Sylvie - I have been amazed at how quickly my daughter has adjusted to the change in languages, so I don't think you should worry too much about that. It may be different with older children but with toddlers they seem to just accept it. I guess the main thing is to ensure that they are receiving regular exposure to the three languages, so that they are at least passive trilinguals, then the "speaking" part can be activated when they're ready. Probably the most difficult is for you and your husband to adapt to changes, so as long as you are committed it should work very well!
For the first, I pretty much always talk to my daughter in English, including when I have to discipline her in public. To be honest I find this one of the easiest times to speak to her in the ml, because it's totally between me and her and no one else! I don't know why anyone else would need to know what I'm saying...and in any case, I'm sure they can guess from the tone and the expression on my face! So that doesn't bother me at all. Keep in mind that most people look a little bit awkward when another child is being disciplined anyway, so for them it's probably easier if it's in a language they don't understand! It certainly doesn't bother me when I hear other children being disciplined in a language I don't understand.
Regarding when we are with other children, I generally talk to my daughter in ml and repeat for the other children in ML. An issue here is that parents are generally THRILLED for their children to be exposed to English. So they actually encourage me to speak to them in the ml, which is a big advantage. I imagine this would be the case for Spanish too, as it's a "major language".
Overall, as Amy says you may need to develop a thick skin, but generally I find that I don't really care what people think. In any case, if anything, I only ever have positive reactions - literally every doctor, friend, taxi driver and random person on the street I have ever met has made positive comments. The one exception was my mother-in-law, who I overheard saying to a family member that I "was speaking English with the child", as though this was strange. The family member replied that this was a great thing, which shut her up and she's never made a comment since! I think dealing with a "major" (international) language makes things easier because people see it as bringing competencies for the job market later on - it is harder for people dealing with "smaller" languages as unfortunately acquaintances and strangers are less likely to recognize the immense benefits of transmitting these languages.
Nellie, I found a paragraph in my updates where you tell me a little of your background, how you learned French at school (half day French and half day English). I'm curious a little more, how old were you when you started? Did your parents speak any French? When did you feel you were fluent? How about your daughter's school? How do they teach? I find it interesting how different schools do a bilingual curriculum and how they decide on it. My daughter's school does one week English and one week French, but starting from Thursdays. They used to do every other day swapping the language a few years ago, but decided this weekly method is better for learning, which I agree!
Marie and Raquel - thanks to both of you!
Marie - my daughter just had her birthday - I have to update my profile! Re my schooling, let me see. My parents don't speak French (well, my mother did it at school but failed her school leaving exam in it haha! I was 3 when I started and was in a full-time French pre-school (but which had lots of anglophone kids) from 3-5. From 5-7, I went to a normal anglophone school. At 7, I started in a bilingual school where we had half the day in English and half in French (I had special catch-up classes). From 11-13, I went to a full French school (no anglophone children at all). From 14 onwards, I was in a bilingual school where we had French, history-geography, maths and science in French, and English, Spanish, sports and an optional subject (I did German) in English. I also spent 6 months in France at age 15. I would say that I understood everything by a fairly young age but only became properly fluent at 11-12, when I was in the fully French school.
At my daughter's school they have an English teacher and a French teacher, and they alternate throughout the day by 40 minute sessions (supposedly. To be honest, she's only just started and I'm still a little confused!). However, their main aim is to follow the French national curriculum so everything is tailored to that (i.e., the maths is the maths of the French curriculum). The thing is that at this age (3) school has not yet started in English-speaking countries, so I'm not sure how it works when they get older - whether they try to follow the British curriculum for the English or not, for example. I suspect the curricula from English-speaking countries is a little more flexible so their main priority is to follow the French one. Certainly, of the textbooks we were asked to buy, the French ones are far more "academic" and oriented to things like learning to write/trace, whereas the English ones are more playful. I think in France it would be more difficult for a school to alternate languages on a weekly basis because many French parents might be concerned, given the need to ensure adherence to the national curriculum. There is a lot of anxiety around school in France and parents would worry about anything that was too "different", I would imagine - they would worry about their child not being able to reintegrate the general system afterwards. Of course, this is a broad generalisation that I'm making, but of all the bilingual schools I know here, not a single one does 1 week/1 week - they either do both at the same time (meaning both teachers are in the room at the same time), or alternate sessions during the day, or do everything in French with a few extra hours per week of the additional language. So interesting how different things are! I believe that in Canada they also use the 1 week-1 week method a lot in the French immersion schools.
Welcome! We have the same language mix as you: me (anglophone, but also raised to speak French through French schooling), my husband Franco-Belgian, and we were living in Latin America for 2 years (just moved back to France). My husband and I speak French to each other, although he does speak good English and now that we are in France we are gravitating towards speaking more English together. I speak English to my daughter, my husband speaks French and she was getting Spanish from creche.
In my experience, your care arrangements make SUCH a big difference that you should take this into account in deciding on your own language policy. Will your son be attending creche in English? Or will he be home with you or someone else? In our case, despite the total number of hours of exposure being greatest in French, just part-time attendance at a Spanish-speaking creche swung the balance in favour of Spanish for our daughter - after two years, her Spanish was truly excellent and the other two languages were passive (despite us having also hired a part-time French nanny). It seemed that our daughter's language development was very much tied to hearing other children speak the language.
Now we are in France and she has just started school in French and English (a bilingual school, but mostly French-speaking children) - within a few weeks her French has really taken off.
I know your son is very small, but have you thought about what kind of care and, later, schooling, you will have him in (Spain has both British and French schools, as well as Spanish schools, obviously!). That will make a big difference as to what language strategy you may want to adopt in the home.
Well, I think I can say now that my daughter's French (former ml1, now ML) has now caught up with her Spanish (former ML, now ml2). The rapidity with which this has happened has truly been astounding...she is already using quite complex sentences and tenses like the subjunctive. I have no idea how she is compared to other monolingual children her age, but I expect within normal range. What is quite hilarious is the fact that she has picked up several "strict teacher" expressions - "do you want me to get angry?", "it's not you who decides" and "that's prohibited" - all of which make me laugh as they remind me of my own French school days!
As for ml1 (English), it is coming along but she still mostly (95% of the time) speaks to me in ml2 (Spanish). Basically, she speaks French to her father and switches with me to Spanish. The positive side of this is that it means she has understood that she's supposed to switch depending on who she speaks with, which is a lot of progress! And every now and then she says something to me in English - basically, whenever it is not too much effort she will say it in English (so I get a lot of "whys?"!).. So that is something. The great thing is that she is gaining so much more exposure to English - not just at school, but also socially: for instance, the other day I was having coffee with some English-speaking friends and brought her along - she just sat and listened to the conversation for the two hours or so we were there. I'm sure that helps!
As for ml2 (Spanish), I can see elements of it slipping despite my efforts to maintain it. Basically, I can hear her sometimes adapting a French word to make it sound Spanish - basically conjugating a French verb in a Spanish way, if that makes sense. Obviously this is not great, but on the other hand I don't think that it's a disaster either - she's still learning all the languages and is not distinguishing them properly yet. The main thing is that she definitely continues to understand everything in Spanish and she certainly still speaks very well. If her English improves a lot I may try to find ways of increasing her Spanish exposure even more, but English really is my priority - the Spanish is a 'bonus' of sorts as we don't have any family links to it (just the memory of two years spent in Chile!).
This is great Marie! It's so amazing (and wonderful) how she's not at all shy speaking French in front of you (I always refused to speak French in front of my parents!). Do you think you did anything in particular to facilitate this?
What is this Gruffalo book that you speak of, Amy? Maybe I should investigate it for my daughter, although she's two years younger so maybe it should wait!
It's great that the classes are going so well! I bet the student was very impressed with your daughter's command of ml2!
Yes, I was reading the other day about homework and how it can be heavy in CP (even if supposedly it is banned in public schools, but they have a lot of poems to learn, dictations to prepare etc, apparently - Mayken will know more!). I can imagine that this throws up all sorts of questions in a household that has kicked out the majority language, as your daughter is obviously too young to do it totally by herself! I wonder how others handle it - ML homework while trying to stick to something approximating OPOL?
I am really looking forward to moving into our proper apartment, which is closer to the school, and being able to establish a routine that includes book reading. At the moment we do our nightly stories but nothing else - by the time we get our daughter back home from school, it's 6.30-6.45pm and there's barely time to cook and have dinner so that she's in bed at a reasonable time. It will be good when we are closer to the school and can spend some time playing with her, reading etc.
How did it go on Wednesday Amy? I'm very happy with the student who has been taking care of my daughter on Wednesday afternoons - unfortunately she is only staying in Paris until December so we will have to find a new one then! Is yours doing a class with your daughter or how is it working? In my case she is picking her up from school and then spending the afternoon with her, integrating learning activities into it all. As we are in a very small temporary apartment they have been going to the park and cafés for the moment!
Probably the mother of the girl in your class was so happy to hear you speak English but shy, as you say! But I bet she'll be thrilled if you make the first move!
Amy this is great news! Let us know how it goes with the student. Regular lessons with someone other than you can only be of help! I also forgot to mention to you (you may already know) that there is a Facebook group called "English-speaking Mums in Paris - Nanny search". It's fairly new but I see there are both candidates and families posting requests - not just for full-time care, but also for occasional babysitting - and not just in Paris but also in the "suburbs". So it might also be worth you signing up to that just in case.
What will your daughter be doing on Wednesday afternoons now - do you work then? Or is she taken care of by the same person who takes care of your little one on those days? Today is the second Wednesday that my daughter will be picked up after school by the agency nanny (also a student - from Argentina). I spent some time with them last week to help get her settled, and it went very well: my daughter liked her very much ("es mi amiga!") and the nanny was very sweet with her and gently oriented her towards using vocabulary and expressing herself without being too "teacherly" or correcting grammatical errors directly. Very much the play-based approach that they advised in the British Council course! Of course, it helped that it was Spanish, so my daughter had been looking very much forward to it (the adaptation to school has not been easy...cries every morning and asking me "when does Spanish school start?". Poor little thing!).
Lastly, that's wonderful about the English-speaking child in your daughter's class! I'm willing to bet that her parents will also be keen for them to become friends and speak in English together, so don't hesitate to approach them and suggest play-dates!
Agree with Amy - it's messy, and in the end the child decides!
We decided to go with plain "papa" and "maman" at the beginning, because my daughter was born in France and my husband felt more comfortable with papa, and I didn't really care, especially as it's sometimes used in English anyway ("papa", not "maman" of course!). Given that all the drs, care-givers etc were saying "maman" I just went along with that (I should note that our household language is French). It's the one exception I make when speaking to my daughter - I say "maman" if referring to myself (well, now she is almost 3 I don't need to refer to myself as much in the third person!). Other than that I always speak in English to her.
HOWEVER, as we moved to Latin America when she was 11 months and lived there until very recently, she picked up on "mamá", which is now what she says. This is sometimes mixed with "mami" and "papi", which as Amy said does create a bit of confusion because they mean "grandma" and "grandpa" in French. But generally speaking we just muddle through and it somehow works out.
The one thing is that my mother (Australian) seems incapable of remembering to say "papa", so she often receives blank stares when she uses the term "daddy", and of course "mummy" sounds like "mami".
Overall I think you should go with whatever feels most natural!
Amy - this was such a good update to read! It really sounds as though both your daughters made such progress over the holidays!
What a shame about the agency! Are they having trouble because of where you live? Could you try the other agency? By the way, have you heard about Roaming Schoolhouse? It may be a good option for your daughter. You could contact them and you never know, maybe they could start a course up in your area...be sure to explain your own international background and that you speak native-level English to your children. There is also a British Council course for children who speak English with one parent, but it is very expensive and may be hard for you to get to.
Welcome Zoe! There are several of us here with French and English being used in our families.
Where are you moving to after Mumbai? Just fyi, in case you're not aware, you may want to start thinking about whether or not you want your daughter to attend French schools, whether in France or abroad. You have time, but you may prevaricate on it for a while so it's never too early to think about it! The reason I'm saying this is because (a) if you're going to be abroad, there is an extensive network of French schools around the world, that all follow the same programme (making international moves easier) and are generally a lot cheaper than other international schools or other private schools in the case of Britain, and as your husband is French your daughter would be automatically accepted and (b) it is quite difficult to go from a British or American school to a French one, whereas if you start with a French one, moving to a British school is very possible. French writing in particular is quite difficult so requires a very solid commitment. I would also add that (c) in my experience French people sort of "become French" at school (there are shared methods, a shared culture etc), so if you want your daughter to have a French identity it may be important to consider this. I would be interested in hearing Amy's point of view on this though, as she is the only French person I have ever heard of who didn't do all her schooling in the French system!
Again, you have time, but having an idea about this will help shape your strategy now.
Well, after a week in school the results are the following: my daughter is (already!) speaking basically exclusively in French to my husband, but for some reason she continues to speak Spanish with me. I'm not concerned or worried as I'm already happy that she seems to realise now that she should adapt the language to her interlocutor, and that is already something. Her French is far beyond what we would have expected, with a more extensive vocabulary than we thought. Grammar is ok. I expect she is still a little behind other children her age, and her pronunciation is a bit 'laboured', but she seems happy and proud so that is the main thing.
She has used a few English words with me, mixed into a Spanish sentence, which is something. Her father has actually been away working for much of the past two weeks, so she has had a lot of one-on-one time with me which is probably helping.
However, for the moment (and this is not a bad thing - just a statement) she still clearly feels most comfortable in Spanish. The start to the school year has been more difficult than what I was expecting: Monday drop-off was fine, but it became progressively more difficult throughout the week and by Friday she was screaming and clutching at me. When I pick her up she is quite happy so I don't really understand why she isn't more comfortable with my leaving, even though she was in creche previously and loved it so is used to the separation. Also, every morning she asks me when "Spanish school" is. She was thrilled to see her Spanish babysitters on Wednesday afternoon and then on Saturday. I suspect that beyond it just being a new environment, she also has to get used to a different culture - Latinos are so warm with young children and I'm guessing this is not quite the case in her new school.
One thing I have noticed is a growing tendency to "Frenchify" some Spanish words when talking to me (e.g. she has said "quiero coupar" instead of "quiero cortar" for "I want to cut") - this is one thing I want to watch out for, as it would be a shame for her to lose the Spanish vocab. I'm not quite sure how to deal with it because I don't want to start correcting her Spanish! So I think I will leave it to the babysitters - realistically, that is not such a big deal anyway and probably just part of code-mixing at this young age (she is turning 3 very soon).
Finally, I'm a little disappointed as her class teacher at her new school, who is Anglophone (it is a bilingual school, and she has one teacher for English and another for French), seems to speak both English and French to the children. I understand that this is because most of the children don't speak English at all at this early stage, but I would have preferred for her to stick only with English. As a result, my daughter told me that she has "one teacher who speaks French and English and another who speaks just French". I also get the impression that there are no, or very few, other children in the class with English as one of the home languages (two of them do have Spanish though!). I'm not sure this will create the need to communicate in English that I was hoping for. Having said that, at the very least the fact that some classes are in English, and there is a concerted effort to develop skills in that language, will lead to some extra exposure, which can only be a good thing. And being in a city with many Anglophones is already bearing fruit - I have several friends with bilingual children the same age, so already she is coming into more contact with children for whom switching between the two is "normal".
Mayken and Marie - thanks! Yes it was such a shock to hear her speaking the mls, especially as she has a bit of an accent that I can't define - in French she rolls her 'Rs' in an exaggerated way and in English it's just...well, HER I guess! I'm now trying to pretend I understand whatever she says, even if I have no clue, so as not to destroy her confidence. I guess she needs some time to wrap her mouth around the new sounds! It is certainly an interesting phenomenon to be a witness to.
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Nellie: Adam - will watch the video as soon as I can (living circumstances not permitting right now - we are still in temp accommodation and I can't turn on volume) - looking forward to it!
Sept 22, 2017 5:56:44 GMT 9
Mayken: Skyping with grandma last night had to be cancelled due to technological problems - I needed to talk my mom through a Skype update and her phone battery died. :-(
Sept 25, 2017 20:45:42 GMT 9
Joanna: sorry Mayken...this is sad but funny as I'm sure many skype Grandparents have the same woes !(mine..) For us this weekend: potty training has led to great quality time reading and chatting, and some pretty hilarious ml questions
Sept 26, 2017 6:20:44 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken and Joanna, I can relate! My mother (Grandma) can't seem to get the sound on her computer working so when we Skype, we also have to use the telephone!
Sept 26, 2017 6:36:03 GMT 9
Mayken: Adam, and Joanna, it's good to know we're not alone in this!
Sept 27, 2017 2:46:28 GMT 9
Joanna: Planning a long Christmas minority language visit, so exciting!
Sept 30, 2017 14:46:01 GMT 9
Mayken: Yay! Skype is working again on my mom's tablet, meaning we can skype with ml grandma again!
Oct 2, 2017 23:12:24 GMT 9
Mayken: The other day my mom (monolingual ml) called while my daughter and I were out, so Daddy (monolingual ML) answered. My mom was amazed to find out he isn't monolingual ML any more after all, and praised his active ml ability.
Oct 3, 2017 23:28:39 GMT 9
Joanna: For each day my daughter is exposed to other people speaking English (here in France) I put a little star on the calendar...trying to fill it up!
Oct 8, 2017 3:52:17 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Nice motivating idea, Joanna! And Mayken, thanks for sharing your good news on two fronts!
Oct 9, 2017 7:11:50 GMT 9
Marisa: My daughter won't say number one in Spanish or English, but in German! She loves recognizing the number and saying it out loud... it sounds more like the word 'ice' in English, though, but it's 'eins.' Number 9, however, is 'nueve'. So funny!
Oct 11, 2017 10:33:45 GMT 9
Mayken: My dad's giving Adam's book to his Lithuanian friend's daughter, whose husband is sceptical about their little girl learning German.
Oct 14, 2017 21:10:20 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken, thank you for sharing my book! I hope it can be helpful to them!
Oct 16, 2017 15:57:32 GMT 9
Marisa: Adam, another bilingual monkey is about to be born near me (one of my colleagues is giving birth tomorrow), so I also got her and her husband a copy of your book... this world needs more bilingual kids!
Oct 18, 2017 0:06:43 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Many thanks, Marisa! In my humble opinion, more bilingual kids = more empathy in the world = a more peaceful planet.
Oct 18, 2017 7:33:04 GMT 9