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Omma
Reply with quote  #1 

Hi there, I have just discovered this wonderful site and what a relief to find I am not the only non-native speaker out there trying to raise bilingual children!

 

I thought I would introduce myself and my experience so far...

 

My mother tongue is English and I live in the UK, but I have always been fascinated by languages and studied French and German to MA level. However, I haven't spoken either language since finishing my studies (about five years ago), so I was getting quite rusty! My partner speaks a couple of African languages as well as mother-tongue English, but wished to speak only English with our daughter.

 

I decided pretty much straight away to speak French with her (I've always been slightly more fluent in French than German, because I learnt it from an earlier age). I began by just reading French books to her, because I was afraid of her picking up my errors and poor pronounciation, but as my vocabulary refreshed itself and grew, so did my confidence and, concerned that a few stories wouldn't do the trick, I began speaking to her in French for half the day. The reason for only talking French half the time was that I noticed that sometimes I couldn't express myself adequately in French or make quick little jokes as I would in English, and I felt that it was blocking my communication with her. However, I've recently read that it is better for one parent to speak the minority language all the time, so I have just started to do this and hope that my French will continue to improve alongside my daughter's, to the point where I can say whatever I want.

 

My daughter is now nineteen months old and understands as much French as English. Her most used word is 'encore', which means 'more' (!) and she also has a few 'corrupted' words, such as 'appa' ('chapeau' - 'hat') and 'ba' ('boisson' - 'drink'). So it's working out great so far. In terms of aiding her pronounciation, I show her mainly French DVDs, which I get second-hand from French eBay or French Amazon, and I play her mainly French music, such as the fabulous 'Baby's First Steps in...French', which she loves. I have found many bilingual French/English books at my local library, which surprised and delighted me! I have also paid a French student to play in French with her for one 2-hour session each week, which I think has been the icing on the cake, because this way she sees that I am not the only one to speak this language!

 

One thing which has really helped us is that I also taught her baby sign language (for hearing babies) from four months old. The signs, which she started making at eleven months, have acted as a lovely bridge between the two oral languages, because she understands signs better than words at this stage. So for 'shoe' and 'chaussure' I make the same sign, and she seems to make the link between the different words and the sign.

 

With her language skills improving daily, I am now in the position of wanting to meet other parents who speak French locally, and have placed an ad in the classifieds section, so fingers crossed!

 

Omma

 

 

ListModerator
Reply with quote  #2 
Hi Omma

Thanks a million for sharing your story — very inspirational!

Getting another person to speak French to her is really smart, and once you start finding other families you’ll congratulate yourself on the effort. It is one of the best things you can do for her at that age.

BTW, I just checked and saw that there is no ad from you in the classifieds ad section — or perhaps you didn’t get to it yet...

/Christina
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Christina Bosemark
Founder & List Moderator
Multilingual Children’s Association

Carrie
Reply with quote  #3 
Hello Omma!

I'm doing something very similar with my 5-yr-old son.  French isn't my native tongue either, although my father's family comes from Quebecois origins and my family name is French.  I've studied French through graduate level and studied and worked in France and Quebec, so I feel pretty confident about communicating and my accent.  Still, there are little words and phrases you just don't have in a language you've acquired post-childhood, no matter how much you've worked at it.

Now I'm living in the U.S. with my husband, who is bilingual English/Spanish.  I started speaking French to our son before he could talk and some of his first words were in French.  He spoke probably more French than English before he started kindergarten this year, but the entirely anglophone environment at school has slowed down his acquisition of French.  I'm finding I have to work much harder at keeping the home environment francophone to counter that effect.

The really nice development out of all this is that my husband has made a great effort to pick up French.  His accent is shaky, but he's learned a huge amount in the last three years, to the point where he can get along without me in a francophone environment.  And the relationship that's developed between him and our son in French is fun to watch: our son corrects his father's grammar and pronunciation regularly, as if it's no big deal, just teaching Daddy French as usual.

This has been quite an adventure and it continues to take a lot of effort, but it's been absolutely worth it.  Good luck to you!  I'd love to hear more of your story.

Carrie

Lindsey
Reply with quote  #4 
Hi All,

I'm doing the same thing - speaking non-native French to my son. I started from birth speaking exclusively French to him (his dad uses English) and he's now 29 1/2 months and his bilingualism never ceases to amaze me. He seemed to talk a bit slower than most of the other kids we hang out with here, and I was incredibly impatient waiting to see if my experiment in bilingualism was working.

I've written down every new word he learns (and also started using baby signs and tracked those as well). He stayed in the single word phase for what seemed like forever and by 25 months he had about 200 words in both languages, dominant in French (no surprise as I'm home with him all day and his dad is not very verbal). Then around 26 months he just exploded and started learning around 100 new words a month and putting together words and starting sentences. Now he's got over 600 words and is making sentences in both French and English, and always knows which language to use with which person and separates them well as long as he knows the word in both languages.

One thing that has made an enormous difference for my French and no doubt his as well is that I've put together a French playgroup (mostly people I recruited through the Saturday French school here and then people they knew). We ended up becoming friends with people from that group and seeing them more than our English-speaking friends. Now I'm amazed at how much French I get to speak and how much it improves my French. And he's put up no resistance to French at all, probably as a result. I also have had French babysitters I found through the university, but finally ended up putting him in day care for a day a week in English since he seems to lag behind in English vocab.


Cheers,
Lindsey
Max 29 months
Brisbane, Australia
OPOL ml non-native French ML English

Omma
Reply with quote  #5 
Hi there,

How wonderful to hear from other non-native mothers! And very reassuring to hear that your bilingual efforts are paying off. On the bad days, I wonder if I am 'experimenting' on my poor daughter, messing up her language acquisition process by talking to her in my less than perfect French, but hearing your stories makes me feel I am doing the right thing. On the plus side, Skyla can now ask for milk in French (motivating word, that!) and a few other things, so I am hanging in there. I would love to set up a local French playgroup, that is my next goal. There is a French nursery here, but only one evening a week and from 3 years old, so she's too young for that yet.

Would love to hear more from you guys and anyone with similar experiences. I am also going to set up a yahoo group for anyone talking French to their child, so just email me if you'd like to join.

A bientot,
Omma

sheilagh
Reply with quote  #6 

Salut, les filles!

 

I'd love to join a yahoo group, so sign me up!  I'm a non-native speaking French to both my kids (see my reply to Judy's message, posted today, in a different forum). 

 

I have been speaking French to my kids for 10 or 11 months now.  My son was 11 months at the time and my daugher was 3 and a half. I went "cold turkey" with him, but had to gradually work up to speaking nothing but French with my daughter.  In some ways it's a bit sad to let go of English with her, which is the language we spoke together for 3 and a half years. Perhaps that explains why so often I "forget" to speak French to her.  And she was such an awkward age for starting a new language.  Whew! It's been hard at times.

 

My fun triumph today was when my 4 and a half year old told me that she really wants to learn Spanish.  It's a sign of something good, surely.

 

My 22 month old starts pre-school in the autumn, which I am dreading (since he won't be home with me, but surrounded by English speaking kids).  My 4 and a half year old daughter speaks English to him.  I may have to work out some incentive program (read: "bribe") to get them to speak French together.  Example: if you speak French together while you play with the trains/ doll house / legos  we can go to Dairy Queen after dinner.  I've learned (duh!) that the sooner/closer the reward, the greater the effort my 4 year old puts in. 

 

I ordered The Little Mermaid off of Amazon today and will play it ONLY in French, ever.  I just found out that Dora the Explorer exists in France (Dora speaks French and teaches kids a few English words [ with a really bad accent].  I have found that DVDs for kids in French are unbeatable as far as language learning goes. 

 

I would love to hear more about similar situations to mine.  keep those posts coming!

 

A+

 

sheilagh    sheilaghmargot@yahoo.com

Alexis
Reply with quote  #7 
Hello,

I too only speak French to my children (we live in the UK), though this is mainly my 2 year old son (my daughter is only 5 months old).  My mother is French, though we have always spoken English together (we lived in the UK), but I learnt French from my vast French family in France. Although I speak very good French without any trouble, it still isn't my "native" language (my knowledge of French has been mainly learnt by ear, rather than at University - e.g. knowledge of grammar is shaky). And now I'm having doubts about speaking French to my children.

So it's great to find this information and discussion, and would love to discuss this more with all of you - let me know more about your proposed discussion group.

I too have been using French books, and strictly only speak in French. Everyone else speaks English though, including when I speak to my wife. The result is heartening, in which my son understands pretty much everything in French, and everything in English. He doesn't talk much though, and he is certainly taking his time when it comes to talking - which is fine. No worries yet on that front. I think the end result will be my children understanding French fine, but probably replying in English.... not sure. In a way, an important aspect is to determine early on exactly what we are trying to achieve - e.g. perfect bilingual children or just a good understanding of French? Another aspect is that I think if stick with it, I will need to work hard to keep French as an  important language in the family.

A bientôt j'espère,
Alexis

emily
Reply with quote  #8 

Hi Everyone

 

I am the only one speaking (non-native) french to my daughter. I started learning when she was 4 weeks old. I have just posted a thread called "Is it enough if only I speak french to my daughter" or something to that extent. There is no support in my town for raising french/english children, so I struggle on alone. I'm so glad to be able to read about other peoples experiences and successes.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

New Zealand

4 month old daughter

french-english

Omma
Reply with quote  #9 
Hi there,

Just an update on my original post in May - we are at that very exciting time when Skyla is beginning to speak! Most of her new words are French, since she is with me all day long and I only speak French to her. She is now beginning to combine words into little sentences - today she said 'Chapeau maison' ('Hat home') to let me know she knew where it was.

She uses 'Bonjour' and 'Hello' pretty interchangeably, as well as 'Bye-bye' and 'Au revoir'. I usually ask her to 'Dit bonjour' rather than 'Say hello', as most people understand that, and will usually respond in French then! We still have a French tutor coming round once a week, but I'm not sure it's all that necessary at this stage and probably won't look for a new one when her current tutor goes back to France at the end of the month. Basically, my 'experiment' is still working and is proving an absolute joy in fact.

Omma

Jeffrey Nelson
Reply with quote  #10 
Hello all,

I'm also a non-native speaking Spanish to my child. I married his mother, who is from Mexico, so we speak only Spanish between us and to him. I'm currently blogging on the subject as well, it's quite an interesting ride so far. He doesn't speak yet, but obviously we speak to him - a lot! He's 10 and a half months old so he should start sometime within the next few months - I hope. We'll see if this bilingual's speak late myth is true.

Fantastic to find some other people doing the same!

Jeffrey Nelson
LivingBilingual.com
Eva
Reply with quote  #11 
I feel weird commenting on a post from 2006, but I saw someone had replied more recently (2013) and it was at the top of the feed, so I figured I'd chime in as well.

I am a non-native French speaker and am speaking only French to my son (15.5 mos).  I started out in English when he was born since I was a new mom and feeling very weird speaking to my child in French, my non-native tongue.  Over time, I gradually increased the amount of French I spoke with him and now I pretty much only speak French unless there's something I just don't know how to say.  He understands so much already!  I have been so afraid that I'm hindering his vocabulary in both languages because I could say so much more in English than I can in French, but I keep reminding myself that multilingualism on any level is much better than monolingualism.  My husband is originally from Mexico, so he only speaks Spanish to our son. I learned French in high school and college and studied abroad and currently teach French at the high school level. My husband and I speak English to each other, so our son is getting exposure to 3 languages at once.  Thank you for the stories I've read on this thread, as it makes me more confident about what we are teaching him.

Eva
United States
15.5 month old son
OPOL - French (mom)
OPOL - Spanish (dad)
Amy
Reply with quote  #12 
It's now 2015 and I'm wondering if any other non-native French speakers are out there and having success.  My daughter is 7 months old but I speak to her only in French unless English-speakers are around, including her dad.  My French is fluent (PhD in French, time abroad), but I am not a native speaker and I do speak with a slight accent.  A friend who is a linguist told me that there have been studies of deaf children born to hearing parents and that the deaf children are able to sort out their parents' errors, so this friend feels it would be the same with non-native speakers.  Still, like someone else mentioned, I worry I am "experimenting" on my daughter.  However, I can always stop speaking to her in French, but it will be harder down the road to start.  I have the support of the local Alliance Française to start a play group later this month.  I would love to hear from others!
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