Online language learning, is this the new norm?

With the continuing global pandemic transforming our world as we once new it; enforced local lock downs, social distancing, education centres closed, we have been propelled into a parallel universe which no-one could have predicted 18 months ago.

We are now, more than ever, reliant on the internet and virtual platforms to educate our children, communicate with family and friends and even buy our milk and loo rolls.

It’s remarkable to see how teachers have adapted to this new way of educating our children, in such a short space of time. By using video conference platforms they have been able to maintain that crucial communication between educator and pupil despite being separated from each other.

So where do languages come into all of this? Well, sadly of course in the UK, despite many efforts of incredible MFL teachers around the country, languages have taken a back seat. Perhaps one couldargue that they already had a back seat in our children’s primary education, however it has well and truly been relegated to rows X Y & Z now…

The core subjects, numeracy and literacy are undoubtedly the crux of primary education, however art, music and languages are necessary for children to develop their understanding of the world and themselves. In this time of change and destabilisation, we as humans crave this therapeutic learning more than ever.

It is a widely known fact that by introducing babies and young children to an additional language, we give the child expertise for later life. Research shows problem-solving, critical-thinking, and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration, and the ability to multitask are just some of the benefits to introducing your child to a second language. Children who are proficient in other languages also show signs of enhanced creativity and mental dexterity.

At Gentille Alouette, we are of course big believers in language learning for little people, so we are always on the look out for interesting resources especially adapted to preschool and early primary children. So who to look out for when you are considering embarking on this journey with your child?

One of the big players in the language teaching world is “Little Pim”.

A program designed for very young learners up to the age of 6. They have produced some very sweet videos using a mixture of cartoon characters and real life footage to engage the viewers. Theyintroduce vocabulary and sentences using repetition and clear images. It’s the closest to the Duolingo technique, whilst adapting it to the intended young audience.

Another we have found is BBC’s Muzzy

Recently updated and specially targeted towards the American market. They offer 7 different languages, from Spanish to Mandarin and they claim to introduce your child to 1,200 words and phrases. The course is available online or on a DVD and you follow a friendly large green monster on the language learning journey. The graphics are not always everyone’s cup of tea, however the child is immersed into the target language in each of the cartoons provided.

YouTube is of course a huge source of knowledge for all ages and there is a plethora of superb language teachers who have embraced this media.

Here are a few we like:

  1. (Our very own…) Jo French for Preschoolers
  2. Monde des Titounis
  3. French with Mr. Innes

Another way of following a more dynamic language learning course is to enrol in one of the many online live classes taking place on our screens at the moment. Jo, who you might know from our books, is currently running a Saturday morning class, perfect for preschoolers with lots of singing, stories and a chance to meet Oscar, Lilou and Jean for real!

Contact us at if you’d like to know more!

But whatever online method you choose, make sure it is fun, entertaining and exciting for your child and they will thank you in years to come.

How do I start teaching my child another language, even if I don’t speak fluently, in a fun way?

We often feel a great deal of pressure on us to get things right or to not be seen to make mistakes. In this world of social media and virtual relationships, we tend to have a skewed vision of reality. Learning a language however involves absolutely making mistakes and simply letting go of our inhibitions, something few of us naturally feel comfortable doing. Fortunately children of 3 years of age don’t have this issue and they will simply not judge you if you mispronounce one word here or there! So if you are keen to teach your child something new, then you are half way there already.

Enthusiasm, a sense of fun and discovering your playful self is key.

So from my humble experience of raising a bilingual family, the journey really starts with play.

One type of play which never gets old is “role-play”. It really is so simple, all you need is a few cuddly toys, yourselves and your imagination! Something a toddler has by the bucket load…

So an idea you can try at home is to designate one of your child’s toys as a foreign language speaker, give them a name, preferably typical of the country they came from. For example, Henri for French and José for Spanish. Start off slowly. You could introduce your character to other toys in the collection by teaching the basic greetings, Bonjour, Hola, Ciao etc…If the child repeats this over and over again, they will retain the new vocabulary and so begins their language learning journey!

You can start to add new words perhaps by showing the toy some animals and the child learns the words in the target language, perhaps the type of food they like to eat, if they have a favourite colour, how they feel, happy, sad, excited. You could even play hide and seek with the toy and name the room the toy is in, in the language you choose.

A simple game that starts with “Bonjour” can develop into a great exercise in discovering new words and expressions. Have fun and bonne chance!