We all have that one friend who seems to breeze through speaking another language with ease. A little too effortlessly, actually. Studying a foreign language like French can be challenging, especially when you are just starting out. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Learning another language provides a lot of benefits, especially when you learn as a child. If you would like to introduce French to your child, I’ve put together the following resources for kids to learn French (even if you and your family are not planning on moving to France, as I did!)
French is one of those languages that seem somewhat easy on the surface, and yet it isn’t. The numbers are quite tricky, as well as all the words with silent pronunciations.
To make the process as seamless and enjoyable as possible, here are some of the most important concepts that you’ll need to know when learning French, and my top resources for learning French for kids.
1. French Alphabet
The French alphabet may be the same as the English alphabet, but the sounds can be quite different.
You may notice that the letter Y is called ee-grec in French, but the syllable itself is not so different from English. More confusing is the J and G which is pronounced the opposite way between English and French (which I can attest to, causes problems even for people who are bilingual!)
Added to all this are the accents which aigu, grave, and circumflex which change the length of the pronunciation of the syllables. For example:
- é – E with accent aigu – to form a long sound e(y)
- è – E with accent grave – to form a short sound e
- e – regular E with sound e(h)
When spelling a word out loud, native French speakers won’t say “e avec accent grave” meaning “e with accent grave”, but will actually make the sound that lets the other person know which accent is being called out.
To practice your alphabet, try the BBC resource for alphabet here, which provides a free mp3. There is also a great youtube video by Alexa which goes over the sounds.
☞ READ MORE: French travel phrases you need for a trip to France
The bête noire of everyone learning French (or at least every anglophone accountant like myself) is the french numerical system.
It starts off fine, 1, 2, 3, and then quickly dives off the deep end at 70, which turns into 60+10 in French. It gets even worse at 80 with the mathematical (4×20) at 80. I hope you remember your BODMAS rules from algebra.
For instance, 99 turns into 4×20+10+9. It isn’t the simplest, but once you memorize it, it will roll off your tongue. (Maybe.) You can learn more about French numbers here.
3. Nursery Rhymes for Babies and Toddlers
If you are trying to introduce French to a very young child, there are certain French nursery rhymes that tend to be very easy to listen to and still hold children’s attention.
Here is a list of nursery rhymes that French children learn in crèche (nursery). The songs all have the French original lyrics as well as English translations to make it easy for mom and dad to follow along as well.
You can also find a selection of top French lullabies here, to get a sense of language and to absorb some French by osmosis (we can only wish!)
4. Songs sing-along for kids
For preschoolers and school-age children, there are many French songs that they will enjoy singing along to. Having children myself, these are the songs that my little Frenchies love to chanter en yaourt (warble) along to.
With lyrics in French as well as their English translations, here are my top French songs for kids to sing-along to.
One of the best ways for young kids to learn French is actually watching cartoons. With everything from age-appropriate vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, it is a great way to make learning fun.
There are plenty of original French cartoons that have enthralled children in France over the years. From Petit Ours Brun to T’choupi, small children can learn the vocabulary for their daily routine of school, family life and friends.
And with shows like Les Triplées and Miraculous Lady Bug et Chat Noir that are set in Paris, parents are also entertained imagining themselves living in Paris. You can find more of my top French cartoons to watch here.
6. Free Online sites
For free resources, one of my favorites is francaisfacile.com. With exercises covering the trickier points of French grammar, you can create a free account and do quizzes to keep track of your progress. (I used this one myself, when I was planning my move to France.)
☞ RELATED POST: Raising Bilingual Children in France: Meet a Brit in Paris
7. Books for beginners
Cheaper than a trip to France, a children’s book can teach your child about different cultures and traditions without the fuss of getting on a plane. There are many great French titles such as P’tit Loup for toddlers, and Arsene Lupin for older children, that will get your children excited about reading
Now books are not free per se, but you should hopefully find these popular French children’s books (compiled here) in your local library. For teenagers and older, I’ve compiled a list of the best books for beginners learning French here.
8. Comics books
Books are great and all, but a picture is worth a thousand words. For older children in middle school and high school, as well as adults looking to improve your French, there is no better way than reading a few French comics.
With titles like Asterix and Obelix and the Schtroumpfs (Smurfs) the comic industry in France is quite big. There are many famous French comic book series that have hit international status and been translated and exported the world over.
You can find my list of the top French comics here, most of which should also be available at your local library.
9. Writing style & Punctuation
An important point that French learners always skip is realizing that French isn’t written the same way that English is. Along with different punctuation like guillemets which look like « » , there are other differences like writing last names in capital letters.
But one of the most confusing ones is that numbers are written with the comma and period inverted. For example, a thousand, is written as €1.000,00. You can read more about French punctuation and writing style here.
In France, poetry is a very important part of the culture, and that emphasis starts early in the French education system. Children are taught to enjoy classic poets in the classroom and it is a big part of the education curriculum.
It is considered an art form, using aesthetic and rhythmic language to evoke meaning and emotion. You can find a variety of beautiful French Poems for kids (for free) here.
And finally, one of my favorite ways to enjoy yourself and learn some French: watching sports. If you enjoy soccer, why not watch some Ligue 1 in French?
There are plenty of sports such as tennis, basketball, swimming, skiing, etc that are regularly broadcast in French on the websites of French tv stations like L’Equipe 21 and France TV Sports. (L’Equipe 21 also broadcasts one NFL game in French each Sunday on their website.)
If you are in North America and don’t have access to France-based TV and internet sites, try Radio-Canada in Quebec. The accent won’t be the same, but the Quebecois French is a bit slower than the Parisian one and is a bit easier to understand.
Any other great resources you have come across for learning French? If you enjoyed that post, check out my other articles on the French Language. A bientôt!