Technology to Help Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time

by contributor · 12 comments

Technology to Help Multilingual Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time
By Franck & Cristina
Photo credit: flickingerbrad

Technology is a tremendous help when teaching children a new language, especially for time-starved parents. At the same time, screen time should to be limited to what we, as parents, believe is appropriate.

In our family, technology is a definite help when exposing our children to French, Spanish and Chinese. It is a supplement to what we already do and helps our children hear different accents.

Here are some of the technology we utilize in our household – 10 minutes at a time: 

  • #1: Use audio books:
    We are nuts about audio books. We bought at least 50 storybooks with CDs for our children, Elena and Pablo. The CDs are great in the car, especially when we drive to school or go to an activity. Elena also has a subscription to “J’apprends a lire”, a French monthly story book that comes with a CD. When she gets it in the mail, she is excited and listens to it right away.
  • #2: Listen to MP3s in the car
    The iPod is the greatest invention ever! We have different playlists of Spanish songs and French songs which Elena and Pablo take turns selecting. We also listen to mp3 stories in the car in French. Going to the supermarket is therefore not only driving time, but also a time to learn without even realizing it.
  • #3: Learn with the Smurfs and Zorro on YouTube
    We let Elena and Pablo watch one cartoon per day on YouTube in French. They can choose which one it is, as long as it is in French and it is less than 10 minutes. Currently, Elena wants to watch “Zorro”, and Pablo “Les Schtroumpfs”.
  • #4: Listen to Podcasts together
    Good Argentinean friends of ours who live in Zurich, Switzerland recommended two free podcasts that help their children build great vocabulary in Spanish through stories: “Cody’s Cuentos” and “Cuentos a la luz de la luna”. Podcasts like these are wonderful additions to our day.
  • #5: Have breakfast with grandparents via Facetime or Skype
    The iPad makes it very easy for kids to call up their grandparents in France or Spain via Facetime or Skype. The advantage of Apple’s Facetime app is that it is very easy for a 3 or a 4-year old to answer or call with it. And it is free.
  • #6: Games on the iPhone
    Little games on the iPhone help us when the kids become restless (waiting at the doctor’s, at the airport for a flight, etc.). And if the games are about listening to more words and expressions in the target language, it removes some of our parental guilt.
  • #7: Read and listen to stories on iPad
    There are many bilingual stories available for the iPad. It is easier for children to use than books with CDs. On Saturdays, we let our 4-year old Pablo listen to 2 stories in French on the iPad, while we take care of paying our bills.
  • #8: Use online tutoring via Skype
    My wife and I are using a tutoring service via Skype to learn Chinese (“Chinese Hour”). It works around our schedule and it is cheaper than having a personal teacher. If someone came across an engaging online tutoring service for children, we would be very interested in hearing about it.

We hope these tips will help you and your bilingual children find ways to use technology for language exposure – 10 minutes at a time. When used in moderation, technology can be a wonderful way to learn a brand new language or keep a family language strong.

What are your family’s favorite apps, CDs or online programs for language learning?

Don’t miss the first post: Helping Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time!

Franck and Cristina are from France and Spain and now live in New Jersey, USA. Cristina grew up in the Basque Country, in Spain. Her best high school memories come from teaching English to young school children. She learned French when she met Franck. Cristina works for a consumer goods company. Franck grew up in Alsace, France, speaking Alsatian (a German dialect) with his parents and friends and learning French in school. He started learning German in elementary school and English in high school. He came to Boston where he was inspired to learn Spanish when he met his wife Cristina. Elena (7) and Pablo (4) are Franck & Cristina’s children. They live in New Jersey with their parents and speak English, Spanish and French. The whole family is learning Chinese. In order to expose Elena and Pablo to their first Mandarin Chinese words, Franck and Cristina created a free iPhone and iPad app, “Princesses Learn Chinese”. Since then, they also released “Princesses Learn French” and “Princesses Learn Spanish.” You can visit their blog at

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Audrey Misiano April 23, 2012 at 4:10 am

Awesome list!!! Thank you for sharing! I love how you say that providing the games on the handhelds gives the parents less guilt…SO TRUE!!!!!

We also like to use YouTube to learn little songs and dances…then we turn our dining room into a dance floor and have at it! We have many playlists including ones just for Kinesthetic songs. I’ll post some of them below in case anyone else is interested in using them! <–Our YT Channel, mainly created for our toddler-aged children learning French, but also w/ Spanish and English <–Spanish Kinesthetic <–French Kinesthetic <—French Sounds


2 Becky April 23, 2012 at 6:54 am

I am very interested in any great apps for learning Spanish:)- I had never thought of audio-books! What a great idea!!! Would you be able to list your fav audio books in Spanish? Do you buy them on iTunes? I’ve never bought any before but I am very interested! Our 4 kids are ages 4-7, and we speak Spanish and English at home and are learning Mandarin. Here are our favs for Mandarin:


3 Franck April 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm

We use audiobooks for French, not Spanish. Spanish stories via podcasts are great, and a couple of really good ones are mentioned in the post. The “market share” of French in our family is limited, I am the only one that does French with the kids, this is why I bought many audiobooks “en francais” 😉


4 Barbara April 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm

We also do tons of audio books, children’s music and other CDs. The kids listen to them on their CD-players at home our in the car wherever we go. We download them from iTunes Germany lots of older ones for little money) or have them sent by relatives from Germany (newer editions). Our kids also hardly watch American TV, but watch German TV-shows or movies on the computer. We have a subscription to an online video recorder ( that allows us to download everything from German TV. The kids love “Sendung mit der Maus” and it is a must to watch every Sunday. Recently, they started showing the current week’s show on their website and you can permanently watch their podcasts about how things work (


5 Natalie April 24, 2012 at 7:43 am

That sounds great! My kids are just starting to learn German and I was wondering if there are a lot of Kids shows you can record on and how much is it a month? THanks for the great info!


6 Barbara April 24, 2012 at 9:25 am works like an online video recorder for the German TV-program. You have to subscribe and it’s 5€ per month. You have to provide a German address (I used my brother’s). When you register they will call the German phone number you provided with the access code. They also have free trials. Once you are registered it works just like your video recorder. They say in advance which TV-show you want to record and after the show has run you can either stream or download it. We have an external hard drive full of children’s movies and shows as well as some adult movies. You can download everything that is shown an any of the many German TV channels. This is strictly Germany based, so it doesn’t work for other countries, but they might have similar systems. There are probably also other providers out there.


7 Annika April 24, 2012 at 1:26 am

A great article! I too have found audiobooks great, we also subscribe to “J’aime lire” and have recently started using They have sites also in French and in German and have an interesting subscription system (alas, not cheap). So would you say iTunes is a good place to download audiobooks for children in different languages?

For you tube videos I really like The Children TV that exists both for iPad and Android. I just posted about it on my FB page (which is all about looking for resources like these for multilingual parents) : We’ve used the free version (there seems to be a paying one too) and it has worked very well. sounds great – how does it work and is it only for the U.S? Is it expensive to subsribe?


8 Barbara April 24, 2012 at 9:29 am

Hi Annika

See my above comment about It’s actually only for Germany, other countries might have similar websites, though. I use iTunes a lot. You have to go to the respectives country store of iTunes and need to have a separate account, but they have a lot of low priced ( 5€) children’s CDs. I have tried to download from, but they restrict downloading if you computer doesn’t have German IP address (for 20 year old children’s audiobooks? Come on, Amazon!).


9 Monica Belluca May 3, 2012 at 5:52 am

I would love to try out the technique but I am notr eally sure whether it will help or not.


10 Giwan July 16, 2012 at 5:56 am

Good recommendation on the audio book for learning.
I really enjoy audio books and use them often for whenever I have long drives through Europe. I am learning French but did not think about actually listening to a French audio book. This would completely different from listening to a French lesson. I don’t really enjoy those because there is no story so it feels too much like “work” 🙂

The idea of a story is what prompted us to create our dual language eBooks and a fun multilingual iPad app (BoeQje) for kids. If interested please have a look at



11 Elzette November 13, 2014 at 1:01 am

Thank you for sharing your methods and ideas! I am starting to teach my kids French but need outside resources as I don’t speak it myself. Where can I subscribe to “J’apprends a lire” ?


12 Franck November 13, 2014 at 3:31 pm

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