I was thinking the other day about how our children are completely bilingual. I am not including Angel in this post because she isn’t near to being bilingual. She knows some French words but hasn’t had enough time in a French speaking environment to become fluent.
The girls are able to effortlessly switch between French and English. They speak together mostly in French but I have heard them speaking together in English more lately. I don’t know why since they are playing every day with other French speaking children. Maybe, they are using it as a ‘secret language’? It is funny because they will say one sentence in French and immediately after say another sentence in English. For them it is normal.
My children speak in English and French as if both are their first language. They don’t prefer one over the other and they don’t have an accent when speaking in French or English.
I don’t do anything special with my children in regard to speaking one language or the other. I think it is more of the attitude that my husband and I took when Sweet Bear was born. She is American and French…Equally. It is impossible to be more of one than the other.
Language makes up a great deal of the culture. It is only natural that our children must be able to communicate in both languages with no accent.
It is not an option. It is who they are.
When the girls were babies I would say a word in English and immediately repeat it in French. Even now when the girls learn a new word or phrase I do this. I am doing it with Boy Blue every day.
I guess Vilay and I are teaching our children both languages in a kind of parallel way. It is getting harder to do this as the girls get older because I don’t always know the French word for an English word. But, they seem to be able to connect the French word to the English word once they hear it. They are able to keep French separate from English while at the same time learning French words faster when they know the English words.
Of course, you can read everything I wrote and replace English with French and French with English. I am writing it from my English speaking perspective. However, my children are truly bilingual. For example, they will learn a word in French and later pick up the English word.
The one thing that the girls do that drives me nuts is they will say (for example) “I happy” or “I hungry”. No matter how many times I tell them that they must say, “I am happy” or “I am hungry” they don’t. I’m not worried. I know one day they will get it.
Sweet Bear recently stated saying things like, “Me. I don’t like that.” or “Me. I want to go to school.” She starts with ‘me’ each time she is refering to herself. I tell her it isn’t necessary to do this but she keeps doing it. Petite Clown has picked it up from her sister and is doing it, as well. I won’t give up.
I am constantly correcting their English just as I did to Angel when she was smaller. Actually, I still correct Angel when she is with me here in Europe or on the phone. It’s the mother in me. It’s good for them!
Like I said…
They (I am excluding Angel here) don’t have the option of not being bilingual. It’s who they are. Each of my children are Franco-American. It’s natural for them to speak in both languages. I am teaching them English like I taught Angel. There is a reason it is called a ‘mother’ tongue.
Being bilingual isn’t anything special. It is their life.
O.k. Now, I will need to make a separate post about how this didn’t work so well while we were living in the States for six months. In my next post I will write about why I think it is better for us to live in a French speaking ‘world’ with me speaking English with the kids rather than living in an English speaking ‘world’ and Vilay speaking French with them.
I’ll talk about my experience raising bilingual children in the States compared to living in France or Switzerland (French speaking). Yes, it has something to do with my being the mother.