Monday, 27 October 2008

What's wrong with you? I'm bilingual...

and the gratuitous kiddy photo

It was inevitable, I know. What with me being the sole source of English and working full time. It's normal that Suzanne's French is stronger than her English. And I'm ok with that. But it's only over the past couple days that I've seen to what extent her language skills are unbalanced.

Suzanne has only been speaking English with me, stringing words together (subject+verb+adjective but not necessarily in the right order). Sometimes she also throws in a French word which she'll say in English with some coaxing.

But last week, we were at my in-laws, and I wasn't feeling well so just sat there. Usually when we're in an all French environment, I make sure to create a little English universe by imposing myself a bit and making sure I stay in Suzanne's attention zone. But this time, I was just too blah. And I sat there and listened to my little girl speak French. She was really speaking, making real senteces, asking questions...I was in awe and a bit sad too knowing that her English is indeed lagging. But it's ok, it's normal and I don't feel bad because I know that, considering the little exposure she has had thus far, she's amazing. And we'll be in the US for 3 weeks in January, she's got her English speaking friends and so do I so we'll be ok.

But I do feel bad when she comes to me and speaks in French and I have to pretend I don't understand. Or I have to coax the English out of her. It's just so much work, and well worth it, but it me wondering if her English will ever be as strong as her French. And since I'll continue to speak to her in English, is there a part of her I'll never know and a part of her she'll never be able to express to me? I know I'm giving her a gift...but at what cost? And will she have to do years of therapy to get over the fact that her mother pretended not to understand her half of the time?

Onto happier things, a list of some recent Suzannisms (sometimes a scary reflection of me and my language tendencies):
  • "Where'd it come from?" She asks this for EVERYTHING. And it's always followed by why?
  • "What's wrong with you?" Um, yeah. I don't think I'll elaborate on that one
  • "doubleXYZnexttimewon'tyousingformeFGH" etc. She also takes the same tune and invents words to go with it. My daughter is a natural born singer.
  • "so much" as in I love you so much Mommy or Thank you so much. I think she's translating from French when she'd say merci beaucoup or je t'aime beaucoup but who cares! It just melts your heart.

4 comments:

Jan Exner said...

Did you ever think of getting a satellite dish and allow her to watch some CBeebies?

The stuff on there is a lot better than what I've seen on French kids TV.

Reb said...

We don't even have a TV so no problem with the French stuff.
I love Cbeebies. We download lots of stuff and she listens to Cbeebies sometimes. She has some American and English DVDs that we watch (so her references are Charlie and Lola and Kermit the Frog) But it doesn't replace the fact that she has little exposure.

Madame K said...

OK, OK, I have zero kids, but I think you're worrying yourself about something that will work itself out on it's own.

My friend is an American who has been living in France for 15 years. All three of her kids were born here. The two oldest speak perfect English complete with huge vocabularies. Her youngest however only speaks in French at the moment. You literally cannot get him to speak English, BUT---I have had entire conversations with this kid where I speak English and he replies only in French.

So---I think it has something to do with age and a certain level of language developement.

What you really should be worrying about, is how you are going to teach your kids to read and write in English, since the French school system doesn't start doing that until WAY too late....meaning that alot of Ex-pat kids end up functionally illiterate in English.

That's what all the Ex-pat Moms here grumble about.

Reb said...

Once again, I have panicked for nothing. It seems Suzanne plateaued last week because for the past couple days, she made leaps and bounds in English! She is saying "I want" "I need" and, drum roll please, "not like"! It does help so very much to have your comments and experiences on raising bilingual kids. Thank you thank you thank you!

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