PrairieFrogs Learn French

I’d always planned to teach the children Spanish.  It’s what I studied through Jr. High, High School and into College.  When I went on mission trips, it was usually to Mexico.  When I did a summer exchange program it was to Spanish speaking Uruguay.   As Kaira began Jr. High coursework this past summer, she chose Spanish because of its usefulness in our region  and my familiarity with the language.

Sometimes our plans take a surprising turn.  Just months after Kaira began Spanish study, we discovered that we’d not be bringing home an infant, but a preschooler!   French is the language spoken at the orphanage in Lubumbashi, and although Kiffanie knew Swahili when she came to the orphanage (over  a year ago), she’s now forgotten all Swahili and speaks excellent (age-appropriate) French.    Ken took a year of French in High School, but really, we barely even had menu-ordering French proficiency in our collective PrairieFrog repertoire.

As soon as Kiffanie was in the picture, we switched linguistic gears.  Kaira dropped her Spanish study (barely begun), and began learning French online through Live Mocha’s free, basic classes.  We’ve been quite impressed with Live Mocha.  It will try to route you into a paid learning path that requires “tokens”, so you’ll need to scroll down to your free program each time, but otherwise it’s easy to navigate and the free introductory levels are thorough and extensive.   I’ve been using Live Mocha some, as well as listening/reading some French scripture online each day at WordProject.  Not every book of the Bible has the audio available, but many books do.  I chose James, or “Jean“.  For me, decoding the written word isn’t as challenging.  Between Spanish, training in Latin roots, and other linguistics, I can often make out the general meaning from the written French.  Pronunciation–or even telling where one word ends and another begins in spoken French, is where I stumble.   Using the Bible gives me the added context familiarity and being able to simultaneously hear the spoken words while looking at the written seems to be helping.

In addition to these wonderful free resources, I scrounged ebay and the used homeschool boards and found treasures!  Most of the items below, I was blessed to find at a fraction of the new cost.

In addition to Kaira using Live Mocha, I have Kaira and Kendra meeting with me a few times a week as we progress through First Start French from Memoria Press.  I like the grammar strength of this program and it provides a nice balance to our other resources.

The younger children (ok, all of us) are enjoying French DVDs!  I was able to find six volumes of Little Pim, and three of  Bonjour Les Amis!  I’m usually quite critical of educational videos, but both of these series are excellent!   Another great resource for the youngers is Usborne Internet Linked First Thousand Words in French.   Typically, with “internet linked” books, I don’t take time to investigate the links–for this book, however the links provide rich value to our family.  I take the laptop to the living room floor, and hand the book to the younger children.  After pulling up the relevant page online, I can click on words from that page randomly, and they race to find the word that was just spoken from within the image rich (text labeled) Usborn-style scenes.  The game is a little like Where’s Waldo, as they hunt from the word that’s been correctly pronounced for them thanks to the Usborne audio feature online!

We have three CDs of fun French songs.  Teach Me French Spiritual Songs, Songs in French for Children, and Beth Manner’s Fun French For Kids.

The resource I’m most excited about will be family French Immersion School!  I found Swiss-born French teacher locally who is putting together a family program just for us and we start tomorrow!  Our goal is to learn enough basic French to be able to understand Kiffanie when she first arrives, as well as to be able to facilitate a language bridge that will serve her in years to come.

The idea of being 4 or 5 years old, in a new culture, new family, and being unable to communicate is a scary prospect!  While we’ll be working with her from the beginning to help her learn English, we want to be able to ease her transition.  Additionally, we’d like to assist her in using an additive model of language acquisition rather than subtractive.  This is a decision based on Kiffanie’s age, circumstances, her culture and history, our own family culture, what we know of her as an individual, and my linguistic research.  I don’t believe it is the best for every internationally adopted child, and we are willing to alter the course if it seems she’d do better with abandoning French entirely after a few months, but from what we know now, it seems that the additive model will fit this situation.

Aaccording to several small studies, young children removed entirely from their native language and thrust into another lost the first language very rapidly.   It seems quite common for a three year old child, adopted internationally with no contact to their native language post-adoption, to lose all vocabulary from their native in just three to six months!  So efficiently does the young mind opperate on the “use it or lose it” principle that loss of the native language occurs more rapidly than acquisition of the new.  This creates a cognitive gap  in which the child is not able to have words–in any language–to express things even in private thought with the proficiency they previously enjoyed.  Our desire is to bridge that gap and continue spending a little bit of her days with French exposure in hopes of retaining her French even as she’s learning English.

Plans are always subject to change.  In fact, this present plan reflects a change from our initial intention to study Spanish!  Life isn’t intended to stay stagnate.

Below are our French resource treasures!  I’m rejoicing that we were able to get most of them gently used:

French Language Treasures!

French Language Treasures

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4 thoughts on “PrairieFrogs Learn French

  1. Perhaps it would be a good idea for your music-loving family to learn also a few hymns. I find they always bring a sense of homecoming, and most of the French speaking Africans I know love good ole hymns.
    “Quel ami fidèle et tendre” = What a friend we have in Jesus, “Dieu tout-puissant” = O Lord, my God, “Compte les bienfaits de Dieu” = Count the blessings are a few titles that come to mind, that have English equivalents.

    Wishing you bon courage, Natacha (long-time follower but non-commenter from France)

  2. Merci, Alice, Nicole and Natacha!

    Natacha, what a great idea about the hymns! I will Google those to find a site where we can hear the French lyrics sung! (Pronouncing the written words without hearing them is still difficult for us. )

    We love hymns, and I know that our little girl attends church there in Congo where music is a big part of their worship celebration each week! It sounds like a lovely way for us to learn and bridge the culture gap!

    Merci! (And Nicole, your books will be lovely to read to her too!)

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