Thursday, 10 January 2008

The frenchification of Suzy Mei.

I guess it was inevitable and I guess I should have held my tongue a few months back when I mentioned Suzanne speaking more English than French. Because little by little, my daughter is turning French right before my very eyes. It's inevitable with me working and being her only source of English on a daily basis.

Although she clearly understands everything in English, she responds in French. It breaks my heart. I know it shouldn't. I know I should be happy that my daughter is communicating so well. And don't get me wrong, I am very proud of her. But still, there's this little niggling feeling in my heart when she opens her cute little mouth and the words come out in French. She speaks in English when prodded. And most recently, when I ask her to "say it in English" she rubs her hand on her chest in a circle to make the sign and says "please". Ok, that's really cute. But's strange to have a "foreign" child. I know I'm giving her much more than the English language, but I can't help but feel a bit sad that her English words are fleeting and wonder if she will speak English later on or if she'll full out refuse to speak English.

And although it's extremely cute when she asks "c'estquiça?", it makes me want to cry. She's even traded in her "hi" for "b'jour".

On the up side, she does have some new English words : elbow, push, cereal, bag, big, pig, coffee, tea and potty.

Is there a bilingual-working-mother support group out there? It could do me some good...

Edited: And I totally forgot! She started saying her name!


Pardon My French said...

Thank you for blogging about this. Someone recently asked, "Hmmmmm, wonder if her first word will be in English or in French?" and I said, "If it's French I'm going to be mad!" and then promptly felt guilty. But it's true! I feel like it's an important part of our cultural identity and even more special than that, kind of a unique language between us since the majority of people round here don't speak it. Good question about a bilingual-working-mother support group...I'll let you know if I come across one!

Sarah said...

That sounds excrutiating--I know you want her English to be as strong as her French. But I suspect that both languages will take turns peaking and ebbing. And I'm almost certain that even when she responds in French, she's processing your English and will be able to say it in English eventually. Hang in there!

fsutrill said...

If you're here for the long haul, she'll be completely bilingual without an accent in either language and you'll wonder why you worried about it at all.

Our 4 year old was the only one of the 3 kids born here in France, and she was REALLY behind verbally (compared to her sibs and to her peers). Then it clicked, and she started picking up steam over the course of the last 8 months or so (right around her birthday). Now, she speaks both- but she's missing vocab in French bc of how much English she hears.

I'm not sure I understand your angst (sorry!), I haven't gone back completely through your archives, but the bilingual child thing is difficult, the important thing is that they communicate in n'importe quelle langue...

Reb said...

fsutrill - the angstis because she doesn't hear much English at all. My hubby and I do OPOL and since I work 4 days a week, she hears mostly French.

Thanks to you all for the support. I know that the important this is that she's speaking. And that she does. I just hope she'll come back to English - depsite schooling French and the little she hears on a daily basis- even if she does refuse to speak it now.

Keen said...

I just found your blog and am enjoying reading about your experiences

I know exactly what you mean about the whole language issue and struggle with the same thing with my children. Just don't give up! I think OPOL works very, very well. But I know how hard it can be emotionally to hear your child speaking the other language. It's great she has so many new words in English!

I need one of those bilingual-working-mother support groups on this side of the Atlantic...sigh.

Nicole said...

Reb - I know what you mean - I worked part-time when my oldest was little and every advance he made in French was a secret stab in my heart. But when he was 2 1/2 we went to the States for a few weeks and it just clicked. We came back and he never mixed the two up again. It's been easier with the second because I took a congé parental. But even so I'm really careful to talk to them a lot about a variety of subjects when they get home from school and on the weekends. All tv they get to watch is in English now and most of their books too. Try not to get discouraged - it'll work itself out.

Deb said...


I feel your pain and I know I will be headed down that road eventually.

I think you should start up a mommy w/bilingual kids group in France. Sounds like we need one!

Madame M. said...

Dear Reb-- We're in a sort-of similar boat here ( I know how frustrating it is to feel like the babies are regressing). All I can say is that eventually things will even out.

They do. And if they don't, that's okay too.

Reb said...

Thanks for the words of wisdom, everyone...only time will tell, right? And bilingualism is so amazing and probably so confusing for the littles ones. Maybe it should poor Suzanne and not poor Mommy!

Pumpkin Pie said...

I just wanted to add to what everyone said.

My kids (ages 5, 4 and 2) are bilingual and it is true that they went back and forth speaking French more one month and then English more the next. However, my four and five year old are now completely bilingual and switch back and forth between the two languages effortlessly.

I explained to the children that they had to speak English with English speakers and French with French speakers.

Honestly, I think it is too easy to worry about it but in the end as long as you keep speaking English and explaining that she HAS to speak to you in English it will work.

My kids understand that they don't have a choice/ Afterall I am the mother and what I say goes! HA!!!

Really. I don't let them speak to me too much in French and if they start I nip it in the butt right away.

I keep it all natural and don't make it a big deal. But I do not tolerate them answering me in French. I am clear about the fact that I am their American mother and they are American so we speak English together. It is as much a part of who they are as French. Besides how will they talk to their Grandparents in the States if they don't speak know the grandparents that send such nice gifts in the mail! My kids understand that it is important and I started at a very young age explaining it to them at their level.

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