The last time Cub tried a Whistlefritz French language-learning DVD, he actually spoke more French than English. When we lived in Montreal, he was surrounded by French: from my husband, his relatives, his daycare and almost everyone around him. I was the only one speaking to him in English! Now that we live in Calgary, the situation has reversed. I was shocked by how quickly he stopped speaking French once English became the language of daily life. As for his little sister, she has only ever known life in English. It’s really just her father who speaks to her en français. I am a fluent French speaker and before having kids and becoming a blogger, I taught French as a second language. My husband and I met in Spanish class in Montreal when I was on exchange in my third year of university. Language is extremely important to us! While I spent my entire post-secondary degree perfecting my French (and I continue to be bamboozled by the gender of words and by choosing the correct preposition), I want my children to enter university already bilingual. I dream of them correcting my prepositions or reminding me that bicycle and vélo are masculine even though bicyclette (the exact same object) is feminine.
Cub is now in his second year of preschool in French. This September, we increased his attendance to three times per week, which gives him about eight hours of French instruction. Papa Wolf has been making a concerted effort to speak only in French to Cub, even though Cub typically responds in English. I am very happy to report that the extra day of preschool and reinforcement at home has shown noticeable results! Cub now sings songs in French, spontaneously counts in French and responds in French when we ask him questions. He can also swear remarkably well in French, but that’s another issue. I was asking him a yes or no question the other day about his cousins, and I was listing their names. I noticed that when I asked him about his cousins from Québec (and pronounced their names in French), he immediately switched to saying “oui” instead of “yes.”
Featuring vocabulary related to the four seasons (weather, season-appropriate activities and clothing), there is no English over the course of this 20-minute program. That’s because Whistlefritz uses an immersion approach to language learning: “Children can achieve fluency more quickly and more permanently by learning words directly from images and context.” Little Miss is captivated by the on-screen action, and although she isn’t even speaking words in English yet, I know that exposing her to French is valuable.
There’s plenty of repetition and clear, slow pronunciation. Gestures, images and footage of children at play help the viewer understand what is being said. Even if you don’t speak a word of French, you’ll be able to enjoy this DVD with your children! I notice that Cub answers and repeats in French as he follows along with the host, Marie, and Fritzi the mouse. I’ve also heard him singing some of the songs to himself.
The host and the children in this DVD speak a very “international” French. Cub’s French is definitely Québécois (his preschool teachers are also from Québec), so we noticed a couple of words that are different than what we’re used to, but that’s not a big deal. (For example, bonnet for a winter hat instead of toque; a ciré for a rain coat instead of imperméable.) I can only hope that my kids share my fascination with language and the ways vocabulary changes depending on region!
As a French teacher and a parent with dreams of bilingual children, I consider Whistlefritz’s Les saisons DVD to be an excellent tool for introducing young children to French. If your children are starting French immersion or have French-speaking family members, this is a great way to reinforce what they are already hearing. Even if your children have no previous experience with French, they’ll definitely pick up some vocabulary and pronunciation after a couple of viewings.
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