With the summer break fast approaching, parents become increasingly concerned that their children will have diminished French speaking ability by the time September rolls back around.
Language practice is like a muscle – it needs consistent attention in order for it to strengthen and grow.
But how do you help your child practice their French with no French teacher in sight?
It’s true that it is always more challenging for children who live in non-French speaking households to maintain their French fluency over long summer months spent outside of the classroom. As a French-speaking parent living in a bilingual household, and owner of a French camp, I am often asked things like: What can I do to help my child maintain their French? How can I make sure my child doesn’t fall behind? How can I still make it fun?
These are all reasonable concerns… But have no fear! We have all of the answers for you! After consulting with our senior teaching staff, we have come up with a short list of advice and recommendations that will have the best impact on your child’s French fluency over the summer months (in no particular order):
1. Keep them reading!
Reading is, and always has been, one of the best ways for children to maintain their essential vocabulary skills. And with French, it is no different! Many libraries have French resources as well as French programs for children during the summer. Check with your local one to see what they can offer. Some bookstores like Indigo and Chapters will also sometimes carry French-language books. For more variety, there are websites where you can purchase interesting and exciting books for all age groups and reading levels. It’s simple and easy! Some great websites for purchasing French-language books include:
Not sure which ones to get? Check out our French book list (hand-picked by our Tournesol librarian), grouped by theme and age.
2. Promote French entertainment!
Do your kids like watching TV? Movies? Playing online? Of course they do! Well, that can be a useful tool in preserving their French-language speaking skills, too! Watching TV shows, films, using the Internet in French, or even watching English TV with French-language subtitles is a great way for your child to subconsciously practice and think about the French language. When they are engaged in one of their favourite TV shows, they may not focus on the French language, but they will hear the words.
Try to choose movies or shows that your child already loves and watch them together in French. It will be easier for them to follow the familiar storyline, so they can turn their focus to the new French vocabulary and phrases that they are hearing. For ideas, read our list of “Top 35 French Films for Kids”.
It is also helpful for you to encourage your child to pause the program and ask themselves questions to ensure they understand the story line. This way, they can learn as they watch. It could also be educational for you if you’re interested in learning more French! It’s a win/win! Your children will notice that you are interested in them learning a new language and it will motivate them. You can browse the selection of French-language TV programs at the TFO website or Radio Canada Zone Jeunesse / Des Petits.
There are also several websites where your children can watch interactive videos, color, and listen to music, rhymes, and audio books. Websites are a fantastic learning tool because they allow your child to engage and interact with their French learning language skills in real time!
Some examples of good ‘French Fun’ websites include:
Je Dessine (French games, stories, and colouring)
Brainpop (combine French learning and science with fun videos and quizzes)
LaSouris (all the resources that a young French learner could need!)
Envolerie (wait for the plane to pass to access colouring, music, word games and more in French)
Idello (for Ontario based parents)
Boukili (free books in French)
3. Invite friends over for ‘French’ play dates!
Another great way to help your child preserve their French-language speaking skills over the summer months is to encourage and organize ‘French’ playdates with other children who are learning the language. If you invite friends who also speak French or are learning it, they can practice the language together, and make it fun! Try printing out one of our free French workbooks for the kids to complete together.
To push it even further, you could have them listen to some French music during their play date (some great artists include Carmen Campagne, Annie Brocoli, Amel Bent) and see if you can print off some lyrics for them to sing along. Even if the music is just playing in the background, it adds to the atmosphere and creates an opportunity for your child to hear the French language in an artistic way.
If you’re feeling fancy, treat the kids to some crèpes to show your French spirit!
4. And of course… Sign them up for French camp!
The importance of socializing in French cannot be over-emphasized… If your child never gets a chance to practice their French in a social setting, they are less likely to feel the need to use it outside of school, which can result in the loss of their French-language speaking skills.
For a child, the realization that they can play and have fun in French will most definitely enhance the experience of learning a new language and could inspire them to continue pursuing the language further as they mature. If your child is feeling extra adventurous, there are plenty of camps offered in the wonderful province of Quebec, the center of Canada’s French language culture! Check out a full list here.
Of course, Camp Tournesol offers plenty of programs here in Ontario to keep your children prepared and practicing! We have fun French day camps for children aged 4 to 14 and virtual camps, classes, and tutoring! They come to have fun and use their French in a social setting; what could be better?
Have Fun in French this summer! 🙂