Stream of Consciousness Sunday: The Bilingual Baby

Today I stumbled upon the Stream of Consciousness Sunday series. A 5 minute brain dump of words! A fabulous idea!

We live in France, my French is terrible, I’ve been here 2.5 years and I hoped within the first 6 months to be fluent! Oh how my expectation crashed and burned! I made terrible mistakes and still do. I found myself resigning myself, in conversations to smiling politely and nodding often at the wrong time! BUT! What a wonderful opportunity for BiP!

When I got pregnant we were already living in France, my husband accompanied me to all my doctors appointments to help me understand the bits I missed and to help me communicate – I have no idea how I would have managed without him. When BiP was born that was when the questions about what language we would speak to her in. “In English of course?” I would reply. We speak English at home, anything else would be unnatural. My priority is to give her the richest language experience I can offer and French is certainly not that. So English it is.
BiP already, at 12months, understands both English and French. She doesn’t say much but that is to be expected.  She certainly smiles upon receiving glowing compliments when we are out and when someone says “Au Revoir” she waves bye-bye.

I am always irked by the monolinguals, in France, who criticize the fact that we speak English to BiP. “Well, you live in France, you MUST speak French to her” is what I am often faced with. How can I possibly do that? The other day I told someone I could F*&% the price on something rather than lower it – a simple mistake in pronunciation as the former is baiser vs. the correct word baisSer!!!  What kind of example would that be?

I have no doubt that BiP will speak French at school – ok, she may lack certain vocabulary and may struggle for the first few months but at age 4 is that really a problem? Some think it is. I tend to ignore such opinions and carry on. I know there will come a day that BiP’s French will be better than mine and I will be scouring the internet looking up what she will have said but that’s fine. She will speak both languages without effort and the world will be her oyster, well, a lot of the world.

Right now, given that English is rarely spoken in the part of France that we are in, is to find a network of like minded parents who speak English with their children to ensure that when BiP does go off to school that she’ll also be exposed to other English speakers.

 
How are you dealing with raising a bilingual baby?

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This was my first 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.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
  • Link up your post at all.things.fadra.
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

 

16 Responses to Stream of Consciousness Sunday: The Bilingual Baby

  1. I used to teach preschool and I had a handful of three and four year olds who were Spanish-speaking in their homes (I live in the US) as they had been brought up this way. No problem, trust me! I had one little girl who spoke Punjabi, a dialect of the middle east. It was fine :0) A bit shaky to begin with, but we actually taught our preschoolers how to speak spanish – we integrated the culture into our classroom on a daily basis and I myself even learned bits and pieces. I could communicate with no problems and it had no impact on their learning at that age. They picked up English in no time and understood what I was saying and I began to understand what their needs were as well. When your daughter starts school, it will be the same thing. She will already know both English and French and at this young age, even through kindergarten, her mind is a sponge (for both good and bad info!).

    You’re not doing anything wrong, trust me! You need to know how to communicate with your daughter and English will be the primary language at home. She will have a benefit over you in her age learning French when she goes to school. She’ll get it, no problem. And she’ll teach it to you and you’ll pick up on it more and more, too.

    Great post! thanks for sharing!

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Thanks Jenn – I really appreciate your insight into the bilingual kids. It’s really fascinating.

  2. Me me me! We’re in a similar situation at home.

    I speak in Spanish to my 10 month old, my husband in French and somewhere in there we fit a third language since we speak English as a family. And in all seriousness, I can’t even attempt singing songs in Spanish. I learned them all in English when I was in school! So the Little Teapot and Itsy Bitsy Spider it is.

    I’ve been doing a lot of internet research and this subject fascinates me. Brings out the nerd in me I suppose. 🙂

    Our pediatrician here supports the One-parent-one-language approach (as does most of the western world) but there are other approaches and in many countries more than two languages are spoken at home. So we’re giving this 3 language system a try, going non-OPOL (oh but that’s not FRENCH!!!) and play it by ear. If something needs arranging then it will be done as we go!

    BiP is very lucky!!!

    And LOL at F*&% the prices!!!! I ran around saying “thank you pretty a$$” instead of “thank you very much” for a couple of months myself. It’s all in how you pronounce the “u”. Eek!

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Wow! 3 languages! That’s amazing! DH sings some songs to BiP in French because that’s the language he learnt them in and I think that’s fine. As long as it comes naturally and correctly I’m good with that. We do make an effort to make sure we have ONE sentence ONE language – Franglais sentences are a big NO NO but easier said than done.

      Please keep sharing your findings! BiP is only 2 months older than your LO so we are a very similar stage and both sound equally geeky 🙂

      What lucky kiddo’s we have!

      Thanks for telling me you too have been offending our French comrades 🙂

  3. I would be faced with the same issue if we were to move to another country. I know a smattering of French from high school, but certainly not enough to keep from embarrassing myself in public. I would have to raise my child(ren) speaking English at home, because it’s the only language I really know myself (how can you teach a child a language that you barely understand yourself??).

    I think you’re doing the only thing you CAN do in the situation and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it (or let anyone else make you feel bad for it).

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Thanks for the support Crystal. I totally agree!

  4. I grew up in the Philippines and i speak 2.5 languages. the .5 is a dialect that is spoken where my mom’s side is from and it should have been 3 (with another .5) from the dialect my dad speaks.

    I speak Tagalog (Filipino) at home and with my friends and all my lessons in school was done in English. The .5 comes from the fact that my mom’s side of the family spoke to us in bits and pieces in Cebuano (the dialect they speak) as a child. My Dad’s side of the family didn’t do the same.

    During High School, no cebuano conversations at all but when I got to College I met a lot of people who spoke Cebuano and a lot of it came coming back to me. I can’t carry on gossipy conversation, but i can understand 75% of what is going on. Not bad, really.

    Having gone through the whole experience, keep doing what you are doing. She will turn out bilingual. What a lucky child!

    I want to raise my child bilingual (English and Tagalog) but I dont know how successful that will be because I now live in the US and my husband does not speak Tagalog and refuses to learn.

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Thanks Stella… have you considered just speaking Tagalog with your child? It would be a shame to miss out on that but I can see how hard it must be being the only person who speaks it at home. Keep us posted. This is a very interesting topic!

  5. What a fun idea for posting – stream of consciousness. Love it!

    Had to tell Donny that story about you using the wrong word. Too funny.

    I think it would be fun to learn Korean with Sebastian, although not practical. Donny only speaks English and I speak English with two high school years worth of Spanish. Today I said, “No boca!” to Sebastian when he went to put something in his mouth and laughed at the idea of teaching him a few words in Spanish. I wish we could all be bilingual but I don’t realistically see it happening.

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Glad you found my mortifying experience hilarious Janine … smooth eh? really smooth!

      You can teach Sebastian lots of things about Korean culture – language is only a small part of that I feel.

      • Oh, we dont have a baby yet. but yeah, i AM thinking about it now. LOL (not having a baby, but how to bring him/her up! LOL!)

      • That is very true! We already eat a lot of Korean food and share that with Sebastian, and I think that food can be as or more representative of a culture than language. I am SUCH a mutt myself (dad from mixed cultures adopted into a black family, mom mixed European background) that I love having Donny’s ethnicity as something concrete to study and pass on.

  6. I don’t know how I missed this SOC Sunday post. My husband and I are also trying to raise our daughter to be bilingual, but it’s been tough. The plan, initially, because the “other” language is only that of my husband and not me, was that we’d only speak our native language to her. This was to begin when she was 10 months, but it didn’t. We live in the U.S., so I’m hoping that with time, she’ll learn the “other” language and that my husband will take more of an effort in speaking it to her. We’ll see.

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Keep me posted! I find this topic fascinating and will be writing more about it once BiP has progressed from moo-ing to using actual words!

  7. Hi, I love that your giving your child more than one option for a language. My Husbands Dad speaks Standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic and Berber…as they are the languages of Morocco. His mother understands Moroccan Arabic, but speaks Berber. They know a little French as well but don’t speak it. The children grow up learning Berber and Moroccan Arabic at home, all of there studies are in Standard Arabic. With knowing standard my husband can understand Egyptian, Turkish, Irainian, and other middle eastern languages due to the off shoot of the standard Arabic. My husband also learned French in school and English. So He knows English, French, Berber, Standard Arabic and the unwritten form of Moroccan Arabic. I am learning the latter and I know when we have Children they will be taught all of the above… I think its wonderful that my Husbands family speak so many languages. I used to speak Spanish and Portugese fluently when I was 15…some how I lost it with out use…I can still read in Spanish and sometimes French… My family tends to pick op languages. Grandmother English and French, My oldest brother English, Spanish, Portugese, he was learning Hebrew and French at one time but I think he gave those up… Thank you very much for your lovely Article…

  8. Our boys are bilingual but it helps a lot that my mother lives with us and with her they HAVE to speak Estonian. With me they often speak in English so I constantly have to remind myself to reply to them in Estonian. A year of nursery before school starts is usually enough for the little ones to learn a new language. My second one is starting at a nursery in a couple of weeks (just for a few hours on 3 days).

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