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Earthmerlin

Regaining (French) Language

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We're a trilingual family (French, Spanish, English) in the US with an only child in public school. I after school, which is why I visit these forums. My daughter's now in 3rd grade and is a self-proclaimed 'English only' child (essentially from birth). I'm writing because after 8 years of continually butting heads over this I feel I'm losing some serious ground and need encouragment to keep going.

 

We have spent literally thousands of dollars on language learning along with thousands of hours of time. She is a lovely child in soooo many ways but views Spanish & French as 'not her thing'. So many tears have been shed in this process. The handing down of heritage doesn't matter to her and she has avoided abuela because of this (sigh) [she only interacts as far as polite manners dictate].

 

I included the last paragraph to illustrate that it's not ability that hinders her---oh no!---she spent hours in Belgium playing with a neighbor in fluent French! It's simply desire and attitude. I feel the window is closing on her ability to maintain fluency in these languages. I personally see the handing down of such things as valuable parts of her family's identity. However, it's been a loooong 8 years of trying to convince a little munchkin of the same. I'm on the verge of quitting!

 

Any encouraging words?

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I don’t know about the heritage bit of it, as I never passed on mine and it’s just not important to me. But... what I’m wondering is whether your DD would think it’s ok to quit math. Or just decide reading is not for her. Or regular exercise. Or any number of things school age kids are required to do. My point is, in my house some things are just not optional.

However, I find the logistics of making a child that’s in public school all day do extra work at home incredibly hard. My DD gets off the bus after 4pm. To start another school day then seems cruel. So perhaps focus on the how rather the why. Maybe a semester abroad since you have relatives? If you enroll her in school in French, there’s very little agency there, it will be in French 😂. For my DD, she won’t do formal lessons (and I’m not making her...yet.) but she will sit and watch the muzzy videos in French. And listen to French songs in the car. Etc.

Edited by madteaparty

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My dad was raised by his French Canadian grandmother who only spoke French. My dad never spoke French, and I don't know any French, so I have no experience with the heritage aspect. But, I don't agree that an 8 yr old child is facing a closing window on fluency. There are adults who gain fluency in languages. Her accent is well cemented by this point.

 

I personally wouldn't make it a battle. A person with internal desire can accomplish far more than any external pressure can attempt to achieve.

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Her accent is well cemented by this point.

I don’t think accent is OP’s issue but I just want to say that accent is not a really static thing, that once you have it you don’t lose it.

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Since she is already quite fluent, how about just arranging for her to meet/Skype with someone French-speaking once every week or two, and just converse.

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I don’t know about the heritage bit of it, as I never passed on mine and it’s just not important to me. But... what I’m wondering is whether your DD would think it’s ok to quit math. Or just decide reading is not for her. Or regular exercise. Or any number of things school age kids are required to do. My point is, in my house some things are just not optional.

However, I find the logistics of making a child that’s in public school all day do extra work at home incredibly hard. My DD gets off the bus after 4pm. To start another school day then seems cruel. So perhaps focus on the how rather the why. Maybe a semester abroad since you have relatives? If you enroll her in school in French, there’s very little agency there, it will be in French 😂. For my DD, she won’t do formal lessons (and I’m not making her...yet.) but she will sit and watch the muzzy videos in French. And listen to French songs in the car. Etc.

I agree certain things are childhood requirements. She is reasonably agreeable with most things. For some reason consistently producing Spanish & French are not such things. She even just tunes out Sp/Fr input at times. Sometimes I can be equally steadfast and pretend not to 'hear' English but it can exhaust me to consistently play this role. She is also highly-sensitive so I need to tread lightly.

 

I guess I was just looking for some reassurance to keep me going. Perhaps some tips as well. I'm committing to French prior to school. Her Saturday French class got extended so I'm excited about that--and it'll include science, which she loves! It are these little nuggets that give me inspiration!

Edited by Earthmerlin

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My dad was raised by his French Canadian grandmother who only spoke French. My dad never spoke French, and I don't know any French, so I have no experience with the heritage aspect. But, I don't agree that an 8 yr old child is facing a closing window on fluency. There are adults who gain fluency in languages. Her accent is well cemented by this point.

 

I personally wouldn't make it a battle. A person with internal desire can accomplish far more than any external pressure can attempt to achieve.

Yes, that's the crux of the matter: internal desire vs. familial values. I'm trying to respect her indviduality but also our family makeup....they (currently) seem diametrically opposed! I also feel she'll regret us dropping the languages in the future (hindsight is 20/20). Also, I'm not personally ready to abandon Sp/Fr., gosh darn it! So I'm looking for a compromise here.

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Since she is already quite fluent, how about just arranging for her to meet/Skype with someone French-speaking once every week or two, and just converse.

Honestly, I had never thought of using technology in this way. Thanks!

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Our third child had selective mutism for her second language up until about 4-5 months ago.  It was a long, long, long road it felt like.  My DH just kept speaking to her in French (we are also in a French speaking country) and one day she just finally started.  Her ability is far below what it "should" be, but she is catching up fast.  

 

Drop the battle.  Speak to her in your native language, let her answer how she wishes.  Let some of her media input be in French/spanish.  If Abuela speaks English, encourage her to do so... a relationship with her granddaughter is worth more than a second or third language ever will be.  

 

If you dd decides she wants to learn a language later in life, she will have a leg up on many because she will have passively acquired language during her childhood.  

 

I would not put your relationship with her in danger just to force her to speak a language.  This is coming from a mom who has literally spent sleepless nights worried about my second dd's language issues.  Fighting over it will not improve the situation.

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Our third child had selective mutism for her second language up until about 4-5 months ago. It was a long, long, long road it felt like. My DH just kept speaking to her in French (we are also in a French speaking country) and one day she just finally started. Her ability is far below what it "should" be, but she is catching up fast.

 

Drop the battle. Speak to her in your native language, let her answer how she wishes. Let some of her media input be in French/spanish. If Abuela speaks English, encourage her to do so... a relationship with her granddaughter is worth more than a second or third language ever will be.

 

If you dd decides she wants to learn a language later in life, she will have a leg up on many because she will have passively acquired language during her childhood.

 

I would not put your relationship with her in danger just to force her to speak a language. This is coming from a mom who has literally spent sleepless nights worried about my second dd's language issues. Fighting over it will not improve the situation.

Thanks for the personal story and encouraing words. Yeah, it's a long ride. I guess I'm not so great at adjusting my expectations with the real, live child in front of me (esp. since I'm a language teacher by profession!). I'll keep plugging along and attempt to squeeze in the Sp/Fr but with as little drama and resistance as possible.

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