Children’s Literature: A Natural Way to Learn New Languages by Sonia Colasse

My husband and I have recently published a series of bilingual books for children entitled The Adventures of Enzo. These short stories are written to introduce children to new languages and instill in them the simple values of life. The ability to speak more than one language is a true richness in our society. We live in a dynamic and globalized world in which our children must be understood and accepted in whatever country they find themselves. They therefore must learn to understand the country’s language as well as its culture. As bilingual speakers, our children will discover a whole other world, a wealth of knowledge that will enable them to be at home on our planet. When I left France a few years and moved to the United States with my children, my family and I had to face the joys and challenges of bilingual and bicultural living. Our shared experience inspired my husband and I to write books that would help break down language barriers and enable us to better understand the other.

I am a mother of four bilingual children. My husband Laurent is trilingual. My oldest daughter has been working on her third language, Spanish, for the past two years. We work to preserve our maternal language at home as well as with our French friends. My husband and I, as well as our children, speak the language of our local community outside of the home. Our children enrich their English vocabulary through reading, watching films in their original version, as well as through music. Moreover, our three oldest children attend an American school. In a similar way, our children practice their French. Our children read in French regularly, developing their grammar and spelling, and always watch French films in their original version. They particularly enjoy listening to French songs. My youngest, Enzo, has started at a bilingual school where both English and French are practiced. He is able to learn both languages naturally and innocently through games, discoveries, and peer relationships.

There are, however, certain disadvantages to learning multiple languages at the same time. For instance, bilingual children tend to begin speaking later than monolingual children, since they are learning multiple sets of vocabulary simultaneously. The child’s brain is absorbing the information in several languages. Nevertheless, it is a gift to their future life, and the delayed speech is quickly made up for by a greater curiosity toward the world.

Thanks to bilingual living, I am convinced that we have children who are more open to others, who have a more lively spirit, who are more curious, and who have developed a thirst for learning. The mixing of cultures also happens quickly, with great interest. We teach our children the respect and values of our culture while respecting the culture in which we live. It is important for us to remember that when living in a foreign country, parents from any culture should teach their children their identity and not forget the values of one’s original culture.

We found children story books like The Adventures of Enzo to be a natural avenue for children to develop their bilingual skills. It is clear that the younger children start learning other languages, the easier it is for them. Children become more open to the outside world, more expressive, and more adaptable in new contexts. Parents can naturally dialogue with their child about the stories in one language or in another. The readers can discover cultural differences in a safe context.

Not only do bilingual books for children allow them to learn a new language smoothly, these books also can remind the readers about what is important in life. Narratives can teach simple values for living, such as patience, forgiveness, and that we are all born under a star. Children thus keep their innocence and naïveté. I find that these stories enable adults to rediscover their childhood and to pass on our wisdom to our children. Books enable children and parents to relearn expressions and proverbs that are less common in modern society. When children and adults read together, generations encounter each other and come to understand each other better. Through bilingual children’s books, adults and children learn to better love each other and to share their world.

About the Author:

Sonia Colasse is an author of bilingual books for children. She and her husband founded the publishing company entitled SoloInfinity. Their bilingual experiences inspired this project. The Adventures of Enzo is a series of twelve bilingual stories that teach life’s simple values and remind us that we all live under a lucky star. The books are currently available in French and English, soon to be followed by Spanish, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, and Chinese. Visit www.soloinfinity.com

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