“Mommy, I don’t want to speak French anymore. I don’t like it.”
This, from my daughter the other day. In response to me asking her what she thought of the idea I had for French class at her preschool that week. (Making a snowman! Com’on!)
“I don’t want you to do a French lesson at school. I just want you to come get me and we can go home.”
My heart, crushed.
Because I desperately want her to speak French. Because I love teaching my weekly lesson at her school, and I think the kids are really getting into it. They say, “Bonjour !” when they see me. They ask questions, they listen, and while they may not understand what I’m saying, they are interested, attentive, and their brains are forming the synapses, the connections that lay the groundwork for second (third etc.) language acquisition.
So I tried to understand. “Why don’t you like French?” I asked in as perky a voice as I could muster.
“I just don’t.”
“You know, Mimi and Papy will be visiting us soon, and they speak French, so we need to speak French with them.”
A glimmer of hope. “Are they flying here on an airplane?”
“Yes, France is far away, so they’ll come on an airplane. And we’ll all speak French. You know who else speaks French? Jean (name changed). Your best friend in San Diego. When we visit him next summer, you’ll have to speak French to him, because he doesn’t speak English.” Okay, not quite the truth, but close enough.
Silence, but I could tell she was mulling it over. Then she giggled. “You know who doesn’t speak French? Pops. He speaks silly French!”
Which is true. My dad tries to read her the French books she brings to him, using a bastardized mix of Spanish and Italian pronunciation and lots of hand gestures. He loves to tell, and retell, his “Yo-no-say-pah” joke over and over. It’s endearing, really, makes no sense, and my daughter thinks it’s hilarious.
She’s only three. And the resistance is already beginning. I knew it was coming, yet I’m still not sure how best to deal with it. I’m aware that my method a few weeks ago of chasing her around the house with a square puzzle piece demanding, in French, “one more shape! Tell me what this shape is!” when she was clearly over it was perhaps not my finest moment.
Either she’s mad at me now, because I’m ignoring her requests to stop the French, or she’s mad at me later, because I gave up trying to teach her. The catch-22 of bilingual parenting. I know the best approach is to keep at it, and make it fun. Blend the “lessons” seamlessly into our “play.” Yet fear struck my heart when she uttered those words.
“I don’t like French.”
Will I be strong enough to continue, despite her protests? Will I continue to find creative ways to engage my kids in French? Will I do what I fear the most – give up?
Yes, yes, and no. If I’m anything, I’m stubborn, even obstinate. Bullheaded?
I don’t give up easily.
I’ll find a way. Somehow.
Others out there? How do you combat the expressed disinterest of your kids?