How we bilingual: Part 3

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Over the next bit of time, 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:

Things I wish I Knew before… offers a blog post with three key lessons on raising bilingual. Some lessons overlap Fake Flamenco’s Five tips, and I love the resources she provides: a website, Multilingual Parenting, and articles on the benefits of raising bilingually. Below are I Wish I Knew’s three key lessons and my take-aways:

Be persistent and consistent. Over at I Wish I Knew, they practice One Parent One Language (OPOL). It’s exactly what it says: one parent speaks one language and the other parent speaks another. This method seemed the best for us, although we did not start off right away.

Why? Because I was hesitant at feeling rude toward or excluding others if I did this (My sister and I used to do this all the time when we wanted to exclude our parents from conversation). Chouchou and I had the shortest conversation ever about it, and he basically gave me carte blanche (the go ahead to do as I please) so that MC learns French.

That was a big weight lifted, and we started at once with the OPOL. I Wish I Knew warned at the awkwardness of this, and I concur – it was uncomfortable transitioning into speaking French only with Mon Cœur (MC), but we have made a habit of it, and the people we encounter in our daily lives have come to understand me as that crazy American lady who insists on speaking French to her kid. Oui, c’est moi (yes, that’s me). Smile.

There are times however when I switch into English, and of course, if MC gives me a book in English to read, I read that in English to her. Overall, though I speak to her in French and in order to stay consistent, we begin with French as soon as we wake up in the morning.

Relax your expectations – There were many points that were made about relaxing expectations. Some expectations were never even in my realm of thought, such as expectations of perfection of the language grammar and pronunciation (perhaps because I know my grammar and pronunciation are less than perfect!). The points which really resounded with me were:

Don’t think that your mastery of the language is necessary – I did worry at first since my grammar is less than perfect – did I use the subjunctive appropriately just then? Wait, should I be using the plus-que-parfait or imparfait? Any other question involving tenses of verbs or combinations of tenses, it’s popped into my mind and I’ve worried about teaching MC something wrong.

Instead of worrying about doing it all wrong, I’ve considered this an opportunity. I am learning more about the language through new vocabulary daily as I find gaps, and revisiting grammar points as I realize I need a refresher.

Don’t feel like everything you say to them has to be in that language. Let’s be honest. English is my first language – it’s more natural and the thought process is more fluid if I speak to MC in English. Inevitably there will be some switching from French to English. There are words that I don’t know in French, and I’ve begun making lists around the house of words to look up later, so I can use them next time. Words I looked up today? Panda bear (un panda), polar bear (un ours polaire), elf (un lutin). Apparently, I already knew two of the three words in French, I just didn’t know I knew them.

Don’t require that every word has to be in your language. In other words, it’s okay if your child doesn’t speak 100% in your language. MC rarely answers me in French, she mostly answers me in English. However I know she understands, and for right now, that’s enough for me. She will “parrot” like my level one ELs in school would – I provide a simple phrase, and she repeats it. For example, I tell her every morning, every evening, and every time I leave her Je t’aime (I love you) and she will repeat back to me t’aime (love you).

Talk a lot and repeat yourself. I Wish I Knew’s last lesson is one I have to keep reminding myself. Sometimes in the morning, I enjoy the quiet drive. It’s nice and calm. I hate to talk just to talk, and the introvert in me keeps me quiet most times. So I have to remind myself to talk a lot – I try to describe what I’m doing, talk about what we are going to do that day, point out things I see (the moon, a horse, a school bus, etc) and when all else fails, I turn the radio on and sing along.

Are you raising bilingually, too? What are some lessons you’ve learned? Share them in the comments section!

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