Sharing the Love of Languages

Yesterday was one of those days. Usually the glass is half full in my world, but yesterday it was half empty. Then, as I was visiting my daughter’s class, I leaned down to tell her something. She replied with “Please speak to me in English!”

A few hours later, I read this article that ACTFL had shared about how you should “Speak Your Best Language at Home.” I know that this article was meant to help parents embrace the idea of speaking the “other” non-majority language in their home. It is not meant to tell me that in my personal situation that speaking my native tongue is best for my kids. But it was just one of those days. In fact, I replied to the article like this:

Being a parent who is raising her children bilingual in my non-native French (and married to a monolingual), I do not really like this article! What if the ONLY chance your child will have at being bilingual is if you speak your weaker language? This MUST be better for the child in the long run over being monolingual! I understand that is not really where the article is focusing, however, this simply isn’t the sort of thing I expect to see from ACTFL. The article is partial…it doesn’t provide every possible situation that would be best for children. Sometimes it IS better to speak your weaker language such as in cases like mine. I simply must believe that is true and I hope that ACTFL does, too!

Perhaps I was a little harsh? That’s what you get when you speak (or write) during one of those moments when you are not at your best. There is obviously truth to the article. Many of the words and phrases I teach my children in French may have to be unlearned and retaught. I admit openly to this in this blog post about my children’s spontaneous speech.

Am I doing the right thing? Should I give up? The odds are stacked against us…Daddy doesn’t speak French and we are having trouble finding other kids that do for play dates. My French is far from perfect and I am teaching them with my limited vocabulary.

So, there’s the low…been there before and I’ll be there again…but my grit will pull me through, right?

And moments like this will surely keep me going:

Last night, after the doubtful day, the evening ended with French story time and our new lullaby. And my hear soared again.

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Comments on: "Highs and Lows of Raising Bilinguals" (4)

  1. DON’T give up. What you are doing is challenging, but your children will without a doubt benefit! Love the lullaby, by the way – heartwarming.

    • Thank you, Carol! I appreciate the encouragement!

      As for the lullaby…perhaps you know the story? It’s “I’ll love you forever” by Munsch? There’s a French version that we have and I kept reading the lullaby over and over in the story…and one night, the song came…it stuck. Have been singing it ever since and recently my daughter joined in. Glad you like it! 🙂

  2. Audrey,

    My situation is somewhat similar: monolingual English-speaking dad and me with my native Russian. We don’t live in the major metropolitan area that usually provides with some sort of linguistic network and communities, so Russian clubs, after school and weekend activities are out of the question. Frankly, I am too busy to spend time researching and driving to the “would be linguistic interactions”. I am not as persistent in just speaking Russian to my kids either: if we are at the dinner table, I speak English so my hubby doesn’t feel excluded and we all can share. If I want to ensure understanding, I repeat in English.

    My kids (12 and almost 5 years old) are not fluent but each understands everything I say and 90% of authentic conversations while in Russia. They can express basic needs and maintain a conversation at their own level. The oldest may get frustrated at times with lack of vocabulary, she still doesn’t read Russian mostly because she’s been such a voracious early reader in English that going back to syllables and simple words irritates her. The youngest sometimes surprises me with what he knows but doesn’t always say. The other day he gave me a countdown in Russian even though we never practiced. Lately, he’s been asking me daily on how to say this or that in Russian. They both will get full immersion this summer for a few weeks as we will travel east. Usually, we all come back rejuvenated in our language: I can maintain again a decent adult conversation and kids continue to spontaneously speak Russian until school starts.

    Yes, I could have done way more to make them fluent in my native tongue but it makes me already happy that they can understand baba and communicate with my friend’s kids of same ages. I could have taught them French too (as you know, I am a French teacher), but this is where we are and I am glad that my children will have this opportunity to take their Russian to a different level if they ever wanted. The foundation is there, all they have to do is to find something personal besides me that will connect them to the language and culture in order to take flight. I can’t force them in that, they need to make that discovery and connection on their own. My objective at this point is to make sure they know that the path exists and I know that my kids will be more likely to take it because they understand the road signs.

    Good luck in your endeavor! You will have to wait and see where it takes you and your children. I am sure, they will thank you for the adventure when they grow up and realize the advantage you put in their hands (well, not really hands, but rather brains in our case;)

    Natalia

    P.S. I am sure, my parents in their wildest dreams never imagined their oldest daughter living abroad. Growing up in the Soviet Union, I didn’t think it was possible either. My school had English classes that I enjoyed, the rest is history.

    • Hi Natalia! Thank you for your words of encouragement! I really needed that! I hope that my children will get to the point of understanding authentic French content. Right now they watch almost all their media in French, but they do comment sometimes how they don’t understand it…especially if it’s a movie. They tend to get the online content a little easier as its usually geared towards younger children.

      I am really hopeful that by using AIM Language Learning with the children will help me raise them as multiliterate…or at least biliterate, to start…I am planning on starting that this summer. It’ll be an adventure as we are inviting other friends in to join us for the French lessons. Hopefully this is une bonne idée and not the opposite! 🙂 I thought having friends would make it more fun, in general, and then my own children could see that other kids can do it, too!

      It is reassuring to hear your story. Thanks again for taking the time to comment, Natalia!!! 🙂

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