Monday, 4 November 2013
Friday, 18 October 2013
Explaining geography and world travel to a 4 year old is not easy. And explaining jet lag and time zones is an even harder task. While a kid can maybe understand that the world is so big that you have to take an airplane to cross the ocean, I hasten to say that the concept of a large sphere we live on spiraling through space, and facing the sun at different times all over the world is nearly impossible to conceptualize. My kids more or less understand that sometimes it's night in France and papa is sleeping while it's day in New Jersey and the grandparents are at work. But they do not understand why that means they wake up at 4 am and get to watch hours of tv until the sun rises and we can finally go outside to play or grab some bagels.
Posted by Reb at 11:47
Monday, 30 September 2013
I have doubts about lots of things in life; I second guess myself; I ruminate; I repeat....
But one thing I no longer have doubts about is how I'm raising my children bilingually. I purposely said "I" and not "we" because, although my husband is wonderful and supportive, he has admitted himself that I am the one doing the work since all he has to do is speak French (and use some extra brain power to cut through franglais from time to time).
Over the weekend we got together with a couple of bilingual families, all of us with 7 year old daughters who just entered 2nd grade in the French school system. This timely gathering (which ended with a lot of empty bottles of wine and beer) had a purpose : the discuss the pros and cons of putting our girls in the classe bilingue at Ecole Sophie Germain as of next September. What exceptional about this class is that the kids are mostly real bilinguals, learning together in a public school (which we fully support!), with 5 extra hours of English per week. In the end, what's pushing us toward the classe bilingue is not so much the extra English (since it's not that much in the end) but the additional social benefit that our daughter will gain by being with other kids "like her". By this, I mean other kids with a dual culture, dual language and all the complications and complexities that go with it. And, let's be honest here, kids with a certain something different that makes them not as French as the others.
I see this difference every morning when I drop my kids off. I give Suzanne a kiss and say, "have a good day!" while I hear most of the French parents saying, "travaille bien" to their kids. It's not the same thing. The way I speak - both in terms of word choice and structure - has effected Suzanne and Max's thinking patterns in a way that monolingual French kids can't understand. I'm not debasing my monolingual peers; I'm just saying that my kids are different and I want them to be PROUD of that difference because it's not easy being different (take it from this ex-spaz).
So if you have read my updates on my kids' bilingualism over the past 5 years, you'll know that this is truly a success story that I am very proud of. I am proud of my kids for being so incredibly smart and patient. I am proud of my husband for being so supportive of all the language and cultural choices he's helped me with. And I am proud of myself for sticking it out through the tough times (when Max would only speak French and when Suzanne called me maman).
Wednesday, 4 September 2013
Seems I have been seriously neglecting my blog...but I'll tell you why: I've been working on a project, a project that brings together everything i love...a project that won't make me rich but may make me happy. A project that, well, ok I'll just tell you...
Wednesday, 21 August 2013
The Meriam Webster dictionary defines bilingual as "using or able to use two languages especially with equal fluency". According to this definition, I am bilingual.
According to the Common European Framework, I am level C2, proficient user, in French because I can:
- understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.
- summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation.
- express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.
The people in my French neighborhood think I'm bilingual. Yet, I would never call myself that. Yes, my children are bilingual because they have grown up speaking two different languages. But not me. I learned French at school in New Jersey, came to France to study, did a Masters in France and started my life here. I now speak English most of the time : at home (where we are OPOL), at work where the working language is English, and socially where my closest friends are native English speakers.
When I first came to France in 1996 until I started my current job in 2003, I spoke French 75% of the time. When I started my current job, the amount of time I spoke French per day dropped to about 30%. And since my first child was born in 2006, the amount of English I speak per day has climbed to the point where there are days I don't utter a single word of French. It even got to the point where I barely hear French, except for the French half of our family conversations (ie when my husband speaks to the kids or me).
But during our vacation this summer - we stayed in France and didn't see any English speakers - I noticed a few phenomenons:
- I am so used to our family's linguistic gymnastics that I do not realize that I speak English to people who I should be speaking French to
- After having a couple weeks in a Franco-French environment, my English became "tainted" and I had trouble finding some English words and mixed them up with french expressions.
- And finally, reading in French came back quickly. After a hiatus of too many years to count, I picked up a book in French and began reading it. Although it was slow going for the first hundred pages. After a while, I was reading in the same way I read in English. And just like in English, there were certain words I don't know the precise definition of but I could read in the context.
So am I bilingual? I don't know. I'm more bilingual that most Americans. But I have an accent, I make mistakes in French and my kids are constantly correcting me. I still can't pronounce words like soleil (sun) and bouilloire (electric kettle) but I can read 600 page books in French.
So what is bilingualism? Do you consider yourself bilingual?
Monday, 19 August 2013
During vacation, the kids get to watch tv in the morning. And we get to sleep a little more.
The kids were more than happy to sit in front of bad 21st century versions of my favorite 20th century cartoons like Garfield and Scooby Doo. And they were also happy to learn about consumerism.
I started to worry when they started chatting to each other about the chocolate cereal and how funny the rabbit was. And last week, my just-4 year old boy looked at me and said, "Mommy, you shouldn't eat trop grave." So I asked him for an explanation since I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about since grave in French means serious.
"Mommy, il ne faut pas manger trop grave, trop sucré ou trop salé". (You shouldn't eat too serious, too sweet or too salty). So I asked him where he heard that? On Ludo of course (the kids' program): Manger-Bouger is the add campaign for healthy eating, kind of like the Time for Timer public service announcement back in the last century.
I had to ask him what grave meant. He replied that it meant when you eat too much food that makes you fat. I see...gras like grease ie fat.
He then went on to tell me I had a big belly.
The candor of 4 year olds.
Thursday, 1 August 2013
Vacation 2013 is almost half over already. Unlike last year which was American filled, this time is purely franco-French, except for the thousands of Dutch and English tourists we've encountered along the way.