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Isabel
Reply with quote  #1 
I have a strong background in French, having studied it to degree level. I lived in France and French was the common language I spoke with my ex-husband. However, now I live in England, with an English speaking partner and a just-starting-to-put-a-few-(English)-words-together 2 year old.

I had been reluctant to try out any French with our son as all the information I had come across prior to reading your website indicated that he would be confused if I spoke 2 languages to him, especially as French was not my mother tongue. I presume that total bilingualism is an unrealistic goal in our case - does anyone have any experience similar to this and any advice as to what ratio of time to dedicate to French or whether to speak French only in certain situations?

Thanks in advance if anyone has any thoughts!

sheilagh
Reply with quote  #2 

Salut, Isabel:

Welcome to the group, where you will find that there are heaps of non-natives teaching a language to their kids.  I'm in pretty much the same boat as you, only I started 6 months ago.  Look through the different threads on this site's bulletin board and you'll see different questions that I (and others) had (often specific to the fact that we are non-native speakers) and the helpful replies we got from the moderator. You'll also be able to follow along our progress and see that it's absolutely feasible (and oh so rewarding) for you to teach your child French. Also, NOW is the time to do it. Consider yourself lucky to have snuck in just in time for optimum success! Give yourself a massive pat on the back for the wonderful "gift for life" that you are about to give your 2 year old.  


~Sheilagh~ 

PS: When in doubt, remember that (1) native speakers make mistakes too, (2) native speakers have all kinds of different accents (3) you'll always be able to find native speakers to supplement your own efforts.  YOU GO, GIRL !

ListModerator
Reply with quote  #3 
Hi Isabel,

If you want to do it – no problem. You could absolutely raise a perfectly bilingual son. It depends on the effort you are prepared to put in to it.

The safest way to success is transitioning to speaking only French yourself as soon as you can. Remember that he will gain a passive knowledge of French very fast. His frustration will not be in hearing you speak French but speaking it himself. Expect him to resist that for some time still. Most parents say it takes 3 to 6 months before their children really accept the change and speak the new language voluntarily. Here’s an article about motivating children to transition from one language to another.

So, the way to go is for you to remain as consistent as you possibly can speaking French the *whole time*. That includes watching TV together, reading bed-time stories and anything else you do with him. However, other kids are the best teachers for your son’s age, so I can’t encourage you enough to consider immersion daycare / preschool (if available) or a playgroup. Why not start one? Also, the good news is that France is really close by for full immersion vacations!

Just to set the expectations: The rule of thumb is at least 30% of the child’s waking time should be in the second language to raise a bilingual child that is actively using the language (and not just understanding and then replying back in the majority language). But, by the same token, don't discount passive language knowledge. It is magnitudes easier to turn that into active use, compared to learning it from scratch!

Fianlly, don't even worry about the 'accent'. It makes no difference if you speak less than perfect French. That will iron itself out for your son, the more French exposure he gets.

Good luck and let us know how it works out for you.
/Christina
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Christina Bosemark
Founder & List Moderator
Multilingual Children’s Association

Shan
Reply with quote  #4 

Hi,

 

I'm really fascinated by this post ... I lived for 11 years in Brussels and spoke French fluently although not mother tongue.  I always assumed if I had children it would be in a multilingual environment but I now find myself back in UK, married to an Englishman and pregnant with my first.  I really want my baby to have lots of exposure to French but assumed that as it's not my mother tongue then I should speak English to him.  You've made me question this and think about speaking to him in French.

 

Do you know a book on this subject I could read to get further info?  I'm really excited about this now!  I had already found a French mums and baby group to go to once he's born but that's only a couple of hours a week.  Of course last time I was in Brussels I stocked up on French children's CDs too!

 

Thanks,

Shan

ListModerator
Reply with quote  #5 
Hi Shan,

I posted your comments and my answer in a separate post, just above this one.

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

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