Sunday, 3 September 2017

He doesn't want to speak French

I thought my 6-years old had reached a milestone when my mum announced he had been speaking French since day one of the holidays. As soon as he arrived at my parents, he instantly switched to French. Of course his sentences weren't perfect, but he was able to make himself understood without too much difficulty, and when he didn't know a word, my mum was able to help him.

Every time I rang, she was telling me he was doing great, learning new words every day and little by little, making more complex and structured sentences. When I went over to pick the kids up at the end of August, I was actually blown away. During the year, he hadn't been speaking French that much, but he heard a lot of it at home, on TV or with friends of ours, so I knew he would take some of it in, but I wasn't expecting that much improvement. The way he was switching from one language to another depending on who he was talking to was unbelievable. It made me think of all the articles I read about how bilingual kids are supposed to do that, and how discouraged I was at the time, because mine were unable to.

Just before going back home, I thought: "That's it, he speaks French now. Battle won!", but I couldn't have been further from the truth. The moment we landed in Ireland, he looked at me and said "Now we're in Ireland, so we speak English". Yes, he has that logic that in France, you speak French and in Ireland, you speak English...

Since we're back, I've been trying to keep speaking French to him, making it a game between us, telling him he can speak English to anybody else, but French just to me. Well, it works for a while ( 5 minutes usually), but he quickly moves back to English.

I have so home hope though. I witnessed how much he improved during the holidays without practicing that much during the year, and I realised only the fact that he hears French everyday has an impact on his learning.

And I have a plan for both my kids this year. With two other  mums, we are opening a "French club" for families in the same situation as ours. It will help kids confronted  to French at home, to improve their oral skills in a fun and relaxed environment. It will not be French lessons as such (I couldn't tell my kids they're going to school again on Saturday!), but activities-based sessions where they will put in practice their language skills and learn about French culture. I take this opportunity to invite all French and francophones families in the area to come to our open day next Saturday in Julianstown.

Hopefully, it will be another stepping stone on my kids way to bilingualism. Speaking several languages is such a chance in the world we live in, that we, as parents, really have to give them all the tools they need to achieve their potential.

And as my on own mum would say: "They will thank me later"!!