Monday, 4 November 2013

Second language literacy

This post from Bilingual Monkeys really caught my eye. Adam is an American father raising his kids bilingually in Japan with his Japanese wife. As I go through his blog posts, it constantly reassures me that my strict approach to my children’s bilingualism is the biggest ingredient in their bilingual success. Adam has also been really strict, maybe even more strict than I am!

I’ve mentioned previously, that I chose not to introduce reading in English until my daughter, Suzanne, had mastered French reading. This does not mean that I do not read to her in English or teach her sight words or answer her English spelling questions.  It simply means that I have not taught her about spelling and grammar and punctuation. I have not taught her that bout “th” or “sh” or the difference between “see” and “sea”.  But since she is an inquisitive little girl, she went and looked for it herself. In her own words, “I have a lot of questions in my head and I need to ask them”.

So during our recent trip back to New Jersey for Halloween and fall, I told Suzanne I would bring her to a bookstore to get her some English books. But during the week leading up to the big bookstore trip, Suzanne surprised me by reading signs all around her, asking me about words she’d seen in magazines and even reading entire books (easy readers) to herself! She wrote notes to her father and her grandparents in English; she played restaurant with her grandmother and wrote out full menus. And when we got back to France yesterday, she asked me why the word butter has a “t” in it when we pronounce it “budder”.

I am so thoroughly impressed with my little girl and her reading abilities in French. And even more impressed with her self-taught reading in English!
Although Suzanne is much more fluid in French reading, her English reading is coming along. As for her speaking, you would never be able to guess English was her "weaker" language just from speaking to her. Where her little brother has a slight French accent (not sure if this is an improvement over the Germanic accent he used to have), Suzanne's English is all me (ie a toned down NJ).
This week, we will be meeting with the director  of Ecole Sophie Germain, the public school in Lille which hosts the bilingual class my daughter will be going into next year (3rd grade/CE2).
PS If you haven't yet visited Bilingual Monkeys, you should do so. It's a fun and inspiring site for bilingual parents.


Melissa said...

You know, what you've said about your children's accents reminds me of an American-Polish couple with two adult children (grew up in Austria and Poland). The mom told me that her daughter spoke just like her (Alabama), while her son always spoke with a noticeable Polish accent like his father. Like the daughter models herself more on the mother than the son does (makes sense when you put it that way). It makes me wonder if my son will model his speech on his father, as well. Too early to tell so far :)

cmoi said...

As always, when I peruse your site I am amazed at your stick-to-itiveness and (slightly) ashamed at my lackadaisicle attitude to my kid's English. Although they understand English as well as French, my 12 year old definately is starting to show some signs of struggle expressing newfound ideas in English. I totally agree with your great feeling in Montréal - read a few posts back - we were there a few years ago and would love to move there for the boys' high school. That is true, complex-free bilinguilism - and only 5 hours from New Jersey too!

cmoi said...

and I forgot to say - your Suzanne is asking the questions, but you are there to answer them... keep it up! My boys both learned to read English by themselves, and my younger one reads well above his age level in both languages... love those extra bilingual neurons!

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