I have 3 kids and the youngest is 2. The older two started learning French at age 4 and 3 when English was already established. The youngest has been hearing French since she was a newborn. She has not heard as much French as English, as both parents do not speak French, however we have had an au pair most of the time or outside French help, so she has heard enough French to pick it up. She understands it and I would say she speaks 80% English and 20% French to me. She mixes up the language and uses whatever word she prefers to use. I wonder if she understands it's two separate languages yet or if she knows I do not really speak it. What age do they start to realise? I assume by at least age 3?
She will begin French PS in September 2022. I can not believe it! Once she starts school she will get a lot more French and hopefully she will start to understand to separate it more. I am a little confused what to do because when she says words to me in French, I want to encourage it, so I just repeat what she is saying...but then I also do not want her to keep mixing the languages up because I only speak English. And I also do not want to repeat the words she says in French back in English, as I do not want her to feel like she is wrong. I accidentally did that once when she put her hat on and said it in French. I did not realise that is what she was saying and told her Hat and then she repeated back hat. Then I googled the word Hat in French and realised oops she was telling me hat in French. After that I started to just repeat back to her what she says in French. At least my husband and I know some French so we can understand what she is saying when she uses French words for water, hat etc.
Hi Marie! I wouldn't worry much about this. When my oldest was a baby, I used to pronounce her name in the ml, but then worried she would get confused and not know what her name was, so I started saying it in the ML. With my youngest, I knew kids get used to just about anything, and so I've always pronounced his name in the ml, ML speakers say it in the ML and he accepts it as normal. Kids accept the world around them as it is and adapt.
I don't think there's a certain age at which kids stop mixing up languages. My daughter started mixing up both when she was 1, then from age 2 to 3 only spoke in the ml, and it wasn't until she wanted to communicate with other kids, who only spoke the ML, that she started speaking this language. My son, on the other hand, always spoke both. When he was 16 months old, he would say "yes" to me and "sí" (=yes) to my mom. I thought it was just chance, but it wasn't. Then, when he was 3, being on lockdown, he started forgetting the ML. Now that he's 5, he usually speaks in the language he's spoken in, but he knows who he can mix languages with. My point is that every child is different. It depends on what they want: children who're only interested in communicating with their parents, like my daughter, will only speak their parents' language until they want to communicate with someone else. Children who are only interested in communicating with kids their age, will speak whatever language those friends speak, etc...
It all depends on what you want to achieve: if you want your daughter to speak only English to you, then all English is the way to go. If you think she won't have enough French exposure, then allowing some extra French with you may help. The beauty of all this is that you can always make a change and start doing things differently, and your kids will adapt to this change too.
Oh I wish she could speak French to me always, lol. But I do not speak it or understand most of it! I understand a few words. Sometimes I look up words I think she might be saying to figure it out or my children will tell me if they are there when she says it. I know, I should really learn French. Ideally, she would speak French with her siblings and the au pair until she starts school. Then she will speak French at school as well. What you say makes sense. My son had many friends that favoured speaking French, so this benefited him in that he would often play in French with them. They now speak English as well depending who they are playing with. Where as my eldest daughter has friends that favour English. She rarely plays with her friends in French. But they do speak French sometimes (the ones that come from French families). My youngest will start at the French school, but I already know a few kids starting with her come from English speaking families, so I am hoping my daughter befriends the French kids so she will want to speak French. If they only make friends with the English kids early on, they do not feel the need to speak French and just stick with the English speakers. Once she starts school, I think it will finally be the time for me to start learning French!
I will try not to worry her mixing the languages. I just feel a little bad like maybe she is confused. But I know I should not worry, that with time it will sort itself out.
Marie, I think that as long as you can keep having au-pairs at home and sending your kids to a bilingual school, your kids will continue to speak French better and better as they grow up. I think your learning French would be nice so that you can understand them and be a part of that side of their lives, but I think their need and exposure to French is covered with school and the different au-pairs.
If you want to start learning French, why wait for your youngest to start school? If you want her to befriend French-speaking children, she's more likely to do so if she favors French herself. Just a thought
Many thanks Raquel. I hope you had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! The reason I am waiting until she starts school is because I just have too much on my plate with 3 kids and a dog. I do not know how some people can have more kids and juggle everything! At the moment, she is still mixing the languages and using French words and English words, but I have accepted that she will eventually learn. I also suspect she uses whatever word she finds easiest to say. At least when she starts French school she will be off to a good start and understand a lot. We will continue getting the au pairs...it makes a huge difference for sure.
Just to give a quick update, my youngest is still using French with me sometimes. I usually know what she is saying, but I have had to use google translate some of the time. I always pretend to understand what she is saying though, as I do not want her to get frustrated. She mostly speaks English with me of course, but more and more French words come up. She also speaks both languages to the au pair. I wonder if we will need to get the next au pair to pretend she does not understand her English? This would encourage her to speak only French to her perhaps? Or do you think it will just sort itself out when she starts French school in September?
She also speaks both languages to the au pair. I wonder if we will need to get the next au pair to pretend she does not understand her English? This would encourage her to speak only French to her perhaps?
Definitely! It goes to "need". If the au pairs understand English too, she doesn't really need to speak French, unless she wants to. But if they only understand French, she'll have to speak it if she wants to be understood. I still ask my kids to repeat what they're saying, as if I couldn't understand it, whenever they use any Spanish word with me.
Yes, 100%, I will make sure my next au pair does not speak English, as my older two kids can translate and I want my youngest to have the need. She is only 3, so I am not too worried, however, she does not speak much French to the au pair. She understands everything and says the odd French words (even to me). Some words she has used the French word and never the English. But when speaking sentences it is always in English. Our current au pair is amazing and only speaks to her in French, but she understands all English and I never told her to pretend not to understand. But also, I thought it is not needed since my youngest was only 2 when she came, starting French nursery so I thought to just leave it. I am sure we will manage as we did with the older two (at later ages!). But I always hear about children who are in French schools and do not speak French. I just met up with some old friends that moved abroad and said there are many kids in the French Lycee abroad that do not even speak French! I am not sure how they manage at school. It is crazy to think, but I see it in my children's bilingual school so I am not surprised.
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Jan 6, 2023 20:02:18 GMT 9