One way to get your kids excited about their upcoming trip to New Orleans is to teach them a little about our history and culture. New Orleans has a great deal of French influences and many locals still speak some variation of the language.
Here are five fun French words and phrases for kids that are easy to teach, easy to learn and useful in common daily circumstances.
1. Thank you: merci (pronounced mair-see)
In French, as in English, politeness counts, and by learning to say merci, kids can express gratitude and appreciation. In informal social settings, thank you is a very common phrase in most languages. When a child can say it in French, he or she will be seen as a polite young boy or girl.
2. You’re welcome: de rein (pronounced du-rhee-en)
Most people are polite and say thank you often. The correct response to someone thanking you is “you’re welcome.” When children learn that merci means that someone is thanking them, teach them to say de rein right away to acknowledge the thanker. Merci and de rein will come in handy in all kinds of social situations.
3. Yes/no: oui (pronounced whee) no (pronounced no, the same as in English)
We would be amazed at how often the words yes and no come up in our daily conversation, so the French versions of these words are always good to know. Oui is easy to learn and say to express the affirmative: “Oui, I like oysters,” “Oui, I’m glad school is out.” The word no in French is the same as in English, so that will be easy to remember.
4. Please: s’il vous plait (pronounced see voo play)
When a little one says, “I want a cookie,” what is the parent’s response? Often, it is “What do we say?” Then the child knows to add the word please. In French, the word is s’il vous plait. It might go like this: “I want a cookie.” “What do you say?” “S’il vous plait.” “Oui, you may have a cookie.”
5. Do you speak English?: parlez-vous Anglais? (pronounced parlay vooz ong-glay?)
Of all the words and phrases a child can learn to say in French, parlez-vous Anglais? might be one of the most helpful – especially if a French speaker is rattling off his language and the child’s limited French vocabulary isn’t keeping up. By knowing how to say parlez-vous Anglais?, the young person can quickly find out if the speaker might be able to converse in a language the child is more familiar with.
Bonus Word: Fitter or Doughnut: beignet (pronounced be-nye)
This is one of the most common French words you'll hear in New Orleans. This light and fluffy patry made it's way to New Orleans in the mid 18th century and hasn't left. It's similar to a dougnut, but square and topped with powdered sugar. Stop by Cafe Beignet to try one with a little cafe au lait.
The French language is considered one of the most beautiful and interesting in the world. In New Orleans, it behooves parents to start instilling some of the most common and useful French words into their children’s vocabulary at a young age. It’s understood that the best time to learn a new language is when you’re young. The brain is more sponge-like and can readily absorb new sounds and the usage rules that each language has. In New Orleans and much of Louisiana, it’s advantageous for children to learn a little French. Not only is it a fun language, but it will come in handy when interacting with the many French-language speakers within our state. The words above are a good start.
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