I grew up learning English and French simultaneously, and I honestly don’t remember which language I spoke first. The advantages to knowing another language has been great for me, culturally and career-wise. Learning another language can be a tedious task. I was fortunate enough to have been raised in France and fully immersed in its culture. French and English are both my native languages.
However, this is not the same or as easy an experience for my 4-year-old son. We only travel to France to visit my family every other year. So, he does not get the benefit of hearing the language every day, everywhere, and from everyone. It is up to me to speak to him consistently all the time. At this point, he understands me for the most part when I speak French to him, but, there is no real incentive for him to speak it back to me since we live here–in America. I’m still working with him on that part.
Being bilingual myself and having used this ability in my past and current job positions, I truly wish the same advantages for my son. I also know, however, that the learning capability of a foreign language for a child gets more and more difficult the older the child gets. Scientific research shows that the “window of opportunity” for learning a language is from birth to age 12. So, I’ve implemented some rules at home that help me (because I do need the support) to keep French around him as much as possible. For instance, my son watches all of his cartoons and Disney movies in the French version.
Being bilingual myself and having used this ability in my past and current job positions, I truly wish the same advantages for my son.
Obviously, French is not the only foreign language of interest out there, so I’ve listed below a couple language programs and materials available to you and to your children both online and locally here in Alabama.
- Muzzy, the BBC Language Course for Children. (I can personally vouch for this program! I remember watching these videos when I was very young to learn English.) This is the #1 language course for children and is available in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Italian and English (ESL). Muzzy uses the simple methodology of repetition through animated stories and songs. It provides a natural immersion approach with visual, musical, aural and contextual language, all the while keeping the child captivated and engaged. For more information, visit www.early-advantage.com.
- Huntsville Chinese Village, 904 Bob Wallace Avenue, Suite 127, Huntsville.
Their programs include language classes for children of all ages. There is a “Parent-Toddler” class designed for young children, ages 3 to 5 years, with creative movement, games, nursery rhymes and songs. Next, there is a “Child” class for children 6 years and up with stamped and picture flashcards as part of the materials. There is also a program called “Together” with four learning levels for a parent and child (8 years old and up) to learn the Chinese language together. For more information, visit www.huntsvillechinesevillage.com.
- There is also an online nationwide directory (search engine by zip code) of foreign language programs available for children of all ages. The foreign languages search options includes German, Italian, Spanish, ESL, Immersion Schools, Mandarin Chinese, etc. For more information, visit www.totclasses.com.
Thankfully, there are a number of resources we, as parents, can use to introduce our children to a foreign language–whether it be for pure entertainment, cultural growth, interaction with your foreign speaking family, or simply for that competitive edge career-wise down the road.
Written by: Béverly B.