I wondered if anyone has any strategy ideas for getting past some serious ml resistance in young kids? I should say that I definitely accept that this is all my own fault, I just don't know what to do about it.
My children are 3 and 1, living in the UK, with two UK parents but I am still trying (and failing) to introduce French as one of the home languages. I have been trying to speak French to them at home from the outset but found that I often lacked vocab so consequently lacked confidence. I've kept trying, and also have quite a few books that I read to them. A few of these books are quite popular (thank goodness for T'choupi) but otherwise there is a LOT of resistance.
The older one hates any music I find in French and has started to say no and just disappear if I try to read anything in French. The younger one doesn't really have many words in any language (apart from a very gallic "non!") but gets upset if I speak French.
I've been trying a time/place rule, using it at breakfast time, and trying to use minimal English just to get the basic sense across to them so there is no panic, but to lots of scowling, mule-ish faces.
I know one of the key things is said to be consistency, my question is, how long do I keep going? At what point am I just not being fair to them? I am struggling anyway, as I work full-time very long hours so I am conscious that I don't see much of them anyway, then when I do, I am being the mean mummy, insisting on speaking "wrong"...
Any experience of moving past this sort of situation?
Your situation sounds quite challenging, but please don't give up!
Given your circumstances, I am wondering if bringing in a "third party" might help? I don't know where in the UK you live, but would a French (or French-speaking) babysitter be an option? That person should pretend not to speak English at all and do fun activities with your children but which require them to interact with him/her in French.
Marie , who has a similar constellation as you do, has pushed this as far as having French au pairs for her children to learn French with. I know of course that an au pair is not an option for everyone, but maybe her thread holds some ideas for you?
I unconditionally back Mayken's suggestion and would add that you should seek additional third-party sources of ml exposure (playgroups, playdates, friends of yours who are ml-speakers so that he may hear you chatting in ml with that friend, play ml radio - both kid and adult radio - listen to ml podcasts...).
Your child needs 2 things: - see that the ml is used by others. - see that it is part of your (and his) life.
With my daughter, what helped get past the initial resistance that she had around age 2-3, was her seeing other children who spoke the mls. Is there any chance you could make a visit to France or try to join in French community activities in the UK? Maybe find a French-language babysitter to come around regularly?
The main thing is really to be persistent and find ways of making them realise how useful and fun it is to speak another language. If your kids watch TV, I would definitely make all TV be in French.
There's a French radio station called Radio Pomme d'Api that plays a mix of French and English music for small children (often with music that adults like too!) - maybe you could start putting that on in the background too while they're playing to gently get them used to hearing French in a 'non-threatening' way?
I know one of the key things is said to be consistency, my question is, how long do I keep going? At what point am I just not being fair to them?
I just wanted to add 2 things: - Once embarked on the bilingual adventure, I'd say you never give up. It is always a difficult journey but you will live to regret it and your kids will reproach it to you once of age to appreciate the gift they could have got had you not caved in. Plus, they will be so grateful to you (once much older of course!) for you teaching them in such a natural fun approach than learning in a very dry academic way at school. - You are not being "unfair" to them. Your kids are too young to take the right decisions, that's why you are responsible for them. From the kind of food they should eat even if they'd rather eat only sweets and treats, to having a bath even if they hate it, and to going early to bed even if they "don't feel tired". If once at school they refused to do their English homework, you wouldn't give up on supporting their English acquisition; so why give up on their learning of their second language?
I hope this can help you feel better about your decision to raise bilingual, and give you the strength not to give up and keep searching for what works with your kids.
My eldest refused to speak her 2 minority languages until age 4. What worked for us? Not giving her the choice. By nature (whether bilingual stuff or day-to-day stuff), she'll always take the easy way out of things. So we just don't give her the choice anymore. She's 7 now, and she finally is an active trilingual. All this to say: don't give up and try to find what works with your boys.
Hi Angela, and thanks Mayken for bringing this thread to my attention.
There are many ways to help encourage French and succeed. We started our French journey when our children were 2 (almost 3) and 4.5 and live in London. My husband and I do not speak French. When I decided to introduce French to my children, I started to learn a lot of vocabulary and basic phrases to repeat and get us through the day. From reading your post, it seems you are more advanced in your French, so that is a great start. However, they will need additional exposure to really succeed. I will summarise what we did below and it might give you some ideas.
1. I first started learning with the children and introducing to them the French language. I bought flash cards and focused a bit more on my daughter because she was older. We would go through them and I would use basic phrases in French throughout the day until they understood them - such as S'il te plait, viens, arrête, range. I played some French music in the background and played short French cartoons on youtube like tchoupi or petite ours. I also signed them up to 3 after school French clubs and found a French au pair who wanted to work extra hours during the weekend (so we had her about 3 hours and sometimes 6 during the weekend). She would speak to them only in French. At first it was so frustrating and difficult.
2. The real turning point came when my husband saw how much effort and the positive progress my daughter was making and agreed for us to send her to the bilingual French school (if she got in). Luckily she got in and when she started she joined halfway through the year, but she already knew 200 words in French and phrases so had a good start.
3. The next big turning point was when we got a summer au pair. If you can, I HIGHLY recommend this. Even if its just a few months. It made such a big difference in my children's French. I know its not always possible, but the more exposure the better.
My children are both completely fluent and now will speak French with anyone they know speaks French (even if they know the person speaks in English). We are very lucky though in that we live in an area with a lot of French people, so my children can randomly meet French children in the park, who only speak French and play with them in French...so again extra exposure. They also are able to do activities in French sometimes, for example my son's football, most of the coaches speak French, so will speak to them in French (as a lot of the children from his school go to this football club).
Are you in an area that offers French clubs, baby groups etc? That would help with extra exposure. You can also find French speaking sitters on care.com if you can and want someone a few hours a week. There are other options for this if you are interested...let me know and I can send more websites.
Hi everyone, I'm sorry for the delayed reply, thank you so much for your encouragement. I know it was a bit of a rant/moan so thank you for your kindness in responding with so much practical advice and support. I have kept at it and both of them have started engaging a bit (3 year old was wagging his finger at the 1 year old and saying "letouchka, letouchka" - took me ages to figure out this was actually "ne touche pas"! Maybe my pronunciation needs more work than I realised!). It's small progress, but progress none the less. Thank you all again, forward motion restored!
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Amy: Awww bless her, Marisa!!! That was so cute!! <3
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Adam Beck: Nice, Caro! Give her a high-five from me! And I look forward to hearing about many more happy developments to come!
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