Monday, 30 September 2013

No doubt bilingualism

I have doubts about lots of things in life; I second guess myself; I ruminate; I repeat....

But one thing I no longer have doubts about is how I'm raising my children bilingually. I purposely said "I" and not "we" because, although my husband is wonderful and supportive, he has admitted himself that I am the one doing the work since all he has to do is speak French (and use some extra brain power to cut through franglais from time to time).

Over the weekend we  got together with a couple of bilingual families, all of us with 7 year old daughters who just entered 2nd grade in the French school system. This timely gathering (which ended with a lot of empty bottles of wine and beer) had a purpose : the discuss the pros and cons of putting our girls in the classe bilingue at Ecole Sophie Germain as of next September. What exceptional about this class is that the kids are mostly real bilinguals, learning together in a public school (which we fully support!), with 5 extra hours of English per week. In the end, what's pushing us toward the classe bilingue is not so much the extra English (since it's not that much in the end) but the additional social benefit that our daughter will gain by being with other kids "like her". By this, I mean other kids with a dual culture, dual language and all the complications and complexities that go with it. And, let's be honest here, kids with a certain something different that makes them not as French as the others.

I see this difference every morning when I drop my kids off. I give Suzanne a kiss and say, "have a good day!" while I hear most of the French parents saying, "travaille bien" to their kids. It's not the same thing. The way I speak - both in terms of word choice and structure - has effected Suzanne and Max's thinking patterns in a way that monolingual French kids can't understand. I'm not debasing my monolingual peers; I'm just saying that my kids are different and I want them to be PROUD of that difference because it's not easy being different (take it from this ex-spaz).

So if you have read my updates on my kids' bilingualism over the past 5 years, you'll know that this is truly a success story that I am very proud of. I am proud of my kids for being so incredibly smart and patient. I am proud of my husband for being so supportive of all the language and cultural choices he's helped me with. And I am proud of myself for sticking it out through the tough times (when Max would only speak French and when Suzanne called me maman).


Judith said...

I agree with you: it would be a great opportunity for your daughter and other bilingual kids to be in the same "classe". What a good idea from the school you mentioned!

You are right to be very proud of your family and yourself. I guess your children feel a little bit special (in a good way). They are very lucky to be raised in a bilingual setting but I know they also deserve their bilingualism. It's not a gift... Even when you are born in a multilingual family, you need to work hard on a regular basis to become bilingual.

So congrats to you, your children and your husband. May your bilingual journey continue!

Anonymous said...

Excellent news! We had sold our house in Lille to move to an area with a long established bilingual school when I read about the Ecole Sophie Germain in the Lille Metro. I was a bit crushed, but it's been great. Yes, it's wonderful that our kids aren't the freaks, they aren't absolute majority in their school, but it is completely normal for them to play with kids in both English and French. They also learned to read and write in both languages at the same time (ok, the little one could read already) and they are happy to read books in either language. The social aspect has been wonderful (although it's strange not knowing where some expressions are coming from -- their English language contact was completely controlled until we moved down here). Congratulations! Will you send Max to the school from CP?
All the best,
Rachael (formerly of Lille)

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