My experience both as a traveler and an ESL teacher have made teaching my children a second language (French) a high priority to me. I am so sad that I didn’t learn a second language in my early years when it would have been easiest for me. The practice of holding off on second-language instruction until high school seems very foolish.
However, I have had an extremely difficult time finding good materials for teaching French to my children, especially as pre-readers. I finally found just the thing in I Can Read and Speak French by Maurice Hazan.
Read French without Reading
The few resources I found for Elementary French before this book were text heavy. Many had English and French, allowing readers to lean to heavily on English. They also featured weird, confusing pronunciation guides. You don’t have to be able to read to learn a language, but you did to be able to use these materials!
Conversely, I Can Read and Speak French relies on pictures to represent words. Parfait! The thrill for non-readers to be able to read and understand whole sentences in another language is great motivation, not to mention great education. The corresponding French words are listed under the pictures, but they don’t dominate and you don’t need to be able to read them.
Three of my pupils are either pre- or very early readers. My oldest, a second-grader, can now read quite well. However, I didn’t want him trying to read French when he was still sounding out English words, since the phonics are not the same. Now, if it is a French word he knows, he is able to read it properly.
Native French Speaker CD
I am not only not a native speaker of French, I’m really not a speaker at all! I’m more of a…well, listener. My pronunciation is improving, but I want my kids to learn a good accent straight from the source. This book comes with a CD, and the pace is just as agonizingly slow as beginners need.
French Flashcards and Stickers
The book comes with tear-out flashcards for all of the word pictures. I love that kids can use these to make and then read their own sentences! So many early language programs focus on learning individual words, which is great but doesn’t enable kids to actually converse. Forming sentences is a good start.
The book also has stickers, four per chapter, used to fill in missing “words” in four sentences. I love hands-on activities like this. It’s so brief that I’m not sure it teaches much, but it is a reinforcement and the kids love it.
I Can Read and Speak French is great, but it’s only six chapters! (Though, with heavy supplementing, it has lasted us the better part of this school year.). What do I do when it’s over?!
The good news is that Maurice Hazan has a full curriculum,QTalk with levels from Pre-K to high school in eight languages. There are a few snags–the website is confusing and some of the materials aren’t available. Worse, it is for classroom use and as such some of the materials are prohibitively expensive. Hazan’s Amazon author profile promises a homeschool bundle available soon, but I’ve been watching for several months. However, I will probably be ordering some of the books and mini card sets that are available individually, if I can figure out the website!
I hope you’ll give I Can Read and Speak a try. Did you learn a second language in school or after you graduated? Please comment below.