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bilingual daughter refuses to speak French

(22 Posts)
brigitte Tue 11-Mar-08 20:36:17

my 3 year old daughter is French/English Bilingual. I only speak with her in French her dad in English. She has been talking to us in both languages without a problem but started nursery in October and since last week refuses to speak French to me. she was a quick talker and became fluent in French very early now that English has caught up she doesn't want to speak French. Does anyone know what I should do to keep her talking in both languages? Do I insist she answer me back in French? or do I let her answer back in English. Thanks for your help.

Upsidedowncake Tue 11-Mar-08 20:40:56

I only know the theory (and haven't experienced the practice) ... which is that you should probably let her answer in English. There are lots of affective (emotional) reasons around language choice - so you don't want to force her to do someting she doesn't want to. You should keep talking to her in French though.

Does she have other opportunities to speak French? Do you have any playdates or nursery schools where French would be normalised again?

frogs Tue 11-Mar-08 20:47:41

Normal. As soon as they realise that Mummy is perfectly capable of speaking English and has only dreamt the whole 2nd language thing up to annoy them, most 3yo will refuse to play ball. There's not much you can do about this without causing major family ruction and upset, and it probably won't affect the outcome in any case (which is most likely to be that the child has a passive knowledge of the 2nd language, but doesn't speak it with anything approaching native-like competence).

The only way around this (assuming you live in England) is to increase her exposure to French either by sending her for extended stays with family in France, or by enrolling her in a French-speaking nursery. If you're in London, there are nurseries and primary school in various parts of town which are bilingual or have a French section and which feed into the Lycee.

lucharl Tue 11-Mar-08 20:48:23

Hi Brigitte, it sounds like she is being a typical 3 year old and throwing her weight around where she can! Perhaps there's a bit of wanting to be like the other kids at nursery as well (assuming they're not bilingual?).

I have a friend who went through something similar with a portuguese bilingual child at the same age and a family member whose bilingual Spanish child only wanted to speak Spanish for a period (which only the mum understood). Another Indian family I know only speak hindi at home but their six year old only wants to speak English since starting school.

I wouldn't pressurise her into speaking French but keep providing the input and perhaps offer her rewards for answering in French, make it as fun as possible. I think it's also important to see other French speakers as much as possible, does she have family in France, other kids her age?

cupsoftea Tue 11-Mar-08 20:51:52

Do you have a friend with a child the same age that speaks french so they could play. French tv & magazines, Sing songs, anything that gets her away from the language being an issue.

emkana Tue 11-Mar-08 20:55:16

Keep talking to her in French, but let her answer in English if she wants to. Spend as much time as possible around other French-speaking people, either in France or here in the UK, if you can find some. What really helped with my children was DVD programmes in German that they were really keen to watch.

SSSandy2 Wed 12-Mar-08 09:29:58

I had the same thing with dd, brigitte, once she had learnt German in kindergarten here in Germany. We don't speak it at home at all. She realised of course from hearing me speak to other people that I can speak German so she began speaking to me in German too. For a while I let her do that because I was happy for her to learn German and develop those skills as preparation for school here. I just answered in English but at some stage I decided that I had to change things (when she was around 5 1/2 I think) and then I did insist on her answering me in English which she now (aged 7) always does.

I don't think there is one right way of doing it. All families have a different set-up. However it is generally true that you need to work hard to maintain the languages which are not the primary language of your dc's school environment.

It may take yours a while to switch back to French after nursery. Perhaps if you read to her in French first when you get home, then talk in French about the story and then move on to just chatting in French, you could ease her back into it.

I agree with frogs at the age of 3 I wouldn't want to make a big issue of it. Will she be going to a French school in London do you think?

awaywiththefairies Wed 12-Mar-08 09:40:00

My parents had this problem with me when I started nursery and refused to speak German anymore. They eventually gave up, which they have always regretted and so have I.

I think the less fuss you make the better.
I'd let her answer in english,as long as you speak french the understanding will continue.

Do you know any nursery rhymes in french you could sing together?

berolina Wed 12-Mar-08 09:46:25

ds1(2.10) uses both his languages in a very targeted way, despite living in Germany, going to German kindergarten and hearing me speak German (to dh, and out and about) all the time. I wonder if he's going to rebel at some point? hmm We've never forced the issue, but are very very consistent about OPOL - if he brings me one of his German books to read, for example, I'll say 'no, that's German, I don't read German' (not can't, as he would know it to be a lie - just don't).

berolina Wed 12-Mar-08 09:49:21

oh yes, I have stacks and stacks and stacks of English books - about 90% of dses' books are English -, sing to him all the time, and am starting to introduce story CDs. We don't have a TV, but DVDs to watch on the computer might be a further step at some point. He does come into contact with some English-speaking friends/situations.

brigitte Wed 12-Mar-08 09:56:32

Hi everybody,
Thanks for your help. We are living in the UK but all my extended family is in France. I have managed to take my daughter every other month to France but now that she has started nursery it is a bit harder. I only read to her in French and don't really believe in too many cartoons so that leaves me with not much to play with. I will follow your advice and keep talking in French with her and will look into french clubs. I do find it difficult to answer in French when spoken in English as I tend to switch between languages as they are spoken to me. I guess I will have to do the hard work grin

berolina Wed 12-Mar-08 09:59:15

On the nursery thing - I will be pulling ds1 out of kindergarten twice within 2 1/2 months for 10 days plus to go to the UK (of course I wouldn't have done hi hile he was still settling in). I think with non-compulsory education and a minority lanuage to keep up it's perfectly legitimate to use the chance

berolina Wed 12-Mar-08 09:59:37

done it while

slim22 Wed 12-Mar-08 10:14:54

same here.
It's all english since DS started nursery last september.

He uses his other 2 languages (arabic & french) only when surrounded by fellow native speakers. And that does not include me and his dad even if we mainly converse in french and arabic in his presence.

The only way forward is to give her more and more opportunities to socialise with french native speakers.
Children just want to be part of group dynamics. They need to relate emotionally, not be left out.
If she's always in an all english speaking environement, she'll just want to do the same to fit in and feel like your are trying to make her behave "different" which she might resent eventually.

If you're in London, simply go to the peter pan playground in Hyde park. The ship is constantly swarming with little frenchie pirates.

slim22 Wed 12-Mar-08 10:17:50

PS, never ever implemented OPOL, as did not even know about it!
I'm only talking practice, have no experience of any theory behind bi-tri lingual exposure.

castille Thu 13-Mar-08 10:29:47

We have the opposite situation - we live in France, DH is French and our children (10, 8 and 19 months) are bilingual but I have to insist that they speak to me in English sometimes.

I agree that you should take her to France as much as possible - helping her see the advantages of speaking French (being able to communicate with grandparents, cousins etc) is the best way to ensure she maintains her French. This was vital for us in the early years. Now my older 2 have a weekly English lesson with a British girl who also lives here, mainly to help with their written English, which they love and helps a lot.

Stick with it. As she grows up she will come to accept her "difference" and be the envy of her friendssmile

purplebee Fri 11-Apr-08 23:41:21

I spoke only Persian until the age of three. When I started nursery my english became fluent and as I got older I became very embarrassed when my parents spoke Persian infront of my friends. My parents never succumbed to talking to my brother and I in English however, they ALWAYS spoke Persian to us and I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am to have kept my beautiful mother tongue.

CeciC Sun 13-Apr-08 10:52:36

Hi Brigitte,
I am Spanish/catalan living in the UK, and I always spoken in catalan to my 2 DDs. DD1 refuse to speak catalan when she was younger, as childminder was english, and she knew I could understand english (DH is brittish so english is the main language at Home). But since she is 2 and 1/2 she spends the summers in Spain, with all the rest of my family. For the last 3 years, DD2 spends the summers there too. DD1 started to speak some catalan around 2 years ago, when she realised that the kids in Spain don't speak english, so she had to speak catalan. At the begining, even though she could understand properly, she was very embarassed to speak, but now, she is fine. She even started to speak catalan to me.
My DD ages are 7y and 3y.
But the important key is that I am not there with them, as I have to work, therefore, they have to speak catalan all the time, as my mother doesn't speak english.
You may want to do the same. Living your daughter some days with your family, so she has to speak french with them. It is very hard to do, but I think it is worth it.

duvetandchocs Thu 05-Jun-08 14:23:09

Message deleted

mammamic Fri 15-Aug-08 11:44:00

Hi. I grew up in bilingual household and did exactly the same thing. when we lived in italy (from age 2.5 to 7) i refused to speak English but my mother always spoke to me in English.

when we moved back to the UK, the opposite happened and we (siblings too) refused to speak Italian. Our dad always spoke italian and we had italian books and videos etc.

We all grew up bilingual and until my mid 20s, Italians never thought i was anything other than native italian.

I think as long as children continue to regularly hear the languages spoken, they grow up understanding and speaking both.

Pitchounette Sat 16-Aug-08 13:16:13

Message withdrawn

racingsnake Tue 19-Aug-08 14:46:00

Read all messages with interest. My daughter is just 2 and chooses the words she prefers out of each language - she says 'look' or rather 'lookadeelook' rather than 'regard', but 'il pleut' rather than 'It's raining' Have got lots of DVDs (Trotro, Tschoupi, Petit Ours Brun) in French. Has anyone got any other suggestions? Would prefer genuinely French things rather than dubbed programms.

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