Learning French can be second nature

Mixing languages is all part of the learning process for bilingual children

It can be difficult for English-speaking parents to know how best to help their children going to a French school. The Connexion asked two bilingual experts for advice

Barbara Abdelilah-Bauer (pictured right) is a linguist and psychologist, specialising in bilingualism. 

She has written guides for parents of bilingual children and has three French/German-speaking children.

Families should keep up their maternal language at home, she says.

It is important because it creates a place of security when there are so many changes in their lives. They learn the new language outside the home.

Does age make a difference ?

From seven years old onwards, children learn languages in a different way. They then use the same techniques, whether they are seven, nine or 15 years old.

They will approach it in the same way as a maths problem, making comparisons and deductions in relation to their maternal language.

Under-sevens have an innate capacity to learn to speak, which will also allow them to learn a second language.

If they are at a crèche, école maternelle or primary school, they will learn the new language naturally and automatically, with a sufficient number of contact hours every day in the second language.

How should you help older children?

It is more complicated because they also have to learn to write, read and apply French to other school subjects.

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