FLEA BITES: Starting French at a young age - a dad's perspective.
"What age should my child start French classes?" is a question we are often asked here at Les Puces. So here's some first hand experience from dad Chris who has been joining his son Cameron in their weekly classes since Cameron was very young:
Chris and Christina live in Tunbridge Wells with their sons Cameron, aged 4 and new arrival Teddy, just 7 weeks of age. The beautiful royal spa town has been their home for the last 5 years, having previously lived in London with Chris actually hailing from Edinburgh. Chris works full time for a business consultancy and, at the moment, Christina has her hands full with the new baby. Cameron will be starting school in September.
How did you hear about Les Puces?
We were keen for Cameron to start learning French from a really early age and a Google search for children’s French lessons in Tunbridge Wells came up with Les Puces. At the time Cameron wasn’t quite 2 years of age but Mandie Davis, the Founder and CEO of Les Puces explained that he would soon be able to begin his French lessons.
How long has Cameron been going to Les Puces?
We did take him along when we first heard of Les Puces, but he was a little too young then but after waiting until he was almost 3, we took the plunge. We weren’t sure at first whether he was taking any of it in but then suddenly he would start surprising us with words that he had learned.
Why were you so keen for Cameron to learn another language?
I actually learned French at school, university and lived in France for a bit and, although I’m a little bit rusty, I thought I could really help him to progress with the language. I think it is so important that children learn at a really young age, not just because it so much easier for them than picking it up later in life, but also because it helps develop the child in other ways that you just don’t get by learning only your native language. He goes to Les Puces every week for his 1 hour class during term time, and we have now supplemented that with a weekly private lesson.
Private lessons – how does that work?
We felt Cameron would benefit not only from the group lessons, as we think the interaction with other children is vital, but also from a 1 to 1 approach. We always felt that the two should go hand-in-hand. We seem to have started a bit of a family trend as Cameron’s cousin, Bella, has now joined him for the private lessons and she is just 3.
Have you been able to try out the language in France?
Yes. We took a holiday to the south west of France last year and stayed not far from Perpignan. We stayed on a Eurocamp site and it was super for Cameron as there were so many other children there, a mixture of different nationalities who mingled remarkably well. At that time Cameron was a little shy and it was perhaps a little overwhelming for him, but we feel this provided a good grounding for him and next time we go, he should be a lot more confident.
However, having said that, we immersed ourselves in the French culture and had regular trips to the local supermarché and boulangerie, the French bakery, where Cameron delighted in saying “bonjour” and “merci”! He also loved baguettes with French cheese.
What is Cameron’s favourite part of Les Puces classes?
He really enjoys the Make It Projects and creating the weather montage was lots of fun, which meant he could learn the weather terms including sun, rain and snow. He brought it home with pride and it’s now on display. Recently he was making one of a safari scene, although I had to do most of the cutting out of the animals!
What else have you found helpful?
We like to read to Cameron and Christina enjoys Les Puces books as they are in French and English. Christina (a non-French speaker) is also learning lots of French words. We also have many other books that are written in French and I often read to Cameron from them. It’s good for me too!
What do you enjoy doing as a family?
We love our holidays and also visiting family and friends in Scotland. There is an abundance of stuff to do in and around Tunbridge Wells and we love going to the parks as well as walking and playing in the Ashdown Forest.
How would you evaluate Les Puces website?
We have found Les Puces website to be very helpful and it has evolved over the 2 years that we have been visiting it. We often download the songs and listen to them in the car and the course material can also be downloaded.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Cameron has made amazing progress with his French at Les Puces and I would encourage all parents to get their children learning a second language as early as possible. Cameron was not even 3 when he started. He so enjoys the classes and we will be continuing with them for the foreseeable future.
His confidence is growing all the time and according to his maitresse, Caroline, he is developing a lovely French accent. Caroline has really encouraged Cameron to be involved in the classes particularly as initially he was the youngest in a class of about six and she has been fantastic with the whole class from day one. She really knows how to encourage them to give it a go and always seems to be able to find the right words/methods to keep the children involved. The relationship that Caroline has with the children has been key to the success of the lessons. Indeed, I do think Les Puces spends time making sure that the rights teachers are in place.
Thank you Chris for the interview.
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