En avant…

I haven’t talked for a while about my son’s language development. I mean, I have talked about how much he talks, but I wanted to update you on the progress he has made on the French front.

He still speaks mostly English, of course. Although I speak only French with him, he responds mostly in English. But he is putting more and more French words in his English sentence, especially when we are just him and I. And what I find really encouraging is that he is starting to use French unprompted. What I mean is that until recently, he would repeat the French words I used – for instance, I took him to MEC to buy a pillow and then he was talking about his “oreiller” (which was really hard to understand since he doesn’t pronounce the “r” so it was just a series of vowels). But now he is starting to use words that have not necessarily been used right before. For instance, when I put him in the swing the other day and went besides him to push him, he said “Non maman, en avant!” (from the front). And that made me really, really happy.

I’m not too worried about his French because I know he will go to school in French. But it would be nice if he could speak it a little more before that (even though I know he understands everything I say). We considered putting him in a French preschool next year, but it just wasn’t practical. It would have meant at least 30 minutes of transportation each way for a 2,5 hour program, and one of the preschools that offered French was actually full (we could have put our names on the waiting list, but without much hope) and the other one took only kids that would go 5 days a week. We don’t want our son to go 5 mornings a week at age 3. I think the system will swallow him soon enough and we want more freedom with our time, especially since we’ll have a newborn to deal with this year. Zak likes being able to get up in the morning, look a the weather and decide with our son if they will go to the aquarium, the beach or the library. I want to start giving him a tiny bit of structure, but not that much, not the stress of having to get up early to get somewhere at a fixed time every morning of the week. And to add to the problem, he probably would have had to switch preschool the following year because both programs have 4-year-olds in the afternoon only, and it would most likely be hard for Zak to manage taking our oldest to preschool while the youngest is supposed to nap (our baby will be one when our son turns 4).

So here I am. A lot of people have told me I could just force my son to speak French to me. But I’m honestly not sure he has the knowledge to build sentences in French, and I’m also not sure that I want to be that kind of mom. I have a great relationship with him, and he seems to enjoy speaking French with me because he does it all the time – he repeats my words in French even though he could just say it in English. He is also learning big parts of the songs that I sing to him at bedtime – he sings them with me now, and he’s all proud to say “I know your songs now maman!” I’m afraid of the backlash, of him becoming sick of French if I insist too much, so for now I prefer the soft method. I am telling him that he will have to speak French with our baby so that he or she can speak it too. I am sure that this could be a powerful incentive, but since Zak will be speaking English with the baby, it may not be convincing enough.

I once asked my neighbor, who is a speech pathologist, at what age I could force a child to speak back to me in French. She said that she wouldn’t expect a child to have the self-control necessary until he or she is 5 or 6. I guess I am going by this advice and I figure that if I stick to speaking French with my boy, he will acquire it in a way that he won’t see as threatening, instead of becoming the language police when I’m not sure he has the ability to actually speak it.

Comments are closed.