Fontaine à Chambéry

Fontaine à Chambéry

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bilingual Game Plan

Before we even got married we knew we wanted our children to be bilingual. We'd do them a huge disservice by not exposing them to the French language and culture. When I got pregnant our bilingual plans were pushed forward. Yeah we had talked about it, but we hadn't figured out how to go about raising a bilingual kid. I immediately immersed myself in bilingual child-rearing books from the library. Many of them said the same thing: choose a method of language introduction and incorporation and do not deviate from that method. There were several types presented but the method that seemed to work the best with our family is called the "one parent, one language" method. Essentially, I only speak English to Z and Robin only speaks French. That's what we've been doing from the day she was born. Now, there are occasions when I do speak French to her, like when we are singing or reading, but it's pretty rare for her to hear me speak French. We didn't want her to develop a weird American-French accent. The books said as long as the child is exposed to the second language at least 15 percent of the time, he or she would become fluent.

Luckily we've got great resources to utilize when we have questions about bilingual child-rearing. Z's pediatrician (who was mine too, actually) is married to a Frenchman and has three adult children, all of whom are bilingual. I had no idea about the doctor's French background when I was a patient of hers. When she came to the hospital after Z was born, she asked about my new last name, and when I said my husband is French, she started spewing out French sentences. I was shocked! Robin was too, because it's rare to hear someone speak French fluently in the States. We've been able to ask Z's pediatrician about questions as they come up and she's a great resource. Actually, all of Z's checkups are conducted in a mix of French and English. In addition to the pediatrician, our Parents as Teachers woman has also researched bilingualism for us and we talk about the process and how it's going at our monthly meetings.

Z's teachers are really into the idea of having a bilingual kid in their classroom. They always ask Robin about French words and have started to incorporate them into their classroom activities. They've been playing a French music cd Robin took in for Culture Day last week. The new classroom mottos are "Je t'aime" and "Au revoir."

I don't want to wish Z's life away and time is already going way too fast, but I cannot wait to see how Z speaks! I'm so excited to know how her transitions between the two languages will be, and whether she will prefer one over the other. I wonder if she will speak French at school around her friends? Will she keep her bilingualism quiet because it makes her different? How are we going to tackle reading and writing in French? How do you even do that in English? At times it's overwhelming to think about, but I think the end result is going to be pretty amazing.

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