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How Do I Help My Child in French When I Don’t Speak It?

Child in french class ready to learn

Regardless of the level of French study your child is participating in, it can be frustrating not being able to help with homework or studying for tests. Some math or English homework may take a moment for parents to remember how things are done, but in French, many parents feel completely helpless and discouraged at not being able to lend a hand in a subject that will benefit their children greatly in the long run. Some parents consider immersion school as an option, knowing the long-term benefits, but ultimately opt to send their children to an English speaking school so they can be of more help.

The truth in most cases is, children can succeed in learning a second (or third, etc.) language, even if their parents are not able to help with homework. Research has shown that parents role in homework support, French or otherwise, is less about providing answers, and more about providing the skills that children need to discover the solutions themselves.

Becoming an expert in homework and helping your child effectively doesn’t mean having to know French. It means implementing routines and habits that will help your child tackle homework, study effectively, and succeed academically, whether in immersion school or taking introductory French classes. And the best news is, following some simple guidelines won’t just help your child in French class, but in every class.

Here are some homework guidelines:

  1. Provide a regular study time away from television and other electronic distractions.
  2. Give guidance, but not answers. For example, asking if a child understood the question or has worked through the math example several times in order to really grasp the concepts.
  3. Celebrate success by pointing out that it came from hard work (anyone can work hard), not from intelligence (reserved for the fortunate few, right?).
  4. Work along with your child, whether it is by reading something for work, or by catching up on your emails—having a parent close by makes homework feel less like punishment and more like a team effort.
  5. Have them teach you something. Ask them to translate instructions or directions for you. What does this question mean? Being able to have a skill that their parent doesn’t is a major boost for students, helping them tap into their motivation.

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