Updated in Sept. 2023 : What better and more convenient way to progress in a foreign language than to watch films or series in their original version?
This is probably what you did if you challenged yourself to speak a foreign language different from your mother tongue.
And why not proceed in the same way with your children… For example, offer them a meal tray in front of the TV set with the family on a regular basis, and thus combine learning with pleasure; watching films or series is a complementary way of maintaining or learning French when living abroad.
This allows total immersion in the language and also invites children to discover and memorize new words, whether in relation to the topic of the film or in relation to the scope of language used. It also let them improve their oral comprehension by hearing native speakers with their different intonations, speeds, and accents.
Finally, French films sometimes reflect aspects of French culture; by watching a film, children learn a little more about the way of life, the architecture, the habits, the geography… It may seem trivial to you, but by watching films with my own children, I realized that there were a lot of references that they didn’t have: the yellow car of the postman, Montmartre, the old port of Marseille, the Tour de France, the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, the jingle of the news show at 8 p.m., the bouillabaisse, dental floss…
Watching movies is an opportunity to have a good time with your family, to share a new experience. In addition, this activity improves the acceptance of this learning by your child.
The choice of films
- It is important that you take various aspects into consideration like the language used: don’t expect your children to learn an informal language without first learning the formal language. In this sense, look for series and films that have appropriate language for each stage of language development and learning.
- Watch the film and/or the cartoon with your child to possibly help him/her understand the vocabulary, the history, certain cultural aspects… In particular, be prepared for the fact that French films more frequently feature cigarettes, alcohol, and/or naked people.
- Check that the age of the film corresponds to your child before watching it with him.
Where to find films and cartoons in French
- Benshi: a 100% cinema, 100% youth platform where you will find many films, synopsis, and advice regarding age. The editorial board carefully selects films to move, arouse curiosity, and amaze….
- France Channel: This is the subscription streaming service dedicated to movies/TV shows/documentaries and French culture. They add content regularly and offer English subtitles for beginners.
- Netflix: a selection of films and series in French to which you can add English subtitles. Attention, the selection is not really properly rated.
Some animated films for children
- Azur et Asmar (from 5 years old): “A long time ago, two children were nursed by the same woman. Azur, blond with blue eyes, son of the squire, and Asmar, dark-haired with black eyes, son of the nurse. Raised like two brothers, the children are brutally separated. But Azur, marked by the legend of the Fairy of the Djinns that his nurse told him, will never stop looking for her, beyond the seas. The two grown-up foster brothers each go in search of the Fairy. Competing in audacity, they will discover magical lands, harboring as many dangers as wonders…”
- Ma Vie de Courgette (from the age of 9): “By his real name Icare, Courgette is a ten-year-old boy who has not been spared life. He lives alone with his mother since his father went around the world with a hen. His daily life with this alcoholic and sometimes violent mother will suddenly change course, and fate will lead him to the home of Les Fontaines. There he will meet other children with difficult backgrounds who will become his new world. He will live many adventures rich in emotions because, in the institution, we do not only find sadness! Courgette will discover that friendship and love are still possible, and why not the hope of a new beginning.
=> Be careful, behind a humorous treatment, the themes addressed are very strong and may require support.
- Les Triplettes de Belleville (from 8 years old): “Ms. Souza is raising her grandson Champion on her own, and does everything to make him happy. She offers him Bruno, a little puppy, but that is not enough. She discovers one day that he is passionate about cycling, and gives him his first bike. From then on, she ardently trains him for the Tour de France, and when the big day arrives, he is part of the race. However, two mysterious men take advantage of the fact that he is at the end of the pack to kidnap him. Mrs. Souza is ready to do anything to find him. She then embarked on a long journey during which she would meet the famous Triplettes de Belleville, former stars of the 1930s.
- Princes et Princesses (from 5 years old): When darkness has completely invaded the city, two young people climb the roofs to join Téo, the projectionist of an abandoned cinema. They will then spend their nights inventing stories and bringing them to life. They will also be the actors of their adventures imagined in shadow theater.
- Un Monstre à Paris (from 6 years old): “Paris, 1910. A terrifying creature sows panic in the capital. Emile, a shy cinema projectionist, and Raoul, an exuberant inventor, find themselves propelled into the hunt for monsters. A twirling epic that leads on their way a cabaret singer with a big heart, an eccentric scientist assisted by a monkey, a long-toothed inspector. And a strange creature may not be so scary. And if deep down, behind these deceptive appearances, the real Monster was not the one we believe?
- Jack et la Mécanique du Coeur (from 10 years old): “Edinburgh 1874. Jack was born on the coldest day in the world and his heart remained frozen. Doctor Madeleine saves him by replacing his faulty heart with a mechanical clock. He will survive with this magical craft provided he respects 3 laws: firstly not to touch his needles, secondly to control his anger and above all never, oh never, fall in love. His meeting with Miss Acacia, a little street singer, will precipitate the pace of his needles. Ready to do anything to find her, Jack embarks like a Don Quixote on a love quest that will take him from the Scottish lochs to Paris to the gates of Andalusia”.
- Jean de la Lune (from 6 years old): “Jean de la Lune is a funny character who lives alone on his star, where only children can see him. From up there, he observes space and dreams of venturing there. One day, he takes advantage of the passage of a comet to cling to it and lands on Earth. This is the beginning of a great adventure: Jean de la lune will discover our planet and meet many people. He will cross paths with many characters who want to be his friends, but also that of the president of Le Monde, who takes Jean for an alien invader, and starts chasing him…”
- Les Contes de la Lune (from 7 years old): “Every evening, a girl, a boy, and an old projectionist meet in a small cinema that seems abandoned. The three friends invent, document, draw, dress. Stories from their imaginations come to life on a magical night where anything is possible: sorcerers and fairies, mighty kings and stable boys, werewolves and merciless beautiful ladies, cathedrals, and straw huts, the cities of gold and the deep forests, the wickedness that ravages and the innocence that triumphs…”
And also: Kirikou et la sorcière, Les 12 Travaux d’Asterix, Ernest et Celestine, Le Petit Prince, Une Vie de Chat, Arthur et les Minimoys…
Some ideas of films to select according to the maturity of your child/teenager
- La Guerre des Boutons (from 8 years old): “1960, a village in the south of France. A gang of boys, aged 7 to 14, led by the intrepid Lebrac, is at war with the children of the neighboring village, their sworn enemies. A merciless war, which has lasted for generations. We fight for honor and fidelity and, to win, all means are good. Even, if necessary, fight naked as a worm, or worse, accept the help of Lanterne – a girl! – the new recruit of the band, full of panache and ingenuity. But it’s not easy to be an army of little men without getting caught by Mom and Dad! When, after the battle, we return home, with our clothes in tatters and without buttons, it is better to be discreet…”
- Moi, César, 10 ans et demi, 1m39 (from 10 years old): “Ten and a half years old, 1m39, parents, arguments, friends, first love, rivalry, school, authority, and a few extra pounds… So many things that make up César’s little world. Shy, he doesn’t speak much but thinks a lot. And inevitably, as his parents do not take the time to tell him the reality, he imagines it…”
- La Grande Vadrouille (from 10 years old): In 1942, an English plane was shot down by the Germans over Paris. The three pilots land in different places through the capital. They are helped by two French civilians, a conductor and a house painter who agree to take them to the free zone; they thus become, in spite of themselves, actors of the Resistance.
- Nos Jours Heureux (from 10 years old): Vincent Rousseau runs a summer camp for the first time. He finds himself immersed for three weeks in the world of summer camps with little stories and big worries! Vincent then is confronted with the eventful life of the camp, its more or less professional animators and teenagers who are not always easy to manage…
- La Famille Bélier: “In the Bélier family, everyone is deaf except Paula, 16 years old. The teenager is an indispensable pivot for her entire family. She helps it in work and in everyday life, when it comes to answering the phone, translating a consultation with the doctor, or dealing with the banker. One day, Paula’s music teacher discovers her beautiful voice and pushes her to take part in a Radio France competition. Paula’s parents, to whom music is unknown, are disconcerted and worried about this initiative”.
- Intouchables: “Following a paragliding accident, Philippe, a wealthy aristocrat, hires Driss, a young man from the suburbs who has just been released from prison, as a home helper. In short the least appropriate person for the job. Together they will make Vivaldi and Earth Wind and Fire coexist, the verb and the valve, the suits, and the tracksuit bottoms… Two universes will collide, tame each other, to give birth to such a crazy, funny, and strong unexpected friendship, a unique relationship that will spark and make them… Untouchable.”
- Le Diner de Cons: “Every Wednesday, Pierre Brochant and his friends organize a dinner where everyone must bring an idiot. Whoever finds the most spectacular is declared the winner. This evening, Brochant is exulting, he is sure to have found the rare candidate, a world-class idiot: Francois Pignon, an accountant at the Ministry of Finance and passionate about matchstick models. What Brochant does not know is that Pignon is a master in the art of triggering disasters.
- Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain: “Amélie, a young waitress in a bar in Montmartre, spends her time observing people and letting her imagination wander. She has set herself a goal: to do good for those around her. She then invents stratagems to intervene incognito in their existence. This quest for happiness leads Amélie to meet Nino Quincampoix, a strange “Prince Charming”. He divides his time between a ghost train and a sex shop and tries to identify a stranger whose photo reappears constantly in several photo booths.
- Lupin: “In 1995, young Assane Diop was devastated by the death of his father, accused of a crime he had not committed by the Pellegrini family. Twenty-five years later, Assane organized the theft of a necklace, now on display in the Louvre, which belongs to the wealthy Pellegrini family. He thus wants revenge, drawing inspiration from his favorite character: the “gentleman burglar” Arsène Lupin, using the science of this multi-faceted character imagined by Maurice Leblanc to escape the police. But also in different registers: Asterix et Obelix Mission Cleopatre, La Cité de la Peur, Les Bronzés font du Ski, La Haine, Le Péril Jeune, Les Vacances du Petit Nicolas…
* Here is an idiomatic expression that your children will surely not learn while living in the United States, meaning “let’s go to the movie theater“.
Find Emilie’s precious advice for the education of your bilingual children in the Education section of MerciSF.com