shake of head]) and may have moved on to other things. He is super nice and might be a source of info for you…both in terms of language resources, and ways to get the “French experience”.
I’m trying to think how I got into my own French experience, and what parts of it might translate for a vacation. I buy 90% of our food directly from farmers at their farms (as opposed to the market). Over time I’ve gotten to know them, and gotten into the local/organic/produce circles. Perhaps, if you can find a gite on a farm that might be something. I think Preets also suggested a gite, so consider this a second on that. Near us, in a little hamlet called “Lochrist” that is administratively part of a village called “Le Conquet” there used to be a children’s farm that has a gite attached to it. ‘Auberge de Keringar’ is it’s name. The auberge is still there, but I’ve heard rumors that the farm has closed, at least to the public. They can not be the only one of their kind in France, so this is the type of thing I think I’d at least start with. Of course, I recommend highly coming to Finistere- you’ll see menhirs, hear Breton, and revel in the beautiful landscape we have here! Not to mention the beaches and tide pools. But getting back to the farm-gite, farmers, at least all the ones I’ve met are really down to earth and excited to show their babies (be those babies lambs or tomatoes), and talk about what they do. My husband and son once turned up really early at that Keringar place and got to help milk the goats! Farmers who also have a gite do so because they’re interested in people and want to show off their farms, so I think that could be a good deal. And it’s good to have a local on “your team” so to speak, because they’ll know all the interesting places that are off the beaten track. Gotta warn you though, I don’t think that much of France is really that far off the beaten track.
I don’t know how long you’re thinking of staying, so this idea may be less realistic, but you could rent a vacation house/apt in a small town. I would do lots of research first though to find a town that has a branch of Un Bebe au Naturel (not to be confused with the online store with the same name), an ecological association or LLLI that you could get in contact with and participate in some outings. I also just thought to include a nearby Montessori/Waldorf school- you could contact them too, parents at those places are more likely, I think, to make an effort to include visitors. There are not many Waldorf or Montessori schools here, and even fewer HE groups (all are very hard to do with the edu system they have here), but it might be worth a look. If you’re having trouble finding things, I can ask the president of our ecological association if she knows of any groups in your target area. What I’ve learned since being in France, is that at least in this area/within my circle of friends, people don’t like to travel (even 20 minutes!) so it would be worth doing the research to locate yourself appropriately.
This is all I can come up with at the moment. Alas, the French equivalents to GP (which aren’t, really), ‘Grandir Autrement’ and ‘L’enfant et la vie’, do not have forums like this. I have yet to find anyplace here, like this with collective knowledge of like-minded people. So, I don’t know where to send you to even ask. Perhaps Preets, or someone else does. I certainly would be interested in learning about it myself!
I don’t know if any of this helps you, or even sparks an idea, but hopefully! Enjoy your planning, this sounds like a great adventure, and if you need/want any help, please do ask.
SAHM to DS- 10/08 and DD 11/10
Wow, this is awesome, thank you all so much! Incredibly helpful. I am going to go away and work through the links and digest your posts.
Amphitecna, Breton-def on my wishlist for one day! I play (badly) Welsh folk fiddle which is massively influenced by Breton. Actually Wales full stop has many Breton influences so its always been somewhere we’ve wanted to go. Sadly this time we’re only looking at a week so the drive would probably be just too far, but we’re hoping to spend more time in France in the near future.
We are def staying on a gite. We’re kind of trying to decide between a farm based one and one that isn’t but has a pool. My vote is strongly for the farm one but my inlaws I think would appreciate their (unheated) swimming pool (they are serious about their swimming!)! Because they are French speakers though we may anyway have opportunities opened up to us and the kids through that, and they know France really well (though they never went much with their kids) . I’m just really pleased that they are coming so will just go with what they prefer.
I think the lack of HE groups and general alternativiness was actually the big reason I was thinking we might need a structured course: the odds are high that for most of my kids waking hours in France there won’t be other kids to play with, unless we cunningly time a trip to the playground each day at 4. We are going in low season (no way could we afford it otherwise!) but this means normal school time for French kids. But there’s another factor-my kids, like, tbh, dp and I, don’t seem to be the kind of kids who pick up languages through exposure. For ages my daughters have wanted to learn Spanish and my son is interested in the Nordic languages. We have numerous family friends and parents of their friends and so on who speak these languages, and they have heard these languages, learnt their songs, etc, for years and not only never succeeded in learning a word but don’t seem to even understand any of the language. They don’t even reliably recognise that someone is speaking Spanish as opposed to, say, Japanese. Dp and I are very much people who need a systematic approach to learning a language and I think the big reason I struggled with French and German at school was that my school was very into an exposure rather than systematic, understanding based approach. So I think that for us, the dvds, playing etc would be marvelous but we’d need structure underpinning it. My kids are on the shy side anyway and there are three of them so it might be hard for them to get into playing with others in a playground. A home ed group would be the ideal for us but they seem very, very hard to find and also, (and I may have this wrong) often extremely religious and structured whereas we are far more relaxed. Please tell me if I’m wrong though-I know that the guy who wrote One-to-one education lives there somewhere so it can’t all be like that!
We’re also kind of seeing this as an experiment though and we’d like to return, so even though we won’t have time for all these great suggestions on this trip I’m storing them away in my head for the future!
Preets I think I visited Limosin as a child for a month or so-friends of my parents were renovating a gite and we stayed in it in all its unfinished glory! If its the place I am thinking it is such a beautiful area!
Paris. Hmm. I’m not that keen to do Paris really, I do love Paris and spent a fair bit of time there prekid but it would not be my first choice for a kid holiday. I’m a Londoner and totally understand how it is in capital cities, its really not the best place for a kid to acclimatise (though my kids are used to bustling cities and seem to thrive in them). No, the reason we have to consider Paris is that the kids are desperate to see it, mainly because of Hugo. Maybe we will take a train to the gard du nord and then just turn round and go, although I seem to remember a very pleasant patisserie very close by…
Well, Edith, if Brittany is on your list, you won’t get anywhere more Breton than the Brest area. Several of my friends are Breton and two are musicians, so when you’re planning to come here, drop me line! I know of 1 person here who is home edding one of her children (because he’s autistic), and two other families in Bretagne who are home edding Waldorf. None of these three people seem to be overly religious, just fed up with the Education Nationale…..In my limited experience the French aren’t as nuts over religion as Anglos can be. It’s true that in the UK, and the US some of people I know started HE because the local schools weren’t religious enough…...
If you want a more structured approach to languages, see if you can’t find the ‘French in Action’ DVD’s. They are something that was on PBS (American public TV) when I was younger, and might be worth it even if you have to pay out (there is also a spanish equivalent, but the name escapes me at the moment, just FYI). It’s from the 80’s, so you’ll get a good laugh at the fashions It might be good for your elder two, deffo the eldest, but might be above the 5yo….. I have to admit, having studied several languages myself, nothing compares to being plunked down in a place where you’re forced to use them. Your kids will pick it up faster than you will. And incidentally, my closest friend here is Russian, so my kids esp my son hear it all.the.time, and they haven’t picked up a word (outside of Nyet!), and it’s the same with Spanish- my son is very interested, and I speak it to him sometimes, but he only knows his ABC’s, so I think hearing languages and not interacting with them, if you will, isn’t really a good baseline.
If your IL’s are french speakers and integrated in the community, then that might be a good deal, especially if this is an experiment. But I still wouldn’t rule out that farm-based Gite. I agree that’s the more enticing option.
And, just to throw a wrench in the works, if your kids are into Hugo why not run with that, and do a bit more in Paris? I must admit I’ve read only one Hugo (I need to read him in French, and well, those books are intense!), so I don’t know much, but it seems that having a theme would make Paris even more interesting and worthwhile.
Ok, I gotta run! Have fun with this!!!!!!
SAHM to DS- 10/08 and DD 11/10
Can’t help you with French at all I’m afraid (!), but just wanted to say that we have the Hebrew version of Rosetta Stone, and it is very picture/aural based. My pre-reader can manage it with very little supervision, and is doing really well with it, so I would imagine the French version would work well for your guys if they aren’t that in to reading. I agree - eeek at the price though! Ours was a very generous gift!
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Sorry I took so long to get back to this—ended up having a totally crazy few days as DH has been super busy with work!
A home ed group would be the ideal for us but they seem very, very hard to find and also, (and I may have this wrong) often extremely religious and structured whereas we are far more relaxed.
Actually, it’s probably hard to generalise about the whole of France, but there is a very very active home-ed group here in the Limoges area, and the families I know are not at all religious, with most of them taking an unschooling approach. If I had to categorise them, I’d say they were mostly attachment-parenting hippie types like most of us on this forum. I’m not sure how to go about finding home-ed groups in other parts of France for you, though I know they are there—would you like me to ask my contacts here if they’re in touch with home-ed groups further north? I know you said that your kids don’t learn that much through exposure alone, but it might be nice anyway to connect with a family that has children around your own children’s ages. If you met up this year for a few days of low-key activities together, perhaps your children could then be pen pals, and even do language exchange holidays (you visiting them here to speak French, them visiting you in the UK to practise their English) further down the road.
As for structured approaches: might hiring a private tutor—even just a university student who will come and talk to your kids only in French for a few hours a week and do some reading/workbooks with them—be an option? My siblings and I had private lessons from a very young age—our parents were not fabulously wealthy, so we started out just going to the nuns in a Catholic convent, then later on switched to another teacher and finally the Alliance Française for more advanced courses, which I can’t recommend highly enough if there is one in your area.
I’m afraid our French lessons were all so long ago that I can’t recommend any particular books (let alone DVDs, which didn’t exist then)—I think language pedagogy has evolved by leaps and bounds since those days .
Do let me know if you want me to put out feelers for home-ed groups elsewhere in France.