When the lovely Cartside at “Mummy Do that!” talked about putting together a carnival on bilingualism, it was without thinking that I told her to count me in.
Funny enough it was and still is, very difficult to get my head round it and try to explain the world we live in, in this household.
The lack of concentration and brain could also be coming from my mother who is, as I type, vacuuming around me, moving my legs up and asking me to step aside. And to top it up would she stop talking and asking questions? Of course NOT, my mum speaks in her sleep. When she doesn’t speak we should call the emergencies and make sure the air ambulance gets here QUICK!! Anyway I digress…
Bilingualism in this house exists for sure… the right type of bilingualism I am not sure…
A typical conversation would be something like this:
Let’s take breakfast for example:
Elliott: Maman, mayiaave cheereals please (mummy may I have cereals please? and note how polite this little boys is. I obviously won’t tell you that half the time it is more something like “cheereals NOW! waaawwaaaa!” He always is in a bad mood in the morning, a bit like me, anyway I digress again…)
Me: Tiens tes cereales et qu’est ce qu’on dit? (here you go and what do you say?)
Elliott: Merci (you all know what it means)
Me: Good boy!
A bit later
Me: tu veux boire du lait? (would you like some milk?)
Elliott: yes, du lait, please
Still a bit later
Me: we are going to get dressed, depeche toi (hurry up). Walk up the stairs properly, on ne joue pas sur les escaliers! I’ve just said we don’t play ON THE STAIRS!!!
You get the picture don’t you? So how did we get to this?
When I became pregnant with Elliott, I had a vision of the time I would be singing French lullabies to my baby. I vowed to only speak French to him. Sometime I would catch a conversation between a foreign mother and her children and I would look in awe if they spoke her mother tongue and would despise her if I heard her speak English to her kids. What a shame it was that she wouldn’t make full use of her skills to transmit them to her own children?! I would definitely NOT do that!
Then Elliott was born… Then there was that baby who wouldn’t talk to me. And Craig was around all the time and we would speak English together and we would speak English to Elliott. So we got used to it. Then when Craig returned to work and I was left on my own, it was almost as if something inside of me was laughing at me every time I attempted to speak French to my baby… Almost like something saying “look at you, you stupid woman, the kid doesn’t speak French, do you think he gets you?!”
I tried to reject that little voice and learnt to speak French to him when we were on our own and English when Craig was home. But I started attending event like rhyme time on a weekly basis. I learnt English nursery rhymes and couldn’t remember any French ones apart from Au clair de la Lune… I felt ashamed for not knowing my own nursery rhymes but to be fair, it was quite a while since the last time someone sang them to me (apart from that one friend who tried to do a rap version of Freres Jacques on a drunken night… not quite the same really).
And then there was our friends… they are all “not French”. They are either English or from other countries. So it makes it difficult to speak French to the boys when I am having conversations in English, because:
a) this is rude when other people don’t know what you are talking about and they might think you are saying things like “our guests have got smelly feet” or something like that. I swear though, I have never said anything like that!
b) my brain is not that sophisticated and I freak when I have to spend days translating what is going on or alternate between the 2 languages. I end up speaking English to the French and French to the English! Not good and quite confusing…
But there is also Super Nanny… Super Nanny is brilliant in every way, but she doesn’t speak French… So Elliott learnt more and more English when I returned to work. His first words were English. It became dangerous to try commands such as “stop running” or “don’t cross the road” in French, as these are the sort of things you say in the spur of the moment and you can’t really take the time to translate and explain. So there you go another reason to NOT speak French…
So yes I am one of these mums that I used to despise. I am one of these mums who will never transmit properly her mother tongue to her children (that would hurt anyway… he he I am soooo funny sometimes!!). So I have made the decision that from next year we will be spending at least 4 weeks every summer at my mums. The boys will have to learn French to survive and thrown in the deep end they will have no choice! This is my method, we are going to do it the harsh way.
In France they have those brilliant summer kids clubs that costs one hour childcare in the UK for the day. Their French vocabulary will be revolving around horse riding, fencing, pottery making, swimming… I used to love these clubs! And you know what’s the best out of this? While they are at the clubs from 9 to 5 everyday, I will be lying by the pool, eating, reading, meditating, over indulging… BRING IT ON BABY, this is the way they will learn Francais!