The French Collection
Language education media company Whistlefritz presents French for Kids: The French Collection – Boxed set of 4 x DVDs + 2. Produce packaging information says this multimedia set (DVDs and CDs) is appropriate for children ages 1 – 7. That’s a broad age-range but the collection of bright animation, puppetry, lively music, and live-action elements do offer enough variety to appeal to children across that range. The DVDs included in this set are: “Les Saisons” (The Seasons); “L’anniversaire de Fritzi” (Fritzi’s Birthday); “Dedans et Dehors” (Inside and Out); and “On Va Jouer” (Let’s Play).
Whistlefritz products employ the language immersion method in which the content is instructed only in the language being taught. Here, charming animated mouse Fritzi, human pal Marie, and a cast of young kids and tweens speak French exclusively and support the conversational use of language with other elements such as graphics, text-on-screen, props, live-action video sequences, and lots of vocal inflection and body language. This combination of elements aims to help children acquire both content and language simultaneously.
For example, in one segment Marie speaks in French about different clothing items. (Forgive us if we use the English words to describe the action.) She holds up a sock as she speaks, then puts the sock on her head. She continues to speak but both her inflection and facial expressions convey that she is asking a question. Cut to a child who laughs and says, “No!” Back to Marie, who holds up a pair of pants. Back the pants go on her head, back to a child saying, “No!” More giggling, more questioning facial expressions. Repeat the process with a skirt, a shoe, etc. Children won’t need to understand every word of the conversation to grasp what’s going on: These items of clothing do not go on your head. Hats go on your head. Further, through repetition, viewers will pick up the French words for socks, pants, skirts, shoes, and hats. However, just as children learn their first language through constant exposure, expect children to need repeated viewings of these programs before the pieces of the French language puzzle come together.
This boxed set also includes two CDs, “Cha, Cha, Cha” and “Allons Danser! (Let’s Dance!)”, both of which feature kid-friendly songs. Without the added elements scaffolded into the DVD’s show-and-tell format, the CD’s original lyrics may fly by too fast for children to learn solely by listening. However, those who are acquainted with the English-language versions of familiar songs on the CDs, such as “Old MacDonald had a Farm,” may make the foreign-language connection faster. The French Collection also includes the option of French and English subtitles, and a Parent/Teacher Translation Guide available as a free download. Parents hoping to see rapid language proficiency in their child won’t get that through immersion programs but for those comfortable with longer-term exposure to language and culture while also exposing kids to basic pre-K concepts, Fritzi and friends are delightful educational tools.
Gina Catanzarite ©2018 Parents’ Choice
Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster’s Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.