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Our children’s first experiences with a new language

Children and learning a (new) language. Our first experiences with Daan and Tijl.

In September our boys – Daan (7) and Tijl (5) – will be attending school in French. It’ll be a huge change for them: a new school, a new language – French instead of Dutch, new friends, … That’s why we’ve sent them on day camps at BDK here in Arlon. Let’s hope this language immersion helps them to understand and speak (a little) French by the end of the summer.

No matter how much we’ve tried to teach Daan and Tijl some French during the past year, they still don’t seem to get beyond “Bonnjourrr!”, “Com-ment ça va?” and “Jemappelle …” – with a juicy Flemish accent. That’s why this ‘language bath’ is so important. We were quite nervous when we dropped them off on their first day. Luckily everyone was very positive at the end of the day. The boys had a blast. Their biggest disappointment after day 1: that they were not allowed on the bouncy castle … Phew!

What preceded…

Over the past year, we’ve brought the boys into contact with French in various ways. Last summer,  Daan already went to a language camp with Taalplus (in Antwerp) for a week and took pre-corona lessons for one hour a week on Saturdays. They watched Netflix in French as much as possible and practiced a lot on several (purchased) apps. We also regularly read booklets together. That way they got acquainted with the language and already knew a few words. But at the beginning of July, they still couldn’t really speak any real sentences.

And now?

Meanwhile, the boys finished their third week with BDK. Fortunately, there is still no lack of enthusiasm. The camps are really fun and the camp leaders are doing their utmost to make our boys feel welcome. For example, during their first camp week, they were allowed to speak Dutch to one of the camp leaders and she would reply in French. Often the leadership also uses gestures to make clear what they have to do. For the past 2 weeks they even made sure that on each occasion, there was a bilingual child in their bubble. 

As a result, Daan already understands a lot more French since the start of the summer. Even though he often can’t name it, he does understand what’s being said. The camp leader also remarked that he has made tremendous progress in two weeks. Speaking is still not evident. For that to happen Daan would need to dare a little more and Tijl would need to want it a little bit more (and not always leaning on his brother ;-)).

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2 thoughts on “Our children’s first experiences with a new language”

  1. Pingback: Back to school... in a foreign language - la trottinette

  2. Pingback: Back to school - la trottinette

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