Are we the same in a second language?
Husband and I met in 1995 in France. As my French was better than his English at the time, and as we were in France, we spoke French together. We were friends and then we were other and now we're married and all that in French. Enter children.
According to research and even logic (mine, at any rate), the most effective way to raise children bilingually is the one person-one language program. Each parent speaks his/her native language to the kids. Some people try the in/out of the house thing - as in Language 1 (the minority language) at home and Language 2 (the language of the country) everywhere else but that only works if everyone can speak both languages and it usually breaks down when the kids get to that Age. You know, that Age where they want to be cool and, for a while at least (hopefully), being cool means being like everyone else. So, monolingual. When the Age comes, they start speaking only in L2, regardless of the language in which they were addressed. The other problem with speaking a language other than our native language to kids is that mistakes we make (inevitably) and the accent we have (unavoidable) undermine the image of the quintessential parent we want them to have of us for as long as possible.
So, I speak English to the kids always, no exceptions ever. And husband speaks French to them. And we still speak French to each other. And this has worked just fine for the most part. Boy2 started speaking English first and it is still, by far, his dominant language. Which is normal, he spends most of his time with me. This will all change when he goes to preschool next year. My congé parental is up and I've got to go back to work. I don't want to talk about it. Anyway, Boy1 started speaking both languages quite well very early. He mixed them up a bit until we spent two weeks in the US when he was 2 1/2. Since then, no more mix ups. Until now. Remember the huit/wheat conversation? (See Weird conversations post in April.) He's not at the Age yet but he's very aware of the fact that I can speak French. And the huit/wheat thing scared me. It's not an isolated incident. It's becoming a pattern. I, of course, went on a rampage. Cartoons only in English, cassettes and dvds only in English. No using French words. Ask me if you don't know the English word and I'll provide it. I ranted to husband; he needs to hear more English. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.
I suggested we start speaking English together, husband and I, when the kids are around. Husband is much too lazy for that. Oh but ma chérie, your French is so good; bébé, I'm too tired to speak English after work; mon amour, I'll speak English when your family comes to visit. Sweet talking Frenchman. Whatever. Ok, so I would speak English and he would respond in French. We've tried this for a week and it doesn't work. Because I'm not the same person in French that I am in English. Seriously. It was weird. Our conversations were stilted, he didn't laugh when I was funny and he laughed when I was serious. And his English is quite good - it's not because he didn't understand what I was saying. It's because he doesn't get me in English, as a person. Isn't that strange? And does that mean I'm a different me in French? So many questions and still no sign from Mary.