One challenge of homeschooling is teaching a second language when you’re not fluent in it yourself. I learned a little French in school, but it’s been too long for me to admit. I do want my children to learn foreign languages, and they aren’t easy to find locally, so I was happy to review Getting Started with French by Armfield Academic Press.
We received our copy of Getting Started With French from the postman as we were walking down the hill to a biodiversity summer school event. We opened it up as we were walking and as soon as the event was over, we found a picnic table and while the kids had some lunch, I started reading.
There are 172 lessons included in this book, and we’ve completed 33 of them so far. They’re short and sweet and only take a few minutes a day. I schedule about 10-15 minutes which is plenty of time to complete one or two lessons. Some lessons can be easily doubled up if they’re on a similar topic, and when the kids ask for another one I can hardly say no to learning, can I?
These French lessons aren’t the same as you’d encounter in a regular classroom. They start off very easy, and teach grammar rules along the way. I’m learning rules I didn’t know before; what they’re called, and how they work….as well as the exceptions to the rules.
Sprinkled throughout here and there are little cultural tidbits as well, which are interesting. Like what Mardi Gras really means, how to use bon appetit and santé.
I had hoped that my nephew would have helped with the kids’ pronunciation and practice as he was in French immersion classes and now resides in Montréal. However, being twenty and a busy young man he has declined.
Fortunately, the website has free downloads available for each lesson (they’re available as zip files so you can download them all in one go). In addition to the text of each lesson, you can also listen to some additional conversation between William E. Linney, Brandon Simpson, and native French speaker, Francois, about each topic. Most lessons also have some vocabulary or practice sentences, and you can hear these spoken in the pronunciation downloads.
For our lessons, I call the children over to the PC, usually before lunch, and I read the lesson from the manual. Next we listen to the commentary, and then we all listen and repeat the practice sentences, following along with the downloaded mp3s. I pause the recording after each sentence so that we can all practice together, and then separately, and encourage each other along. After each sentence in French, the children also take turns telling me what they’ve just said (in English).
As we go, it’s interesting to see Tristan and Kallista as they each excel in different aspects on different days.
At about lesson 25 we had some fun when I printed off a bingo game for them using the vocabulary words and phrases they’d learned up to that point. This was a big hit!
To get us more into the French culture, the children chose a new book from the library about Paris, and they’ve been looking at some postcards and postage stamps from their collection and I found a little Eiffel Tower that Mom and Dad brought back from their trip 20 years ago.
I love that the lessons are so brief and easy. I love that there is a good explanation of the rules of French grammar that make sense so early on in the lessons. I love that because the lessons are short, the children don’t become restless or bored during their lessons.
What is a little frustrating is that this far into the course, we haven’t yet learned how to introduce ourselves, how to say please or thank you, etc. These are some of the first things one needs in a foreign country. Politeness goes a long way. Maybe a little aside or two with a couple of little ‘expansion’ sentences would help us feel like we were progressing more with useful knowledge.
Overall, so far we’re all really enjoying learning a little French, and we’re getting a good foundation for future lessons, right from the start. Here is the final verdict from my students:
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