Good idea or pretentious distraction?(6 Posts)
I am a fairly fluent French speaker (degree level, worked in France for 4 years). My partner just speaks english - our mother tongue. Our first child is due in March and 9 months later we will move to France for my work for a further 4 years. I've been wondering whether to speak french with our child while DH speaks english. I will be the main carer before we move then we'd swap once we get to France so I think he will, at least at first, have a pedoninantly anglophone social circle.
Is this a good idea to give our child a start in two languages and aid a smooth transition to french nursery or just a means to look like a bloody minded snob in front of our families, very few of whom speak french?
I wouldn't give a monkeys what anyone else thinks. But my 2p... we moved abroad to a Spanish speaking country when my oldest was the same age - 10 months. None of us spoke a word of Spanish. She was absolutely fine. Four years later she is now more fluent than any of us. I really don't think a 9mo will be affected too much by the language transition.
I worried about giving my DD enough early exposure to my family language. I was really surprised not to find much available until around 2 years old - but having seen the way her language has developed, I think it's because you don't actually need to worry about it too much when they're tiny.
At 9 months, your child won't even be saying single words yet, so there really won't be any issue with the transition at that age.
Around 18 months, they start understanding more and saying single words, which is nice (and of course important) but it's not the main means of communication yet:it's still mainly body language, pointing, gestures (the adult uses gestures alongside the words) .
Language really takes off at about 2, and I'd try to get him/her into French nursery at least part time by then if possible.
By around 2.5 - 3 they start being understood fairly well by people outside the family, so it will start being noticeable in nursery around then, and possibly frustrating for the child. Not a huge problem socially though since children still play side by side at that age, and although they do speak to each other, it isn't really important to them.
By 4, it seems to start being harder, as they expect to be able to communicate with each other as part of their play, and communication with adults is primarily verbal and more abstract.
Something to consider is that English will become your child's minority language, so in fact that's the one you will need to focus on.
Also, the thing that is really important when they're tiny is to speak easily and freely (and correctly!) with them, which is easier for most people in their native language. Given that your child will learn French easily when you move there, it doesn't seem worth sacrificing that.
Thanks for the responses. I think the main learning point is to get our child into a French nursery in/for sufficient time to build good language skills for later nursery years (we'll leave France when they almost 5). My partner will be a full time carer so we don't have a pressing need but it would be good for both of them to do this. I can speak as easily and freely in French as English but you both make a good point - as I'll have most time to do this 0-9 months it isn't going to be a particular boost given 9+ months they will have a francophone environment anyway. I have to work on written French (writing speeches for colleagues, newspaper articles, analysis of academic articles etc) pre Paris and maybe a tiny bit of me was trying to kid myself singing 'frères Jaques' and chatting to baby also counted as prep .
I think it is a good idea to talk French to your child from Day 1. For a child to acquire a language fluently, there is a key "window of opportunity" from age 0 to 9 months where they are completely geared up to hear and learn the language (even though they don't speak it at that stage). This window might run up to 2 years old, depending on your child, but it doesn't last much past that. I know lots of Anglophone boys (including my son) who have really struggled with immersion in a French nursery/ecole maternelle at age 2 - it just seems to be a very bad time to start with a new language and culture when they have lots of other developmental things on their plate. My daughter started going to her French childminder at maybe 1 year 4 months but she had been hearing French all around her at shops/doctors etc from birth - she just soaked up the language more naturally and at the time her brain was geared up for it. I would recommend the book "Raising Multilingual Children" by Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa which discusses the "windows of opportunity" and how to decide on a consistent language strategy for your family. (Just re-read bits of it today after a tricky meeting for my son at the orthophoniste, and it is very practical and helpful in deciding what your family strategy should be.)
I think that mother tongue is really important. If you decide just to speak French with her, what if she refuses English with you.
I have my dc in school in a different language, they are getting to grips with it. I speak the other language too, but mother tongue is always really important.
Join the discussion
Please login first.