Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Parlez-vous fran├žais? (Book Review)

Because French is one of Canada's two official languages, students in our province's publicly funded English-language schools are required to study French as a Second Language in Grades 4 to 8. In fact, my children's school starts French classes in Grade 1.

You would think that would be a good thing, but what my children have come away with so far is an indifference to the language (my daughter) or a hatred of the language (my son). I suspect it has something to do with a natural shyness of speaking a second language in front of classmates. Plus, the pressure to speak and write French in an academic setting (for marks) seems to take the fun out of the whole learning process.

In my quest to make learning French a little more fun for the kids, I turned to DK Canada. I have reviewed many DK books on this blog and I know their books to be attractive, educational and fun. DK didn't disappoint, sending me the "First French Picture Dictionary" and a DK Language Learner kit that promises to teach you "everything you need to get talking" in French.

The "First French Picture Dictionary" includes topic pages with lots of useful words centred on subjects such as clothes, the garden and sports (above). It also contains two picture dictionaries, one organized alphabetically by English words (with French translations) and the other by French words. The book also indicates how to pronounce each word - it's an important feature, because French can be tricky for English speakers. There are separate sections on verbs, useful phrases and numbers too.

I studied French right through until the first year of university. I planned to continue studying the language in second year, but I found the homework demands too much for an elective course. Now, I can barely piece a sentence together. In other words, I will be re-learning the language as I explore it with the kids.

The "DK Language Learner: French" kit includes everything your child (and maybe you) needs to start speaking French. The book includes a picture dictionary, a word dictionary and an activities section with 26 themed topics. The companion CD contains all of the phrases and conversations explored in the activities, so that kids can hear how the language is spoken and pronounced. A narrator leads the learner through each topic, encouraging children to repeat the words and phrases.

Because it's more fun to learn language with a partner (or several), the kit includes ideas for games, like "Qu'elle heure est-il, Monsieur Loup?" (above).

It also includes five sets of 12 flash cards, covering topics such as food, objects and animals.

I am looking forward to doing some casual, fun activities with the kids as the summer progresses. Hopefully they will approach their French classes with more enthusiasm in the fall!

Do children study French (or another language) in your area schools? How about you? Do you speak a language other than English?

*I was provided with books for review purposes. All opinions are my own.


  1. I think this is nice, French is one of the languages I wanted to learn but I heard that it's hard. I'm proud of you for making it easier for your kids.



    1. I find it pretty hard, especially remembering the "le" and "la." ;)

      Thanks for your nice comment! :)


  2. My daughter could have used this last semester lol!! I love your book reviews!!

    1. She studied French? I have dreams of going to Paris, but I bet I wouldn't speak French even if I could. ;)

      Thanks so much. I'm glad you like the book reviews. :)

  3. my family just moved to montreal, and although my little guy is only just 1, i'm really excited to start him early! and that means i get to learn again too!

    -emma, from

    1. I love Montreal! And what a great way to learn French - being exposed to it all the time like that. Enjoy!

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