Shuh wee ee-cee!
November 10, 2011

I’ve been speaking French to Charlotte from the day I found out she was in my belly.  Not always.  Not every day.  But certainly with frequency.  And over the past few months it’s become apparent that Charlotte understands my French – but she never speaks it.

Allons-y au parc, I say, let’s go to the park, and she runs to the front door and puts on her boots.  Devons-nous faire une promenade?, I ask, should we take a walk?, and she says YES MOMMA!  WALKING!  RIGHT NOW!  Porte-moi un autre livre, I demand, bring me another book, and she runs off looking for another book.

But she never speaks it.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday I popped a load of laundry into the washing machine and when I came back inside, I called out for Charlotte.  Where are you, sweetheart?, I asked.

SHUH WEE EE-CEE!, she yelled back.  Je suis ici.  I’m here.

Ou est ici?, I asked.  Where’s here?

LA SHAWN-BRUH!, she answered.  La chambre.  The bedroom.

I would have died of happiness on the spot, but a few seconds later I saw a squirrel outside the window.  Eager to hear a little more French fall from my daughter’s lips, I pointed and said TIENS, regarde, ma belle, un écureil!  HEY look, cutie pie, a squirrel!, Charlotte wrinkled up her nose and threw me a look of utter disgust.  NO MOMMA!, she screamed.  NO TALKING, NO TALKING LIKE THIS!  THIS IS SO BAD!

Well.  C’est la vie.  C’était bien tant que ça a duré.  Such is life.  It was nice while it lasted.

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  1. By Gracia on November 10, 2011

    Don’t give up, please! Bilinguism is such a gift!
    As the (future) parent of (future) trilingual kids, I wish more people made an effort to teach the languages they know to their children. Knowing two languages allows them to develop so many skills, not only speech-related.
    Do you read/sing together in French? I don’t know how much “screen time” Charlotte gets, but maybe -if you’re ok with it- letting her watch some children’s program in French would be an easy way to make her understand that this is not just a silly way momma speaks, it’s actually something useful to know because then you can understand what other people are saying.

    Anyway, even if you decide to give up, you can always be there to help if she ever decides to try and learn on her own terms, which is a lot more many families can offer their kids :)

  2. By on November 10, 2011

    aw. how cute !
    petite Charlotte a tellement de chance d’avoir une maman et un papa qui lui apprennent tant de choses !

  3. By Heather on November 10, 2011

    I think that’s awesome that she is picking up on another language. That will be such a gift to her as she gets older.

  4. By on November 10, 2011

    Awww! My husband wants to speak to our children exclusively in french.  I took it all through high school and two semesters in college and it just never clicked. :( My husband on the other hand sips into french as a default when he’s drunk or tired and he’s not even a native french speaker. How is that fair?
    I wonder how she would react if you spent the entire day speaking only french.

  5. By on November 10, 2011

    Oh I bet that made you melt. I’ve always talked to my daughter in German. My brother lived in Germany for 17 years and married a German. My Charlotte has always loved listening to Tante Babsi speak. Since we live in Texas, we’ve been introducing her to Spanish as well.

  6. By Amira on November 10, 2011

    tres bien!!

    Bi-(or multi)-lingualism is a gift!

  7. By Jillian on November 10, 2011

    I had NO idea you spoke French.  Must’ve been some posts I’ve missed in the past…

    I’m a French teacher, it was my major.  I really want to speak French with my kids some day. 

    Are you a native speaker, do you learn it in school?

  8. By Karen on November 10, 2011

    We’ve been using quite a bit of Spanish with Eli, although I’ve backed off a little as he is a bit speech delayed right now. I dream of the thrill it will be the first time I hear him speak in Spanish (Heck- who am I kidding hearing him speak in English will also be nice!) I like that he seems to understand it and he is comfortable when we visit Spanish-only homes of friends. Charlotte will come around very soon! Does Donald speak French at all? What about other people in your lives?

  9. By tara pollard pakosta on November 10, 2011

    that’s awesome!
    but I say KEEP SPEAKING IT TO HER MORE AND MORE! it would be so wonderful for her to know more than one language! I love it!

  10. By on November 11, 2011

    Bravo Charlotte !!!
    Félicitations, c’est courageux de ta part de lui apprendre une autre langue.
    Allez les filles !!!

    I’m trying to teach a little english to my young daughter, but it’s not working that much

  11. By Sarah Christensen on November 12, 2011

    Virginie - I wish you lived here!  I would HAPPILY speak English to someone’s kid in exchange for a little native French =)

    Jillian - I’m not a native speaker.  I heard French off and on growing up and later I lived in Provence.  If I hadn’t met Donald, I don’t think I would have moved back.  I have a brother and sister who live in the German speaking part of Switzerland and I think chances are that I would have moved into the French part and stayed there - close to family, close to a variety of languages.  Language is my one great academic strength - I’m not really interested in math or particularly great at science and goodness knows I ignore every rule of English grammar I can when I write, but I love being surrounded by different languages and as long as I have opportunities to practice I pick them up quickly.

    Karen - Donald understands some, but doesn’t speak it really at all.  When we were pregnant, he promised to take a few classes so that he could help me stage French night once a week, but that hasn’t happened yet.  We’ve also toyed with the idea of opening our home to a French college student - free board in exchange for speaking the language with us.  That would probably help him, no?

    Kimberly - I’m so jealous!  My sister and my mother are both German fluent, but I’m not.  I went to German school as a kid and my parents spoke it at home off and on, and I can pick it up easily now in a classroom, but I just never stuck with it long enough to take hold.  I keep thinking that I should really just make the effort with German because Charlotte is already exposed to alot of French and Spanish and it would be cool to expose her to a little German and a little Farsi too - but I’m just not that strong in either of those and I have no idea where to turn to make those happen lol.

    Emilie - MERCI! =)

    Gracia - Right now I sing songs with Charlotte in French and Spanish.  I also have a bunch of Richard Scarry vocab books that I’ve written French and Spanish words into so that we say all of them together, which has helped strengthen her vocabulary.  I speak it to her casually too and lately have been working on trying to have one full French day each week, but it’s something I struggle with because it’s so easy to slip back into English and it’s become apparent in the last six months or so that my French vocab does not cover alot of the things two-year-olds are curious about.  Starting out, I could hold a deep conversation about rock climbing, but didn’t know how to say slide, once upon a time, or walrus.

    Recently, I’ve been looking for native francophones who can come to our home and just play with us and speak French with us a few hours a week (and probably help me find quality children’s books to read to her, and help me better learn how to tell stories and sing songs in French) without charging us an arm and a leg.  We’ve only had one nibble so far, which is frustrating, but we’re hopeful that sometime in the next few months things will pan out =)

  12. By Karen on November 12, 2011

    An easy way to provide books for Charlotte in French is to join They have from pre-readers and alphabet activities through to about grade 6 in Spanish, English, and French. The books you can print off, or choose the type of membership where you read them on the computer. There are also a lot of different worksheets and activities with each book if you want to use them. Of course they aren’t as good as classic children’s lit, but they aren’t Dick and Jane either. Some are very endearing , with good illustrations, and there is a large amount of nonfiction there too. I’ve used this resource as a bilingual and ESL teacher and later to tutor the kids in my neighborhood that were struggling in school.





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