TIPS AND ADVICE FOR PARENTS
Should we watch English or French television?
There is no right or wrong answer to this and it comes down to family choice. Watching French TV will help your child's acquisition of French as well as help your child fit in with their peer group when discussing what was on on Saturday night. However, often TV is a time to wind down so English TV may be preferable. In addition, after a day at school in French, English TV can help get the language balance equal as well as to ensure their English is current and evolving in line with the UK. Finally, English TV can help them understand the UK a bit more - who are the key people and what the customs and traditions are.
My child is muddling up his French and English - should I be worried?
This is quite normal - research indicates that the ability to switch back and forth between languages, sometimes called code-switching, is a sign of mastery of two linguistic systems, not a sign of language confusion, and that children as young as 2 are able to code-switch. Research also shows that many normally developing bilingual children mix their two languages, with the type and amount of code-switching depending on environmental factors such as how much the parents or wider community engage in code-switching.
My child is going to start at Maternelle soon - what should I do to prepare him/her?
It really helps if your child can understand some basic commands in French before starting school - simple expressions that she will hear on her first day like take off your coat, put on your coat, stand up, sit down etc. A great way to do this is to put her in the local garderie or with a child minder (not you) for a couple of sessions each week. Whilst she may not be chatting back in French straight away, she will get used to the language and being separated from you before the big first day at school.
My Maternelle teacher has told me I need to read and talk in French but I can't speak French - what should I do?
It is important to remember that most Maternelle teachers are not experts in bilingualism and their main goal is to get the children comfortable in French as soon as possible. However, it has been proven many times that speaking to your child in a language you are not fluent in is harmful to their language acquisition. Children are highly perceptive to language in their early years so hearing their most important influencers (parents) speaking a language incorrectly will encourage them to pick up your mistakes. At the same time you are limiting their exposure to your native language and their opportunity to learn their maternal language. If your teacher asks you to read French books, we'd recommend that you explain why this has now been proved to be harmful and suggest that you make up an English story around the pictures in the book, after all this activity is as much about enjoying books together as it is a language lesson.
We already have a lot of homework to do - how could we cope with extra English too?
All children in French school have regular English lessons - as much as 5 hours per week in collège. These are a great opportunity for Accents children to do their homework. We recommend that you take time to explain to the teacher the reason why Accents is important and ask that they allow the homework to be done in the lessons. We have found that this still leaves plenty of time to help out in class with the conversation part but means that they are using the rest of the lesson productively.
We're returning to the UK - how can I prepare my child?
We would suggest that you get an accurate understanding of your child's English level so that you can assess what can be realistically achieved before you return. Leaving France and their friends will already be a challenge, so being able to fit in at their new school will be especially important and being able to take part in and enjoy lessons will be central to this. If you require some help in this planning, contact us and we'll see if we can help.
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