Friday, November 07, 2008


We're raising Angelina bilingual:Frederic speaks in French and I speak in English.

But sometimes she's mono-lingual and speaks Franglais, like when talking about socks and shoes. She knows the French words: chaussettes and chaussure, and the English versions, but lately she's been saying "chauss-sock" and "chauss-shoe."

We shouldn't let her, but it's too cute.

As for her speaking, she had been behind for some time. At 18 months we (ok, I) were a little concerned that she wasn't speaking at the appropriate level. The early-childhood intervention evaluators, however, found she was only 1-2 months behind so not in need of therapy. A few months later her developmental specialist said the same thing: she understood very well, but was a bit behind. No worries, this is common with a bilingual kid in the early days. Her language development has improved over the last 6 months or so, but it really took off last week.

That's what spending a week with Nanny will do.....the kid is talking non-stop. And clearly too. She skipped over mere words and sentences and went straight to monologues.

4 hour long monologues.

It's still mostly in English, but she does speak more and more French. The wonder is now, should Fredo insist on her speaking in French to him?

As for us, and what prompted this post - there's a blogger Fned doing a 'group' blog post about bilingual families. Given Frederic and I met in the US (at a German Biergarten) and since my language skills are fuddled at best (I was saying "Sawat di Ka" and "Khap khun ka" at Mexican restaurants in San Antonio... (Thai for hello and thank you) and throwing in some odd britishisms and spanish words, we've always spoken in English to each other.

My French? What French? I've tried, but my brain is full of Spanish and occasional Thai - at least that's my excuse. I keep saying once we move I'll immerse myself in it then I'll learn. However, I have learned quite a lot since Angelina was born, since he speaks to her only in French. Of course, the words I learn are not exactly for intellectual conversation: "Arrêt!" "Ça suffi! (don't know the ending for suffi-) ... and anyway, you get the idea. We try to watch cartoons/kids films in French to give us both more exposure, which seems to be working. I can sing "J'suis la carte" and "We did it!" (tho I can't spell the latter - "Çe ganard?")...Fans of Dora will understand.

Of course, if we move to Germany next year as hoped, that will throw a whole new kink into things. Great for Angelina, who will learn German in school/playground and continue English with Maman and French with Papa. More work for me though! At least I've studied the basics of German before and can read it a bit, so with effort should be able to learn, but that still means I haven't learned French.....

I've just been reading other blogs of couples who started in one language and eventually progressed to another. It's hard for me to imagine ever being fluent enough in any language to speak it as my primary language. Then I see Frederic - he claims he doesn't speak German, but having gone to university in Bern, she speaks it just fine. And I remember his English when I first met him - excellent, but a little off (and very cute) and now he's basically fluent (still with the cute accent). And though my Thai was hardly fluent or even close to it, there were times I could rattle off a price negotiation at the market, so I guess it's possible for French too. And maybe German. And Spanish. And Karen.

I would love to be able to sit with people anywhere in the world and converse in their native tongue. Fortunately, I've experienced enough of the former to know you can always find a way to converse, especially if a gin and tonic (or beer, or wine...) is involved.

I wish I was born a polyglot.

Maybe Angelina will become one.


Fned said...

If Angelina is not a polyglot already (even if you don't know it yet) I have no doubt in my mind that she will be when she grows up.

She is so lucky to have parents like you that want her to be able to learn as many languages as she might want or need!!


Marcy said...

Chauss-sock.. adorable! What I've heard and been told is not to bother correcting pronunciation mistakes, just make sure you use the words correctly yourself.

And having no experience with this whatsoever and failing miserably at my attempts to make sure to speak to Donovan in Spanish ever, my inkling is to say maybe you should make it a rule that she has to speak French with Papa otherwise she might just go with English for both of you... though then again she'd still be absorbing and understanding the French....

Germany next year? Fun! Not sure I could learn German. But I was pleased with how much French we learned while living in Geneva. Not fluent by any means, but enough so we could hold our own for a whole dinner.

We'll be in Austin for Thanksgiving week and for a couple weeks around Xmas/new years. I know those are such busy times normally anyway, but any chance for a meetup?

Marcy said...

(and, um, sorry for the insanely long comment...)

Cherise said...

Marcy - yes! Let's meet up. WE're not going anywhere for either. I'll email you - still the same address?

Sara said...

I'm glad to hear you have learned alot of French, thats my hope with German and a kid one day. I have learned some from listening on the phone so far.

misschris said...

I think Spanish (as a second language) is so hard to separate from French as a second language. Being in Texas I can see your problem! Seb had no problems with mixing while we were in Mexico because French is his mother tongue but I mixed the two constantly.

Oh wow Germany! That will be interesting!!

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