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Sweet Bears says, “Convenience stores are so yesterday…I want my goods delivered to my door!!!”

The day after arriving back in America after over 2 years, Sweet Bear started “baby talking” while speaking French. It got worse and worse as the week went on. She even started talking to her father in English. He would just say what she had said again but in French. He has continued to speak with all the children in French. Petite Clown didn’t seem to be bothered by switching countries. She continues speaking English with English speakers and French with French speakers. My father’s wife is French-Canadian which is nice since it is another person in the family that is fluent in French and English. The children seem to speak mostly with her in French.

After the first week here I decided to start speaking in French with Sweet Bear when I was able to use correct French. Even if I am far from perfect in my French I felt she needed to hear more French. After 15 minutes of my speaking in French with her she started to get her confidence back. The only problem was that she told me she was speaking in English when in fact she was speaking in French. I think the poor kid got confused as to why everyone went from speaking French to speaking English. I had explained that we were not going to live in France where everyone speaks French but in America where everyone speaks English. However, she got a little jumbled up in her head as to what language was what. I think she was sticking to English during her transition because the majority of the people were speaking in English. She had lost her confidence for French for a short time.

I have continued to speak with her in French on and off for the last few weeks when I felt she needed me to. The past few days I have not spoken with her in French any more than before we moved to America. I have always spoken a little in French with the children and translated immediately after in English.

What I had not realized was that I was speaking much more in French with the children than I had realized while living in France. Once we were surrounded in an all English environment, I clearly heard the French. I don’t think it was bad for the children. I do think that if we had stayed in France speaking in English at home may have not been the same as time passed. I think we would have ended up speaking in a mixture of both languages.

Now that we are in America I am starting to speak with my husband in French with him correcting me constantly. I want to speak in French because I miss it. The biggest reason is that it is important that I speak French with my husband so that the children hear French and feel that French is a part of the home. My husband and I will speak with the children in our own mother tongues so that we can give them a strong model to follow. Besides with my accent I would destroy their French.

Sweet Bear is still trying to figure out the little cultural differences. Today a group of children came around selling candy for their church. Only two days ago, an older boy was knocking at the door to sell candy for a youth organization to keep kids out of crime. All this on top of the pizza guy bringing us a pizza this past weekend has given Sweet Bear the idea that people go from house to house selling what you like to eat. She burst out with a big grin, “I would like grapes and pizza.”

Well, in today’s age I wouldn’t be surprised if people didn’t start bringing around order slips for groceries to be delivered to your door as a way to raise money for a school or organization. The school or organization could get a small percentage of the order total as a reward for bringing in more business to the grocery company. I know Sweet Bear would have a weekly supply of grapes and pizza delivered to her door.

Isn’t it funny how quickly kids can pick up on the importance of convenience in American society?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sarah September 6, 2006, 5:01 am

    Research seems to indicate that bilingual kids will have an easier time when each parent speaks only his native language with them. On the other hand, I can certainly identify with wanting to practice French after leaving the country (and you have the best possible tutor, a French spouse!). Some of the books I’ve looked at recently also say that young kids can’t always name the language they’re speaking, but they can usually use it in the appropriate context.

    I think it’s great that you have another family member who speaks French–that will really enrich the children’s linguistic opportunities. And maybe you can find a French-speaking playgroup in the area? And I imagine you have lots of books and CDs and maybe DVDs that you brought from France and can use to reinforce the language with the kids?

    Can you remind us how old your children are? And would you consider letting me quote this post on my blog as a “profile” of bilingual kids and culture clash? (You can email me at babybilingual at gmail dot com if you’d like.) Or if not, how about just a link to this post? Merci bien!

  • Pumpkin September 6, 2006, 3:15 pm


    You are more than welcome to quote or link as you like. I think it is important for bilingual families to share their experiences. I know I enjoy reading about other families and how they deal with the two lanuages and cultures. :)

    I have a 10 year old, Angel, from a previous marriage that can understand and speaks a little French. Sweet Bear will be four in October and Petite Clown will be three in November. Boy Blue is 15 months old.

  • roland September 6, 2006, 6:01 pm

    bonjour madame Citrouille

    et bravo pour vos efforts dans l’aprentissage du français!
    Some membres of my family are bilingual kids (the father is Portuguese and the mother is french) they came back to Portugal while kids was 2 and 4.
    The problem was that kids started to mix both languages and the psycologist tel the parents to stop using it at the same time with.
    They desided to use only french during lunch and in the car and portuguese the rest of the time.
    so there brain didn’t had to swith all the time, and they had to find words in the both languages instead of ,to make it easier, speak a stangle mix.
    Have your family rules and be strict on to avoid confusion
    Je lis vos nouvelles aventures avec grand intérêt et vous souhaite tout les bonheurs d’une nouvelle vie

  • Heather September 6, 2006, 7:04 pm

    We are doing the same thing here with English and Spanish. I let my husband do most of the Spanish though because he speaks it correctly, perfectly. Where as, I speak what I learned in 6 years of high school and college which I’ve learned is not the way most people actually speak Spanish. LOL So, I only speak with the kids in Spanish when I know I can say it right.

    My 2 year old understands EVERYTHING in Spanish, but refuses to answer you in Spanish. LOL Her grandma from Mexico will call and talk to her, and Kat will answer her questions perfectly in English. Unfortunatly his mom doesn’t speak a word of English, and doesn’t understand that she is giving her the correct responses. “What she doesn’t speak Spanish?” is what we normally here when we get the phone back.

    My 7 year old, he got started on the Spanish when he was 3, and he was doing good, but is now a smart alec. He’s constantly saying, “I don’t understand you.” when he has been told to do something in Spanish that he doesn’t want to do, but if it’s something he wants to do, he completely understands. LOL

    Ok, this has turned into a book, but I had to tell you, I’m completely with you on the language thing!

  • Pumpkin September 6, 2006, 10:03 pm

    Hi, Roland!

    I know that it is true about it being easy to mix the languages. We are going back to our usual routine with me speaking in English and my husband in French to the children. I will speak with my husband in French whenever I am able to successfully convoy my message without mutilating French completely. So far it feels good. I really miss hearing French all around me. I miss France deeply just as I knew I would. So, it is a way to bring France closer to us. We have also agreed to try to live near a French school so that the kids will learn to read and write French at the same level as if we had stayed in France. It is very important to Vilay and I that our children are comfortable with the fact that they are bilingual and bicultural. We don’t want them to feel like they have to give up one culture or language for the other. So, we think a bilingual school is extremely important in keeping French equal to English. I would like them to go to college in France not only because it is almost free. But, more importantly the children need to know their other country on a personal level that they can only get by living in the country. It amazes me every day how easily my two middle children switch from speaking English with me to speaking French with their father. They have even translated for my mother what they said to each other (they still speak French together) or to their father. It is cute.

    Thank you for your well wishes. It means alot to me.

  • Pumpkin September 6, 2006, 10:12 pm

    Sweet Bear at two spoke in English with my husband’s parents and French with my mother. I think she did it as a game. My husband’s parents understood her when she spoke in English but my mother doesn’t understand a word of French. She was afraid the kids didn’t speak English. I assured her that they did and over time both girls would speak with her in English and even sing songs with her over the phone in English. My mother would just tell them in English on the phone that she didn’t understand them when they spoke in French. I think they finally figured out that she didn’t or they got tired of playing the game. I think her singing with them helped as well.

  • Cathy Y. September 7, 2006, 12:01 am

    I met a guy from Hungary who had a little girl about 4 here in the States. She was bilingual. He told me his advice was to “make them give it back to you” in the language of the country where they are not living — in his case, she had to answer him in Hungarian since they lived in the U.S. I think both parents were Hungarian but the little girl spoke English quite well, too.

    In our house my husband Philippe speaks only in French with our little Sarah but she is not yet old enough to answer him. However, we will try to stick to that rule. When my husband was growing up during the years of his childhood that he lived in France he heard French, German, Alsatian, and English from various people at various times and said he got them all confused.

    Pumpkin — you might want to check into cost for those French schools. The last time I checked the French Consulate web site in Atlanta (some months ago), I remember that they said they could help with or reimbursement for expenses for their citizens but I think it was based on your income. If you and your husband get good-paying jobs, I’m not sure if you’d qualify. The schools from what I could tell were kind of pricey. Not to discourage you, but I’d check into cost and whether you will get reimbursed for it.

  • Pumpkin September 7, 2006, 2:50 pm

    Cathy Y.,
    My husband said he saw a couple that were public schools but charter. I think it is free for those but am not sure. There is a school in Miami that is private and you get a discount which would help us during the time that Vilay has to go to school for teaching. However, once he starts teaching we will be above the cut off for aid. At first I assumed the kids could start at 3 like in France. I would have placed them in it because it was cheaper than daycare until the kids were older unless we were able to afford it. I know there is a free public international school in Cincinnati. So, if we found ourselves stuck in Ohio we will move to Cincy. However, I don’t see us staying in Ohio. There is a free public school in Strasbourg that is English based that we were going to put the kids in…if you ever find yourself living there you can look into it.

  • Sarah September 7, 2006, 5:31 pm

    Thanks, Pumpkin! I quoted your post and comments and called it a “profile of a bilingual expatriate family.”

    This is turning into a fascinating discussion–I’d like to invite other readers of My French Window to visit my blog at babybilingual.blogspot.com and make comments there if you feel inspired! Perhaps some of you would consider letting me profile your kids or your families as well?

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