So my daughter is due in August and I'm in kind of a unique spot (I think?) with bilingual stuff. Here are the details:
I'm an English teacher at a French lycée in the US. This means that I teach in English but my students (6th-12th grade) take all other classes in French and follow the French national curriculum.
I've been teaching there for about 7 years now and spoke no French when I started. After a lesson with a great teacher once per week over that time frame, my French is actually pretty good now. Mostly easy conversation with native speakers and a decent reading level if anything, lacking area-specific vocab as I imagine happens to everyone.
I'm planning on speaking to my daughter in French as much as possible, though I know it'll be frustrating at times. The school should also provide a community of connections to supplement with French baby sitters, etc. Not yet sure if we will be able to send her there yet (expensive!).
What I'm seeking are resources and advice about how to work with French and her in this specific situation. Is there a good book about raising a bilingual kid as someone who learned the language as an adult and isn't quite fluent? Obviously speaking to her as much as possible is the main thing, but I'm wondering what else I can read/do/seek out to make this work. My wife isn't a French speaker but was raised by European parents and we'll probably try out some of the "Bringing Up Bebe" ideas - we both loved the book.
Before anything, I'd say to get Adam's book to define your language strategy but also have an accurate idea of how much work it will be.
From what I understand, you'd go for the One Parent One Language (OPOL) strategy, which is the most popular, especially when one of the parents does not speak the other's language.
You can start with OPOL, but be aware that sometimes speaking to the child in the ml is not always enough (my personal experience). You have to live the language.
OPOL works for a lot of people (refer to Adam's book for statistics if you're into them). Personally it didn't work for us, and we went for the Minority Language at Home (ml@h) strategy when my eldest turned 4, and have since had amazing results. My eldest was a passive bilingual and only got round to actually becoming active when we changed our strategy. But this means a lot of commitment since it involves a lifestyle change. (See my guest post at Bilingual Monkeys, in the signature of this post, if you're curious about the extent to which some might have to go to.)
What's really frustrating is that until your child comes of age to properly speak (i.e. around 3), it is very difficult to assess how well you are doing on your bilingual journey. The good news though, is that you can adapt your strategy along the way.
And as to not being a native ml speaker, don't feel to concerned, there are several parents here (Shangzhu , Marie ) who teach a ml language without having a native level.
***"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" - Oscar Wilde***
Hi and welcome! Well, Amy has already told you the basics, so let me just add that I'm also one of those non-native parents and looking for information online and reading articles saying it was okay for non-native parents to raise their children bilingual in their 2nd -or 3rd, 4th...- helped get me on board. I knew someone who had done it already, but she could easily pass as a native speaker, which made me think it wasn't an option for me. It was my husband who insisted we could do it -he even got on board even though his command of the ml was even more lacking-. That was when I googled it and found different articles saying it could only benefit the child to go ahead and speak our 2nd language to our children, and here we are, 4 years and lots of concerns, plans, worrying, ups and downs... later, with a daughter whose ml is better than her ML -not for long, though- and a baby who's too little to speak yet.
It's a lot of work, but if it matters to you, you'll make it happen.
Thanks, Raquel! Sounds like we found the exact same articles regarding the "you can't hurt them" idea, at least early on. I'm going to look at the book suggested here and perhaps come back to you as a resource once we start in! Do both you and your partner speak the ml to your daughter? Would love to hear any tips and tricks you've found success with. Thanks!
Hi. It's true, you can teach the language without being native. It is MUCH more difficult though and takes a huge commitment. It sounds like you are at a much higher level than me, as I have only started to learn French recently, less than a year and just through myself trying to teach the kids as I learn. The best way for kids to learn is through repetition and everyday activities. And with my kids, they seem to pick it up!
I was lucky, though, because in January my daughter started French school so is taught every other week in French and the other English. My son has picked up quite a lot and he is 3, and has not started yet. But he will say a lot of French words and phrases. My daughter, at first, only spoke French when I would ask her many times to repeat the word because I knew she knew it in French. Now we have a French au pair, which I think is the BEST way if you are not a native speaker. As long as you have an extra room, then you can get an au pair. My daughter thinks the au pair does not speak English because I told her this. So from day one, she spoke French to the au pair. I was amazed. And today she had a play date with a French speaker in her class, who does not know English yet. The entire two hours, they played and spoke in FRENCH. I was amazed. It was back and forth conversation between the two. My tips for teaching the second language when you are not native yourself:
1. Speak as much as you can in French. Do not speak in English, unless you do not know how to say something. So for example, while you change the baby's diaper, you can tell the baby what you are doing in French "I am changing your diaper and now I am putting your trousers on." You can touch their feet to say "These are your feet." In French. When you are walking by things, you can point and say "Car, Cat, Tree etc" in French as you pass them. I am sure you already know this, but thought to mention it just in case.
2. If you can, hire a French babysitter/nanny once a week or more if you are able to or even better a live-in au pair. This will let your daughter hear the language from a native speaker. I think you could get by not doing this until your daughter is 2. But make sure they are aware, it's French speaking ONLY. Even when you converse with them, make it French. Try to meet other French friends for your daughter. The more native French speakers in her life the better, so she can learn proper pronunciation and broader vocabulary/complex sentences as she gets older.
3. Play French music when she is a baby. There are loads you can find on iTunes. Buy French books to read. You are lucky if you are able to do this. I am confused about the reading and pronunciation for most words, so I can not. I however, bought LOADS of books and have our au pair read them to her. We also do a book exchange with a French friend. We trade our English books for her French ones once a week (7 books a week).
4. Buy French DVDs and YouTube has loads of cartoons, nursery songs etc. I understand you may want to wait until your daughter is at least two to watch TV. This is extremely helpful though for keeping up their language learning and interest. It helps with the repetition and learning of words. Especially shows like Papa Pig in French, T'choupi, Petite Ours.
5. Flash cards to help learn vocabulary. You can make your own by printing off online or cutting magazine pics out. I did this after we went through all the French flash cards available for kids. You can even just use English picture flash cards (free online) and say the words in French instead of English.
I even use the flash cards by combining them with books. So for example, she has a book that talks about the bear's day from morning until night. So I printed out flash cards that went over the day: Wake up, brush teeth, eat breakfast, go to school, play, etc. So she went over flash cards with the au pair, then the au pair read the story while my daughter had the cards. When they got to different parts of the story, such as brushing teeth, my daughter would say "Brush teeth" in French and pull the card out. She is five, so we kept it simple to 5 cards per book or it would be too many. This keeps her engaged and she likes it.
I think these are all the tips I have that I have done. If you have any questions, please let me know! Good luck! Your daughter will thank you when she is older!
Sounds like we found the exact same articles regarding the "you can't hurt them" idea, at least early on.
Did you read anything saying it could hurt them if we keep speaking in our second language when they're older?
I'm going to look at the book suggested here and perhaps come back to you as a resource once we start in!
Sure, I'd love to help in any way I can, but I think you'll have most of your questions answered when you read this book and more.
Do both you and your partner speak the ml to your daughter?
Would love to hear any tips and tricks you've found success with. Thanks!
I feel like we're still playing it by ear, but what we did from the beginning and worked (you may want to read Amy's post on "kicking the ML out of their home") was have all their things at home in the minority language: no toys, books, songs, TV or anything else in the ML. We don't even use Spanish words when we don't know an English word; we either say it in a different way or tell them mommy/daddy has to look for the right word, and we look it up (I love the Wordreference app on my cell). We also had a native speaker come home once a week for exposure to a real person -not just TV- who speaks English natively. If you can find playgroups (we couldn't) or any activities in the ml, that would be good too.
I'd also love to hear all about your journey, what you're planning on doing, etc... Just because we've been doing this a bit longer doesn't mean we can't learn from you too.
It's great that you are preparing ahead of time! You are in a great position to network with French speaking families and other French speaking teachers! Remember that you don't need to do this all by yourself! I find that the more I talk about my bilingual journey with friends, the more opportunities arise. Also babies are only using 1-3 word sentences for a while, so you have a good 2 years to improve your own level and find them some French speaking friends to play with!
Love the book "Small Talk" by Lathey Highly, recommend you have a look.
Here are some of my favorite French books: Anything from the collection "lou et mouf" from Jeanne Ashbé Mon square animé/mon jardin animé or any other book from this collection from Nathan publisher
Now is a good time to learn some nursery rhymes. Au clair de la lune and à La claire fontaine are some classical ones (I got the 20 chansons et comptines du petit ours brun for our son, available on iTunes) but of course they are all available on YouTube.
Finally I found that watching children's TV programs on YouTube has helped me greatly with "baby talk" in Mandarin. There are a few children French book reading channels on YouTube.
Amy: Beautiful video Adam...and so true, as always! :). You enjoy your hiatus, and we look forward to reading you again in August! Otsukaresama deshita (thank you for your hard work)!
Jul 1, 2017 5:03:26 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter's ML report card has the same percentage of A's as the ml one but surprisingly the non-A's are not in the same categories. Anyway, she's off to grade 2 at the bilingual school! (After well-deserved and ml-rich holidays!)
Jul 1, 2017 5:12:01 GMT 9
Nellie: Congratulations to your daughter Mayken!
Jul 3, 2017 9:57:10 GMT 9
Wojtek: Back from journey from Croatia. It wasn't English speaking country but ... I was with my daughter for the whole 2 weeks 24/7!
Jul 8, 2017 19:04:43 GMT 9
Wojtek: Being all day with daughter makes really difference! She spoke definitely more and I had more chance to correct her, suggest better phrases, etc. That was great!
Jul 8, 2017 19:08:01 GMT 9
Mayken: Wojtek, a lot of one-on-one time is one of the perks of holidays, no matter where.
Jul 9, 2017 19:55:27 GMT 9
Amy: Baby seems to pick up a lot of ml2! Yeaterday she surprised me answering back "whyyyy?" and this morning when asked how she was she replied "very well"!! <3 Beautiful moments of our bilingual journey <3
Jul 10, 2017 19:21:02 GMT 9