Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Use It or Lose It

When it comes to language learning, one of the unfortunate truths is that if you don't lose it, you will most certainly lose it. While Jason and I are both interested in maintaining the progress that we made with French over the past year, we are most concerned about helping our daughters keep the French that they have learned. Having attended a French public school, Brooklyn especially made remarkable progress. It is so cute to listen to her play by herself because at the moment, most of her private conversations are in French.

And so now, I am looking for advice: How can we help our daughters keep up their French, especially now that they are no longer immersed in the target language? Unfortunately, French isn't quite as accessible state-side as Spanish, but on the positive side, it's much more common than say, Hungarian. :) We'd love to hear any of your suggestions, or even possible contacts. I've studied enough about language acquisition to understand the extreme difficulty of motivating children to maintain a language under such circumstances. Even so, we think it's important enough that we are willing to put in the effort.


candice said...

check your local school districts. (how old is brooklyn?) lots of times even if you are outside a district, if one offers a special program not available where you are zoned you can still get your child into the program. at least that is how it is out here. the school district we are zoned for offers spanish only, but not too far away french and japanese are offered. as long as i am willing to transport my child i can apply for any of the immersion programs. there may also be some sort of special pre-school program that is all french. i know by erin's house in LA they have private all french schools. i haven't really done too much research yet because eden is still so young, but those would be my suggestions--- good luck.

Mrs. M said...

Most movies these days come with a French track. Not that you want her watching movies all day long, but at least it's input.

There are also lots of videos out there of French speakers. Here's my favorite of little Capucine telling a story: http://www.vimeo.com/2113477

There's French in Action and the BBC French website, which may or may not be more academic than what you want right now.

Maybe there is a French meetup group or yahoo group in your area? Even if you only find one other francophone family, it may be enough.

Bonne chance!

Ben said...

I second Mrs. M. I watch lots of movies with the french, and french subtitles.

Kristi said...

If you want to go even further, one of you could simply speak French to your girls instead of English. Hugh speaks Spanish to our little guy 24-7, and I speak English to him. He isn't even 18 months old yet, so he doesn't talk much in any language, but he understands all kinds of things in both languages. Of course, I can see the drawbacks of this method--like that it might be harder to have shared family jokes if your children never speak the same language with both parents, but I think it might be the most effective way to help your children become truly fluent.

Arnold LvE said...

I second Kristi on that. I speak to our children entirely in German, Mandi speaks to them entirely in English. All the time. They both understand English and German completely, and Sam (our older child) can speak both English and German without any difficulty. He responds in German to me, and in English to Mandi. Occasionally he will throw in a word from the other language, especially when he doesn't get what he wants, but on the whole it works great, and any minor linguistic difficulties will sort themselves out later on.

So for your situation, I would pick one of you to do English, the other one French.

Though you may not feel like your French is "good enough", it really is. The Children have now had enough time in France to get an "ear" for what the language really sounds like, and even though you might feel like you speak broken guttaral french, it will suffice to have your daughters grow up speaking and understanding beautiful fluent flowing French.

After all, what is the worst that can happen. They only partially learn another language in addition to their own?

Kes LT said...

I oppose to it all. Give them a break :) The issue only puts stress on all sides, makes the joy of communication between loved ones artificial. (it's not a case when families are of different nationalities..) You and Callie know many languages not because you used it in childhood. It was your tool of exploring the world... It was your choice. There is nothing to prove, your girls are the best anyway... ;))))

Anonymous said...

I agree with the essence of Kes's comment. Give your girls a break ... Current science supports a view that basic brain synapses continue to be formed until at least age six ... and some much later. Brooklyn and Talia have had the exposure to the French language at an age, and in a way, that is likely to help them in a subliminal way attain French fluency at any time in the distant future in a comparatively brief period of time. Communication between and amongst family members ought to be as unencumbered, open, transparent and uncomplicated as possible. ... However, I realize there is a language balance here that you are in a much better position to determine than anybody else, so I'll support whatever choice you make. ... My own, rather self-serving, request is that all five of you attempt to patiently communicate with (and around) me in whatever language I am most likely to understand. Think too of your new little baby boy "in the oven." He may have been conceived in France ... but is unlikely to speak French as fluently as Brooklyn does now when he is her age. His verbal skills will be fine so long as any language (or language combination) is lovingly used around him. The more important gift you are giving your children is your knowledge and examples of "how to learn" any language. -- The gifts of "how to learn" and "how to love learning" are more useful and enduring aims to promote in my view.

Bruce Richards said...

Interesting conversation. I agree with parts of all of it. I had a companion from Utah that wanted to speak only Spanish on our mission so we could learn it better. I told him there were times when we needed to speak English to each other (companionship inventory for example) so that we could understand each other clearly. However watching French movies would be a fun way of keeping the language around. We have common friends with you who have two cute little boys that speak Spanish to their oldest boy during breakfast time to introduce it to him.