Wednesday, 3 September 2008

No stress bilingual parenting

If I were to write a book, it would be a self-help guide for bilingual parenting called "No stress Bilingual parenting". Because, as with most everything in my life, I have wasted so much energy worrying that it wouldn't work, when I could have just been leading a stress-free life for the past 27 months (me? lead a stress-free life? yeah right.)

Granted Suzanne is one of the smartest children who ever existed, but even so, my worrying isn't what's gotten my toddle to be a bilingual wonder. It's all about the consistency, which is the most important lesson I took away from the various books I read prior to her birth.

During the last update at the beginning of the summer, Suzanne was already stringing words together, but still mixing a little bit. Since then, she has gone from babble to speaking. I was told that around 2, an intensive stay with the minority language was important so I was so impressed when, after 3 weeks with my mom, Suzanne was spouting out real sentences and questions. And what's even more amazing is that during those 3 weeks, she spoke and heard 90% English. After the first day back at the nanny's, the nanny said to me, "Suzanne has made so much progress." apparently, the fact that she begin forming real sentences in 1 language helped the process in the other language.

So at 2 years and 3 months, Suzanne is started to use past tense, making plurals when she should (balls) and shouldn't (mens), using posessives like my and Suzanne's, able to adapt preformed sentences like what's ____ doing?, counting to 10 in French and English and recognizing some numbers, can identify about a dozen letters, and most importantly telling her mother she loves her about 10 times a day (I love you too mommy). We've also entered the "why?" stage. Luckily, Suzanne thinks that "because" is a silly sufficient answer.

And what's more is Suzanne is already learning American geography (sorry, you have to tilt your head):




Despite all her progress, I have to admit there's a sour note in there somewhere. Since she's more social at the park, and she speaks to me in English, the other kids seem confused. Some ask why she speaks English and I explain that she speaks French as well, but I've caught a couple kids mocking our English conversations which really hurts. Probably me more than her at this point. But it's also a bit of insight of what's to come. Let's hope that besides giving her bilingualism, Jérôme and I are also giving her the knowledge that being bilingual is different but is really cool (since her parents are really cool)

5 comments:

Jon said...

Oh, man, it didn't even occur to me to get an English-speaking nanny!

Now I'm really stressed! ;-)

Jon said...

Oops, just noticed the "forming real sentences in 1 language helped the process in the other language" part, never mind!

I guess it just goes to show that we parents stressing over bilingualism are too nervous to be calmed down!

L said...

I know a French American family with four kids, the youngest 16, and when the youngest was 2-3, she thought the rest of the family was speaking in a secret code when they switched languages. I think the all spoke French at home, but with trips back to the States and an American mom, they became bilingual later on. Now that I think of it, it's kind of amazing how all the kids are bilingual knowing that they always spoke French at home as a family. I guess it's okay to start late.

Tanya said...

Can you let me know what books you read about raising a bilingual baby? Thanks!

tawnee801@yahoo.com

Reb said...

Tanya, here are the books I read that I found helpful (I'll also email them to you):
Growing Up With Two Languages: A Practical Guide by Una Cunningham - this was the most useful and gives practical advice like ideas on documenting your child's progress. the author is a mother of bilingual children and a linguistics professor

The Bilingual Family: A Handbook for Parents by Edith Esch-Harding which was interesting for basic theory and ideas.

I also read one in French called
L'enfant bilingue : Parler deux langues : une chance pour votre enfant by Elizabeth Deshays

Good luck!

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