Sharing the Love of Languages

Posts tagged ‘bilingual’

Highs and Lows of Raising Bilinguals

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.


Spontaneous Speech by the Sunny Earth Kids


Soleil has started speaking French spontaneously! It is so cool! I have created this blog post so I can start recording some of the things she is saying.

1. Où est le chat? <–Along with other “Où est…” questions. Read more about where she got this phrase from here.

2. Je suis petit. <—She’s missing the “e” to make petit feminine…but I am raising that affective filter to stop and correct her spontaneous speech! What I do is say back a sentence about myself using the proper pronunciation of “petite” in the feminine form.

3. Je suis triste/contente/malade/etc. <—Special thanks to @jeannedelalune for this gem that has taught the children these useful phrases. To see her amazing website, click here. Soleil has really taken a liking to Mimi la souris. You can read more about this “liking” here!

4. Et puis ça. <—She said that tonight 6/10/13 when we were finished reading one book, gearing up for next, and she wanted yet another after!

5. Ça c’est bien/bon/amusant/chouette/etc.

Numbers 4 and 5 have come from Soleil without coaching or special repetition from me…I’m not quite sure where or how she has picked them up, but it must be things I’ve said along the way many times over without realizing.


Geo has started speaking some French. I will record what I am hearing in this section of the blog. It is not spontaneous speech yet. However, when I speak to him in French and ask him a question, he will give me one or two word answers in French. If I provide him with two possible answers to the question, with a “question totale” (AIM Language Learning technique) then he almost always will answer in French. For instance today at the dinner table, I asked him if he wanted more chicken in French but I phrased it giving him two possible answers: Est-ce que tu veux encore de poulet ou ça va? Do you want more chicken or are you all set. Geo answered with “ça va.”

Geo is not up to answering in a complete sentence yet, but we have not been pushing him to speak French because of his speech delay. You can read more about Geo’s language journey at Geo’s World of Words.

1. Bonjour

2. Papa mon baiser <—A song he has picked up from his sister that he sings around the house. Read more about that here.

3. Merci <—With the touch cue for “c.”

4. S’il te plaît <—He needs me to provide his touch cues for the “s,” “t” and “p” sometimes. For more on Geo’s touch cues, read here.


Both children have certain words and phrases they say only (or mainly) in French. As they come up, I will record them here. (There are many, but I have trouble remembering!)

1. Jolies lumières<—One of the children’s favorite pastimes is driving around during the holiday season at night to scope out all the “jolies lumières” (pretty lights). Even monolingual daddy says it en français, now!

2. Frites<—They love les frites! I cannot wait to take them to Belgium!!!

3. Le panier sale<—This is what I call where they put the dirty clothes. I didn’t know how to say hamper, so I just named it “the dirty basket.” This will probably become one of the many things that will have to be unlearned and retaught when we finally go live in Québec or France for a bit!

A Great Day

Yesterday was a great day. We hosted a baby shower for our dear Venezuelan friend, Sandy Siquier. It was so wonderful to celebrate with Sandy!

There were wonderful old friends, like Barb, from grad school, who planned and executed the fun and beautiful event. Also there was one “kindred spirit” who I didn’t know before. Her name is Cathy and she spoke to her children in her non-native language, with a monolingual husband in a monocultural home…just like me! Her language was Spanish and she was able to offer the children with play dates with native speakers. She said this was a huge help as they didn’t have all the technology available back then. She said that she spoke to the children in Spanish and read stories to them. Since they were living in a monocultural home, however, she said she couldn’t get them to speak Spanish back to her. The children saw her speaking to their father in English and so they obviously knew she spoke English.

This is only the second time in my life where I’ve met someone who raised their children like my husband and I have chosen to do with ours. Surely there are more of us out there, but this was a momentous occasion, especially since Cathy is local and really seems to be a wealth of knowledge!

Do you think it’s possible for our children to speak in French in an environment like our home? (Monolingual father, monocultural family, French is my non-native language) Well, it’s not easy, that’s for certain. For our family, it remains to be seen. We have seen some language production, but what will it look like in five or ten years? We have not been successful yet in finding other families who speak French in the area. We will continue to search! Luckily, we other positive things have happened to encourage them to speak! I will have to find the time to write about them soon! In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Any tips you can give us for our language adventure? We’d love to hear from you!

Où est la pomate?

We just had to biggest case of the giggles during tonight’s French story time! Géo just adores this French word book and is always choosing it. We had just finished finding ten tomatos in the kitchen scene on the previous page. We turned the page and then I started asking them to find food items. Soleil asked to take over so she started with “Où est la banane?” and “Où est la fraise?” Which Geo quickly found.

She then asked “Où est la tomate?” which was super easy for Geo as well…but then she came out with “Où est la pomate?”

photo (2)I asked if she was asking about “la tomate” again and she assured me that “non,” she was indeed asking: “Où est la pomate?”

Finally, she explained that tomato and potato are very similar in English, so then potato in French must be “pomate”!!! This was so silly, yet very logical to a 5-year-old! I quickly, while laughing out loud, explained how this would indeed make sense, but she had just made up a new French word that doesn’t exist!  We were all in fits of giggles and couldn’t recommence story time for several minutes. Oui, Soleil…it WOULD make sense to native English speakers if potato was “pomate” en français!

I told her we’d have to tell our French friends about this new word. She said she wanted to tell them, for sure!

Chantons avec Boowa et Kwala


Boowa et Kwala have filled our lives with the joy of singing and dancing in our target language! Thanks to, the “Sunny Earth Kids,” Soleil and Géo, go around the house joyfully singing and dancing in French! I end up singing a lot of their songs and I often change the words to fit whatever is going on at that moment. I find that narrating our life, sometimes through singing, is one way I can keep the language input at a maximum without sounding like a narrator.

For anyone wanting fun, free resources for French or English, then UpToTen’s Boowa & Kwala may be for you. It is geared toward young children and is available in English by clicking on the little flag that is found between the “Chercher” and the “Parents” icons at the top of the page. Depending on where you are in the site, the option to change the language may vary:




You can purchase the premium version that offers an ad-free version. There is also a version for schools!

The children are really enjoying the games section. I will write a future blog post about the games. When the kids were too young to play the awesome games, we used to listen to “les chansons non-stop” which has over 90 adorable songs with fun animations. We listened to these songs so many times that I have memorized several of the tunes and some of the lyrics. These are the songs that I change the words to in order to narrate our daily life and to create some fun kinesthetic moments in French. Here’s an example of a favorite song that came to mind as we checked out our “new dance floor” which now is our living room:

Check out the adorable animation the above song came from. I can remember when the kids were younger, we used to play “La danse des bouées” and the children would follow the lead of Boowa et Kwala, falling dizzily to the floor at the end in hysterics! Sometimes they’d get me to join them. Writing this now is making me want to remind them of these times and see if they want to try it again! It is so perfect for language learning since they are actually acting out what they’re singing.

Every song in this section has a little “P” by the control buttons at the bottom left corner. The “P” stands for “paroles,” so by clicking the lyrics will pop up. I love this feature. Sometimes I needed that visual of the lyrics to be able to sing fast enough to keep up in French. I am not a native-speaker, after all, and I’ve been teaching Spanish for 15 years! I really appreciate this little “P”!!!!


Here are some examples of other songs that we listened to over and over that include something interactive and/or repetitious to boost  children’s language acquisition.

Les grenouilles: Song that teaches how to count up to six, and we always like to croak like frogs at the appropriate moment! CROA! As a lover of puns, I loved the play on the words “quoi” and “croa”! 🙂

Bisou, câlin et doudou: I have sung Boowa’s part as a lullaby for my little loves.

Dodo Boowa et Kwala: Another lullaby that we just love.

Moi je t’aime et toi tu m’aimes: A sweet song about friendship.

Dans ma potion: It doesn’t have to be October for us to still seek this silly song out. The children are both really good about saying “Non merci” and I believe I have this song to thank! One of their all time favorite games actually goes along with this song. It’s called “La potion de Boowa” and it’s one of the games they still need my help with. I think they will keep at it until they don’t need me anymore, though, since they think it’s hilarious.

Quelle couleur avons-nous?: Love the art lesson included in this song.

L’expérience donne l’expérience: I love the message this song provides!

Peux-tu marcher comme un canard: This is another great song that packs a punch of language learning! We just followed Boowa’s lead by copying Kwala and voilà! The kids internalized the meaning of the verbs “marcher,” “nager,” “voler,” and “parler.”

Il pleut, ça mouille: This is a very popular song…especially since we live where it rains quite a bit! It may be grey and rainy out when we sing it, but for some reason this song always makes us smile!

Noël est déjà là: Another pleasantly repetitious ditty. I am certain that Soleil and Géo understand the future tense and the verb “gâter” thanks to this song!

Même pas peur: This is another popular song in our household. The words have been changed up for the appropriate situation, but the “même pas peur” part is always the same. The children enjoy this song as it makes them feel brave in a painful situation.

J’aime te câlins: We sing the “câlins tout doux” part of this all the time.

Souris, fais cheese: Love the silly rhymes and especially “Truc qui finit en ise” that Boowa sings! LOL

Picnic: I don’t know why, but this little tune is probably my all time favorite from Boowa et Kwala. It’s really hard to choose just one, but I’d have to say this is it. Maybe it’s because of the pure joy that dear little Kwala exudes by singing this song and doing her little happy dance. We do the happy dance with her as she sings! Sometimes I find myself singing this song, but most of the time we’re not going on a picnic, so I’ll change up the words to fit the fun occasion.

I could keep going on and on about the adorable songs and animations! Why don’t you check them out for yourself! Here’s a handy spot to choose by monthly themes. It’s called “Events” and is one of our favorite go-to spots for some interactive fun with Boowa et Kwala.


Finally, another great thing about this website is that they seem to have something for many of the holidays we celebrate. For instance, check out this cute musical gift a child can create for their mom on Mother’s Day! Fun stuff like this can be found on the Events page I just mentioned above.

We are so grateful to the creators of It is all around good, clean, engaging fun! The website states that it’s geared towards 0-10 year olds, but I am definitely out of that range by a few decades and sometimes I find myself taking my own turn after the kids! The music fills our heads and we use it in our daily life. Being the only person my children hear French from, and a non-native speaker at that, websites like this are so appreciated! They are helping us provide fun with French to our children and that is the best gift we could ask for! So we’d like to say MERCI BEAUCOUP, Up To Ten!!! You rock our Sunny Earth!


Celebrating Errors!

Not so long ago my husband, two children and I moved into our new home. With the hustle bustle of our daily life, there are still many unopened boxes in the basement.

Last night my five-year-old, Soleil, realized that she hadn’t seen her Care Bears since the move. Her Aunt gave her the Care Bears, and they are very special to her. Honestly, I’m surprised she hadn’t mentioned them before. Soleil does speak a little French without prompting, but it’s usually one word at a time, or very short expressions of courtesy or routine. When she does produce a complete sentence, it’s usually through singing or reciting part of a song or book. Sometimes she pulls phrases from our favorite interactive websites on Well, last night, after looking for the bears, she couldn’t find them and said: “Je ne sais pas où c’est!” (I don’t know where it is!)

Technically speaking, there’s an error in that phrase, since there is more than one bear. Remembering that affective filter, I did not correct her. I was so pleased with this unsolicited French phrase that I don’t remember hearing from her before. Perhaps this song has something to do with it?

So anyways, instead of correcting her directly, I replied: “Tu ne sais pas où ils sont? C’est vraiment dommage! On va les chercher demain, d’accord?” (You don’t know where they are? That’s really too bad! We’ll look for them tomorrow, alright?)

Today we searched high and low and had given up hope by nap time. Soleil and I were working on a French project together on her bed when her daddy came in with a big red suitcase….filled with Care Bears and other lost treasures!

photo (22)

Once again, she came out with a French phrase…only this time it was “Je sais où c’est!” (I know where it is!) Yes, she made the same error again, but ça m’est égal!!! I just don’t care! We’ll take the errors! 🙂

Our Future Multiliterate

Geo is speech delayed. He has verbal apraxia that makes speech difficult for him. We were told to repeat back to him in English what he is trying to say so we can best prepare him for Kindergarten where he will have to speak English. In this video you will see when I work with Geo on the word “off.” I provided him with the touch cue for the “f” sound in “off.” For the “f” touch cue, you place your pointer finger across your bottom lip to show where your teeth have to touch to create the “f” sound. You can see Geo copy my cue when he correctly articulates the “f” sound in “off.” With the cue, his brain gains control over the muscles and movement his mouth needs to produce proper speech. (Or at least, this is what I have come to understand about Geo’s apraxia over the last few months.)

Geo’s speech team said I could still speak to him in French as much as possible. When Geo is in “listen” mode with his mother around (yours truly), he is mainly hearing French. When he is speaking, he mainly chooses English and the English words are the ones we focus on getting him to say. We provide him the touch cues for the English sounds and he puts the sounds together to produce the word. The touch cue helps his brain tell his mouth what to say. All the touch cues touch near the part of the face and throat where the sound is produced (more or less). Seems that no matter how you slice and dice it, gestures and touch cues are a dynamite vehicle for language learning!

When we are not working Geo’s speech, we have gaming and singing time in French in addition to story time. During these times, Geo does say some words in French. At this point, I don’t spend much time teaching him how to pronounce each French word he is not articulating properly. Usually when we are playing, we focus on having fun…don’t you? Learning to speak is hard work for our little guy…if we pushed it on him all the time, he would rebel as he did the first week we began therapy when we made him work to articulate too often.

All in all, we are thrilled with the progress that Geo has made over the past few months in speech therapy. We are equally thrilled with the amount of “franglais”  he is using…articulation aside! (Franglais is what we call English with French words mixed in.) We have a long road ahead to get Geo’s speech up to par with other kids his age, but we are understanding him more and more each day and he is making steady progress.

Hopefully we will be able to provide enough second language exposure to Geo now so that once he has his English articulation down to a science and starts his formal school-based language learning, he will breeze through it saying “Au revoir” to speech delay and “Bonjour” to multiliteracy!

What do you think? Do you think by mixing the language together as seen in this video, Geo will confuse the languages? Is there any advice you could share with us?

Hi World! Salut Monde! Hola Mundo!

We are on an educational adventure. Our goal is to create a non-profit organization that promotes multiliteracy, multicultural awareness and peace. We believe that literacy has multiple forms and we are especially passionate about technology literacy, math literacy and literacy in multiple languages.We’d like to share top-notch educational resources in our fields of expertise: Math, French, Spanish and English. We believe that through the use of technology, we can create our own engaging videos and share them with the world. Our hope is that others will be willing to share in our efforts to help us create the Sunny Earth Academy: Where Learners Become Global Teachers!