Towards the beginning of my two month long stay in the US this summer, I wrote about Max's confused relationship with English.
Although both of my kids are bilingual, their relationship with their second language, English, is visibly different. To start with, Suzanne spoke English before she spoke French despite the fact that she always heard more French than English (80/20 ratio of French to English). Max on the other hand, always had a closer tie to French which I personally think is due to the fact that he was in nursery school and not with a nanny so he had much more group interaction than Suzanne did at the same age. Max's great English awekening happened last summer (when Max was 2) during my mother's annual summer 3 week visit. Until then, Max spoke English but mostly French. At the same age, Suzanne spoke English AND French.
So it wasn't surprising to see that Suzanne slipped right into the English world whereas Max took some time to figure out the rules. When the kids started day camp on our second week in the US, Suzanne came home interspersing her sentences with "like" while Max continued to speak with a French accent. When my husband arrived during week 3, both kids continued speaking English with him despite the fact that they only speak French with him in home. Thus the power of the community language!
We've now been home for about 2 weeks, the kids have been in French summer camp for a week and a half, and I've observed a couple things:
- they continue to speak English with each other
- they spontaneously speak English to the father; when he addresses them in French, they respond in French.
- Max is interspersing his French with English, which is something he never did before
- Max is also using English syntax and translating from English when speaking French. For example, he said "Quoi tu fais Papa?" (What are you doing Papa?) instead of Qu'est-ce que tu fais?
- Both of their accents have changed. Suzanne still has a NJ twang (which I'm very proud of) and although Max continues to have an accent in both French (almost German-like) and English, his English accent is less French than it was when we first arrived in NJ.