Hi, Abbie here. One of the reasons I am excited about having an au pair, besides the savings and the extra help around the house, is the chance for my kids to be exposed to another language. Yeah, they enjoy Duolingo, and I have bi-lingual books for them to look at, but studies show that having a person to interact with makes a difference.
The last thing my super-active boys need is to sit and learn after a full day of school and occasional homework. I also hated to ask my au pair to try and make my kids sit at a table in the evening or during her off-duty days on the weekend. We had to get creative.
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Find the Word
This is something my au pair came up with. She cut out a few letters from a magazine and taped them in the journals. The boys then had to look for the words in French, and then translate them into English. (The third journal isn’t filled out yet because one boy wasn’t home at the time…)
Three bi-lingual books to choose from, and the journals prepared for word-finding.
Le Petit Prince and one boy’s journal
One boy chose Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), and found the words in his journal. This particular book is French only, but I found one in both French and English on Amazon. The only suggestion I might make in the future is to have him write the English translation as well but it’s not bad for first grade.
On a side note, La Petit Souris Qui a Perdu une Dent is translated as “The little mouse who lost a tooth.” Our au pair was really excited to bring this book with her from France. It’s only in French, so she reads it to them and explains what it means. It’s their version of the Tooth Fairy. When a child loses a tooth, they place it under their pillow and a little mouse comes in the night and takes it and leaves a coin in its place.
The Cat in the Hat in English and French is a recent find from a bookstore I visited while on a business trip. (Really, what trip isn’t complete without a visit to a bookstore?) Anyway, I really like it because they have both sets of words on the page. They’re not next to each other, as the different grammar makes word-for-word translation weird to read, but it is helpful when kids are just starting out.
Childhood Nursery Songs
Nursery rhymes and kids songs are universal, and aren’t just for kids. Ever get songs from Thomas or Octonauts or Dora stuck in your head? Yeah, me too. At least if I get a song stuck in my head, it can be in a different language so I can use it as an opportunity to learn.
For Christmas last year, my parents got the boys this book, Comptines a chanter (or Songs for singing), for Christmas. It didn’t come with the CD, but I found all the songs on Spotify and made a French Childrens’ Songs playlist (also embedded at the end of this post). You can also find the songs on YouTube, if you want video, but I haven’t had the time to make a playlist yet.
Comptines a Chanter by Milan, a collection of French children’s songs
The hardest part is that my au pair opens the book, and wants to sing ALL the songs because she’s so excited and happy. My boys got a little overwhelmed. So, we narrowed it down to her favorite three and then the boys chose one to start with.
We chose Au Feu Le Pompiers, which is basically about calling for firefighters for a house burning down. The woman cook blames it on the man cook, and he blames her. It’s kind-of silly, but now we have some vocabulary (fire, firefighter, burning/burned, house, cook) and a good intro for discussing feminine and masculine nouns.
Learning another language and early childhood education are both really fun things for me to share with the boys and our au pair.
How about you? Have you or your au pair done any foreign language activities with your kid(s)?
What language? What activity did you do? How did it go? We’d love to hear either in the comments below or over on our My Au Pair and Me Community on Facebook.