Getting started in French with older children: 2 reader questions


Over the past while, I’ve had a number of questions relating to getting started teaching French to children who are past the kindergarten/early elementary stage.  Here’s one:

My oldest is 17 and is finally interested in learning french. He did Rosetta Stone when he was 8-10 years but I don’t think he remembers much. My husband and I know basic french.  I’ve been reviewing some of your Frenglish blog .. do you have any recommendations since most, if not all, of the basic french curriculum is for elementary students?


This is such a great question!  It’s true that most introductory courses are geared towards younger students.  In this case, I would recommend starting with Duolingo.  It’s a free program, available online and on mobile apps:  Android and ios  I reviewed this program here.  It’s geared to all ages, including adults.  You won’t find any cutesy characters here.  That being said, younger children can use this program, as long as they can spell reasonably well.


Here’s another one:
Not wanting to spend anything unnecessary, what base books/ resources would you recommend for a bilingual ( non native) mom teaching her 3 daughters ( 8, 11, 13) who have been exposed all their lives to French but haven’t really achieved mastery over any specific area, yet they know more (and sometimes less) than I think. Hard to get them talking, but now I am really feeling committed as time
is getting late.  Also I have tried with gusto before, but it was not sustainable! The key is that it be sustainable! 


This situation is different than the first one because it sounds like the children are at least somewhat fluent.  The first thing I would recommend is reading my free e-book: Getting started teaching French at home (whether you speak French or not), which is available to blog subscribers.  (Sign up at the right sidebar or at the bottom of this post).


Then, I would start slowly with adding different media types.  My first choice is always books.  If you can’t get them from the library, try an electronic source, like the ones I talk about in this post.  Start with the free sites, and then once you’ve read all the ones from there, move on to the paid service.  Storyplayr is a small fee to pay for a big selection if you can’t get them anywhere else.  Start with reading aloud then add in each child reading a small amount per day, based on their abilities.


Next, add in TV.  TV has limited benefits but is super-easy.  If the kids normally unwind after school with a bit of television, make part of that in French.  YouTube has French TV shows for kids.  So does this site: Or you may find that some of the DVD’s you already own have French audio options that you didn’t realize were there.


Music is another easy addition.  We recently started listening to more of it ourselves.  Check out our first explorations here.  More to come on this and I find more resources.


Websites and apps are a bit harder to add in because you need to find ones that fit with your kids’ ages and abilities, but I find they are a big benefit.  They are more interactive than TV but the kids still feel like they are playing so they don’t usually resist spending time on them.  You can find a bunch of apps that I’ve reviewed on this site here.  This mom may also want to start with Duolingo.  It is basic and starts at square one, but it will give her an idea of where her kids are at.  When the program starts to get difficult for the kids, it will highlight to the mom where they need extra help and practice.


Talking should be the easiest, but always seems to be the hardest, so I’ve saved it for last.  The least painful way to get started with this is to start small.   Perhaps choose a specific time of day to speak in French.  At a meal?  While going for a short walk?  Something small that feels easy.  If the children speak readily, that may be all you need to do – you can just gradually increase the time as everyone gets into the habit of it.  If they are reluctant to speak, you could use a reward system, like the one I’ve designed here.  My kids are now up to 45 sentences a day, and they usually seem to focus their French-speaking efforts while we are walking our dog, which works out quite well.
Remember – don’t add everything at once.  Go slowly.  If you do all of the things noted above, once you’re fully rolling, it could translate into several hours per day of French exposure, depending on how long each thing takes.  Eventually, grammar rules and specifics will need to be added in if the goal is full bilingualism.  However, I wouldn’t even think about that until everything else is going on autopilot.  I reviewed the grammar program we’re using here.  Watch for more posts about grammar teaching in the next few months.
Have I missed anything?  What would you add for either of these situations? 
If you're not reading this post in your e-mail, sign up for updates right here and get your free guide to Getting Started Teaching French at Home:
We never share your address, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *