by Sonia Colasse
Children's literature is a natural way to learn new languages. My husband and I have recently published a series of bilingual books for children entitled The Adventures of Enzo. These short stories are written to introduce children to new languages and instill in them the simple values of life. The ability to speak more than one language is a true richness in our society. We live in a dynamic and globalized world in which our children must be understood and accepted in whatever country they find themselves. They therefore must learn to understand the country's language as well as its culture. As bilingual speakers, our children will discover a whole other world, a wealth of knowledge that will enable them to be at home on our planet. When I left France a few years and moved to the United States with my children, my family and I had to face the joys and challenges of bilingual and bicultural living. Our shared experience inspired my husband and I to write books that would help break down language barriers and enable us to better understand the other.
We found children story books to be a natural avenue for children to develop their bilingual skills. It is clear that the younger children start learning other languages, the easier it is for them. Children become more open to the outside world, more expressive, and more adaptable in new contexts. There are, of course, certain challenges in learning to speak more than one language: young children tend to start speaking a little later than average, because instead of learning one set of words, they are learning two or three. Their minds are assimilating information in several languages at a time. Nevertheless, bilingual living sets up children for success in the future, and the delayed speech is quickly overcome by an insatiable curiosity for the world.
Children's books evoke a child's imagination and creativity. The vocabulary is inherently repetitive, which facilitates the acquisition of new vocabulary words. Parents can naturally dialogue with their child about the stories in one language or in another. The readers can discover cultural differences in a safe context. Furthermore, children's books are illustrated. These drawings help children to follow the story line and learn new vocabulary easily. Paragraphs are short to keep the child engaged. It also must be noted that the simple values of life are best taught in a narrative context. Not only do bilingual books for children allow them to learn a new language smoothly, these books also can remind the readers about what is important in life. Narratives can teach simple values for living, such as patience, forgiveness, and that we are all born under a star. Children thus keep their innocence and naïveté. I find that these stories enable adults to rediscover their childhood and to pass on our wisdom to our children. Books enable children and parents to relearn expressions and proverbs that are less common in modern society. When children and adults read together, generations encounter each other and come to understand each other better. Through bilingual children's books, adults and children learn to better love each other and to share their world.
Sonia Colasse is an author of bilingual books for children. She and her husband founded the publishing company entitled SoloInfinity. Their love and bilingual experiences inspired this project. The Adventures of Enzo is a series of twelve bilingual stories that teach life's simple values and remind us that we all live under a lucky star. The series is available in a French-English version and has been translated into Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, German, and soon Chinese!