We have frequently pointed to children’s books as fantastic resources for language learners. Here, Renata Cossio illustrates why this practice worked nicely for her and how it can do the same for you.
guest post by Renata Cossio
Children’s books really help when you are starting to study a language, because they tend to keep the grammar simple and the stories easy to follow. I believe, also, that whenever we start to learn something new we become children again, and that is particularly true with idioms.
There is no real logic to language construction, particularly verb conjugation. The errors kids make when they are learning to speak or write are pretty much the ones we make as adults when introduced to a new language. An example: in French, if you needed to ask someone for attention (a teacher in class, for instance), you would say: “Fait attention!” which translates literally as “Make attention”. In English, you would say, “Pay attention”, which also sounds funny in other languages if translated literally.
Since children’s books are concocted to help children with these difficulties they can assist us as well. They can also provide us with an uncanny portrayal of a country’s culture, for the messages provided to the little ones are usually a reflection of the people’s beliefs. When I was sixteen years old I moved to Belgium on an Exchange program to learn French. I barely spoke any of it. Before I left I was given a book by my aunt – a book that most people read in their childhood, but that I had never read before: Le Petit Prince, or The Little Prince, by Antoine St. Exupery.
Like most languages, maybe even more so, written French is much different than the spoken French so studying its grammar is very important. I believe I must have read The Little Prince cover to cover many times, and it served as a guide and as a testament of my learning progress. It made me fall in love with the French language and all its nuances and details.
If you are just starting to learn a new language, then, my advice is to choose a children’s book written in said language and keep it with you as you study to become fluent. It will help if you become discouraged, as a reminder that no one is born knowing everything, and it will teach you the simple phrases you will need in order to start communicating.
Renata is a 23-year old Brazilian writer and translator who enjoys learning new languages. She speaks English, French and Portuguese and is currently studying Spanish. She usually posts her writings on her blog, Como Se Diz?