You’ve probably heard that speaking a second language is like exercising a muscle: you use it, or you lose it.
I hear from so many people who studied French, whether in high school or in college. They regret that their French isn’t as good as when they were in school.
I majored in French in college, but the reason I still speak it fluently is because I live in France. Yes, I know—easy for me to say. But it’s not about where you live. It’s about speaking it every day.
If you want to get back into French and you have young children at home, why not include them? If you too have a desire to raise your kids bilingual, but don’t know where to start, I can help!
You’re in the right place. I’ve rounded up some online resources for you to kick-start (or reignite!) your FSL (French as a Second Language) journey—for you and your little ones.
Voulez-vous un petit café ?
My criteria for these French resources
I had several goals in mind for you when I went looking for these FSL resources. This is what you’ll find in the links below:
They’re free. It’s a pandemic, people. Money is tight, I get it. There are tons of great paid resources out there, but why not dip your toes into some free ones first?
They’re available to anyone online. Ah, the magic of the internet! These resources can be accessed by anyone anywhere with an internet connection.
They’re for kids and/or parents, as opposed to students. You won’t find any lessons here that are for levels beyond primary school learners of French. Let me know if you would be interested in more advanced material, and I will point you in the right direction!
They don’t encourage the use of screens for your children. You won’t find any shows, apps, or computer games here. These can be fun tools, but the point is to interact with your children in French, not to hope that they’ll passively absorb it through a screen.
Resources in English
If you don’t know any French, or your French is very rusty, start with these resources in English.
Mini French was founded by Felicity, who hosts French classes for babies and children in Edinburgh. Felicity’s methods are supported by her degree in the psychology of language. Together with her French husband, they are raising their 3 kids bilingual.
Her blog is packed with fresh ideas and advice for using French in your home. You’ll find French-inspired activities, printables, and recipes to vary your approach to using a foreign language with your kids. Sign up for Felicity’s monthly newsletter for even more free goodies.
The most exciting part is that Felicity will soon be launching an online platform in order for everyone to benefit from her Mini French program. Keep an eye on that space because she will have step-by-step lessons available!
Camp Tournesol Workbooks
Martine Brouillet founded Camp Tournesol in 2001 to promote bilingualism and especially to host French summer camp to francophone children in Montreal. The organization now has 15 campuses across Canada.
The reason I recommend this resource to you is because they offer a nice range of free workbooks in French. The workbooks introduce vocabulary followed by common expressions, even some phonics, followed by a wide variety of exercises your kids will love because they won’t feel like doing homework!
The Fable Cottage
Founded by Aletta in New Zealand, The Fable Cottage presents a collection of 10 classic children’s tales in 5 different languages. The text of the stories has been modernized, so they are easy and fun to read by parents and kids alike, while still providing important vocabulary in the target language.
The stories are classics, so you likely already have a casual knowledge of them. But if you’re still having trouble with the French, Aletta has devised a handy translation button you can use to quickly switch to English and back again.
If you need help pronouncing the French, you can listen to the recording of the story by a native speaker. The best part is that the recording is a slow version, so it’s still great for beginners!
The French Experiment
From the founder of The Fable Cottage, The French Experiment contains free lessons in French. They are all online, done on a screen, so best for parents who are looking to brush up on their French. Thinking of taking a proper (paid) online French course? Aletta also reviews them, so you can make an informed decision before you buy.
Resources in French
The following online resources are in French. If you don’t know any French, or are having trouble navigating, pas de problème. Just use Google Translate to help you find what you’re looking for. Copy and paste the URL into the text box to get the translation.
Or, if you are using a Chrome browser, simply right-click on the page and select Translate to English from the drop-down menu.
Pomme d’api is a children’s magazine sold in France. (A pomme d’api is a variety of apple we call Pink Lady or sometimes Cripps. Pomme d’api is also a reference to a popular children’s song in French, “Pomme de reinette et pomme d’api.”)
The website for this magazine offers a lot of great articles for parents about raising kids. If you are interested in French parenting methods, definitely check out their articles under Pour les Parents.
Get ideas for crafts and recipes in their Activités à la Maison section. You can also browse the magazine in the Feuilletage section, or listen to their radio station.
Parents is a magazine sold in France (no connection with the English language magazine). Their free companion website, Parents Mômes, is home to songs, crafts, coloring pages, recipes, printable games, party ideas, and more. If you click on Diaporamas, you’ll find even more ideas for seasonal and on-topic activities you can do at home.
Their best resource for learning French can be found in the section Apprendre > Français. Here you’ll find a bounty of exercises on reading, writing, and listening that you can print and fill out with your child. There is a host of other themes to learn about as well.
Il était une histoire
Il était une histoire can’t be translated literally, but we would say in English “Once upon a time.” The website was founded by a partnership between Rue des Écoles, an educational publishing group, and Maif, an insurance company. Their mission is to provide kids ages 3-10 and their parents with over 100 books for free and available to read on their website.
You can browse their different book genres on the front page. When you select a book, you can either read it out loud from the screen, or you could listen to the recording. They have selected certain words in the text to help your child build his vocabulary. Click Découvrir to find out more about the basis for the story.
You’ll find some familiar classics on here as well as some modernized retellings of ethnic tales. Sign up for a free account and get access to pdf- and mp3 downloads!
Naître et grandir
Naître et grandir is a free nonprofit magazine published in Quebec, but their content is available to everyone via their website. It is organized by age group, and within each you’ll find in-depth articles (available as audio as well), activity ideas, and printables.
Learn with your kids about their development, health and wellness, nutrition, language, and behavior, to name a few. Naître et grandir is truly a wealth of information based in science to serve parents.
Hugo L’Escargot (do I need to translate this for you?) is brought to you by Figaro, the oldest French newspaper. It was created in the early 2000s by a teacher who wanted to create a database of free coloring pages hosted by a cute little green mascot.
If coloring pages are what you’re after, look no further than Hugo L’Escargot. Also home to arts and crafts ideas, activity books for primary school level, songs, and recipes, Hugo L’Escargot is a truly amazing and complete free resource, especially if you want to see what French schoolkids are learning.
Put a French twist in your home
Voilà, you as a parent don’t have to speak French, but you can still foster FSL learning with these free online resources. Even if you speak fluent French already, you’ll find tons of ideas and worksheets to do with your kids.
Did you find these resources helpful? Are you enjoying reading books and singing songs in French with your kiddos? Let me know how you have been putting a French twist in your home!