The language of love.  And its byproducts.
March 22, 2012

A couple weeks ago, we purchased a French book about the human body for Charlotte.  Words relative to the body and getting dressed are my weakest suit in French so I was hoping that a book about the human body would be fun for both of us.

The book I chose, L’imagerie du corps humain, is a little over Charlotte’s head.  The idea of a skeleton is still too abstract for her, much less the digestive system.  So at this point, the book benefits me more than it does her.

BUT!  But there is one part that she finds endlessly fascinating and that is the part that illustrates and describes how babies are made (sperm and egg type stuff, there isn’t any porn or anything), how they grow in utero, what happens when a baby is born, and how infants grow.

She. Is. Obsessed.


Also: obsessed with making faces anytime I pull out the camera.

In the interest of full disclosure, although I talk very openly about our bodies and their functions (reproduction included) (HELLO, I have a blog that is basically a shrine to my spawn, OF COURSE I TALK ABOUT REPRODUCTION), I also operate on a sort of “I’ll tell her when she gives a shit” policy for most of this stuff.

As a result, this is the first time that Charlotte’s anatomy lessons regarding pregnancy have extended beyond her birth story.  She simply isn’t that familiar with the process of baby-making and baby-baking beyond a general awareness that sometimes women around her explode in the center and then pop out a squalling infant and then miraculously shrink back to a normal size.  And the fact that this is new to her AND FASCINATING TO HER has provided us with a rather…unexpected…problem.

That is, Charlotte now knows everything I could ever want her to know about reproduction – but she only knows it in French.  And I am no longer even ALLOWED to talk to her about things like sperm and ovaries in English.

Seriously, I think she’s trying to slowly kill every brain cell I have left.

** Charlotte is two years and eight months old.

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  1. By missjoules on March 22, 2012

    On a plus side, this could keep some rather embarrassing conversations fairly private. Who knows when/where she will think up her next VERY IMPORTANT and VERY LOUD question regarding reproduction!

  2. By Cambria on March 22, 2012

    you have no idea how timely this post is… 15 minutes a go Hadley asked “how do babies get in mommies tummies?“

  3. By Sara on March 22, 2012

    This made me laugh out loud! I love it. Where do you get your French books for Char? I’ve been scouring bookstores to no avail. Thanks!

  4. By Sarah Christensen on March 22, 2012

    Sara - Okay, so a few different places.  There is a children’s bookstore (Children’s Book World, I think was the name) on Pico in LA that sells a small selection of French books - and you can special order from them too, but I tried that and the woman never called or e-mailed back despite me trying repeatedly so I’m not sure how effective special ordering is unless you’re in the store on the same day that the woman who deals with French publishers is in the store.  We got our first few books there.

    We found a few online at Ebay (MaryGoldBooks in particular).  We’ve been slowly buying up the books in the l’imagerie series used at Abebooks, Amazon, or Better World Books depending on who has the best prices.

    We also found a used French bookseller in Toronto named Isabelle.  If you want her e-mail address let me know and I’ll pass it along.  We spent about $65 on books and about $35 on shipping, which sounds like alot, but it worked out to being around $10 a book.  That said, we bought a children’s encyclopedia and a few large treasuries, which were both more expensive and heavier to ship.  Next time we purchase from her, we’ll probably stick to more single storybooks and the shipping will likely be a little less.  On this note, there is also a used bookseller in New Orleans who sells French children’s books periodically, but our correspondence really fell apart when Mardi Gras happened so I don’t know if that’s going to be a reliable option for us yet, but again if you want her info let me know and I’ll pass it along.  A few weeks ago there was also a French book fair held at the French preschool that Charlotte will attend part-time (two mornings a week) this fall, and we ordered a few books there - one from a series we’re already familiar with, a large illustrated book of poems, a rhyming counting book, an audio treasury, etc.  Those haven’t arrived yet - fingers crossed for next week.

    We also found a blog reader who is sending us her used French children’s books that her children have outgrown, which is really cool.  I can’t wait to see them.

    And, last but far from least, we are engaged in book exchanges with two blog readers - one who lives in Paris and another who lives in Switzerland.  We send out a couple children’s books in English and they send back books in French.  So far, this arrangement has been the best one for finding quality French books.  They’re books we’d never have found on our own, and we’ve loved ALL of them.  We were just talking yesterday about how much we love the book exchanges because it’s always a surprise, picking out the books to send is really fun, and hopefully it will build a long-term relationship with people abroad.

    When I put it all out in a list, it sounds like a lot of books.  We probably have about thirty French children’s books right now, maybe a little less, and it’s a good mix.  We probably won’t be adding any other French children’s books to our collection outside of the book exchanges this year.  We’ve also been working with someone to translate a few of our well-loved English books to French so that we can read them in both.  And we’ve hired a native francophone woman to come by one morning a week to play with and speak French with Charlotte - and this week she starts making recordings of herself reading stories and books in French.  This will help me on my pronunciation and just overall intonation while reading these books to Charlotte and also hopefully will be fun for Charlotte to listen to in the car and what-not.

  5. By Sarah Christensen on March 22, 2012

    MissJoules - VERY TRUE!  The other day when we were out somewhere she suddenly blurted out “so the sperm fertilizes the egg and that makes a zygote and it grows into a baby!“ but the words sperm, fertilize, egg, and zygote were all in French.

    People must think we’re crazy =P

  6. By on March 22, 2012

    Some other good french book sources:

    Librairie du Soleil (Ottawa) and Babar (Montreal) are two fantastic french book stores but they don’t seem to have a website.

    I LOVE the idea of book exchanges! Maybe we’ll try that someday….

    There’s also some good french music out there. I really like Putumayo Kids French Playground. I also like Rondes et chansons de toujours and Berceuses et comptines des tout-petits. Marie-Michele Desrosiers sings some nice calm songs, even though they’re not specifically for kids….

  7. By Sarah Christensen on March 22, 2012

    OOH!  Also, Les Petits Livres is sort of like a rental/library service with French books.  I haven’t tried it out yet, but we’ll probably sign up when Charlotte starts learning to read in French.  The French preschool also has a small library of French children’s books that we can check out once she’s enrolled, and our local Alliance Francaise has a library with a children’s section too.  Thelre’s also an Alliance Francaise in Orange County that has a once-monthly storytime for school-age kids.

    And on the topic of music, we only have one French CD for kids right now (from the woman in Switzerland) - it’s Minicroche Protege La Planete.  TWO THUMBS UP, that.  We listen to it

    MC - The book exchange thing is AWESOME!  I love it!  I’m really really behind for March right now lol but it’s really awesome.

  8. By tara pollard pakosta on March 23, 2012

    that’s flippin’ hilarious!
    at least she can’t go tell all her playmates all about it, because some moms might not think it’s cool for her to know all that “stuff” lol!!! too funny!

    that’s funny too about the comment you left on my blog about your sister being taller than you and then you passed her up in later years. I’m 10 months younger than my sister and I passed her up around 10 years old and I am STILL TALLER by about 4” than she is! ha ha!!!!!  I for some reason though, hope my oldest one is always an inch taller than my younger, because in MOST things, my younger one always is just a BIT better at EVERYTHING she does (swimming, writing, photography etc.) and it just annoys the heck out of my older one!
    ha ha!

  9. By on March 23, 2012

    This is funny, this month’s book I bought for you just yesterday is one from the Imagerie series and I sent it out this morning with a card banging on about the greatness of the Imagerie books! They’re a staple on most French bookshelves! I hope you enjoy the one I’ve sent, it’s not the Corps Humain :-) I’m off to collect Noé shortly. We’re having great fun discovering the books you’ve sent us and he’s so excited to be learning new words through story time. Have a lovely weekend!

  10. By on March 23, 2012

    Kill those cells? Or teach them better french? I think Charlotte has a hidden agenda here ;)

  11. By on March 23, 2012

    Hi Sarah,

    Just wanted to let you know that I think it’s great that you are tackling this subject at a young age. I don’t even remember when my parents had the talk with me (also I had two older sisters, so I’m sure they contributed), but it was young enough that I was not embarrassed, and I know the basic facts before encountering spurious versions on the playground. To me, the most stunning revelation later on was that parents did this not JUST when they wanted to make a baby. :) The book that we had that I still remember fondly, was “Where did I come from?“ which has excellent anatomically accurate and accessible chubby cartoony illustrations, accompanied by a sperm in a top hat holding a rose on the back page.

  12. By Alicia S. on March 24, 2012

    I find that it’s difficult for me to really get into reading the Spanish stories we borrow from the library because I’m so choppy in the way that I speak it myself. (I took Spanish in high school; then for maybe six months or so my husband and I did the Rosetta Stone series together and I listened to those Learn Spanish In Your Car Cds around the house right after Matthew was born - which was four years ago now - so I am definitely not fluent.) Even if I have the pronunciation right, I don’t KNOW that I have it right, you know?

    And I hate that I’m like this, but I also feel kind of awkward when we’re out and he’s all excited to shout something like… ‘Look! Mommy! That comida looks sabroso. And also… I mean, Y also, it’s rojo too! Right? Right?’ And I’m thinking to myself: Wait… is it comida or comido? And don’t you change it so that the gender agrees? And? And? And?… It’s silly, but I feel like if I congratulate him on remembering those words—which I always do—that I’ll have half the room look at me like I’m an idiot for teaching my son the wrong way to say them.

  13. By on March 24, 2012

    I absolutely love all of the posts about Charlotte and French—and it seems to me you solved to problem of mortifying conversations in line at the bank!  We don’t have a child yet but really hope to do something similar in regards to French with our own children so these posts are really helpful since to the best of my knowledge there aren’t a ton of resources online for a non-native speaker teaching their child a foreign language.  I am excited to check out the resources you listed above. 

    I am curious what types of things you do for your own language skills, do you listen to any podcasts or read any “grown-up” things etc.?  If so do you mind sharing?  I have a hard time reading things like the news—but honestly I have a hard time in English because I don’t keep up with it and I don’t know the back stories to most of it.  When I lived in France I used to read Agatha Christie books in French all of the time—our dinky little library had 90% books that were translated from English and 10% were more in the classics range like Marcel Pagnol which is sad since I don’t have any modern authors to fall back on to hunt down now.


  14. By Sarah Christensen on March 24, 2012

    Nicole - Okay, so I do a few things, mostly during naptime.  First, I watch cartoons.  It sounds silly, but cartoons for kids have age-appropriate vocabulary and simple grammar and it’s helpful for me.  Second, I listen to radio broadcasts, usually not about news so much as human interest stories and that sort of thing.  Third, I listen to music, especially music for kids like nursery rhymes, and music that is topping the charts at the moment.  Fourth, I study.  Alot.  I make at least one park date a week where Charlotte plays and I study a grammar or vocabulary set - and I study during a few naptimes a week, usually no more than twenty minutes at a pop.  When I study a new concept, I listen to examples of it online, memorize as much as I can, then spend a week or two putting it into practice before moving on.  It isn’t until I use it that I cement it in my brain.  After spending three weeks on something, you get pretty reasonable at it.  Fifth, I read - and if I can, I read with audio to work on my pronunciation.  Sixth, I make lists.  I keep a piece of paper and a pen with me on walks, hikes, when we’re in the yard, at the botanical gardens, etc. and I write down when I don’t know how to say something - be it a word or an idea.  Every few days I look up the answers on my list.  Seventh, I keep French dictionaries (French-French and French-English) handy at all times.  One in the car.  One on the coffee table.  Eighth, I keep a journal with Charlotte.  A few times a week, she narrates to me what she’s been doing.  I write it down in English and then we talk about it and write it all down in French.  Then she draws pictures of it.  Ninth, I plan circles and story times in French as well as in English.  Right now, we have two morning circles a week in French and the other three are in English.  It takes more work for me to prepare them in French - they’re shorter, more filled with mistakes, and harder to pull off.  We read more books and do less storytelling right now because I’m just better at the books than I am at remembering how to say “and then the knight slew the dragon” lol.  But the work pays off.  And tenth, I look for other French speakers.  I don’t have much luck here, and when I do they mostly want to speak English with me, but I keep trying.  Right now, I only succeed here about once a month but hopefully when Charlotte starts at the French preschool in the fall that will increase.  We’ll see!

  15. By Maricris @ SittingAround on March 25, 2012

    Oh I so hate questions like that. I don’t know what to say. By the way, Charlotte is so cute! :-)





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