As a new year begins, it’s once again time for introspection and assessments. Has your ability to speak and read French improved compared to last year? How does it compare to your cousin in Nantes who is the same age? When will you return to Belgium, Canada, or France? Will your child be able to reintegrate into the school system in a French-speaking country? You find yourself inundated with questions, many of which may remain unanswered.

I propose a two-step strategy to move from questions to actions and clarity:

Step 1: Clarify your wishes and goals for your family and children

Your first step is to reflect on your wishes for your family and children, then establish a corresponding overall goal.

  • Family plans regarding a return to a French-speaking country: Is it an option you’re considering in the very short term (less than 6 months), medium term (less than 3 years), between 3 and 10 years? Or is it not an option at all?
  • Your wishes for your child: Is it important for you that your children speak and write impeccable French? Or do you prefer that they simply play and have fun with their cousins during vacations, without ambitious goals for writing? Is it important that your children have a sufficient level of French to study in a French-speaking country if they wish?

It’s not easy to answer these questions. In any case, there’s no need to worry. Many of us, when we first arrived in our expatriate country, did not speak the language, and neither did our children. They adapted and are now perfectly integrated into their local school. Arrival in a French-speaking country requires preparation and support, similar to arriving and enrolling in a new country.

Step 2: Establish an action plan with SMART goals

Now that you have a clearer objective, it’s time to establish an action plan.

To help you, I suggest drawing inspiration from the SMART method, an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, and Temporally defined.

  • Specific: Tailored to a specific child in the family, at a particular moment.
  • Measurable: Define concrete and observable indicators. This often involves numbers: “time spent on,” number of books read, minutes spent writing, number of postcards to send, etc.
  • Acceptable: It must be sustainable, as consistency is a key to success. Reflect with the child to jointly set the action plan.
  • Realistic: The goal should not be too daunting. Consider the resources you can rely on and whether you need assistance. Identify people, resources, etc.
  • Temporally defined: Set milestones, define deadlines, and plan with a schedule.

Unless your expectations are solely related to oral skills, it’s important to work on all aspects: oral/written, production/reception.
Indeed, mastery of a language involves proficiency in four inseparable components: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, oral production, and written production.

Some Concrete Examples

The following examples may seem light, but remember, consistency is key with a motivated child and supportive parents who also have the time to invest. Don’t demand too much from the child or from yourselves as parents.

For a teenager with the goal of “maintaining and deepening French language skills in oral and written forms”:

  • Listening and speaking – Read 1 novel per month for 10 months and discuss it with someone (parent, grandparent, uncle, godparent, friend) during a 30-minute walk. You can agree on 5 books of your choice and let the teenager choose the other 5 (selection of books for teenagers)
  • Written production – Write 4 articles, recipes, book or series reviews to publish on the website for teenagers French Bridge
  • Listening comprehension – Listen to a podcast with someone (parent, friend, cousin, grandparent) once a month and discuss it afterwards
  • (for even higher expectations in written language mastery: Complete a level on Voltaire per week)


For a 10-year-old child with the goal of “maintaining and deepening French language skills in oral and written forms”:

  • Language proficiency (grammar, conjugation, vocabulary) – Spend 15 minutes on activities on the Savio platform, 4 times a week
  • Reading comprehension – Read one book per month for 10 months (selection of books for children)
  • Written production – Write in a memory notebook for 15 minutes once a week
  • Listening and speaking – Once a week, listen to a podcast with someone and discuss it for 5 minutes.
  • (for even higher expectations in written language mastery, alternate every other week between a level on Voltaire Les Fondamentaux and the activity book CE1, CE2, CM1, or CM2 for 30 minutes)


For a 5-year-old child:

  • Reading comprehension – Every week, listen to the reading of 3 books (on Storyplay’r, for example) and complete a comprehension activity (e.g., reorder the story images)
  • Listening and speaking – Every week, listen to 2 podcasts and discuss them for 5 minutes with an adult
  • Written production – Every month, write a postcard or an email in “dictation to an adult” to a family member
  • Listening and speaking – Every week, engage in a French activity with an adult, changing themes: cooking, science, music, arts. This helps develop the child’s vocabulary in various areas.
Tips for Motivation: The Success Journal

This recognition system works not only for French but also for any goal you set with your child.
The principle of the success journal is simple:

  • Write down the objectives mentioned earlier at the beginning of the journal.
  • Each time the child achieves an objective, note their success (the sticker system works well with young children).
  • After a certain number of stickers, they earn a non-monetary reward, such as going to the skate park, a bike ride, sleeping with the dog, organizing a Zoom call with a friend, or 30 minutes of video games.

Some parental rules to follow as well:

  • Stickers earned cannot be taken back, no matter what happens.
  • Even if certain aspects of the action plan are not completed, it’s okay. Recognize the effort! For example, if the plan includes both reading and podcasts, and your child only listens to the podcasts, praise them for that instead of blaming them for not reading the books.
  • There’s no time limit for earning stickers, as this is a long-term journey.

Golden rule: Learning and mastering a language, both orally and in writing, is more like a marathon than a sprint. It takes time, determination, and even courage, as it would be easier to give up. But one day, they will thank you, and you’ll be proud of them.
I wish you all an excellent year 2024.

Emilie
Les ateliersdemilie.com

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