Marie - from what I have read, the “danger period” for forgetting a language is before puberty. So if you can keep it up until then, it should be easier to maintain afterwards! It is something that I think about quite a lot. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, a few weeks ago I saw a message on an expats’ forum from a mother who had moved back from Paris to the US, and two months later her 3-year-old son had practically forgotten all his previous ML. To be honest I found it quite sad as many people assumed she wanted tips about how to keep it up, but it turned out that her and her husband had just accepted that their son would lose it and she was just expressing her surprise at how quickly it had gone. I couldn’t help but think “what a shame”...but obviously different families have different priorities! In any case, it certainly reinforced my determination to invest energy (and let’s face it, money!) in keeping up my daughter’s languages.
Nellie, that's interesting. I suspect it makes a big difference the older you are. I will definitely try my best to keep them in a French school until they go to Uni and perhaps they might decide to go to University in France. Their Aunt and Uncle both got their MBSs in France (HEC and Insead). So maybe they will follow in their footsteps. 😀
It's such a shame when I hear about kids losing a language. I have seen kids completely fluent in English and when they move to France they lose their English fast. Even though their parents both can speak English. Many people are not willing to put in the effort required. If you are able to speak the language I believe you should be able to help your kids retain the language! No excuse--unless it’s not that important to you. I only say this because I saw how much my daughter learned from me, someone who spoke no French who suddenly decided to try to teach my daughter. And of course a few months later when she got into the French school that helped massively, but where there is a will there is a way. It's so good to read about so many people in this forum who are willing to put in the effort. I wish my mom had done the same. But I can see her reasons not to during her time. It is so interesting how languages work and how fast a child can lose the language without using it.
Today I sent my daughter to her room to look at books while I had a quiet moment. I had a long day with my son staying home from school with a fever so after getting him down for the night I needed some peace. After sitting a few minutes I heard my daughter speaking French so I snuck upstairs to see what she was doing and she was looking at a French book and making up the story all in French. It was so sweet. I was especially proud because she chose a French book and she chose to make the story up in French. I didn't ask her to do this. I thought she would just go upstairs and look at books quietly without speaking. I notice she seems to always select the French books to look at. We have a huge variety of both English and French, but she always likes looking at the French books. I think I've gotten too good at selecting French books. 😀 I have ordered a bunch more English books, as I'm aware our French library has grown a lot over the past few months.
As I mentioned in an earlier comment, a few weeks ago I saw a message on an expats’ forum from a mother who had moved back from Paris to the US, and two months later her 3-year-old son had practically forgotten all his previous ML. To be honest I found it quite sad as many people assumed she wanted tips about how to keep it up, but it turned out that her and her husband had just accepted that their son would lose it and she was just expressing her surprise at how quickly it had gone. I couldn’t help but think “what a shame”...but obviously different families have different priorities! In any case, it certainly reinforced my determination to invest energy (and let’s face it, money!) in keeping up my daughter’s languages.
I think for us, keepers, this is a horror story. I can't help but feel sad about it as well, but, like you said, each family has different priorities. It also makes me want to put more effort on making this work.
Marie, I agree that really wanting to do it, and doing everything in your power to make it happen, makes all the difference. Adam's hammer metaphor comes to mind.
I wouldn't be surprised if your daughter ended up speaking French to her own children, Marie. Wouldn't that be amazing? She's as determined to learn the language as you are!
Raquel , yes, that is definitely a horror story for us all on here, lol I have also known a couple of people who went to French schools in Canada, who don't use the language really and don't remember it all. But those people seemed to have stopped before that puberty danger period.
My daughter said she plans to live in France in the future, lol. So perhaps she will have to teach her kids English! Regardless, I'm going to make sure my kids pass on the French and English to their kids. It's so important.
Marie - if your kids go to a French/bilingual school up to university, I don’t think they will forget it. Between the ages of 18 and 23 I only spoke French maybe 2 or 3 times (and between 16 and 18 I only had 8 hours a week in school in French). At 24 I was in Europe and met some French people, and started speaking it again (hadn’t forgotten anything - it just took me a few days to twist my mouth around the sounds again, so that I could pronounce words correctly). At 25 I did a postgraduate degree in France (in the humanities, so requiring a lot of writing). So I think that if you can keep it up until the end of secondary school, they will be fine!
My daughter said she plans to live in France in the future, lol. So perhaps she will have to teach her kids English! Regardless, I'm going to make sure my kids pass on the French and English to their kids. It's so important.
Either way, they'll be bilingual, so it works! I also hope my children do the same with theirs and pass on both languages.
Nellie , that's a very interesting story! I always thought that, after not using a language for a while, as an adult, it felt like you forgot it, but it wasn't gone, it just took time using it again to relearn it. This is what happened to me with English. I may have used it, like you, a couple of times between the age of 18 and 24. When I started using it again, I felt rusty, it's like it took time for me to access that part of my brain. I had a hard time remembering words and I was butchering the language. But then I found myself saying words and going "is that a real word? Am I saying it right?" so even if I didn't consciously remember some things, they were still there. It didn't take long for everything to come back to me.
Maybe the difference is that I learned the basics at school, studying, not living it, while you learned it the natural way from the beginning, so it may be stored in a different part of our brains. I've learned much more and much faster by using it: reading, traveling, speaking with real people, than I even did at school.
I think languages can stick in your head a bit. I still remember quite a lot of the Spanish I learned in high school. I only took it for two years and knew basics. But I remember and can understand a lot. However, not enough to actually talk properly. But if I were to do a brush up I think I could learn it quickly. I think once you have learned it, it's easier to relearn it or somehow reopen the language in your brain by using it again etc. Unless it was lost when you were so young.
For example, apparently I was fluent in Vietnamese when I was little (age 3/4). This is because my Vietnamese grandmother who spoke no English lived with us for the year and watched me. I have a memory of my sister asking me to ask our grandmother something in Vietnamese and I was able to (because my sister was at school all day she was not fluent like me and she is 4.5 years older (so was 7/8) so already not as easy to learn). However, my grandmother moved out to live with my aunt after a year and my mother didn't speak to me in Vietnamese ever, so I forgot EVERYTHING. When I hear Vietnamese I don't understand anything. I do know a few random words in Vietnamese like - mom, dad, milk, pretty, love. But nowhere near as much as I remember of Spanish (and I was never fluent). I think it was because I was older when I learned it and it stuck.
Lately, I am thinking if I should introduce a third language - Spanish. I know two Spanish au pairs in the area and have a few friends that have children my kids age and they are teaching their kids Spanish (by speaking to them). It wouldn't be impossible to get my kids started. Hmm. I think I will post a separate thread to debate about this more.
Another quick update. Lately my daughter is very into watching Les Malheurs de Sophie. She asked to watch this today and then after watched another French cartoon (her decision as she selected off youtube). This makes me very happy, as she is very into it. I am hoping her brother soon understands enough French to happily watch cartoons in French. At the moment he will watch a little, but very much prefers English.
How interesting about your speaking Vietnamese, Marie! You live such an international life!!
I thought about introducing a third language a couple of years ago, but in the end decided against it because of our circumstances. I hope yours can accommodate a third language. I didn't know you spoke Spanish! I took French for 3 years in HS, loved it, but it's all gone now. I understand words here and there, but that's it.
I love how your daughter keeps choosing French when given the option to choose one language.
No, I don't speak Spanish! I took it two years in high school...in the US. They teach language via textbook, memorising and exams. No actual speaking, so no one ever learns it really. I can remember what words mean and that's about it. So basically, I probably know as much Spanish as you know French. However, I know more Spanish than when I first started to teach my kids French (that was almost from scratch, but I learned much faster because I actually spoke French from day one with the kids, as I learned each new word/phrase). If I knew Spanish fluently, I would have taught my kids that from birth. The reason I decided to go for French over Spanish, even though at the start of me deciding to teach the kids another language I knew way more Spanish, was the French community here. I have SO much more French support and access. It's because of the French school nearby. If I had gone for Spanish, there are a few Spanish-speaking families and au pairs here of course, but not as many clubs etc like French. So I decided to do French, especially because in our park, 90% of the people seem to be speaking French!
My daughter definitely selects French a lot. Last night she was playing tag with her brother and then suddenly she started saying something in French. It's interesting for me to see when she decides to speak French or selects books in French or TV shows/movies. I'm so happy she does this, as I know most kids in similar circumstances don't (some even refuse to speak the language, other than at school).
I have not made up my mind about the Spanish yet, as it would be a lot of work on my part. However, my daughter says she really wants to learn and she has mentioned this a few times in the last couple of years. I wish they offered this as an afterschool club at her school for her age.
Marie - the good thing is that Spanish is a not-too-difficult transition from French, I think. It is different enough not to create confusion (as could be the case with Italian or Portuguese), but similar enough that it is fairly easy to learn for someone who speaks French. I think that generally, if you speak French, you can get to the point in Spanish where you can read a newspaper article, for instance, fairly quickly, which means that for French speakers it is a language that one can "enjoy" within a fairly rapid time span. This helps a lot with motivation! So if your daughter is interested, why not? You could always give it a go.
How does it work at your daughter's school - presumably they have to pick another language when they are 11 or so? Or is that English? At my (French) school, when we were in the first year of secondary school, all the other children started with English. But as I was a native speaker, another parent in the class (whose daughter already spoke good English) suggested that we ask the school to allow the two of us to do Spanish as our "first living language" instead. So we had a small class of just two! Then for the second "living language" (which started two years later), everyone else was doing Spanish so we did German. Unfortunately my German never took off as much, although I am glad to sitll have a basis - very weak, but better than nothing.
Nellie, I think they will have the opportunity to learn a third language in secondary (when they are 11). However, in secondary I think French becomes the main language and English is just 4 hours a week. I'm not sure though and need to speak to some friends who have kids that just started secondary. In her current school they have afterschool Spanish, but it's only for older kids. My daughter wouldn't be able to do that for another couple years. I just started to play some Spanish music and she's very interested in it. Also, when we were walking I discussed some Spanish words with her. She already notices some of the similarities between French and Spanish.
Today, I had a difficult time with my son. He wouldn't stay put for story time with the au pair. My daughter is very interested and the au pair read her 5 books. My son would only stay put for one while he was having a snack. I suspect because he doesn't fully understand, but also because we were home. I think it will be easier when I'm not around and we have a live in au pair. I'll have to try and be out of the house when it's story time so he will stay put, instead of looking for me. I can't stay in the room during story time because he still just comes up to me. Or maybe I could try having him on my lap while I listen to story time. However, this is a little annoying for me, as I need to also get things done around the house or for my course, so I can't always hold him. I hope he starts getting more interested in story time. I also really hope he bonds with the au pair when she comes. That will make such a difference if he really likes her. As usual, my daughter was happy to chat in French and listen to all the stories. Later in the evening I asked my daughter to tell me about one of the stories. It was about a group of girls (age 6) going skiing. Perfect, as she is about to turn 6 and we are going back to Verbier soon for skiing.
Today I asked my daughter if she plans to teach her kids both French and English. She said just French. I asked her how will her kids be able to speak to their grandma (meaning me). She told me to learn French, lol. I said I would, but reminded her how great it is to know two languages and it would be wonderful to teach her kids both languages. I also said I could help. I know it’s a very long way off, but I was curious what she would say. I really hope she will teach her kids both languages. So many people I know don’t teach their kids the ml language. I always thought what a shame. I would say about 75% of the people we know who are fluent in two or more languages don’t teach their kids the additional languages.
That's hilarious that your daughter would only want to teach her children French. She'll change her mind, don't worry. But it shows just how much she loves the language.
I agree with Nellie that both Spanish and French are very similar. Grammar is similar and so are many words. I can't speak French, write it or understand it spoken, but I can understand a lot more if I'm reading it.
I just hope they teach their kids both languages! Or at least it’s not the end of the world if she focuses on French because at least I know I can give a lot of input for English.
Today we spent almost 3 hours in the park. It was freezing, but at least sunny. Both kids found a school friend to play with. It’s interesting to watch them. My son found his good friend, who is French. I have heard him speak French with others and I know his mum. He was sent to English nursery so he speaks English as well. So they always play in English together. They chose to play together even though there were other boys from their class. The other boys are more French speaking and don’t know much English, so perhaps that's the reason. At least for my son!
My daughter found a good friend, also French and this friend speaks English and French. However, I heard they were speaking mainly French when playing, which is interesting as my daughter knows this girl from Nursery. They were together at an English speaking nursery before they moved onto Bilingual. So they started their friendship in English. It’s interesting to me, as I thought once a child makes an association with a language, it’s hard to make that switch in the brain. It will be interesting the next time my daughter sees her old best friend who moved to France. They were together every day and spoke only English the two years they were friends. Last time we visited them there was a little French speaking. But more English as that was the language they were used to. I wonder if they will switch this time and speak more French.
It’s been a tough couple of weeks! First my son had the flu and now my daughter. She had a temperature of 40.6 yesterday so it was quite worrisome for me. She usually spikes high fevers when she gets them (which thankfully is rare now), so I was sure she would be okay. But still.
Thank goodness today her temperature stayed around 38.5. With the kids being not well, it’s meant a lot of TV watching! We had one day break between when we spent a few hours in the park and then next day my daughter got sick so again lots of TV watching. I feel a bit guilty about this. My daughter did watch a little French. But my son doesn’t want to watch so we struggled with this and in the end it was English shows they watched.
We had the French au pair for a few hours today. My son did not seem one bit interested in trying to learn or say the French words. I really hope he will start to show more interest. I worry he will start to rebel and not learn French. Also, today my daughter was telling me. Story in English and I asked if she could tell me it in French and she struggled. It could be perhaps she was tired and didn’t want to try, after all she still has a fever.
But anyway, today was not a very good day for language! I will need to think of ways to get my son interested. I think perhaps if I make it a game and start playing with him. I feel like because he'd rather be with me, he doesn’t want to participate with what the au pair does. I really hope he likes the live-in au pair when she starts. I think I’ll have to participate a lot in the games. I guess it will help my French as well!
We're on holiday now and kids are doing ski school. Instructor speaks French, so this is great. I'm glad during the holidays the kids are able to get French exposure. The grandparents are with us as well, so my daughter likes to chat with her Grandma in French and go over French books. Her grandmother is not fluent, but she knows enough French to speak the basics with my daughter. She studied French for two years in Switzerland. I'm not sure if my son is progressing at all. I have not been putting in much effort the last few weeks as the kids one at a time have been battling fevers that last about a week. Our au pair starts in a few weeks, so this will be great for knowing if my son is speaking at all or has interest. I really hope the kids will bond well with the au pair.
Aw Marie, sounds like you've had a hard time with flu and fevers. Don't be too hard on yourself that you've not pushed French as much as you'd have liked in this time. Sounds like the arrival of a new au pair will be a perfect time to redouble your efforts. Hope the ski instructor speaking French will also be a boost.
Sorry both your children got sick this past week. I second Alison's "don't be too hard on yourself". After all, they're now taking skiing lessons in French, so it's all good! Regardless, we all have our good and bad weeks, and that's okay.
I hope this new aupair is all you wish for *crossing fingers*
Thanks, I really hope so as well Finally both kids are back to normal and hopefully when we return home we can return to our French efforts. And I am really looking forward to the au pair coming. I think it will really help. I guess the kids did have ski lessons in French, but because I did not get to hear my daughter speaking French I almost feel like she had no French exposure! Last time they were in a younger group, so parents kind of hung around so I got to listen in. This time it was older group and they went off. So I didn't get to witness any French speaking. But at least their skiing improved a lot! I was so proud of them. The last two days we skied as a family. They were able to do red runs (intermediate).
What's on your mind right now? Just type and hit "Enter" to share it here!
Amy: Last year, a new colleague joined my team. She's trilingual in the same languages as me. It was like magic. We change languages and even code-switch several time a day. I had missed that so much!! My monolingual colleagues must think we're freaks! lol
May 8, 2019 4:56:12 GMT 9
Amy: Unfortunately, she has resigned and is leaving shortly. I was so proud to introduce her to my eldest, one day that I had brought her to show her round my office. And to introduce other bi/multilingual colleagues. Show how important languages are.
May 8, 2019 4:58:26 GMT 9
Mayken: That must have been wonderful, Amy! I'm sorry she is leaving. I would love to find someone like that. We had an English intern last year who spoke German and French. We chatted a lot.
May 8, 2019 6:06:01 GMT 9
Caro C.: Oh Amy I sort of feel related to what you are saying. Some months ago I made a friend from the US. She happens to be a neighbor with four kids. We’ve been sharing back and forth and I’d love my baby girl to eventually be able to share with her children
May 13, 2019 12:55:09 GMT 9
Caro C.: Although maybe they will be a bit old for her, still we (I mean their mom = Sarah and me) both are very happy and grateful for each other as friends.
May 13, 2019 12:57:05 GMT 9
Mayken: As of yesterday, I am aunt to a baby girl who lives in our ml country with 2 ml parents, and I'm already planning to get them a nice nursery rhymes CD for our first visit.
May 16, 2019 20:03:47 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Nice, Mayken! Have a happy visit!
May 17, 2019 9:10:21 GMT 9
Caro C.: OMG I just came across this song and it filled my heart with joy and excitement...perfect for all of us who are parents: youtu.be/g1fcnhB8GOY
May 19, 2019 14:01:55 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Caro, thanks for sharing that lovely song. Raffi was one of our very favorite musicians when my kids were small. We listened to him all the time. I highly recommend his albums as a source of very enjoyable and very effective English input.
May 20, 2019 15:32:26 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter is on a field trip this week and I feel like I've lost my main purpose
May 20, 2019 20:03:33 GMT 9
Raquel: That's cute, Mayken. I hope you enjoyed all that extra free time.
May 29, 2019 18:17:39 GMT 9
SheilaC: I am concern about our upcoming big change to Public school with all English teaching and minimal Spanish. We have been lucky until now with Spanish speaking Nanny and Spanish immersion preschool. We are doing 2-day per week with Spanish after school.
May 31, 2019 10:51:49 GMT 9
Amy: @sheilac, I suggest you create an actual thread on the "Questions & Concerns" board, so fellow Zoo Keepers can help you with your concerns. 256 characters is too little to discuss something that is so important to your heart
Jun 2, 2019 23:44:41 GMT 9
Mayken: Adam Beck, thanks for that very interesting and timely post - it justifies the large order for ml books and DVDs I'm about to place in view of my daughters upcoming birthday!
Jun 3, 2019 23:46:00 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Great to hear this, Mayken! And happy birthday to both yours and mine! (They have the same birthday, don't they?) And if anyone missed that post, here's the link once more...
Jun 4, 2019 8:03:42 GMT 9