Hi,What can I do if my child is in French school and I don't have the patience to teach her English myself?
Hi there. I'm American and my son (born in France) goes to a French school, as well. Personally, I don't particularly try to "teach" him English - I just speak to him in English, let him watch English-language movies and TV (this seems lazy but is actually a great way for learners of any language to train their ear and learn new vocabulary and phrases in context). These can be fun things or even eduational. For instance, Netflix offers a lot of educational children's TV shows like "Storybots", "Octonauts", and "The Magic Schoolbus".
I also read to him in English. You can get English-language books at big bookstores like the FNAC, as well as of course online via Amazon and other retailers, not to mention at English bookstores in France, as well, sometimes as local bookstores that mainly cater to French-speakers. Some French libraries also have at least a small section of children's books in English. And if worse comes to worst, you could even look for short stories in English online and print them out.
You can also find printable worksheets and activities of all sorts for free online, too, if you want your child to get familiar with written English.
My son is in CP and is learning to read and write. We were told that he should master the sounds and letters in French first, while still being exposed to English from time to time (for instance, when we read a book in English together I sometimes ask him what a few words are). Then, when he's become a good reader, we'll introduce him to writing in English. I'm not 100% sure this is the perfect method but it makes sense to me.
The main thing is not to let your child miss out, especially if you're a native English-speaker or fluent in English. There are so many ways to let kids hear and read and even speak English, and it's such a gift to learn it at a young age!
Don't feel bad if your child isn't learning in a strictly academic way, either; keep in mind that many bilingual people are bilingual because one of their languages is spoken informally at home. The rest will follow.
Good luck to you!
I agree totally, Alysa, with what you said about bilingual learning using workbooks, listening and watching materials, and such. Bravo on your initiatives and suggestions! We followed basically the same daily approach as you in raising our three bilingual children in France. My French wife spoke French with them and they attended French schools all the way through Lycee. I spoke English and used all the methods you mentioned, plus took them to anglophone activities in Paris, or elsewhere, where they could meet other bilingual children. I took them to children's theater in English and any worthwhile activity I could find. I started a 1901 association where they could play with other French kids in English and through which we organized group activities like Thanksgiving dinner for 250 people, mostly anglophones in our extended, residential community. The kids regularly attended Sunday school at the American Church on Quai d'Orsay, where they also participated in other programs, field trips, and such, and they sang in the children's choir. We also had visits from or regularly visited family and friends in the US during Christmas or summer vacations. One experience I think had a major influence on their learning was the semester of school we sent them for in the states during their first semester here of "College". We regularly sent them their French assignments, so they could also keep up with the work here. They lived with their uncle and aunt in Ohio, participated in all school activities, and met many kids (now lifelong friends) while they were there. They got to understand that the purpose of language is to communicate with others in daily life, and is not just a game where they recite words for the sake of getting better grades, impressing someone, or pleasing someone's curiosity or a parent's ego. They are trilingual, plus, now, and all three are graduates of a French "Grande Ecole" and, or leading institutions of higher learning in the states and throughout Europe; doctors and engineers. They are all also happily married, with children or soon to be, and are lovers of life, so bilingualism did not have consequences on their personalities, character development, or otherwise in their education, or, even to who they have become as people. In fact, I am convinced growing up bilingual helped to make them more aware, stronger and also to open their minds to other cultures while understanding themselves better, and, in getting to know members of both culturally different "sides" of their family, as well as to go into greater depth in subjects other than that of language, subjects like science and math, even music. Language learning and speaking are, at the base, automatic. Listening and speaking are the keys, though not at the same time, and the rest, the writing and reading will follow naturally (albeit with a little more disciplined work). Frankly, the only real handicap I ever noticed along the way with their bilingual education was that it took me, yes, me, longer than the average ex-pat to learn French, considering everything I did with my kids (and in my work) was in English. I can and did live with that, even though some members of my French family were impatient with my seemingly slow French language development, and that caused ripples even in my marriage. What can a person do? "You can please some of the people some of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time." My kids and their education and well-roundedness in life mattered most ... and now my own French language skills are quite advanced, so we seem to have gotten it all, in the end, at least that's how I feel. TH