By Franck & Cristina
Photo credit: starrynight_012
Like many parents raising kids with more than one language, we are often concerned about how much talk time our kids get in the second language. Creating an environment in a second language requires a lot of reading, a lot of stories and a bunch of songs. We also use audio books and cartoons in French and Spanish.
Finding ways to encourage our kids to speak in French and Spanish, however, is key.
Reading in French is great, but how do we find fun ways to make our kids speak in French? Both Elena and Pablo go to school (all in English), and all of their play with their neighbor friends is in English.
To encourage them to speak French and Spanish, we make a conscious effort to fit in role-playing into our week. Like many parents we are busy with work and chores, so we find little moments during the week or on week-ends for our role-play. Our kids create a simple imaginary world where we talk in French or in Spanish.
Here are our favorite role-playing activities, that we do 10 minutes at a time which involves each of us becoming a new character. The only rule is that it has to be in French (with Dad) or in Spanish (with Mom):
Ordering at a restaurant
I was raised in our family restaurant, and being the customer, the cook or the waiter is something I like to play a lot. We play as if one of us would come to the restaurant and order some dishes. We have fun while Elena and Pablo learn the names of most vegetables, ingedients and kitchen ustensils in French.
Sherlocka Holmes solves a mystery
Elena likes little mysteries. She even likes to act them out with her dolls. She becomes Shelocka (yes, with an A) Holmes that tries to solve a robbery or a kidnapping. One of us is her assistant. Being her assistant (that only speaks French or Spanish), we ask her many questions. Since she is in a mentor-like role, she is happy to share her wisdom in French or Spanish.
Soccer with Messi and Ronaldo
Pablo, just like his father, loves soccer. Most of the time Pablo is Messi, and we have to be Ronaldo. We reenact the heated Barcelona vs Real Madrid games, making lots of comments and contesting the referee’s decisions.
Little bedtime puppet show
Sometimes at at bedtime we play with puppets. We take one of our kids’ “doudou” (teddy bear) and act out a little story for a couple of minutes, in French or in Spanish. Elena or Pablo then do the same. They become the actors and we are the audience.
Elena (7), like many big sisters, loves being the school teacher. She becomes a Spanish teacher that teaches vocabulary and class rules in Spanish to her brother Pablo (4) and her Mom. This is a double whammy: Elena reviews what she learned while Pablo learns from her sister.
Peter Pan and Captain Hook
Pablo likes to run, jump, fight, well… he is a boy. He loves superheroes, and one of his favorite cartoons is Peter Pan. Therefore, on the lawn we play Peter Pan vs Hook, reenacting scenes and dialogues from the French version of the cartoon. Although at times I try to convince Pablo to change characters, I always end up being Hook, chased at the end by a French crocodile!
We’d be delighted to hear about your tips and tricks to help your children speak their second language! Please let us know in the comments below. Every tip helps!
Don’t miss Franck & Cristina’s other “10 Minutes at a time” posts:
Helping Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time
Technology to Help Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time
Music to Help Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time
Making Homework in a Second Language Fun for Children – 10 Minutes at a Time
Franck & 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 www.earlylanguages.com