French Children's Stories for Beginners
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
― Philip Pullman
Bedtime Stories All Day Long
Stories are the stuff of childhood, and with good reason. The names of the stuff in our lives are only as useful as the things themselves. Our early vocabulary develops out of our need to label and communicate what we want to happen. Children’s stories provide an engaging backdrop for early language development, and the good news is that your own “early language” skills in your current lingo of choice can grow through stories, too. Don’t take my word for it – this is a language-learning method often referred to as TPRS, employed by many veteran language learners. And well, let’s face it, we’re never too old for a good story!
Where the Story Begins
I have experimented with a variety of methods and media in my language learning, and the list is long. Children’s stories are the cozy corner of L2 learning, warm and familiar even when new vocabulary has yet to settle in. They fulfill a function for all human beings, even adults. That’s why I return to children’s stories in my language learning again and again. The input I can get from a story, in any language, includes story-specific vocabulary (farm, house, family, community, animals, actions, idioms), themes, usage, and a certain amount of repetition that helps me to develop proficiency. French stories specifically are widely available, with some choices in format that I will outline here, for your exploration and hopefully to your benefit.
The many forms of French children’s stories
Children’s Stories to a Tune
In French, nursery rhymes are called comptines. I have listened to different versions of such comptines, both recited and sung. Les Clipounets offers a YouTube channel choc full of catchy songs and stories that meet this description, with captioned lyrics in most cases. There are also videos to teach native French speakers English nursery rhymes – useful to us because our own childhood rhymes are provided in English, then translated into French.
Stories in Style
If you appreciate artful storytelling and beautiful illustrations, La Souris Qui Raconte might interest you. This is one of my favourite websites in this genre of French language learning. Fair warning! You may want to set aside a bit of time to explore this one. It includes many different resources and modes of listening and reading, such as ebooks and online illustrated story books (some of these are freely available, while others are for subscribers only). On this site, I have enjoyed feeling immersed in rich stories told in lilting, accessible French.
Much in the same way, Souffler de Reves provides both free and paid children’s stories for your listening pleasure. These too are artfully narrated, but without the visual aspect, and without the written component. Some of these stories are designed to be original bedtime stories. These have been perfect on those insomniac nights when language learning and repayment of my mounting sleep deficit seem equally appealing!
Quit Adulting and Get Learning
www.iletaitunehistoire.com is one of my favourite websites to use when I am feeling a little less than motivated. Life can be a grind, but language learning shouldn’t feel that way. I do my best to keep my learning fun, motivating, and refreshing. Here you can find French-language children’s stories to read, listen to, and just enjoy.
This website, ebookids.com, has kept me busy for some time. I have yet to exhaust the books available here. Organized by theme, age level (or language level, in our case), or the length of time required to read the book, you can find a quick and simple read to boost your comprehensible input for the day, or you can savour a longer read that might challenge you a bit. The books are presented in an “e-book” type style with optional narration. I’m not going to lie… there’s something about the fabricated sound of a virtually flipped page that I find satisfying!
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Philippe Croteau is a professional language consultant and language learner in Simcoe County, Ontario, where he lives with his great partner and two amazing daughters. He speaks French, English, Japanese, and can make a ton of mistakes in German, Russian, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish and Arabic.