It’s strange, in a good way, to hear my daughter speaking in a foreign tongue. After surveying other bilingual families and doing a bit of research, we decided that the best approach would be one-parent-one-language. So my husband speaks to our munchkins in French and I speak to them in English. I do throw the occasional French song or French book in there from time to time.
Her first French word was “papillon,” which is butterfly. She said it with such a cute intonation that we went overboard pointing out every butterfly just so we could hear her say it. With her first words, her pronunciation was already better than mine. The French word for bear is ours (sounds like: oors), and while typically the “s” at the end of a French word is silent, it isn’t in this one. So when my daughter pronounced it, I looked to my husband and asked, “It’s ‘oor’ not ‘oors’, right?” He gave me a sympathetic smile. “No. She’s got it right. Not you.”
When she was eighteen months old, I realized that her newbie brain had already begun to separate the two languages. She pointed to a toy car and said, “voiture.” I knew that she knew the word in English, so I said to her: “Yes, it’s ‘voiture’ in French. What is that called in English?” She answered, without hesitation, “car.” Thus began a fascinating game for me of pointing things out to her and asking for the French word and the English word. She does confuse things occasionally, like applying English grammar rules to French. It’s an amazing insight into how a young brain learns a language.
She quickly decided that only my husband could read French books to her, and only I could read English ones. She apparently doesn’t approve of either of our accents. But when she mistakenly handed my dad a French book, he went with it.
A few words on my dad and French. He doesn’t speak it. At all. But he pretends to, with great enthusiasm. Poor kid; as my dad crashed through the words with gusto, using a strange mixture of Spanish and Italian pronunciation complete with wild hand gestures, she first looked confused, then like she was about to cry, then she took the book from Pops and wailed, “Pops no read it! Mommy read it! In English!”
It’s both fascinating and humbling to watch my daughter becoming bilingual. She’ll be able to speak two languages fluently, with no accent. Wow. I can only dream of such a thing. I’m working on my French, now with greater determination, so that my husband and daughter don’t end up with a secret language.
Hope your daughter has no lasting trauma!
I have my concerns and am watching her closely for any signs 🙂
Isn’t it interesting raising bilingual kids? Our kids are 6 and 9 now, and from the beginning we decided to just speak French at home. So that ‘s been what we’ve done till now. When we move to France in a few months, we’re going to switch to only English at home. That will be fun! I have actually already started speaking English with the kids at home, especially for the little one, just to really build up her English vocabulary. They’re both totally bilingual though, it’s just that the little one doesn’t read on the same level as my son yet, so she doesn’t have the same level of vocabulary in English. So much fun! Good luck to you and your family 🙂
It’s very interesting – something I never imagined I’d be doing until I met my husband. Good for you, speaking only French at home! I got lazy, because we can send our kids to a French school here in San Diego. Plus I’m not completely comfortable/fluent in French, so I felt better speaking to them in English. But, we are hoping to move to Colorado (for some of the reasons you are moving to France – mainly to get out of the expensive rat race and have a better quality of life with more access to nature) so I’ll need to up my game! It’s great encouragement to hear your kids are bilingual. I’ll look forward to hearing more!
It has certainly been a challenge raising bilingual children, in the way we’ve chosen to do it. It’s been very beneficial though. They’re 100% fluent in both languages, and don’t have an accent in either. Now, guess what, when we move to France, the plan is to do a complete 360! We’re going to speak only English at home 😉
I understand your hesitancy, especially if you’re not totally comfortable speaking French just yet. It’s great that you can put your children in a French immersion school. My husband teaches at a school like that here in St. Louis!
Best of luck in your hopeful move to Colorado. What a dream of a place to live and raise a family!!
I look forward to reading more 🙂
Thank you. I’ll look forward to reading more about your many transitions – new country, new language at home… definitely write about how that goes!