Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Qui suis-je?

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.

21 comments:

charlie said...

Did somebody call?
(signed) Mary

beth said...

What language do you dream in? I would love to speak 2 languages - afterall, I am still trying to master the English language - give my numbers any day over grammar and spelling! Unfortunatly, I do not have your or Zeb's intellect level!

beth said...

ps - see, I think my last phrase was incorrect - I think I should have said "intelligence level"!

julie said...

My friend who is married to a Swede says that it is much more vulnerable to be in the second language and then when it is serious or they are fighting, neither of them will respond in their 2nd language

zeb said...

I have a solution for your problem each summer send one of the boys over. They would get all the english they need!!!

Nicole said...

Charlie - You're not Mary, you're a former cat who's just playing with me like a piece of string.

Beth - I mostly dream in English unless I'm dreaming about French people and then it's in French. You greatly overestimate Zeb and me...

Zeb - Oh BELIEVE me, when they hit the Age, you'll be seeing a lot more of them.

Julie - I've told husband that before after arguments - and he doesn't believe me. He says my 'bulldog-like' behavoirs make up for any linguistic shortcomings. I'm not sure what to think about that.

zeb said...

I just hope by then it won't be too late!!! Just think what they will be like after a summer with me!!!!!!!!!

Nicole said...

Zeb - It's never too late. What is up with you and the exclamation points? In person you're not an exclamation point kind of guy...

Lorraine said...

Very interesting thought...being a different person in French than you are in English...

I'm with Beth on the still mastering English thing. As you well know. (I get direct objects, now, though so there is hope).

If you call this a.m. do it around 10 my time if you can...I have a meeting until at least 9.

Kiss kiss.

beth said...

Better yet, why don't you and the boys (and husband if works allows) all come home for a month or so every summer - this would help their English and it would help your friends and family 'cause then we all get to see you. Don't Europeans get the entire month of August off of work - or something like that?

beth said...

ps- i am not overestimating you or Zeb - I have a knack for having a fantastic memory for things that serve me no real purpose - I remember that you were learning to diagram sentences while I was still learning to color in between the lines; I remember my sister's not-so-secret crush on Zeb and I even remember this. . 436-6788 - your childhood no. which I haven't dialed since around 1978.

zeb said...

princess if I want to use !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I will!!!!

christi said...

good call on the oddity of my dad using tons of exclamation marks nicole. weird.

zeb said...

Of course the 2 princesses would side together I would expect no less.

Beth nice memory on the phone number weird how close my current number is to that one- 6787
I am shocked you sister had a crush on me- who would have guessed.

Nicole said...

Beth - that is eventually going to be the plan.

Zeb - your maturity is showing.

Christi - Odd indeed. And did you notice his snappy response? He's always been much better at dishing it out than taking it.

beth said...

Zeb - My sister swears that you "dumped" her for a gal with her first same name (initials P.B.) that lived on the next street (Shock Dr??) - yes, the only time sister P was nice to me was when she wanted to walk me to Nicole's house in her hopeful attempt that brother Zeb was home!

zeb said...

Beth sweatheart I was always much happier to see you than your sister.

beth said...

Zeb- you have just made my day! ps - I owe you a much belated thank you - you restored my faith that an older sibling could be nice - you were always nice to Nicole and I and I was used to my sister, who at the time was not so nice to me (we get along great now - 25+ years later!) Thank you dear Zeb!

Tom said...

is this what everyone does with their free time? where have I been?

Tom

Nicole said...

Tom - you've clearly been working too hard and not wasting enough time reading nonsense. Welcome...

zeb said...

Beth- you most welcome and give your sister my best.