Thursday, 14 February 2013

Selective Correction Syndrome (or when to correct your kids' mistakes)

"Listening to Max speak English gives insight into how bilingual kids use language." Our dear American babysitter has a point : Max's English is very French.

It's true that as they kids have gotten older and the whole One Parent One Language thing has become old hat, we've become slightly immune to their language faults. And I have to admit that I have become lax when it comes to speaking perfect English since my own English is very tainted. for most of the past 9 years, I've been the only native English speaker in an office with people from a dozen country where the working language is English. So I suffer from selective correction syndrome in which I no longer hear things like "can we play at cards?" or "they spent five hundreds of euro."


Some of the mistakes my kids make will work themselves out in time, if they spend enough time with other native speakers. But most of the mistakes they continue to make - despite being perfectly bilingual - have to do with French grammatical structure. But what reassures me as the minority language speaker in the house, is that there is similar cross-over from English to French.

When I think about my own approach to learning language and to teaching it (in my previous life), I always put emphasis on understanding and being understood. that may be one of the reasons I don't correct my kids as much as I should. But for kids, maybe it is important to be corrected to avoid fossilisation of their mistakes. Just as Suzanne humiliates me in front of her classmates by saying "ma maman dit le quand c'est la". But then again, it's probably best NOT to disgust them by correcting them constantly...

I'm curious about how other parents handle the sensitive issue of correcting their kids' language mistakes...any advice?

7 comments:

Jan Exner said...

If I would correct the Babelkids, we'd never have a proper conversation, so I don't.

I still do the repetition thing, but that may not be enough...

We'll see.

Tallulah@Bilingual Babes said...

I don't really have this issue in my kids' ml (French), it's usually them correcting me! But I do correct their English mistakes, which jangle my nerves! Things like 'I brang it to school' instead of 'brought'. There are definitely a lot of crossover mistakes, like 'a bottle of glass' instead of 'a glass bottle'. I think it's good to correct gently where possible, but time listening to native speakers should do the trick too :-)

Tracey said...

As my daughter doesn´t really say too much at the moment,correcting her mistakes isn´t really an issue yet but it´s good to read your advice and other parent´s advice so I can decide how to approach this in the future!

Rachel said...

Sorry, I've been way behind in the blog world! Thanks for the "Liebster award" thing. I feel that at this point my extreme tardiness exempts me from participating..right? :)

Concerning your post, I'm used to hearing so many Frenchified structures in English that I don't even really hear them anymore! I find myself saying things like "do you have the right to do that?" and "when you'll come back, we'll hang out.."
tsk tsk..la honte!

Reb said...

thanks for the comments! It is reassuring to see that others are in the same boat as I am. I figure my kids will work themselves out one day...but I may be a lost cause.

cmoi said...

Sometimes I think I am the most guilty party of all - after 20 years in France I'm not sure what language I'm speaking anymore. In fact my boys are more likely to correct my "le" and "la" mistakes than I correct their English (except those pesky irregular verbs). Sometimes my husband gets irritated at my bad example and tells me to make an effort with my French (which we all speak when he is around)and the boys defend me, saying that I speak "le Mama"... a new language for bilingual mothers has been found!

Reb said...

"Le Mama" LOL! I think I speak that too !

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