SAHM not the minority language speaker....help!

(12 Posts)
QueenofKelsingra Mon 22-Jul-13 14:10:25

Hello, this is my first post although I have quietly lurked about for a while!

I'm a SAHM to DS(3) and DTs (1). DH is half French and bilingual French/English, I am annoyingly monolingual although I have a good level of understanding of spoken French.

My problem/worry is the lack of exposure the DC get to French. DH speaks exclusively French to them but as he works full time this equates to about 1.5hrs in the morning and about an hour in the eve, plus weekends. The rest of the time all they get is English (bar a few French DVDs but I don't want to plonk them in front of the tv all day!)

DS understands everything DH says but it is very rare for him to respond in French, except for a few stock phrases. his vocab isn't bad but his ability to make sentences isn't great without prompting.

We have been doing OPOL (due to my lack of French speaking ability!) but of late I've been trying to encourage more French from him with the small bits I do know (very basic and mostly vocab rather than full sentences).

Is there anything else I can/should be doing to help the minority language along? I am so desperate (as is DH) for the children to be bilingual but i'm worried that what we are doing isn't enough. is it common for children to favour the majority language but still be learning the minority one and therefore once he's older it may come more easily? any help appreciated!!

(sorry its long!)

jkklpu Mon 22-Jul-13 23:39:49

Where do you live? Are there any French-speaking kids' groups around you could join? I'm sure this would be preferable to you giving some bits and pieces of French as a non-native speaker. Can the kids Skype their grandparents/other relatives? Go on holiday with their cousins?

QueenofKelsingra Tue 23-Jul-13 08:21:22

thanks for replying jkklpu.

we live in England but out in the country, not many English toddler groups let alone French ones! there is one I've found but the mums are the French parent so I don't know how it would be/how accepted I would be as obviously I cant speak French.

we do try and Skype my MIL but she is also bilingual and ds knows this as she frequently 'forgets' to speak French to him. we did go and visit some of my DH's aunts and cousins last autumn and there was a noticeable improvement from ds but money means this is only possible once a year. the main problem seems to be that because he knows his papa and mami are bilingual he seems to assume everyone else is too so doesn't see why he should answer in French. at the moment DH doesn't always demand a French response from DS - do you think it would help if he started refusing to respond to DS's English? I think sometimes DH doesn't even notice that the answer is English!!

jkklpu Tue 23-Jul-13 21:45:59

Audio DVDs then - stories and songs to have on around the house.
As long as your dh keeps talking to him in French, he'll be learning and understanding. It's pretty common for kids to reply in the majority language; would be good, though, to get the grandparents to stay consistently with French.

WidowWadman Tue 23-Jul-13 21:50:43

I'm the minority language speaker, and work full-time as does my majority language speaking husband. Exposure is through OPOL, books, CDs, DVDs, phonecalls/skype to my parents and thankfully we've now also found a playgroup in my language. Yes, the dominant language is very much dominant, but the minority language definitely is present, too.

If my children address me in English, I either repeat it in German before responding in German or ask them to say it again, but in German. My older daughter sometimes asks for translations when she's not sure about a word - but that goes for both languages - some stuff she knows better in German, it all depends in which language she first came across it

Liara Tue 23-Jul-13 21:50:50

I don't think it's a big deal to be honest.

Yes, English will be their first language, and the stronger one. But the amount of exposure to French that they have will give them enough of a base that if they need it they will be able to build on it eventually.

I may be too blasé, though as both dh and I are bilingual (to the extent that native speakers are very surprised when we say our second language is, in fact, not our MT) and neither had the OPOL treatment (nor are we doing that with our dc, just teaching them the other two languages).

chocolatecrispies Thu 01-Aug-13 23:05:52

Can you make bringing more French into your home a project for you and them? In order to increase the amount of French in our home (I am English and in England) I have CDs of French nursery rhymes, I have learnt them and we sing them together, we have French electronic toys rather than English wherever possible, we have books in French, games in French, and I try to put the radio on in French. I would abandon prejudices you have about 'plonking them in front of the TV' and get French DVDs and watch them together rather than cbeebies. I find TV is much more accessible to young children than audio books because they can get clues from the pictures and DVDs are fantastic for language acquisition as you can watch them again and again. But make it something you do too,it can be an opportunity for you to improve your language skills. I would also look for native speakers as babysitters or even find a tutor for you who can come to your home so that they hear other native speakers. It takes dedication but has really worked in our house - my son is living evidence that language can be learnt from the TV (when supported by other sources, obviously).

Aardbei Wed 02-Oct-13 06:20:34

I'm the minority language (Dutch) speaker and I work full time. My DH is a SAHD. I was really worried about it at first but it's going very well so far. Whenever we get into the car we have Dutch songs on. During the day when I'm at work DS (3.5) and DD (1.5) watch Dutch dvds and tv (via internet) and I watch it with them (and chat about it) when I''m home on weekends. I spend about half an hour every evening with each reading Dutch books. And we Skype my mum every week. But what I have found most useful is that we have been camping on a Dutch campsite every year since DS was a baby. There, he spends time with Dutch speaking children all day, and they only understand him if he speaks Dutch - which makes speaking Dutch a necessity.

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Wed 02-Oct-13 21:21:32

I an in exactly the same position as you OP. Husband is French and we do OPOL. I'm not a sahm but our one year old goes to an English speaking nursery 3 days a week.
I try and increase exposure by having the French radio on a lot and I have some bilingual audio books. We also try to really highlight that she is culturally half French as well so we ensure that French music and foods are part of our every day life and we talk about French politics etc.

Bonsoir Tue 15-Oct-13 12:25:01

DVDs and music CDs are your friends smile. Your DC need to hear much more French and from a much wider variety of sources than they do currently. You may not notice an immediate improvement in their output (talking) but repeated exposure to DVDs and CDs is fabulous for their listening skills which are the basis on which speaking skills are acquired.

And take all your summer holidays in France and stick them in French-speaking activities!

Branleuse Sat 19-Oct-13 20:53:09

this is our situation too. It seems to mean that ds6 and dd5 understand a lot more than they speak, but they do make an effort to speak when we go to france, if they think they cant get away with english.
Im assuming it will improve more later and they have a good base at least

QueenofKelsingra Tue 22-Oct-13 16:25:48

Thank you for the responses. I have tried to unclench over the dvd time so most days I now put something on for them to watch - am now picking new dvds based on whether they have audio French as an option! in fact I accidently put peter pan on in English the other day and DS1 told me it was 'talking with the wrong words!' so he obviously aware of the difference.

DH is trying to make a real effort to encourage more and we are trying to limit his English to me, as I can understand most things if he says it in French so the DCs hear less English from him.

guybrush what frequency/setting for French radio please? that would be useful as cd player currently broken in the car!

i'm encouraged to hear the positive influence of tv/music so I shall continue to get over my issues with 'tv babysitters'!

we are planning to holiday in france with family next year which should tie in with the DTs starting to talk. will make sure we stay with family this time so more exposure. hopefully DS1 will start to understand that not everyone is bilingual!!

useful point about the cultural side of things too, will chat to DH about things we can do with that. other than the galette du roi (sp?!) we haven't focused much on that so that would be useful.

ccan I ask those based in the uk where you source books/dvds in French?

DS1 now has Pomme Dapi magazines and is using the online Bayam programme which he loves so I think that is helping too.

i'm just so keen for them to have this skill I may be overthinking things!

widow - i'm trying to encourage DH to stop accepting English from DS1, I feel like a nag though!

thanks for all the advice!

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