Meet Zo & Noé.
The stars of this bilingual children’s book series that teaches languages through stories, while adapting the one person one language method. In their first book, Zo speaks English and Noé parle francais. They're best friends, and they understand each other perfectly.
Why did I create this book?
Like so many families, my husband and I come from multilingual backgrounds. We're both originally Lebanese and speak three languages fluently, and a fourth one strenuously. We would like to pass that skill on to our two wonderful sons. After thorough research, we were not able to find interesting and engaging bilingual stories for our kids to enjoy. We started with the "word for word" books, which are important, but our almost-four-year-old son learned them quickly and needed more. We then moved to the stories with a separate repeated paragraph for each language. He lost interest in them, fast. It was too repetitive.
So if you can't find, create!
Initially, I wrote a simple story for us to enjoy during the pandemic and printed my first "homemade" book.
My Eureka moment came after seeing how fun it was for my eldest and how quickly he learned. He began repeating and translating what we were reading, and screamed with excitement " Encore Zo et Noé! " After that, I shared my idea with a few close friends who are also interested in teaching languages to their little ones, and it blossomed into this project.
Why teach languages through stories?
The method of teaching languages through stories has always been around. Storytelling is a very effective learning tool. It makes it fun and entertaining, and helps in memorizing words and sentences without even realizing. When you are engaged and enjoying the activity, it creates a positive emotional memory. ( #TPRS : teaching proficiency through reading and storytelling). Stories also help put words in context, simultaneously teaching proper grammar and syntax, and providing a full immersion.
Another teaching method adap in this book series is the popular #OPOL method: One Person - One language, adopted by parents worldwide to raise bilingual children. There are endless articles and resources that explain this technique, some even modernized it to fit their family's lifestyle. We use this method with our kids, and we have family and friends who do too, and I can attest that it works. However, it does need a lot of consistency, patience and trust that our kids are smarter than we think. Their brains are sponges!
If you are a bilingual family, the type of conversation in the book will sound familiar to you: you speak one language, and your child often answers in another, he or she is more comfortable with. This means that our children understand both languages used. However, they are still only comfortable conversing in one, and it’s usually the dominant language used in the society we live in and not the minority mother-tongue language. This project aims to present both languages on the same level, equally.
Why is multilingualism important?
According to research and professionals, children from zero to six years old have the ability to distinguish different pronunciations, making them more receptive to learning more than one language. Moreover, kids who are multilingual are often at an advantage cognitively, academically, socially, and good at problem solving.
Bilingualism by the numbers:
. 43% of the world’s population is bilingual and 13% is trilingual (ilanguages.org).
. 67.3 million residents in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home, equal to the entire population of France (mvorganizing.org).
. Almost 65% of Europeans are bilingual (medium.com).
. 20.55% of U.S. households are bilingual, mainly children, and this number is on the rise every year (2018 American Community Survey Census Bureau).
. Spanish, the most common second language in the U.S., is spoken by at least 13% of the population, half of them minors (Amacad.org).
. By 2050, 1 in 3 people in the U.S. will speak Spanish and English fluently (forbes.com).
"The only language men ever speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood, when no one can teach them anything!" - Maria Montessori