Just a few weeks ago, Small City’s Alice and her little boy James were attending children’s French classes in Perth with local mum Cheryl Strange. So much has changed since then, but happily these lessons from ‘La Jolie Ronde’ are starting up again thanks to the virtual magic of Zoom!
Cheryl’s new term will start after the Easter holidays (week beginning 20thApril) and she is all set to bring the fun of learning French straight into your living room. Read all about how Alice and James got on with these weekly kids’ classes, and drop Cheryl a line on Facebook or by email to find out more!
I began learning French in secondary school, and certain phrases have stuck with me ever since. I remember frequent entreaties for the class to “Asseyez-vous!” (sit down) and “Taisez-vous!” (be quiet). I can only assume we were an unruly bunch. But I also wonder if I would have fared better learning a foreign language had I begun earlier. I have had a secret hankering for some time now for my son, aged four, to learn French. Partly to give me an educational excuse for more frequent sojourns to the land of 'pain au chocolat', but mainly because I feel he will pick it up so much more easily if he starts young.
La Jolie Ronde is an award-winning language programme established more than 30 years ago, designed to introduce children to a second language through fun, interactive lessons. I was delighted to find Cheryl Strange offering these classes to children in Perthshire and quickly signed James up. Cheryl used to live and work in Switzerland and her time abroad, coupled with raising her young daughter, inspired her to teach French to children.
Cheryl told me: “At a young age, children are attuned to different language sounds. They copy them with ease, unhampered by entrenched mother-tongue language sounds, or social inhibitions. In exposing children to fun learning situations that are relevant to their experience of the world around them, learning a second language comes easy!”
Children copy different language sounds with ease, unhampered by social inhibitionsIt sounded promising so James and I headed along one day after nursery for his first lesson with Cheryl. His new classmates were all of a similar age and the small group size means that everyone gets plenty of attention. The children started with the customary “Bonjour” and “Ca va?” before settling on comfy cushions on the floor. The classes are designed to suit youngsters, with an emphasis on enjoyable games, songs, role-play and other activities. No one is expected to sit still for long periods of time, which is a sensible starting point when dealing with this age group.
La Jolie Ronde’s methodology includes immersion in the language from the very beginning, and the children were soon counting in French. Lots of repetition from week to week meant that some of them were pretty good with their numbers already, and I was impressed by how willing they were to speak up. They obviously felt comfortable in their learning environment. It seemed to reassure James, as the new boy, and soon he was happy to join in.
Music and movement form an integral part of these sessions and Cheryl played a song, “Un, deux, trois!” which prompted “Is it time for standing up?” from one of the little girls. The children got to their feet and let off some steam jumping around while singing along to the tune. Then they took turns introducing themselves – again James could simply copy the others, with a bit of encouragement from his teacher.
We moved on to meeting the characters which feature in La Jolie Ronde’s programme. There is Minou the cat and Trottine the mouse, along with their friends Gaston the balloon, Marco the robot, Francois the soldier, and more. ‘Les Aventures de Minou et Trottine’ are available in an activity book, CD and app, all of which build on the content of the classes. Topics in the supporting materials include animal families, having a party and going shopping – light and relatable themes to engage the interest of a young child.
A group discussion about spring, and Easter, moved smoothly between English and French, with Cheryl introducing new vocabulary but ensuring the children weren’t lost among an excess of strange words. Another song was accompanied by pictures and I was amazed when James, upon hearing that the rabbit was hiding "sous un arbre", promptly picked up the drawing of a tree. He was able to comprehend and absorb much more than I had realised.
La Jolie Ronde believes that learning another language opens the door to travel and friendship, helps develop confidence and self-esteem, and even boosts learning in other areas such as maths, reading and vocabulary. One of the mums at Cheryl's class said to me: “It is so lovely to see my little girl learning to speak French and having so much fun at the same time.” Cheryl agreed: “Positive feedback from parents has reinforced that the classes work, the children love them, and I have been amazed at the progress they make in a short period of time.”
Before the end of the class, Cheryl recapped the learning points covered that day. Then her little pupils shared some coloured stickers, all the while learning the French for each colour, and even managing an occasional "s’il te plait". There is a small amount of homework which is not compulsory, but works wonders at improving the children’s language skills more quickly. James and his new friends wore big smiles throughout the afternoon, and I liked how Cheryl expertly disguised an effective learning experience as simply fun. I didn’t hear an “Asseyez-vous” or “Taisez-vous” once!
For more information about these ‘magnifique’ French classes for children aged 0-12 check out Cheryl’s Facebook page or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07740 985 929.
Cheryl is also launching French For Fun in Perthshire with fun, stress-free classes for adults. 1:1 lessons are also available. For more details see Facebook or contact email@example.com.
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