Monday, December 21, 2009

Do you speak francais?

Today, Marie had her school Christmas concert and I was so proud of her. The whole junior school sang carols and Christmas songs. Now, it was very noisy and I came out of it with a headache but still, I was so proud of her. Before the last carol, the head mistress announced that some kids were going to say Happy Christmas in their native language. And called Marie to the front. And she said Happy Christmas in French (although her native language really is English).

Marie is very self conscious when it comes to speaking french. Whether it is that she does not want to be different to her friends or that she is just a bit lazy, she has only really started to take an interest and make progress in the past couple of years. I have to admit that I blame myself for not speaking french enough to her when she was little. It was frowned upon by her father and his family, it made them paranoid and they made me feel uncomfortable whenever I spoke French to her. So I gave up, when I should really have stood up to them all and told them where to go. Sometimes I would try and speak French to her, and she'd just stare at me. She even once turned around and told me in a very patronizing voice: 'Mammy, we're in Ireland here and we speak English, not French.'

But, now, thanks to my fiance encouraging her (and me), she is starting to learn and she's doing good, she even speaks French to her sister. My fiance insists that I speak French to Noelie all the time and I don't want to repeat the same mistake with her. So I speak French to her 95% of the time. And if people do not like it, well, it's their problem not mine. At the end of the day, she will be bilingual. We have also noticed that she does respond more when I speak French to her and she tends to look at me strangely whenever I speak English.

We warned people that I would speak mostly French to her and that he would speak English as, apparently, it is better for the children to identify one language with one parent. Some people did pass comments that they found it a bit 'rude', but, having very limited contact with French speakers, I would end up speaking English to her anytime we set foot outside the door and, I think, would defeat the purpose.

As my fiance's French is (more than) a bit rusty (sorry!!!), it does lead to funny situations. He can tell if I'm giving out to her by my tone of voice, but he does not necessarily know why. These days it consists mostly of 'pas a la bouche' (which means 'not in your mouth', because phones, remote controls, and other electronic items are not designed to go in your mouth and be sucked on for prolonged periods of .... really...) or 'doucement' (which means 'be gentle' because people's noses, mouths, cheeks, ears and other are quite sensitive and to be honest, scrapes on your face are not really the latest fashion!). So most of the time, he would reinforce the message by a well timed 'Whatever your mother said in french!'.

It makes communication with my parents (my mother in particular) and other members of my family particularly funny. My grand mother is convinced his name is Harry when it's not (probably a tribute to Harry Potter) and would have a full blown (though rather one-sided) conversation with him. On the way home from picking up my cousin at the airport, the conversation consisted on him asking the same question in different ways and her answering 'What?' every single time and the remaining 20 minutes or so were spent in silence. My mom's English is (how do I put it) extremely limited. She insists on getting 'mushroms' instead of mushrooms, asks for the 'peeper' instead of the pepper, and says 'good morning' instead of 'good night'. However, they have come up with their own sign language and try to communicate as best they can.

Hopefully (well, more than likely), he will learn (slowly but surely) along with Noelie. And Marie will get to learn more too and catch up on all those years when I didn't speak enough french to her. And I can as proud of her as I was today, when she stood up in front of all those people and wished them 'Joyeux Noel'

So Joyeux Noel to you all from all of us in the Foodie household!!


  1. Joyeux Noel to you all! It must be brilliant to be bilingual :)

  2. I think it's a wonderful gift to give your child a skill like that. Well done you - and to your fiance! Have a wonderful Chrsitmas and a happy happy year ahead.

  3. Joyeux Noel to you all as well! Keep teaching them it will only benefit them in the end :)

  4. Well done Foodie Mummy. It is a gift to be able to bring up your children bilingually even if they don't appreciate it now - they will! I can't believe people have such negative attitudes -whenever I meet bilingual kids I'm so full of admiration.
    By the way I loved your post "I Don't Remember" We called to visit friends recently who had just had a gorgeous 6 week old baby. When I tried to remember Lila at that age it all seems like such a blur. I blame the hormones! The only thing that helps is putting every moment down in a baby diary, even now when I read back over Lila's I'm amazed at how much I've forgotten and that's only in the space of a few months. It really is scary how time flies......


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