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Angelina Jolie Deserves an Award for Leadership in Language Education

Be First!
by December 14, 2010 Education

People often ask me, “How can I teach my 3 year old French or Spanish?”

I always say, “First let me tell you how Angelina Jolie is teaching her children French.”

The first thing you should know is that she isn’t spending a penny more for her children to learn French than other Hollywood moms are spending whose children aren’t learning French.

So what’s she doing?

She hires French nannies to do most of the care for her children.

It’s that simple.

The French nannies care for her children in French and her children automatically learn French.

French nannies work just as cheaply as American nannies, so it doesn’t cost her a penny more.

Don’t worry about her children not learning English, they live in Hollywood, California, USA.  They’ll learn English just fine.

If You Can Afford To — Follow Her Example

Angelina’s method for teaching small children a language is an excellent one.  If you can afford it, it will work every time.  Just make sure that your nanny talks to your children in the language you want them to learn.

It’s just as cheap to hire a French nanny as is it to hire an American one, so if you are going to pay for this type of premium childcare, you might as well have your children get a great language education at the same time.

How to Follow Angelina’s Example Without Spending as Much Money

If you don’t plan on spending the money to hire nannies, you can get almost as much benefit for your children by putting them in foreign language day care.

Even the most dedicated mom needs time away from her children.  If you consistently use your child care time as foreign language learning time, your children will automatically learn an additional language.

This won’t cost you a penny more than you would pay for child care in English, you’ll just have to spend a little bit more time to find the right people.

The key thing here is consistency.  Don’t put your child in Spanish language day care one month and French day care the next month.  Pick one language and be consistent.

One Day a Week is Probably Worthless

There is a certain minimum amount of time for your child to spend with foreign language care givers in order for this to work.  One day per week is not enough time.

For example, it’s obvious that if a French speaking nanny spends 20 minutes per week with your daughter it’s not enough to have your daughter learn French.

Three days per week, for at least four hours per day is probably the minimum amount of time necessary for this to work.

One or two days per week definitely won’t work.

Don’t Spread Your Child Too Thin

Some ambitious parents want their children to learn several languages.  This might be okay if you did it just perfectly, but I’ve often seen this fail.

For example, my brother speaks pretty good Spanish and his wife is a native speaker of Czech, so they decided to teach their children both Spanish and Czech.

But since they didn’t remember to get the minimum required time in either of these languages the result is that his children can only speak a few words of Spanish and Czech.

It’s better to succede with one language than to fail with two.

Turn Family Vacations into Fun Language Learning

Do you think that Angelina Jolie takes her children with her when she vacations in France?  You bet she does  . . .  you can read about it in the tabloids.

If you can take your children on vacations to France too . . . that’s great.  However you can have just as much fun in the French speaking province of Quebec, Canada without the expensive flights to Paris.

For most North Americans, a drive to Quebec is a lot easier, faster, and cheaper than a flight to France.

For example, if you leave New York City by car in the morning, you can easily have dinner in Quebec that same evening.

Driving to Quebec from New York City is faster than flying to Paris and you’ll still be in the eastern time zone so you won’t have any jet lag either!

If you do decide to vacation in Quebec, both you and your children will have a lot more fun if you can speak French too.  So take time to learn Canadian French before you go.

Learn Along With Your Children

I’m not sure how well Angelina Jolie speaks French, but my guess is that she’s probably at least conversational in French.

If she wasn’t, I would encourage her to study French at the same time that her children are learning it.

The more encouragement your children get for their language learning from the people who love them, the better this works.

Angelina Jolie Deserves an Award for Leadership in Language Education

If you want your small child to learn French or Spanish, you should consider following Angelina’s excellent example.

If you can’t exactly follow her example, then follow the spirit of her example and start looking for French or Spanish day care opportunities for your child.

My guess is that Angelina is going to raise the most well balanced, well adjusted children ever to be raised by a Hollywood star.

And that’s saying something.

Somehow I think that if you follow her good example, your children will become well balanced, well adjusted stars at whatever they do too.


by Brent Van Arsdell

Brent is an engineer . . . and a world traveler.  When he’s not traveling the world, he’s busy making software to help people Learn French and other languages.

He works for


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