It is just us, or do you feel a twinge of envy when you hear bilingual children chatting away? Kids pick up languages so quickly, and so much more easily than us adults! Here in France, the demand for English/Spanish/Italian-speaking babysitters is huge – because parents are desperate for their little ones to pick up a second language as soon as possible.
If you’ve a young child, and you’re looking to infuse some French into their vocabulary, why not start by reading them some French contes de fées (fairytales)? You could read them in both languages, gradually leave out the English version, and voilà, a bilingual baby (if only it were that easy)!
The Wizard King/Le Roi Magicien
by Le Chevalier de Mailly
Plot: A wizard king marries a princess and they have a son together. A few years later, the princess dies, but not before instructing her son not to make any decisions without consulting his fairy godmother. The king leaves the castle and uses his magic powers to transform into an eagle, where he sees a beautiful princess and captures her, begging her to marry him, which she refuses. The king sends his son away on a journey to avoid him meeting the princess, but the prince learns of her capture when he comes across her kingdom. Moved by the story, he asks his fairy godmother for help. She turns the prince into a parrot, identical to the princess’ pet, and he is able to meet her and explain who he is. The fairy sends an eagle-drawn chariot to rescue the two of them, and the prince is restored to his human form. The furious king follows them, but the fairy’s magic captures him and strips him of his powers.
Diamonds and Toads/Les Fées
by Charles Perrault
Plot: An unpleasant old widow has two daughters, the older of whom resembles her (and so is the favorite) and the younger who looks like her late father (who is mistreated by her mother and sister). One day, the youngest daughter is at the well, and she helps an old woman to a drink of water. The old woman reveals herself as a fairy, and blesses her with diamonds and roses whenever she speaks. Upon returning home, the widow sees the diamonds and roses, and immediately sends her older daughter to get the same gift from the old lady/fairy. However, this time the fairy appears as a wealthy princess, and demands that the daughter draw her some water. The girl responds rudely, and is cursed with toads and snakes whenever she speaks. Furious at the fate of her preferred child, the widow throws her younger daughter out into the woods, where she meets a prince and lives happily ever after.
The Ridiculous Wishes/Les Souhaits Ridicules
by Charles Perrault
Plot: A woodcutter complains about his life and, while at work, is heard by Jupiter (or tree spirit) who grants him three wishes. The woodcutter returns home to ask his wife what he should wish for. The wife agrees that they should think carefully before using the wishes, and they open a bottle and sit beside the fire. Absentmindedly, the woodcutter wishes he had some sausages to eat – and they appear in front of him! The wife is furious at her husband’s wasted wish, and shouts at him. Without thinking, the woodcutter wishes the sausages were on her nose – and suddenly they were! Left with only one wish, the woodcutter had no choice but to wish the sausages off his wife’s nose, because loved her very much, despite their argument. They were left as they had been before, with nothing to show from their three wishes.
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