Sharing the Love of Languages

Posts tagged ‘language acquisition’

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!