Friday, 30 May 2008

Terribles deux

Last weekend we celebrated 2 weeks in the house and 2 years with Suzanne. We've come a long way since my marathon labor leading up to her arrival.

To celebrate, we invited her little friends over and also invited the boy from the park. Cake was eaten and smashed all over the floor. And bilingual ramblings were heard all around.

It was interesting to see the different bilingual systems in action: some of us do OPOL (One Parent One Language) some MLAH (Minority Language at Home). And it made me realize how wonderful it is to have the support system of my other Franco-Anglo friends, espeically when talking to the boy's parents. They had tried the OPOL method at home but didn't stick to it because it was difficult. But after seeing it in action and talking to other OPOL parents, they were inspired and we sent them home covered in chocolate, full of beer (only the parents since the kids had juice) and inspired! Thanks to my friends for the support.

Meanwhile, Suzanne has spent the last 2 weeks saying "Happy Birthday Suzanne" whenever she seems a box (and there are many still in the house!) or a letter arrive in the mail. And for a 2 year old bilingual child, I'm pretty impressed. I mentioned a couple weeks back that she's started making the distinction between French and English, and everyone told me it happened around 2, but I'm nevertheless amazed when she does it.

The other day, she was pretending to make coffee. She handed me the spoon and said "spoon". Just then her father came into the kitchen and asked what she was doing to which she responded "café. cuillière." And then gave it back to me and said "spoon". We were in awe.

Another interesting aspect is shopping. Now that we are enjoying our small shops on an almost daily basis, she is becoming a well known face around the neighborhood. When we walk into store, I tell her in English to say hello and she says "bonjour". And when we leave, I tell her to say goodbye and she says "aurevoir." And since she's a chti in training, she reminds us each time we turn the corner to our street that the beer store sells beer for papa and apple juice for Suzanne and that Picard sells ice cream.

She's using many verbs these days, asking doing, raining, walking, making among others but still not really making sentences. One of my favorite words at the moment is "carry you" ie carry me I don't want to walk. She's still playing with the mommy/maman factor which is being confused by her French mamie (her great-grandmother) but I am trying my best to pronounce the A in Mamie with all it's nasalness.

What's interesting as well is how my relationship to bilingualism has changed. At first, I was scared, nervous, embarrassed to speak English in public to a creature who couldn't respond or even know what I was saying. But now I see how much it's paid off. I've always claimed to be a fake-bilingual (ie I wasn't brought up with 2 lanauges and thus don't have that bilingual filter in my brain) but with Suzanne, I am now getting a taste of what it is like. I can be in a heated French conversation at the cheese shop but as soon as I see my little bear, my brain switches to English mode.

I'm just so proud of my little bear and can't imagine what life was like before her, even with the chocolate cake I'm still scraping off the floor.


Jon said...

Stumbled on your blog somewhat by chance, but this article was very pertinent for me as a new dad in France in the midst of planning how to raise a properly bilingual son. I guess we're using a OPOL approach--actually I didn't know there was any other way to do it, I've got a book "le defi des enfants bilingues" and I'd just been going along with its suggestions. My son's only two months old though so it's all pretty abstract for me at this stage; it's nice to read some confirmation that things really will evolve like they're supposed to!

The Late Bloomer said...

Ohhhh, Happy Birthday to Suzanne! I may be a bit late here, but I just wanted to share my wishes. I loved seeing that birthday cake video! So cute.

I'm still on the fence about the whole method to use at home, but I'm leaning more towards the OPOL system, as I've seen it work really well with my sister-in-law and her little boy, who is bilingual in French and German. He speaks both languages so well and identifies a language with a person -- it just seems like the most effective system! I'm just afraid I might slip into French when I shouldn't, and I know I'm going to need to be really, really disciplined about speaking English with my Little Bean all the time...

I think I'm going to go back and read more of your archives about this as well -- so much to think about!

Deb said...

You did a great job with the party! And it really was nice to see all the bilingual kiddies (and parents) mingling together.

It seems as though you are more at ease about Suzanne's bilingual abilities. She is a very smart cookie, and I see how patient you are when talking to her. Give yourself a pat on the back! ;o)

Reb said...

Jon, Welcome and thanks for the comment. Everything I read, and I read lots, said to be consistent. So whatever you do, just keep doing it. It's hard but it pays off!

TLB, same for you. Choose a system and stick to it. And having friends raising bilingual kids is so helpful!

I read some interesting and not so interesting books. I'd recommend Growing Up With Two Languages: A Practical Guide by Una Cunningham. It's the best one I read because not only is she a parent but she's a linguist.

Deb, thanks for the nice words. And thanks for the support!

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