Saturday, July 21, 2012

Franglais, anyone?

While I wish that I could stay at home with my Lily and be a full-time cook, crafter, and homemaker, I am about to return to my full-time job as a French teacher at an elementary school.
My students are always surprised to find out that I’m not from France or Belgium or another francophone country (as are the other French teachers at our school). I am often explaining to them that I learned French in school, just like them! OK, well not exactly like them, considering that I didn’t start learning French until high school and that the most concentrated period of language acquisition for me was probably a month spent at an immersion program in Nova Scotia, Canada.
I have, however, come very far in my fluency from high school me. I can understand nearly all speech by native speakers, but my grammar is by no means perfect, and my French vocabulary has much to be desired. I have, however, always dreamt in the back of my mind that I would speak only French to my at the time future children. Now that the time has come, I am finding it much more difficult that I imagined.


[Lily does love playing with (chewing on? Making out with?) Sophie la giraffe.]

Prior to Lily’s birth, I gathered French children’s books and a few DVDs, and I took note of songs I thought a baby would like. Now that she is here, I am making an attempt to speak to her only in French; however, there are no other adults in my life (aside from certain colleagues) who speak French fluently, and thus conversing with Lily in French is basically like having a conversation with myself.

As a non-native speaker, I’m very self-conscious about my French. I often can’t think of words that I should know and have probably learned at one point, but even more often than that, I find myself struggling to use a great many of the words I never learned that are necessary involving baby care. For instance, while I could easily give directions from my house to school in French [which Lily would clearly benefit from…], I still haven’t quite figured out how to say, “Silly Lily, your poo leaked out all over your romper, and now Mommy has to clean you and the seat cover on your swing, but we've run out of wipes!”

Also, when I am alone with Lily – or even just with my husband – I can carry on lengthy monologues in French with near confidence. However, when other non-French speakers (i.e. everyone else we know) are around, I am much more hesitant. First of all because conversations with babies are more often actually conversations between adults [“That silly Daddy! He forgot to close the wipe warmer! Maybe he will hold you while I clean up the kitchen.” or “Nanny, thank you so much for the present! I know I’m going to look so cute in my seersucker dress!”]. And second of all, I just feel a little silly carrying on a “conversation” in French when no one around me understands a word I’m saying. And therein lies my biggest problem…

Recently, however, I came across a blog dedicated entirely to bringing up children bilingually. This woman started her journey with bilingual children with her nephew who she watched only one day a week and spoke to exclusively in French. She experienced many of the same things that have been discouraging me in the last several months, but – lucky for me – she learned from her setbacks and has more than six years of advice posted for me to take in as well as a multitude of other links and resources! I’ve also found lots of iPad apps for helping children learn French. These, of course, are aimed for older children, but Lily loves the bring colors, so occasionally we will play with the iPad together.

Well, folks, I’m just going to have to bite the bullet. So friends and family, you may (if I work up the nerve) begin hearing me speak more French when Lily and I are around. My one request: please don’t look at me like a crazy person. I’m just a mom hoping to help her child grow up speaking two languages. Is that so crazy?

As always, thanks for reading! And post a comment to let me know what you think of my speaking only French to Lily Robin.


  1. Aunt desi thinks its awesome that mommy is going to teach lily girl French! Maybe the rest of the family will pick up and learn some words right along with lily! Good luck :)

  2. Nanny loves this post (and all the others), especially the part about Nanny and the seersucker dress. You know how I feel about Lily and French- only French is the best French for Lily Girl! Miss y'all and love y'all!

  3. OK, I am ready, now I need the books I bought in Montreal and you took home. It's a go for me.