Pronunciation of French by bilingual children in kindergarten: Information for parents and teachers

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Speech sounds are important

  • The pronunciation of speech sounds is important for communication. When children do not pronounce words correctly, they may have trouble playing with friends and learning in class.

Characteristic of French

  • There are more speech sounds in French than letters in the alphabet! here are 20 consonants and more than 15 vowels. The easiest consonants to pronounce for French-speaking children are: “t”, “m”, “n”, “z” while the most difficult consonants to produce are: “s”, “j”, “ch”, “y”.

Bilingual children learning French

  • After about a year of experience with French, bilingual children pronounce French words as well as monolingual children. The most difficult consonants to learn for bilingual children are: “gn”, “v”, “z”, “j”, “r”. Some consonants are even harder to produce when they are at the end of the word (e.g. “Il gagne”, “Il lave”, “onze”, “Il bouge”, “soeur”).

A second or third language does not harm the development

  • Although learning pronunciation is long and complex, learning more than one language does not slow children’s language development. Bilingual children will produce some “normal” mistakes and also some “unusual” mistakes. Both are part of bilingual development.

But what if a child has many mistakes and is very hard to understand in kindergarten?

  • Of course a child’s abilities in each language depends on the age when each language was learned, how often they use each language and the contexts for using the languages. But if it is difficult to understand what a child says in kindergarten AND at home, we would recommend consulting a speech-language pathologist.
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