It is with pleasure that I introduce a new regular contributor: Sarah Dodson-Knight. Many of you know Sarah from her blog Bringing up Baby Bilingual and from her insightful columns in Multilingual Living Magazine where she shared her experiences teaching her nephew French and preparing to raise her own newborn in non-native French! Welcome to Multilingual Living, Sarah! We are delighted to have you.
Here begins Sarah’s 4-part summer series which both native and non-native families can enjoy. Let us know what you think!
Learning French in and Around the Garden
Qu’est-ce que tu as planté aujourd’hui?
(What did you plant today?)
My two-year-old son:
Vers de terre!
In celebration of summertime and its bounty, let’s play and learn in the jardin!
This is the first of a series of posts for Multilingual Living about using French with children via music, art, literacy, and kinesthetic activities. In July and August, we’ll explore some activities centered on plants, growing, and spending time outside which you can use to introduce new words and concepts and then practice them in a rich and meaningful context.
Part I (Music, Rhythm, and Rhyme) is below; parts II through IV will follow in July and August.
Part One: Music, Rhythm, and Rhyme
The French folk song for children “Savez-vous planter les choux?“ serves as an ideal introduction to this month’s theme. “Do you know how to plant cabbages the way we do at our place?” the song asks, before telling us about the various body parts the narrator uses when gardening – the hand, yes, but also the foot, the nose, and anything else you want to include.
Sing this song with your child (you can hear the tune here) and talk about the growing cycle, from planting a seed to watering and fertilizing to watching the plant grow and finally harvesting it. You might need the following vocabulary in French:
Verbs and expressions:
Planter = to plant
Pousser = to grow
Jardiner, faire du jardinage = to garden
Arroser = to water
Le jardin = garden
Le potager = the vegetable garden
Le jardinier, la jardinière = the gardener
La graine = the seed
La racine = the root
La fleur = the flower
La plante = the plant
Le ver de terre = the earthworm
(For a substantially more extensive list, including names of garden tools, different types of gardens, and plants typically found in gardens, see Bright Hub.)
This animated video of a woman singing the cabbage song in her garden also presents the names of various vegetables in French and English. Other videos of “Savez-vous planter les choux?” are available here and here.
If the child likes the song, by the way, you can improvise on it by changing choux to other vegetables (for example, “Savez-vous planter les carottes?”) or changing planter to other verbs, like arroser.
Other garden-related traditional French songs include “Le fermier et le lapin,” in which a rabbit evades the farmer by hiding under a cabbage (but then eats it), and “J’ai descendu dans mon jardin,” where the narrator goes to pick rosemary from her garden and remarks on the poppies growing there. “Chatouiller le ciel avec toi” by Alain Schneider is a contemporary song about flying with a ladybug.
Alain Le Lait, composer of simple and whimsical songs for English speakers learning French, offers “Ah, les légumes” (about the vegetables he grows in his garden), “J’aime les fruits” (the fruit he loves), and “Je ne veux pas” (anxiety about going outside because of all the insects that could sting him). (He also has recorded a version of “Savez-vous planter les choux?”)
Nursery rhymes also offer lots of opportunities to engage children with rhyme and rhythm. Catch a coccinelle (ladybug) and recite the following comptine (rhyme) while pointing out her parts described therein:
Elle a des pois sur son manteau
Et deux antennes sur son chapeau
Deux petites ailes pour se faire belle
C’est Madame la Coccinelle!
(She has spots upon her coat/
And two antennae on her hat/
Two little wings that make her beautiful/
It’s Miss Ladybug!)
Other relevant comptines you might want to share with your child are “L’araignée Gypsy” (a French translation of “Eensy Weensy Spider”) and “Saisons,” (about the leaves on trees in different seasons). Momes.net also offers a collection of nature-themed comptines.
Stay tuned for Part II of this article, Art and Drama, which will encourage you to — among other things — act out stories in French about bugs.
If you enjoy these mini lessons from Sarah, please let us know in the comments. Would you like to have these lessons in other languages? If so, please keep your comments coming! Let us know what you want and we’ll keep it coming.