How we bilingual: Part 4

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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:

This week, I want to focus on some tips and thoughts from the website and blog Multilingual Parenting. I can not remember how I found this blog, however I am glad I did, as it has many great articles, tips, and thoughts to ponder as we continue our bilingual journey.

I started off by reading the Seven Tips for Parents. I loved Rita’s ideas, and may share some takeaways in a later post. For now, I want to focus on a post in her series about passing on a non-native language, since this applies to me.

I’ve stated before that I hesitated in the beginning about teaching Mon Cœur (MC) French, since I myself am not a native French speaker. In the end, I decided to give it a go, without much research or knowledge of what and how to raise a family bilingually.

So Rita’s post about things to consider before diving in are a little late for me, but all the same, I had taken some time to still ponder these points:

What is your motivation for using a non-native language?

Rita weighs the benefits of knowing another language versus the benefits of creating a close and positive relationship with your child.

Being able to speak more than one language is a great gift, but it cannot be compared to the importance of a close connection between a parent and a child.

I have mentioned before how I do not speak in French to MC 100% of the time. When we need to have serious chats, when I want to make sure I am understood, or if one of us is feeling miserably sick or on the verge of a meltdown, I don’t force it. I use English. But when we’re doing well, I speak French.

I wrote a lot about my motivations and considerations I thought through beforehand, in my post Why bilingual? so I won’t repeat here.

However Rita presents a valid thought about the applicability of the language as part of one’s motivation to teach the non-native language. I hadn’t put too much thought into this previously. In our community, we do have some friends and colleagues who can and do speak with her in French, we have the Alliance Française which is another option, and we have our adopted families in France who are a big part of our lives and with whom we communicate regularly.

In addition, French is also an official language in 25+ countries, is either the primary or second language for many organizations, including FIFA, the Olympics, Red Cross, and the European Union, and is rated as the third top language for business by both Eton Institute (2019) and Bloomberg Businessweek (2011).

Own fluency

How fluent are you in the language? 
I have never been officially evaluated for my language proficiency level, although I just stumbled upon Lawless French and I really enjoy the website. It features a paid subscription through Kwiziq. I use the free subscription and it starts with a test to determine your level. I’m B2/ intermediate advanced; I really wish I could tell you I had a better command of French grammar. I know I can get by, and I know where I need to improve. The free lessons on the website and the free quizzes each month will help get me back on track.

Are you used to speaking the language with a child?
Rita again offers really good questions that should be considered when embarking on a bilingual journey. I will say though, even if you were to answer “no” to some of the questions, I wouldn’t let that keep you from trying. Just because you don’t know the nursery rhymes, animal sounds, etc in your target language, there are so many resources out there that can help teach you and your child.

I don’t know many kids songs in French, so I am learning les comptines (nursery rhymes) along with MC on YouTube as the occasion calls for it. All I need to do is a quick search with “comptine” and the theme or vocab in French and I’ve found a song. For example, on a recent rainy day, I wanted to teach MC a song in French, so I searched using comptine and pluie, et voilà (and there it is) three different songs with images to sing when it rains.

Emotional connection – I have learned to take one day at a time, and switch languages as needed based on how we are feeling mentally and emotionally. I am not worried right now about having deep conversations with MC about boyfriends or bullying, and I will ponder that further as we get to a more appropriate age-range.

Time – there is definitely a time commitment to raising bilingually. Gathering or creating resources, brushing up on the language, creating experiences for MC and meeting with others to speak the language together are all actions that take time. It is a worthy investment, and yet another way I can be spending my extra time now that I am at home with MC.

Expected fluency for your child – again, we’re taking it one day at a time – I’m not worried about MC being able to read or write in French right now, and when that developmental stage appears more closely in the future, then we will focus on it.

Possible negative effects – Rita raises a few different scenarios to consider. Language delays and confusion were never anything I was worried about, as a language teacher these were non-issues for me. I have not encountered anyone yet who shares an adverse reaction to me speaking French with MC, although I know that day will come. I can’t worry about it though.

Rita has two follow up posts – one that addresses family language strategies, and the third which has resources and activities, which I am currently working through. As I try these resources and find more, I’ll post back and let you know what works for us!

Are you raising bilingually, too? What resources have you found online? Share them in the comments section!

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