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Savor Faire | Language Institute

Learning Foreign Language With Cartoons





Foreign Language a la Blues Clues

Savoir Faire welcomes international students every year and I have had the good fortune to have had many in my home. The students become part of our household and generally follow our routines. Watching cartoons in the morning is one of them.
 In our house, the cartoons go on every morning and the kids and international students watch for an hour or so. Now these cartoons are simple, preschool style shows as my daughter is young, but I noticed the students, who were much older, didn’t mind at all. In fact they watched intently and repeated phrases and words to themselves. They quickly learned the little songs and repeated the mantras of each show and watched every day.

Watching movies and TV is a way that people all over the world pick up other languages but cartoons are particularly good. There is a case in Finland where a young girl learned English to the highest level of fluency by just watching cartoons. Young kids love the repetition within cartoons and are also happy to watch the same one again and again. This is likely because their learning style, known as pre-operational from the ages of 2 to 7, means they may not remember what they saw and heard before. They are still developing a schema for what happens on children’s cartoons. This is similar to what we are doing as adult language   learners. We are trying to build a scaffolding of language on which to attach more.

As an adult learning a foreign language, I feel a little like a pre-operational preschooler. I don’t always remember what I heard yesterday. A movie with a complicated plot and quick dialogue is going to leave me as lost as a preschooler. I imagine our international students watching Blues Clues appreciated the slower rate of speech, the gestures that the characters used to accompany their words, the simple context and the repetition. Don’t these attributes sound like what you would find in a well designed foreign language class? What’s more, as mature learners, we can think about what we are hearing/learning and consciously use the new language we have attentively absorbed.

Am I saying we adults should watch cartoons in French or Italian? Why not?
At the very least we should have our kids, from as young an age as possible, watch good quality, children’s programs in a foreign language and then we should hover in the background.

 For further reading:
http://learnalanguageortwo.blogspot.com/2009/08/learning-by-viewing-cartoons-as-foreign.html

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