Did you know that there are lots of studies showing that learning a foreign language is best done as soon as possible? That’s why early language learning (as it’s officially known) is becoming increasingly common today. Between the ages of three and six, children’s minds are extremely malleable and receptive. Before they reach ten, children are able to reproduce sounds not found in their native language without an accent! Children love to imitate, make sounds and discover new things. In addition, they are less inhibited than adults, and don’t worry about what other people might think, even when they make mistakes. This isn’t the case for many older learners, who are afraid to express themselves in case they get their grammar wrong or use poor pronunciation.
Workshops based on board games and nursery rhymes, craft activities, colouring, cutting out, matching words and pictures, card games, puzzles, and charades are all activities which might be suitable for the youngest students. And learning the alphabet or parts of the body through songs is perfect for children. The well-known game of Happy Families can be used to teach vocabulary relating to members of the family, while a memory game like Pairs is useful for learning the names of animals and objects from daily life. Interactive games are another important activity, and the Centre International d’Antibes offers several. On the website Le Français et Vous (French and You), under the tab Sur les galets (On the pebble beach), you will find a variety of fun activities. For example, an exercise called Le Parachute de Roger (Roger’s Parachute) focuses on phonetics, while the Glisser/coller (Drag/drop) exercises are perfect for expanding vocabulary.
For children, it’s essential to incorporate regular breaks and not to spend too much time on one activity. It’s always difficult to keep their attention, so it’s best to switch tasks as often as possible. The themes used must be familiar from the child’s real life, and require specially designed teaching aids which must promote discussion and communication.