I wasn't at all surprised when my mother sent me a newspaper clipping in the mail from the NYT : "Study: cries of newborns mimic their native tongue." I had this theory about Max but it seemed too crazy to be true. Ever since he starting cooing in early October, his sounds seemed somehow more American than I remember Suzanne's sounding. I chalked it up to not remembering. I remember Suzanne's rolling her "r"s like in French and her sounds being more sing-songy. A bit like a-rrr. But Max seemed to be making more guttural, short sounds like "hhhh".
And then this study came out and it all made sense. When I was pregnant with Suzanne I was still speaking French at home and didn't have many English speaking friends. But with Suzanne's arrival and our switch into a OPOL home, I went from speaking English 50% of the time to 90% of the time. And during my pregnancy with Max, I even had someone speaking back to me in English since Suzanne is a pretty good conversationalist these days.
It also turns out that Suzanne is trilingual - her list of languages includes English, French and jibberish. What's interesting is that she can not only clearly distinguish between French and English, Suzanne came home from the circus a couple weeks ago and I asked her how it was. She told me there was a tiger and lots and lots of acrobats. Then she hesitated. "Ja..jibberish acrobats," she said. I smirked and said, "Chinese acrobats?" "Yes," she said, "lots of Chinese acrobats." (there were Chinese acrobats at the circus we went to in the spring so I just assumed...)
I have to admit that I'm glad she still slips English words into her French sentences because it means her French hasn't completely taken over... English has not been taken over.
And one last thing...I have been going into her class to teach them "Jingle bells" in English. Last night, she was singing it to her French grandmother. Jérôme and I looked at each other during her performance and giggled because she was singing it with a French accent when usually she sings it in perfect American. It seems she's adapting to her audience.