I am extremely excited! I think my children and I are going to Quebec this weekend! This is our first time going. But hopefully will be the start to regular trips there. We would stay with a friend of mine for 3 full days who is fully bilingual (French/English). French (our minority language) is her first language. I want to expose my children to as much French as possible for the 5 days (2 days of travel, 3 days in Quebec). My children understand French pretty well. They need more motivation to practice speaking it. Should I ask my friend to pretend she doesn't understand them when they answer her in English, or given the short trip and that it is the first one, would the exposure to all the French and having her and I repeat all their English into French side of the conversation be a better method? My friend does not have internet, so there would not be the opportunity to Skype, but they could talk to her on the phone and write letters in between visits.
Melissa, either way will be beneficial, of course, but I do think that you would maximize the impact of this relationship (that's where my head is these days: maximizing our efforts) by establishing this as a French-only relationship from the start.
I know some people don't like to "pretend" about language ability--and I respect that point of view--but when a little pretending could pay off big for a child's minority language ability, I think it's well worth it.
After all, if your children are quickly clued in to the fact that your friend also speaks English, then their organic need to use French will naturally be undermined. Still, you may (or may not) get them to speak some French, with conscious encouragement, but this is far different--and far less effective--than if the kids assume that they can only successfully interact with your friend in French.
Imagine: Your friend takes your kids out for ice cream, and you wait in the car. If they assume she doesn't speak English, I bet they'll try very hard to speak French! But if they know she speaks English, well, they can still get their ice cream without using any French, right?
To my mind, although either option would provide a positive experience for your kids, there remains a difference of night and day in the potential impact--and, especially, over time, if this "immersion experience" is maintained.
So I heartily recommend, if you feel that both you and your kids are up for the challenge (and your friend is willing), that you view her as a monolingual French speaker and proceed on that basis, just as you would with any "real" monolingual French speaker. (And when the children are asleep, you can use English together, if you like! )
In the future, once French is well established as the language of communication between your family and your friend, it might then be possible for her to openly use English, too. But until that foundation in French is set, I'm afraid adding English to the mix would only undercut their motivation to actively use the minority language.
Others may offer a different view, but that's what I would do! Have a fun, French-filled trip!
Adam Beck is the founder of Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo, and the author of the popular book Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability amzn.to/22XKuCt and the humorous novel How I Lost My Ear amzn.to/2EsjVRS, both available worldwide. Please support The Bilingual Zoo through Adam's Patreon page www.patreon.com/bilingualmonkeys.
Thanks Adam, that is what I was hoping would be the feedback. I'm using this trip to brush up on my French too, and I always insist on speaking to my francophone friends in French only. I will try this experiment and see how well it works, if we can't boost their French output. I love your example in the ice cream shop. I can't wait to share how the next 5 days go.
Post by Annika Bourgogne on Sept 25, 2014 2:00:41 GMT 9
I absolutely agree with Adam, a little pretending will not hurt here . It would indeed be a great idea if the children get to spend some alone-time with your friend (whether it's for ice cream or for a game while you need to take a long bubble bath ). You might also ask your friend if there are French-speaking children your children could meet and play with--that would provide great motivation to use the language! Bonne chance!
Annika Bourgogne, author of "Be Bilingual - Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families"
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