Monday, September 04, 2006

Etre Bilingue

I didn't respond to comments left on friday's post. But only because the topics deserve more time than a comment response. So today is about bilingualism and tomorrow about Maternelle.

Sarah, who has a very interesting blog about bilingualism and children (babybilingual.blogspot.com), asked about the boys'.

While in graduate school, I worked in a department where a woman from Quebec was a tenured professor. I saw an interview of her on tape, made to be used in basic level French classes during the francophonie unit. And I was very surprised by her attitude. Which was openly hostile (although in a very polite way) towards the 'omnipresence' of American culture. Up until then I had always thought of Quebec as sort of a happy francophone island. They wish. On an island it would be easier, perhaps, to manage the constant flow of all things anglophone. She actually used the word battle. How hard it was for francophone Canada to remain so.

I understand her attitude better now. Because I feel the same way. As I've mentioned before, when you're raising children in two cultures, you want them to feel at home where they live obviously. So Boy2 going to school earlier than I would like, in my ideal world, is fine, but spending too much time there, and therefore, in French, is not.

Yesterday, we went for a walk. Husband and a friend were walking futher ahead with the boys and I was trailing behind and talking with friend's wife. Boy1 ran back to see us and said, "Mama, Papa found some mûres!" "You mean blackberries? " I asked. "Yeah, Papa found some blackberries." Other than situations like that, where he's forgotten a word or never learned it, he never speaks French to me. He switches back and forth from one second to the next, depending on who he's talking to. When all four of us are together, the conversation is always in both, between the boys and me in English, between the boys and Husband in French and between Husband and me in French. Interestingly, the boys speak English to each other, which I am hoping will last. Boy2 is, for the time being, far more advanced in English than in French. He never uses French with me but he does use quite a bit of English with Husband. Which won't last - school will take care of that. They have three playmates who are native English speakers now, they don't live in Laval so we don't see them every week, but I try to arrange something a least once a month so they learn childhood English too, not just Mama English and Disney English. The goal being for them to be almost as comfortable in English as they are in French. Which is hard because French is omnipresent, obviously, on my little American island in Laval.

13 comments:

zeb said...

Denise has a solution for the english speaking problem, she will come over every month.

Nicole said...

Zeb - How much overtime would you have to work to be able to pay for that?

Lorraine said...

I suppose now would be a good time to offer to have the boys come here for a summer when they are 14?

zeb said...

Nicole- probably not much more than I am working now.

loraine- you have to get in line for that request.

beth said...

I like Denise's idea - what a unselfish thing for her to do (ha)!

charlie said...

Did you know, Nicole (I'm sure you must) that French was once the official language in England for a period of about 200 years?

So, le pft to the French and hahahahahahahaha.

:o)

Nicole said...

Lorraine - Are you sure you'll want them? By then, the Child will be 20 and you'll be a famous writer...

Zeb - Well then send her on over.

CBW - And did you know that 60% of English vocab comes from French? Le hahaheeheeheeeee

Legal Alien said...

Ah, the endless give and take:

"Old English" first comes to the British Isles with Germanic invaders from Saxony, Anglia, Denmark, etc.

Then we have "Middle English," the language of Chaucer, a Frenchified version that developed after the Norman invasion of England (Normans being, of course, the descendants of Germanic-speaking viking settlers in northern France). So that's where most of our 60% French vocabulary has its roots.

(Then comes the Great Vowel Shift, a home-grown change in pronunciation, after which we have Modern (well, Shakespearean) English.)

So I kinda hafta laugh when I hear Francophiles complain about the spread of American/English culture and language. What goes around, comes around.

Nicole said...

Pat - I couldn't agree more. It's really funny when you see some of the borrowed words - étrange = strange. Right. But now in French they say étrange and they also say strange (Frenchified pronunciation of course) to mean very strange. They're borrowing back their own flipping word.

charlie said...

Oui. And nous sommes tres grateful and now le sabot is on the autre pied avec such as le sandwich and le weeekend. hohohohohohohoho
CBW

Sarah said...

What a great description of la maternelle--I was never quite clear on what it was and how it compares to an American nursery school. It does sound indeed very French! I can understand how you're torn between wanting to keep your son at home a little longer and wanting to give him similar opportunities and experiences to his peers.

Sarah said...

Oh, I meant to put that previous comment on the more recent post--oops. Thanks for plugging my blog!

Sarah said...

Okay, one more thing. Nicole, would you consider letting me do a profile of your boys on my blog? Let me know! I could quote from your recent posts or give you some questions to answer. You can contact me directly at babybilingual at gmail dot com.