A fortnight after our holiday has finished, and with most of the washing and ironing done (and it has taken me a full two weeks!), Holly and I decided to sit down and review a few books we used to prepare for and to use on our holiday.
My first degree was in Spanish so I am very keen on Holly making an attempt to at least speak some French when we’re in France, and Spanish in Spain. Now she’s getting older, she likes to wind me up by saying, ‘But mummy: I just have to say loudly and slowly: “I AM EEEENGLEEESH!”‘ But when she wants that chocolate ice cream and I am refusing to order it for her, then she has to buck up and make an effort!
A few weeks before our holiday, I ordered some French books aimed at children. I had wanted to get the AA’s French phrasebook for children but amazon was out of copies. We’d tried the Spanish version a couple of years ago and she’d got on reasonably well with it, though her new Spanish friends kept having to come up to me to ask how to say very basic things so it wasn’t meeting all her needs.
Anyway, the following are our selection of books and what we thought of them:
Doring Kindersley Language Learner: French
This pack contains a book organised into your usual language learning sections, an accompanying CD and flashcards of common French words.
We put on the CD on a shorter roadtrip (4 hours all in) to see if we could learn some basics. However, while the speakers spoke clearly and well, it wasn’t the easiest of CDs for younger children to listen to. Around three or four different ways of saying hello were included, which is fine if you want a more detailed course but if you just want the basics (and in France, a decent Bonjour and Bonsoir will suffice) this overcomplicated matters. We found we were having to turn the CD off and explain things to Holly who was getting increasingly confused and then very frustrated. In the end, after 20 minutes, we gave up.
The book itself looks good and Holly was positive that it could be interesting but more for someone who was sitting down to tackle French beyond the basic holiday stuff. For a quick phrasebook it was too complicated.
Let’s Start to Speak French
This book was much more of a success though, embarrassingly, we didn’t start to use it until after our return. The very basics of what a child might want to know are included in colourful pages featuring fun animals.
Learning is reinforced by activity: children are asked to add stickers to label clothes or colour in pictures to get used to learning the names of colours in French, for example.
Holly has done a specific post on this in her Fun Corner (or there will be one up soon!) so she’ll leave her thoughts there for you to hear (it’s a video review). Suffice it to say she really enjoyed it and I think she has learnt some clothing articles as well as some animals, numbers and other things.
On a Car Journey in France: Michelin’s I Spy
This wasn’t specifically for language learning but it was a good book to get to know France a little better and to while away hours spent in the car. It was a fun and easy way to get Holly interested in and noticing aspects of France. The aim is to spot the items in the pictures (ranging from road and shops signs to French cars, buildings and other objects that are unique to the country). You score a certain amount of points for each, depending on how hard the objects are to spot. Holly will tell you more on her post in her Fun Corner, which I will upload soon.
What language books have you used with your children? Or do you have recommendations of books or materials that are a great introduction to different cultures? We’d love to hear them!
PS Apologies for the rather rubbish photos!
Modern Children’s Literature: an introduction.