It's been a while...a long while. The time that used to go into inspiration for this blog is now pouring into creating interesting classes for little kids and baking cookies. And more cookies. And more cookies. And although I'm happy to have the outlet and passion and creative energy flowing, I do miss my blog.
Tuesday, 3 June 2014
Posted by Reb at 23:27
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Two months....has it really been that long? I have been forsaking this blog, although I do think about it often. But my brain power goes to many other activities at the moment like baking, teaching and generally trying to stay sane...
That said, here's a little update on my Franco-American adventures.
Suzanne (almost 8!) has a space in the bilingual section of the public school. At first, we were worried that it wouldn't happen, that she wouldn't want to go, that the level of English wouldn't be good. But, although it's an experimental programme, we are convinced. Last week, Suzanne and I sat in on a class and she came away smiling (albeit nervous and scared too!). She is both excited at the thought of learning more in English, being with other bilingual kids, and going to a new school. But she's also nervous about leaving her friends and starting a new school. One great thing is that she already has a friend who will be in the same class as her. As the minority language parent, I came away from last week's meeting at the school with a big smile on my face and the rare feeling that parents get when you KNOW you have made a good parenting decision. Not only will it be good for Suzanne to learn to read and write English (at the moment she is teaching herself), but it will be good for her to be around other bilingual kids so she can be proud (she is already but she's also different) and it will help her self-confidence which is pretty low at times. As for the school, I am happy that the kids are all mixed together and the bilinguals are taken out 3 hours a week. So it's the best of the public school education with a twist. And, as a non-French person constantly grappling and fighting with the rigid French structure, I find it an added bonus that the school will be less "French" and more open. The thing that has perturbed me the most since my kids started school is how rigid and strict it is. The classe bilingue provides a different point of view and way of educating the kids because they share experiences with schools in England. Yay! She's come a long way since the word lists I used to post on this blog 7 years ago....for more information on the bilingual french-English class in Lille, you can leave a message.
Max (4 1/2) is all boy, is into superheros, star wars and collecting sticks. He is now solidly bilingual, which was a main issue for his first 18 months. He continues to mix up his grammar between French and English equally. In some way it's reassuring that his French is speckled with English because it means the English is ingrained in his head. Max always preferred French whereas Suzanne preferred English. At the moment, he is having trouble with "jusqu'à" for example - I'm getting taller. I am jusqu'à your chest. And he does similar things in French using English structure like Ou est-ce qu'on va à? Literally, where are we going to? My husband and I are often too immune to these slip ups that we have to remind each other to make the correction in the other's language. Max continues to express himself in an extremely precise way, in black and white terms with no shades of grey. The fact that he is bilingual seems to help him because he gets frustrated quickly. His two languages allow him to express his frustration and relieve some of the tension that builds up in his brain.
So after almost 8 years of strict OPOL child rearing, what are my thoughts? Recently, I had an interesting discussion with a Slovak friend who was impressed with how bilingual my kids are. And I really attribute it to how strict I was for the first couple of years. The kids continue to only speak English to me and I find that I have to remind them to speak French in front of their French since speaking French to me is just so unnatural (and vice versa).
All in all, I'm really proud of their progress and proud of how my husband and I persisted. I see other people who weren't so strict and the results are glaringly different. There is also another factor that I'm considering more and more : I see that male friends who speak the minority language don't have as much success as female friends. It's not called a mother tongue for nothing.
Tuesday, 28 January 2014
I think about this blog often, I really do. But I just don't get those early morning flashes of inspiration I used to get. Those flashes now go to my new venture which I will write more about some other time.
That said, I have a lot to report about my bilingual babies who are no longer babies, but are real people now! They are sometimes annoying people, sometimes funny people, but they are always my favorite people.
The bilingual barriers are breaking down while other ones are built up. It's still a constant battle, but an enjoyable one that I no longer worry about losing. I'm not ready to say yet that I won, but I can definitely say that I am on the winner's team :)
Suzanne is now 7 1/2 years old and full of surprises. When she opens her mouth to speak English, she sounds like a small version of me, New Jersey drawl and all. Although her English speaking has never been a problem, she was very daunted by reading in French so I didn't try to teach her to read of write in English. But now, she has taught herself. Much of it is based on French phonetics, but she's doing it and we owe a lot of thanks to the magazine, I love English for Kids which we started getting at the public library. She loves reading the magazine while listening to the CDs at the same time.
Max is 4 1/2. His Germanic accent in both of his languages has evolved. He now speaks with a perfect little French accent in both French and English. My husband and I have various theories about why this is : maybe he's copying his father (who doesn't have a French accent in English), maybe he's lazy, maybe he doesn't have good ears, or maybe he's more focused on the precision of the word choice than on the actual pronunciation.
The hardest part at the moment is making the time to read to them in English. Nightly reading in English has always been a keystone for me and the kids. But with homework, later working hours, and the kids growing up, it's getting harder and harder to find the time. This is more of a weak point in Max's English education than Suzanne's since she got a solid 5 years of it while Max only had 3.
Another point that is becoming increasingly difficult for me is homework. I struggle about how to do homework with Suzanne : English or French? I am a real OPOL purist and speaking French to my kids just seems wrong. But I've had to adapt. For example, when Suzanne has math homework, I can't very well say "eighty-five + thirty = one hundred and fifteen" when she's still trying to figure out the difference between "quatre-vingt-cinq" and "quatre-vingt quinze" (85 and 95, respectively). BUT (and there's always a but), when I do her homework with her, she comments on my accent which she finds very amusing. So it's hard to keep your concentration and authority in a foreign language when your 7 year old is making fun of you...
Monday, 20 January 2014
Every year on MLK day, I find myself reflecting on how to teach my children about American culture what it means to ME be an American. And it's no coincidence if MLKday provides me with an annual time for reflection.
Posted by Reb at 14:44
Monday, 30 December 2013
I could have written this article...but I didn't. Pamela Druckerman did. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/28/opinion/druckerman-an-american-story.html?_r=0
Tuesday, 17 December 2013
I have one of those faces. When I don't smile, I look mean or unapproachable or cold. People often interpret my lack of smile as aloofness or cockiness. But they usually don't realize that I'm actually a quiet and shy observer.
Monday, 9 December 2013
When I was a kid, my sister and I would visit our grandparents in Florida where we loved catching chameleons (among other things like going to the pool and eating Mallomars). One time, my sister decided to bring some back. She named them Tony and Maria.
That has absolutely nothing to do with this post except that last Saturday, I took Suzanne to see West Side Story (in English!) in Roubaix, France. I've seen the movie dozens of times - I grew up, practically drowning in show tunes and Broadway musicals ! - but I don't think I've ever seen the stage production of it. And I was not disappointed.
The reason I bought the tickets was one day last year, Suzanne came home from school humming a song she'd learned in English class. It was a song from a "TV show with two bandes in NY". It wasn't until one of her friends started singing ,"I want to be in American" that I realized what it was....So when the tickets went on sale last spring, I got them.
What was interesting on Saturday was not so much the show - because it was good - but was the discussion we had on the way to the show. A friend of Suzanne's was going so his parents drove us to the theater. On the way, we had a conversation with he mother who is a child psychiatrist. She was talking about how many of her maghrébin patients don't speak any language because the parents speak a mix of French and Arabic and the kids mirror the mixed up language they hear at home. She was asking my friend B - Suzanne's fairy God mother, who is a bilingual French-English wonder - how she grew up with no accent. And the answer was : her parents were strict. And as B was talking about her experiences growing up bilingually, I realized I was sympathizing with her parents because raising a child in such a strict way is incredibly hard. It takes incredible will, strength and a lot of auto-derision to be able to speak a foreign language to a baby in the middle of a horde of French people.
And then the absolute hardest part of it all, seeing that your child is different in part because the language helps develop the kid's thinking pattern. So obviously, a bilingual child's language and thinking pattern will cross-fertilize both (or all) languages : the way they form sentences, their word choice and the way they interpret certain words are all influenced by their languages.
So just a shout out to all you OPOL parents who may possibly read this to keep it up! It's hard but even the child psychiatrist friend said it was the way to go.
Posted by Reb at 14:21