How we bilingual: Part 2

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Over the next bit of time (notice the indefinite quantity of time – there are so many quality bilingual bloggers out there), I will be sharing specific blog posts and bloggers who have helped validate what I am already doing or that have great ideas that we will be incorporating it into our great bilingual family experiment! Check out previous posts below:

Five tips for raising bilingual: Fake Flamenco’s post I enjoy reading Rebecca’s posts – they are witty and informed, and always teach me something. Her Five tips post encouraged me to commit and find a routine and rhythm that works for me.

Commit. 

I just have to do it, stick with it, and forgive myself the silly grammar mistakes that I will make. And commit to continuing my language learning by looking up new words that never existed in my vocabulary before this bilingual adventure. New words this week: Christmas wreath (une couronne de Noël), reindeer (un renne), and jingle bell (une clochette).

Start early. 

I began speaking with MC exclusively in French when it was just us, while I was in my third trimester with Millie. I thought that was the best time, as Millie would hear in utero, and of course MC would still be soaking up the language. At first I was worried to exclude my Chouchou when speaking French to MC in front of him, so we spoke it only when it was just us. Then we had our life crumble before us and I reverted into English only and survival mode. Now we are back on track with MC at only 2 years old. She is absorbing the language, and I can already see the rewards in speaking French to her again. Even when she responds in English instead of French, she shows me she understands. Every night at dinner I ask her « Tu veux du lait ou de l’eau ? » (Do you want milk or water?), to which she always responds, “Milk, please.” I sometimes have to remind her to say please, so I’ll simply say « S’il te plaît. » and she will repeat in English, “Please.” I say bisou (kiss) and she puckers up!

Make a routine. 

I have made a conscious decision to speak with MC starting from the time she gets up until she goes to bed. I still have to switch to English sometimes for certain words or to clarify, but the majority is in French. If I don’t start first thing, I tend to not keep up with it. It all starts with a « Bonjour Mon Cœur.  Tu as bien dormi ? » (Good morning my heart, did you sleep well?). I have slightly modified this approach, when we aren’t just conversing or playing, and when I am truly trying to get MC to do something, I have been speaking in English so that she understands, and so that I don’t stumble on my French. The English flows more naturally, giving me more authority over a situation – she knows I’m being serious.

Create Community. 

We connected with a friend who runs a bilingual daycare and I began volunteering there, so MC had a place to go speak French with other students. We stay in touch with friends and colleagues near and far who love to video call and talk to MC. I attended an open house at the Alliance Française with MC, and need to join, as they have great events and an awesome resource room. She’s a little young yet for the classes they do for kids, but we could both benefit by accessing the wonderful books, games and activities they have available to members in their offices. At story time I found other parents who spoke a heritage language with their kids. Other world language/ESOL colleagues offer their experiences and insight into raising their children bilingually. My community is a mix of people I can connect with and discuss raising bilingual as well as opportunities for MC to play with other kids who speak French.

Entertain. 

Right now, MC’s favorite thing to do is sing and that’s been a great entertainer in the car. We’ve sung bilingual versions of the ABCs and Old MacDonald (Dans la ferme de Mathurin) as well as comptines and other chansons. Other favorites are equally easy to incorporate French conversation, such as art and talking about what we are making; nature walks and talking about what we see; and playing matching games and thinking out loud to find matches.

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