Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Your're teaching them French?

I am raising bilingual kids.

Actually, I'm raising trilingual kids....French, English and whatever the acid trip inspired language DJ Lance from Yo Gabba Gabba is talking.

French is their maternal language, but they have learned to speak English almost by osmosis...they had to in order to survive in a predominately English region.

My first language is French, but I've basically known English since a time when Sesame Street hadn’t sold out to more ''new age'', ''trendy'' characters and Count Von Count was still creepily counting his bats (maybe he's still around?...please correct me if I'm wrong:-)).

My husband's first language is English, but he learned how to speak French fluently in France in his late 20s and early 30s. (I was, at the time, probably working on a 6th grade science project or something of the sort...yeah, that's right..there's an 18 year difference between me and my husband...but, that's a whole other story).

The first words spoken to my children, straight out of the womb, were in French.

Which leads me to one of my pet peeves (being a Type A, perfectionist, control freak, makes for far too many pet peeves).

When I'm somewhere with my kids, be it at the park or in a store, people will stop me and say, in a cutesy way, ''Ahhh, you're teaching your kids French!''

To me it's the equivalent of telling them, ''Ahhh, how cute, you're teaching your kids how to walk!''

I am not ''teaching'' my kids how to speak French. They just do. Just like your kids speak English.

Now, I do understand why someone would say that, being in region where French speaking kids are not necessarily very common, but it still drives me crazy.

Basically, and I know it sounds dramatic, but one of my biggest fears when starting a family in an area that was not predominately French, was that my kids would speak to me in English.

Joseph probably singing in french:-) Photo by gwen Aucoin www.gwenaucoin.com
I was not convinced that by me speaking to them in my native tongue would be sufficient to keep the language alive in our home.

I'm very relieved to share that it has been sufficient, at least until now, and thankfully the strong emphasis this region has on Cajun culture and its French heritage has helped me with the task of sharing its importance with my kids.

Speaking 2 or more languages can in fact be very advantageous to children.

In fact, today I read in the Daily Advertiser that speaking 2 languages may delay getting Alzheimer's. (Actually, I lie...my husband read it then told me about it...I was either wrestling our 2 year old to get him dressed or watching a morning rerun of E's The Soup)

I remember, when my first child was born, many around us were concerned that she would confuse the two languages.

I was therefore happy to read in this article that ''...both languages are essentially turned on all the time, but the brain learns to inhibit the one you don't need....bilingual babies learn very early to pay attention better.''

Now I can use these scientific terms instead of my standard unscientific answer: ''No, she just gets it.''

Anyhow, all that to say that my kids speak both French and English, they don't confuse the two and if you see a mom with her French speaking offspring please don't ask her if she is ''teaching'' them French. If you feel the urge to say something, a simple, ''It's so lovely to hear your children speak French.'' would be greatly appreciated:-)

Merci et bonne journée:-)

If you're interested in reading the article on children and multilingualism here's a link to it: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110218/ap_on_he_me/us_med_language_aging or for a French version go to: http://www.journalmetro.com/plus/article/778114--le-bilinguisme-reduirait-les-effets-de-l-alzheimer


  1. Moi j'aime ça et j'aime le fait que tu parles avec eux-autres en français! Comme ça mes enfants (futurs) auront du monde (et avec le petit Michot aussi) à parler et jouer avec! Ça fait, MERCI.....pis un jour la crêche va se monter...je te le promets!

  2. Bonne job avec ton blog Nic. Je pense que j'ai lu chaque post. C'est interessant et vraiment écrire bien.

  3. Jacob, c'est toi qui écris en françcais comme ça? supa dupa!!

  4. my favorite thing is that your kids tell french speaking cajuns to stop because their french is so bad. also, the little monsters speak french behind my non french understanding back... and they know I don't understand! (which is brilliant.)

    but then again, your kids are effing brilliant all around. they really are amazing.

  5. feel the same way as you Nicole!

  6. j'aurais du dire ca en francais :-)

  7. this is Suzuki's philosophy on music education - the immersion method from when they come out of the womb, it is just part of their life, not anything separate.