My mom was born in France, which makes me French, which makes my kids French. Unfortunately, I don't speak French and neither do my kids. I was born in Israel, and now I live in Baltimore, so saying I'm French is more of an interesting thing to say in cocktail parties I imagine myself to be invited to, rather than something that affects my life. Still, I regret never learning to speak French. I regret not being able to read books in the original language, or watch movies without reading subtitles.
I don't blame my mom--I was a stubborn kid who didn't know what was good for him. I still don't. But I decided to make sure my American-born kids spoke Hebrew. It's been working well so far, with the older one speaking Hebrew almost fluently, and the 2-year-old at least understands everything I say, but I can't immerse them with French like I did with Hebrew, since I can't speak French.
What I can do, though, is give them a start.
Little Pim is a well-known company any parent who wants his kids to learn another language is familiar with. They have DVDs, apps (so far, for iPhone, iPad, and LeapFrog's LeapPad), books, toys, CDs, and flash cards in many languages (Spanish, French, Russian, English ESL, Arabic, and more), including a really cool-looking gift set which includes many items in a Little Pim backpack.
I got a free French DVD to review (you can read some very positive reviews on Amazon), and it definitely lives up to the hype. It's repetitive enough for kids to memorize words, but not too much to make it annoying for the kids or for the parents. It's cute, and more importantly, it works. Before you know it, you'll be using words from the DVD with your kids.
I haven't tried the other stuff they offer, but I assume that when you move from DVDs to DVDs + CDs, flash cards, and books, you also make the move from giving your kids a start with a new language, to giving them something close to immersing them in the language. I can't move to France with my family, but what Little Pim offers is a second best thing.
And finally, here's a little quote from Little Pim's about page, because there's actually a real method behind the cute:
The Entertainment Immersion Method® integrates the latest scientific research regarding kids’ language learning and brain development. Pimsleur Levine developed the series with leading neuroscientist Dr. April Benasich, director of the Rutgers Infancy Studies Lab.
Each of our educational DVDs has a unique, child-friendly theme, such as eating, playtime and feelings. The method teaches 360 words and phrases, providing the essential building blocks for language learning. A child only needs 500 words to be considered “conversational” in a language. Babies, toddlers and kids respond enthusiastically to Little Pim’s format, which combines animated and live-action videos.
At Little Pim, we understand how children learn, so our videos are segmented into 5-minute episodes to accommodate a young child’s attention span. Simple sentences are broken down into easy-to-understand parts and reinforced through repetition by native speakers.