Stream of Consciousness Sunday: The Mother Tongue Myth

Here is my 5 minute brain dump as part of this great series. Here goes …

I always knew that living in France BiP would obviously speak French. At some point. When she was a tiny baby people would ask me why I was only speaking to her in English. They would say that she would be disadvantaged at school if I only spoke English to her. I decided I’d not corrupt her French by speaking my bad French to her and instead persevere with English.

NOW she is almost 19m old and seems to speak a LOT more French than anything else. I’m stumped. We only speak English at home and until BiP was 14m old she was always with me – now she spends 9 hours a week surrounded only by French speakers.

She even translates everything I say:

I’ll say:

“Let’s go run your bath” – she replies “bain!”
“Let’s wash your hands” – she replies “main!”
“More?” – she says “encore!” (actually it’s more like “cor” but sounds nothing like more).

I’m still winning with words like car, cat, bye-bye, mummy and daddy!

Just yesterday she was running around yelling “Bag! Bag! Bag!” waving her hand in the air – I looked for the bag in question and saw she had found a ring in my jewelry box and was actually saying “bague” (ring in French)

Looks like I have a lot of baby French to learn!

Kinda blows the whole idea of a “MOTHER tongue”out of the water eh?

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This is my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes only.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
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  • Link up your post at all.things.fadra.
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7 Responses to Stream of Consciousness Sunday: The Mother Tongue Myth

  1. Hi Ameena,

    My experience is different so I won’t argue that mother tongue is a myth or not but I know one thing about any language: use it or lose it !

    We raised our son bilingual, English at school from 30 month old and French at home (both parents). My son is now 10 and has a very rich vocabulary and able to read fluently in both languages.

    My son never insisted to speak English at home, quite the opposite as he declared that I have an awful French accent.

    My hypothesis is that BiP is a girl and may want to compete with mummy while approaching the “terrible two”. She probably noticed that when she speaks French she is pushing your hot button and you give her more attention than if she speaks English 🙂 My 2 cents pseudo-psycho interpretation !

    My advice: keep talking English to her, read and watch movies in English, otherwise she will forget it. Just be patient and don’t worry if she keeps answering you in French, That is a great sign she has adapted well and can socialize with friends and adults speaking French. Soon she will help you make your shopping with “the accent”. LOL !

  2. Very sweet. 🙂 I’m sure you’ll be surprised when the little one starts school…kids pick up languages soooo easily, she’ll be bilingual in no time! 🙂

  3. I am not surprised that she’s speaking french. I guess she hears it elsewhere and she’s a little sponge.

  4. Hi! I’m I’m popping in from SOCS!

    I think that is absolutely amazing that you guys speak English and she is still speaking French. And so completely adorable.

  5. Wow, it’s quite freaky that she picks up that much French from the time she spends out of the home… little sponge indeed!

    I’m sure she’s stocking away all the English and I think Anne’s comment makes sense, she’s probably doing it deliberately.

    You’re lucky that you can understand her though, I’ve never been very good at understanding little French babies when they speak… in fact I’m dreading to find out what language LM will speak, if it’s French then I’m stuffed!

  6. That’s so bizarre to have a baby speaking a language that is not yours. My son is 4 and is learning just a few words in Spanish. Luckily, he can’t outdo my one year of high school Spanish yet 🙂

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