SIL wants me to speak english to non-english speaking DN

(9 Posts)
elelfrance Fri 24-Jul-15 14:07:15

I'm english-speaking, living in France with my french husband, DD (2) & DS (3 months). I speak only english to the kids, and DD understands both languages, while the little she says is mainly french.
SIL & BIL live about 2 hours away from us, and we don't see them that often - maybe once every 2 or 3 months. They're both French. DNiece is 4 & DNephew 14 months. Lately, every time we see them, SIL complains that I speak to DNiece in French, and that she should be able to benefit from having an english-speaking aunt. The issue is, if i speak to her (DN) in english, she doesn't understand a word i'm saying. I have no problem teaching her a few words, through french, or a simple song, but SIL seems to think that if DNiece hears me speak only english for a few hours 5 or 6 times a year, she will be bilingual. All i hear is "kids are sponges, she'll soak it all up".
My problem is that if i speak only english to her, i can have no relationship with DNeice, she doesn't understand enough english - which is absolutely perfectly normal, as she has had no other exposure to English. But if I can't ask her what she's done at school, or what her dolly's name is, I can't build a relationship with her...I've tried to explain this to SIL, as nicely as possible as she can be very sensitive, but all i get is an attitude like "oh my kid isn't good enough for you to speak english to..."
Anyone ever deal with a situation like this ? Any nice ways of explaining that having a bilingual aunt won't magically make a kid bilingual ?

swallowed Sun 26-Jul-15 18:03:04

Oh that's difficult, but you're right, she's not going to be bilingual!

Have you said anything to your SIL? I think I'd say that I'm happy to speak bits in English to DN, but that if she doesn't understand me I'd have to then explain again in French.

Hopefully she'll soon see it's pointless.

Blu Sun 26-Jul-15 18:06:53

Send her home with some English DVDs - Cbeebies style - suggest SIL lets her watch one every day and then talk to her about those? In very basic language.

Let her listen to you talking with your DC in English...but talk to her in French, perhaps when SIL is out of earshot?

Blu Sun 26-Jul-15 18:07:59

You and DC Skype her regularly?

It is a bit cheeky, though, to expect you to take responsibility for her dd's language learning.

etKrusTe Sun 26-Jul-15 18:15:00

I'd put it back on her, say, if she runs through it with her first then you'll come along later and 'reinforce' it. That way, there's a chance your dn will understand you!

hesterton Sun 26-Jul-15 18:18:29

Say everything twice, once in English, then in French perhaps? Then when it's appropriate, repeat just the English. I do get where your SIL is coming from but it's not entirely fair on you.

elelfrance Tue 28-Jul-15 14:36:44

Thanks for the replies everyone

Good idea about cbeebies-style dvds etc, i might try suggesting that. At least it would be more exposure than just me. I have tried to explain to SIL that as we don't see each other that often, she's not getting enough exposure to be able to understand much...but she gets the hump very quickly, she thinks I'm saying DNeice isn't smart enough (which isn't true at all, she's a bright girl). SIL has issues too with her own level of english, so she's not comfortable trying to teach her anything herself. I might suggest they do a learn-english-together thing, actually, that might go over ok.

I'm certain that when DNeice starts learning english in school, then it'll be great to be able to practice on me & build on vocabulary, and i'm looking forward to that...just have to get that far without SIL falling out with me !

KleineDracheKokosnuss Tue 28-Jul-15 14:40:51

To achieve bilingualism studies show you need to spend about a third of your waking hours seeing, hearing hearing,reading amd speaking the relevant language, tell your sil that the only way dn is going to be bilingual is if one of her parents uses English 100% of the time, or they get am English nanny. smile

Oriunda Tue 28-Jul-15 14:46:27

I get this in Italy. Friends are always nagging their children to speak to me in English and they either get too shy or are clearly not up to it (standard of English teaching not very good as schools don't tend to use mother tongue where we are). I once had to visit my SIL's in-laws to 'talk' to a 20yr old girl who had studied English and wanted to go to the UK. She looked at me blankly and clearly couldn't understand a word I was saying.

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