Today at story time, I met two lovely ladies who are raising their kids bilingually, too – Swedish and Russian. We talked for a while, and I felt renewed in my attempts to raise Mon Cœur (MC) bilingually.
These moms encountered similar road blocks – learning new words for vocabulary that isn’t as high frequency except in baby contexts. Think…poussette, biberon, marcher à quatre pattes (stroller, bottle, crawling). I also lamented over grammar and accents for me, since I am not a native speaker.
In the end, we all agreed that in speaking this other language to our children, we were keeping our language skills up and were also learning new words ourselves that we wouldn’t have reason to otherwise.
Regardless of the mistakes that I may make, I am helping MC develop an ear for another language – she is already catching on, too and code-switching (linguistics-speak for knowing which language to use with whom and switching accordingly). Here’s a snippet from our conversation in the garden this afternoon:
Me: Oui, bébé?
MC: Maman? (See how she heard me speaking to her in French and switched over?! She’s so smart…although I am partial)
Me: Tu es trop intelligente! (You are too smart!)
My rule of thumb for raising MC bilingual is to try to speak to her in French whenever it’s just us. When I am out with family that doesn’t speak French, I may speak to MC in French and then repeat the phrase in English, or I may just speak in English. It’s promising to see her code switch, since I haven’t been consistent in speaking French with her all the time.
Even though I have been getting better about speaking to her in French, MC doesn’t tend to answer in French. Unless it’s dealing with la politesse (manners & politeness), and then she might say, “S’il te plaît, maman,” (please mommy).
One common wish among the moms at the library today was finding native speakers, preferably with children, within our community. That may be easy in a larger county or city, but being in a rural setting makes it a little more challenging. As capable as I feel to speak with MC, I feel it would benefit her to hear other French speakers. Especially other native French speakers.
At a recent Alliance Française open house in Charlottesville, MC and I were able to meet other French speaking families and eat Nutella crêpes! This particular AF has some amazing resources in French for kids – games, books, maps, etc in French. By using the AF as a resource, I am hoping to provide more French opportunities to MC right in our backyard.