Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Bilingual reading

It's been a while...but not for lack of substance. Just lack of time and motivation which I'm sure has something to do with the sub-arctic temperatures we're having...

For the past few months, I've been thinking about Suzanne's reading. Before she started to learn to read, I wondered a lot about how I could help her to read in French. Did it mean that I'd have to speak French to her? That she'd stop speaking English to me? That'd I'd compromise all the bilingual work we've done over the past almost 7 years?

She's now 3/4 of the way through her first year of CP (first grade) and the answer to all of the above questions is "no". I have compromised nothing of my daughter's bilingualism and she's reading in French !

The first question I asked myself was : how will I help her with her homework? Somehow, the answer came naturally. Of course, I have some trouble explaining the difference between an open and closed "u", etc. At first, I felt a little funny speaking to her in French, but then she also felt funny about it. so we settled into a comfortable routine of the work in French and the explanation in English. Quite simply...

The second thing that I was worried about was how I could help her learn to read in French if I only read English books to her. After reading a lot on the subject and talking to other bilingual parents, I decided not to teach her to read in English until she knows how to read in French. Since she's a bit hesitant about actually reading in French - only looking at pictures - I began to wonder if our evening English book reading was more of a hindrance. So I came up with a plan : I read a book to her in English and then we read a book in French together, sharing the dialogue. Reading to Suzanne in French is a sore point for me, but it's the only way I could think of to motivate her to read on her own. We also came across the Captain Underpants series which I read to her in English and then gave to her in French to read on her own before she turns out her light.

Rest assured, bilingual parents. Her English has not suffered. And I continue to be ultra strict in speaking only English to her. But come on, the kid is almost 7. She knows I speak French even if she is constantly correcting me.

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My kids continue to speak English together which still makes me so incredibly happy ! They interpose French grammar on their English. Specific examples are :

what are you looking? - (qu'est-ce que tu regardes)
Lola has some black hair and some green eyes - Suzanne (Lola a des poils noirs et des yeux verts)

But they also continue to interpose English grammar in their French
Papa, il est temps de manager - Suzanne (it's time to eat)
Je vois une bleue voiture  - Max (I see a blue car)

6 comments:

Melissa said...

It sounds like you're doing what's best for her - reading in both languages and so on. Thanks for sharing how it looks in your house!

cmoi said...

Captain Underpants is great motivational material. It was one of the first English books my kids read all by themselves (actually, I think it was Super Diaper Baby, but they have since been through the whole series!). The funny thing is I was always so worried my kids would have trouble reading French since we had always read English together. Different worries, same result, reading both languages just comes naturally to kids brought up in a bilingual (and book loving!) house. You're doing great!

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Captain Underpants were a big hit with my guys too. When we were about to leave Lille, we had particularly prudish visitors who read this to the boys as...wait for it...Captain OVERpants. Which they found hysterical. Also try Roddy Doyle's The Rover Adventures. Lots of dog poo = little boy heaven.

Sounds like everything is going grand with the reading! Another thing we found helpful for reading in French was BD. My older boy loves them -- especially Asterix & Obelix at the mo' but last year we got him some fat Donald Duck one at the presse and he was delighted.

Take care,
Rachael

Reb said...

Hi Rachael! I hope everything's going well for you and your family! And thanks for the input. It's really helpful and interesting to see how other parents deal with the bilingual literacy! I will definitely look into getting her more magazines.

Bonjour Mama said...

Just discovered your blog from Bilingual Babes - terrific! I had no idea Captain Underpants was in French- I will have to find it here! Congratulations on your bilingual successes so far - bonne continuation!

Mil said...

I've got some of the same structure issues with my daughter and it's true I've learned to accept them. I correct but I try not to obsess about it. What did trouble me lately is that when other English speaking kids came over, they all tended to speak French! Guess recess-reflex came out.

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