Author publishes second bilingual children’s book
Local children’s author and linguist Judy Martialay recently published her second book, presenting a new opportunity to teach children to become bilingual. Her latest book, Bonjour! Let’s Learn French, is a follow-up to the award-winning ¡HOLA! Let’s Learn Spanish, and gives children ages 6 to 10 a fun way to learn basic French words and phrases at home.
“More parents are realizing that an early start to learning a foreign language has great advantages,” said Martialay, a resident of Sea Cliff. “But, only 25 percent of elementary schools, public or private, offer any kind of foreign language instruction.”
And, she added, when budgets are cut, “foreign languages are always the first thing to go.”
A retired foreign language teacher from the Bethpage School District, where she taught for more than 30 years, Martialay has been using her skills to inspire students for decades and has devoted many years to public advocacy for the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers.
Martialay has written drafts for five books in the series, which began with her two strongest foreign languages, Spanish and French. Each book takes about two years to produce, since they include Martialay’s illustrations, recipes, activities and a downloadable audio component. She has drafts of books for learning Italian, Arabic and Chinese that she hopes to “dust off and update” but for now is happy to promote the finished products.
“Children love a story,” said Martialay. “The book captivates kids with an entertaining story that teaches French and introduces them to the culture of France. There is a variety of activities that encourages them to use the French that they learned, including a skit, Culture Corner and a song.”
She said the book is written in a way that makes it easy for anyone interested in learning French, for both the children as well as the parents, grandparents or other care givers reading to them.
“I want [readers] to have a pleasant experience and get a taste for the language so that they want to continue learning,” said Martialay, who said she believes language learning in this country has “gone backwards” since she was a child.
“It’s just not a priority in this country,” she said, noting that only 16 states require high school students to study a foreign language, and many only have a two-year minimum requirement.
“Two years is not long enough to produce marketable skills,” said Martialay. “When kids learn early, they truly have a chance to become proficient.”
She believes that part of the problem could be the false perception that the rest of the world speaks English; however, she said, while millions around the world may be learning English, as much as 75 percent of the world does not speak or understand English proficiently. And she stresses that going beyond basic phrases and reaching proficiency has important benefits, including getting to know someone from another country.
“It’s very rewarding to form a personal relationship with someone—you can’t do that through an interpreter,” she said. “Having a personal bond is the basis of a good business relationship, plus when you learn a language, you learn about the customs and culture of that country.”
Down the line, she said, having proficiency in a second language can put a candidate ahead in a job, as it is one of the top eight qualities employers look for upon hiring. And, starting young is also important.
“Children up to age 12 have the capacity to acquire native pronunciation of words,” said Martialay. “And when we learn other languages, our English improves and we become smarter, with increased concentration and enhanced problem-solving skills. Also, it helps to stave off dementia by five years because the executive function [of the brain] gets a workout.”
Martialay noted that when parents show an interest in what their children are studying, it can further enhance their learning. The book comes with downloadable activity sheets, recipes and a craft, in order to help create a deeper connection to the language.
Bonjour! Let’s Learn French is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $16.99. Visit www.polyglotkidz.com to download the audio version.