Dope Moms Learn French

Parents want the best for their children. As parents in Ottawa, and Dope ones at that, we have witnessed the benefits that a bilingual individual has in terms of his/her future education and career options. More so than ever before parents are opting to place their children into French Immersion and French schooling- whether or not they actually speak any French themselves. I’m not here to tell you what the right decision is, but what I am here to tell you is that there’s something really important that you can do for your child. 
I believe wholeheartedly that the success of a young individual becoming bilingual is greatly affected by his or her parents’ desire to play a role in his/her learning.

“Uh oh”, you say ,“but what if I don’t speak the language very well?” 
That’s 100% okay and here’s why: 
There’s something truly special about learning something WITH your child. 

- It shows them that adults still have the ability to learn. We are not “all-knowing beings” (although it might be nice to keep them thinking that way as long as possible).

- It allows you to model a positive approach to learning, by showing that it’s okay to make mistakes and that you should keep trying even when something is hard.

- They might even learn something before you do, therefore allowing them to take the teacher role (this is SO incredible for their brains and their self confidence). 
“OK, I’m convinced…but how?”
There are several opportunities for you to play a role in your child’s language education, whether or not you speak the language. I’m going to focus on French learning, because that’s my area of expertise, but take note that this advice can be used for learning other languages as well.  
Here are a few ideas for how you can introduce a new language to your child:
  1. Provide them with experiences in the language.
Living in Ottawa, we have a lot more opportunities to introduce the French language than other Canadian parents. Visit a museum and take a bilingual tour. Sign up for French classes, or even an activity taught in French (ex: swimming lessons). Attend libraries’ bilingual circle times. Take advantage of French cafés, bakeries, or restaurants by ordering in French (search for a YouTube video if you’re unsure how to order).
  1. Read with your child.
The majority of our libraries have great French children’s books. If you’re unsure how to pronounce something, download the Google Translate app and use your phone to translate or to read aloud what’s on the page. Note: You’ll have to ensure that the books you choose contain normal fonts for the camera option to work. Another option is to find books that are read aloud online. Here’s a playlist of a few books being read aloud on YouTube. 
  1. Find a supportive community for your child.
Attend a Parent & child language class. If you’re in Ottawa, 123 Petits Pas is a language school that caters to parents and children (ages 0-4) learning French together. Not only will you learn during class, but you’ll meet other parents hoping to raise bilingual children and could plan playdates together. Look for childcare or a babysitter that speaks French. Ask if any bilingual Dope Moms want to get together for some French exposure for you and your little one. 
  1. Play music & sing with your child.
Music is one of the BEST ways to introduce another language. It’s fun. It’s easy to remember. It stays in your head…forever.
Not sure where to find French songs? Here are some suggestions.
  1. Allow your child to learn through play.
Who says learning needs to be boring? To practice your colours, get out the play dough or some paint! Practice body parts at bath time, or take a stroll outside and complete a French scavenger hunt. Need more ideas? Here’s an online database that I’ve put together with a ton of French activities, songs, games, etc. I will continue to add to this as I come across fun French ideas.
  1. Through electronic toys/books, TV/movies, and apps.
There are a ton of educational language learning apps available for both children and parents alike. I’ve placed a few on the online database mentioned above. There are also many shows/movies on Netflix that can be watched in French. One of my favourite French shows for toddlers & preschoolers is the new “Passe-Partout”. I love it because the characters speak to the child as though he/she is their friend- it’s a slow paced tv show, where there are actually moments of silence where the viewer watches kids make crafts, or play with leaves etc. The characters also ask the viewer to get up and move at times! 
When is the best time to start? 
In the womb! Haha- but seriously, ASAP. The sooner they start hearing another language, the easier it will be for their brains to recognize and eventually pronounce those language-specific sounds. Studies show that language learning is at its fastest and easiest before a child turns 4. This means any little bit of exposure they get, before they start school, has a really big impact.
Message from a fellow “Dope Mom”:
My ultimate goal with this blog post was to leave you feeling capable of playing a role in your child’s French education- whether or not you speak French yourself. As a fellow “Dope Mom”, and owner of 123 Petits Pas, I am at your disposal if you ever have any questions regarding introducing French to your little one. Feel free to follow me on instagram (@123petitspas) where I do my best to provide parents of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers with constant support and ideas regarding French learning at home! Bonne chance les mamans! 
Amy Warr
Maman to a bilingual toddler
Owner of 123 Petits Pas