Bonjour! Do you want to teach kids French? Whether you are a parent wanting to introduce the French language, reinforce your child’s language skills, or you are a teacher looking for classroom resources, you are in the right place. This Learn French Starter kit by Felicity from Mini French will give you the resources you need to start teaching kids French, including FREE printable materials to download, print, and use at home.

Don’t forget to follow the whole series: Learn French for Kids

1. Set yourself up for success

As we have previously discussed, there are plenty of reasons to choose to learn this beautiful language.

Since French is widely spoken and France has a strong international footprint, many adults know more French than they realise! Moreover, there are many similar words in English and French. This should give you some confidence in the starting the language with your child.

In this Starter Kit, I will share my recommendations and resources for preparing to teach your child French including

  • Ideas for creating a positive language learning environment
  • Practical tips in setting up your home for success
  • My advice on mastering French pronunciation
  • Help with formulating commands and questions
  • An at-a-glance common verbs table
  • A handy High Frequency Words & Phrases resource to print at home

My recommended approach to create a positive language learning environment:

  • Regular and interactive input in a language is key to progressing so make sure to make the learning fun and, where possible, in context.
  • Use a little bit of French with your child every day. Identify when you have one-on-one time i.e. your morning routine, snack time, bath time and in the car/ bus. This means you can fit it into your already busy routine.
  • Use music and singing. Songs help to switch languages and help you retain large amounts of vocabulary.
  • Don’t let your accent be a barrier to starting. Successful learners are actually the ones who are supported by enthusiastic parents & adults!

2. Practical tips to get started

Next, some practical starting points. The following ideas will suit you whether you are a beginner getting started or a bilingual family looking for inspiration. You both have the same goal: maximising the use of French at home.

  • Create a French basket or corner to give you a physical focus. Collect resources like books but also ‘printables’ or toys which you use in your French playtime.
  • Dot some posters or labels around the house. For example, a calendar on the fridge with days of the week, key sentences to use in each room… (I can help you with these over the coming weeks)
  • Collate a list of French songs that you like and find some corresponding toys.

Overall, you are trying to achieve an environment where you have lots of reminders to use French and where multilingualism is normalised. This will spur on your child to want to learn more! You will see, it is like a snowball effect!

3. Using two languages at home

Some parents are not sure how to incorporate two languages into their child’s life. Here are some tips from my experience, not only as a teacher, but as a mother.

Firstly, I would say that this is why starting as young as possible is very helpful as children quickly come to realise that you are using more than one language as a family.

Secondly, do not worry about causing confusion but you may wish to transition to French by singing a song and using lots of body language or picking up a French kid’s book. With older children you can transition to French by following a French recipe together or watching a French film.

You can also tell or ask your child how to say a word in French by using the phrases:

 “En français on dit…” In French we say…
Or (super simple)
“En français?” And, in French?

More advanced,
“Comment dit-on {English word} en français?”
How do we say {English word} in French?

4. Setting your language goals

Every family has a different goal for their child’s language acquisition. Although this may seem formal, don’t skip this step. I would really recommend spending a few minutes considering what your own family language goals are. Get the rest of the family onboard.

I believe that being clear in your goals strengthens your chances of success for several reasons:

  1. If you experience a setback, having a goal gives you the confidence and the will to continue
  2. It helps in discussions with friends and family who ask about the importance of language learning to you
  3. It impacts your choices of resources you need to achieve those personal goals

Your family goals: there is no right and wrong answer here. It also depends on your family’s situation and the time you are able to commit to exposing your child to a new language. Sticking to what you can realistically manage means less chance of becoming overwhelmed.

Examples goals: “I want to…”:

  1. “…teach my child the foundations of a new language”
  2. “…instil an openness to new languages and cultures”
  3. “…support my child in becoming a proficient speaker”
  4. “…support my child in becoming fully bilingual and biliterate”

5. Getting the basics right

If your French is a bit rusty (or non-existent!) or you didn’t like languages at school… don’t panic or let yourself feel overwhelmed! You do not need a perfect accent or immaculate grammar to teach your child the foundations of French. Just take little steps and grow from there.

However, to boost your confidence and get off to a good solid start, I would recommend:

  • working on your accent a little
  • reading up on how to correctly structure a sentence or question
  • learning some key words and phrases including the main verbs

From there, you can start using other resources with a little more confidence knowing that you have mastered some of the basics.

Below you will find a quick guide on pronunciation, how to formulate questions and commands, commonly used verbs, plus, related handy printable resources.

My ‘Accent Accelerator’ technique!

Ah, the French accent! So beautiful and so unique. For non-natives it can be hard to master. However, I have developed an accent improvement technique that I use in my classes where we focus on individual sounds and practice them.

It is generally accepted that there are 37 sounds in the French language. There are several which do not exist, or are rare, in English (regional differences exist).

I would suggest focusing on; the four nasal vowels and the French ‘r’ to start.

Teach Kids French Nasal Vowels Guide

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD & PRINT TO USE AT HOME

Nasal vowels are produced when air flow escapes through the nose and the mouth simultaneously and are very common in French. Use the attached resource which gives you the four nasal vowels, the main ways they are spelled (graphemes) and example words.

The French ‘r’ (called the rhotic or rolled ‘r’) is pronounced at the back of the throat and takes practice for many anglophones. The tip of your tongue should not touch the roof of your mouth whilst making an ‘err’ sound from the throat. I write the French ‘r’ sound as ‘rh’ on my printable resources when words are provided phonetically.

Someone once told me they thought it sounded like an angry cat! Example words: grossir, derrière, perroquet.

Next, use a pronunciation website or app (such as www.forvo.com) or your smart home speaker device to hear the correct pronunciation of the example words I have provided and practice them.

High frequency French words

High Frequency French words for Kids

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD & PRINT TO USE AT HOME

It takes time to get into the habit of using French during the day with your child.

To get you off to a quick start, please check out the special resource that I have made for for Bilingual Kidspot readers.

A High Frequency Words & Phrases reminder. Put this handy resource on the fridge or as your screen-saver or wallpaper on your phone/ tablet until you are familiar with them.

Asking questions

A good way to encourage interaction in French with your child is to ask them questions as you go about your day. Here is a guide on how to formulate a question in French.

YES/ NO Questions: There are three ways to ask yes/ no questions in the present tense. In this example we are asking if you like apples:

  1. Inflection – This is the easiest way to ask a yes/ no question. Simply make your voice go up at the end of the sentence i.e. Tu aimes les pommes becomes Tu aimes les pommes? raising your voice at the end of the sentence.
  2. Est-ce que – Using this method, the word order stays the same again but we add Est-ce que to the beginning i.e. Est-ce que tu aimes les pommes?
  3. Inversion – Place the verb in front of the subject and add a hyphen i.e. Aimes-tu les pommes?

Question Words: Another way to formulate a question is to use a specific question word (see the High Frequency Words resource for a few key ones). Again, there are three ways to use a question word. In this example we are asking where you are going:

  1. Inflection – Place the word at the end with inflection Tu vas où?
  2. Est-ce que – Add Est-ce que after your selected question word and before your sentence i.e. Où est-ce que tu vas?
  3. Inversion – Start with the question word then place the verb in front of the subject, adding a hyphen i.e. Où vas-tu?

High frequency verbs

No-one likes grammar lessons (at least not many people!). We all learned the grammar of our first language through interaction and I suggest you do the same when teaching your child their second language.

Here I provide a guide to the key verbs you are likely to need in your daily interactions with your child. I also show you how to conjugate these verbs in first and second person plus how to use it as a command to one person. I also give examples for you to use these verbs context.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD OR PRINT TO USE AT HOME

Common French Verbs for Kids
French Commands for Kids

6. Follow My French Lesson Series

This has been a comprehensive overview of getting prepared to start French with your child. Now you have my ideas and advice, think about how YOU can make languages fit into YOUR routine.

My top tip, just start somewhere!

Over the upcoming series I will be covering several topics with free, useful resources. 

The topics I have selected are fun and relatable for young children. They will cover French as part of your everyday routine.

Each lesson will cover all the vocabulary you need for that topic plus ideas of how to bring it to life at home:

  • Counting and the weather
  • All about me
  • Bath-time in French
  • Colours
  • Snack-time in French
  • Fun circus themed lesson and shapes

Hopefully these ideas will help to set you up with a solid learning plan to help you teach kids French.

This Teach Kids French post is part of our Learn French for Kids series hosted by Felicity from Mini Languages. You can find the rest of the series at Learn French for Kids.

Teach Kids French - Starter Kit