Getting My Children to Tell Stories in their Minority Language

In January I posted my family language goals for this year, explaining how I hoped to get my children to speak more often in French, their minority language. Here are some ways that I've had success in getting them to tell more stories in that minority language:

Role Play:

  Our wooden  Story Box Farm  set by Janod

Our wooden Story Box Farm set by Janod

I bought my toddler son a set of wooden farm figurines for Christmas, and while he didn't play much with them on his own initially, he loves when I join him in his imaginative play--and his five-year-old sister wants in on the fun too. She consistently speaks French when we play with these, which shows me the power of association and habit. On one occasion, after a while of extended play with the figurines, she stated, "I'm tired of French. I'm going to speak English now." I replied with a nonchalant "D'accord" (okay) and continued in French. And to my surprise, she reverted back to French after just a sentence or two! It's amazing how role play can make it truly enjoyable and entertaining to play the role of someone who speaks another language.

Story Narration Using Props:

  Our Eeboo Mystery In the Forest card set

Our Eeboo Mystery In the Forest card set

A few weeks ago, Eeboo sent me a set of their Tell Me A Story cards to try. The cards are intended to help children and adults create stories by portraying simple yet imaginative images of characters, places, and objects. The first time my daughter used the cards, she told my husband the longest story I've ever heard her create. I jokingly told my husband that he needed to recount the story back to her, but I didn't truly expect him to do so since it was nearly fifteen minutes long!

When my daughter and I use the cards, we take turns creating a story in French, with each person drawing a card and telling the next part of the story. In contrast to the way she uses the cards on her own, I limit the number of cards drawn so that the story doesn't become too convoluted. I'd like to try having her tell a story in French and letting me try to recall it (and vice versa). Honestly, I think these cards are a fantastic crutch for getting past the difficulty of telling a story in your weaker language, and I hope to buy another set to encourage more French storytelling next year. (You can find different sets of Eeboo's cards too.) If we homeschool as planned, I can see the cards being useful for my daughter to create written stories in French as well.

  Cards from the Mystery in the Forest set

Cards from the Mystery in the Forest set

Responding to Written Stories:

Reading new books together is one of my favorite parts of parenting. Books hold such delightful stories! I always translate our library books aloud into French, and along the way I often ask, "What do you think will happen?" or "Would you do that? Why (not)?" My daughter likes to retell the stories to her little brother as they look at the illustrations, so I gently remind her to tell them en français. In the future I can also ask her to tell me a story about what happens after this story ends, or to tell me a story featuring the same character. I'm sure she'd love for me to tell her such stories, so I'll do more of that creative telling too!

  What story would you tell?

What story would you tell?


What kind of role play do your children currently enjoy? Do you talk about the stories in books and movies with them? My husband and I love watching movies and I especially love talking about the stories afterwards!

More posts in this Storytelling series: