Infancy fluency

16th June 1995 at 01:00
FRENCH TOTS. Compiled by Teresa Scibor. French songs and games for children aged 3-5 Pounds 5.99. Cassette tape, picture boards, 24 game pieces and notes with lyrics and games instructions. Living and Learning Cambridge Ltd. Abbeygate House, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1DB.

ZOZO'S FRENCH PARTY. Cassette of French songs and party games for children aged 3-11Pounds 2.99. CYP, The Fairway, Bush Fair, Harlow, Essex CM18 6LY

Eleanor Caldwell on a game-based resource for nursery and playgroup French.

It's been a long, slow, protracted process, but at last, the message seems to be permeating the heads of those who matter: language learning should start as early as possible. That French is creeping into the upper primary school, albeit slowly, is very much to be applauded, but why at such a late stage? Just as it's taken a seriously long time to accept the need for full state-funded nursery education, the enormous advantages of foreign language learning at pre-school age are only now being fully recognised.

Learning French in tandem with the rudiments of English, very young children soon adopt an unquestioning attitude towards forming new sounds and are thrilled that they can use the sounds to communicate.

With this in mind, French Tots offers a fun new game-based resource for nursery and playgroup French. Frankly, there was only one way to review a pack like this and the resident four year-old was most happy to comply. With the cassette tape as its central focus, French Tots introduces children to a range of everyday language from four different scenes (the garden, the kitchen, the town square and the countryside), using sound recognition both French language and clear sound effects, shape recognition and matching and standard listening and repeating processes. Listening to the tape, children hear the various items of vocabulary, identify the object, spot its place on one of the four game boards and while putting the picture onto its place, have a shot at pronouncing the word.

It's at this point that all the advantages of language teaching to pre-school children are so obvious. A combination of enthusiasm and lack of inhibition leads to an excellent standard of pronunciation. In addition to basic vocabulary, little phrases are developed using easily understood actions: je mange une pomme, j'entends un oiseau and so on.

This "linked" language together with the confident pronunciation produces almost instant low-key fluency and a terrific sense of achievement. A number of variations on the basic matching games are suggested, including mime songs. As a measure of their success here, the word-related mime actions ("une glace" - licking the ice cream and "c'est delicieux" - rubbing the tummy) were picked up very quickly and, apart from the more inhibited eight-year-old "not wanting to be seen", were a real hit.

No nursery or primary class would survive without musical games and songs, particularly in the party season. But just imagine the stylish Christmas parties with the Hokey Kokey transformed into Le Boogie Woogie! Zozo the clown, Moustique, his cat and Fleur provide the complete re-vamp service to transform the ordinary party into a Franco-British experience to be remembered. After years of back-slapping in the armer's In His Den - a new approach with Zozo est Dans le Pre offers a whole new angle. Song games like Le Corps and Le Petit Lapin for which instructions are given, could soon become party favourites too. For primary and nursery teachers committed to introducing languages on a level of serious fun, this little tape would be a really nice investment.

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