Promoting a culture/language other than your own--anyone BTDT? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 02-07-2009, 08:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Title says it all.

My husband died late last year, and among the things that are missing from our family now is the "multi" in multicultural. He was French. Without his presence and input, her environment is pretty exclusively English-speaking and american (African-American, specifically). My French language skills are scant. I can talk like a 3 y.o., which is exactly what a 2 y.o. DOESN'T need to develop fluency.

For various reasons, I want to try to transmit as much of her father's culture to DD as I can, and certain things are obvious avenues to this goal (language instruction/ immersion school environment, maintaining a connection with his side of the family, etc.) Is there anything more that I should be thinking about? (short of moving to the French Antillies -- which, I'll admit, I've considered more than once this miserably cold winter.)

Any ideas or BTDT experience would be much appreciated!
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#2 of 10 Old 02-08-2009, 01:40 PM
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I am kind of in a situation like yours. I am multi culti myself (Dutch Suriname/American) and as well as that I've lived pretty much all over. My kids are also half Serbian, and live in Serbia for the moment, although that might change later on. As a single mom, I am able to speak Dutch to the kids while at home, and Serbian outside of the house. I'd also like them to learn English, as well as ideally some of the other languages I picked up on the way. I do find that, as a woman on my own, there is only so much I can physically achieve! Besides, I have to say that DD mainly speaks Serbian, although she can understand Dutch perfectly she won't speak it as much and answers in Serbian most of the time, even when spoken to in Dutch. Adding yet another language will get too confusing right now, I feel.

Is it possible for your husband's family to be involved with the process of your DD learning French and understanding the culture? I speak with my family through Skype a lot, which is free! That way my DD picks up a *little* bit of English, as well as be able to see people (through webcam) who she would not know otherwise. I think that is great!

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#3 of 10 Old 02-08-2009, 02:49 PM
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I'm sorry for your loss. When my children's father passed away I was pretty much in your same shoes, and thought about it a lot ... really though, more than language and the connection to family/friends, I never did come up with much. I think the latter is critical though ... aside from providing an avenue for children to understand who their father was in a tangible way, it is also realisitcally the only way to make sure there is an opening for the children to feel that their father's homeland is also a home to them -- that it's not just a place they visit sometimes like tourists. For me it felt almost like shirking part of my parental duties to say, but still at some point I did realize that -- when having lost the most immediate link to a community -- the role of connecting children to that community is more inherited by community members than the parent who is a non-member. In my case, for example, I could take my kids to Egypt all I wanted, but if we did not live there I could not myself help my children to understand the place through anything but American eyes.
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#4 of 10 Old 02-17-2009, 09:54 AM
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What about children's shows? You might be able to get typical French preschooler tv shows on DVD, especially if he had relatives who would send you stuff. In addition there is often a French language track on DVD movies. At 2 she can still pick up a lot through that sort of passive absorption I think.

(Maybe you could take French lessons too?)

nothing more to say I guess :
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#5 of 10 Old 02-17-2009, 11:32 AM
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Mama, your post made me so sad. I'm so sorry you're dealing with this.

I agree with the PP: have your DH's family send you dvd's in French. PM me if you need info about viewing DVDs from other zones.

Also, get some kid's music to listen to in the car and at home.

Some DVD recs for little ones in French (these are all series, several DVDs in each):

Mimi la souris (aka Maisie here in the US)
Petit ours brun
Leo et Popi

We have an awesome CD for kids called Cinquante chansons de notre enfance. It includes songs, nursery rhymes and activity rhymes. Very cute and good music too, that we actually enjoy listening to.

And I totally agree that the best thing you can possibly do is to foster as much contact as possible with your DH's family so THEY can really give your daughter the cultural experience and language stuff that you can't.

Best of luck, mama.
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#6 of 10 Old 02-17-2009, 12:19 PM
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I am really, really sorry about your loss!

The suggestions for getting videos is great. Some source for French videos is and

When your child gets older (or even soon if you need day care) you may want to send your daughter to a "French International School". Many cities have them (and take preschoolers). The French embassy has a list: so you can see if there are any in your area. If you daughter was made a French citizen by your husband, you can probably get a significant tuition reduction (or possibly free tuition).

Also, some public school districts have a French language immersion program, so you may want to check your local district.

Good luck!
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#7 of 10 Old 02-21-2009, 07:45 PM
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I've thought about what would happen if DH passed away (relating to DD and his culture), and I decided that I'd take DD to DH's country every summer so she could spend it with MIL and co. I'd also include cartoons/videos of his language.

I really admire your perseverance and think it's noble that you're wanting to help your children know their father's culture.

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#8 of 10 Old 02-21-2009, 09:00 PM
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Most big cities have clubs of families from certain countries or language groups. My friend is German and her kids go to a German school on weekends. They learn culture and language-- it's not like a real school, but just to make them comfortable with their German ancestry. My dh is from India and they have a meeting of people from his state in India once a month. They have food and usually try to celebrate appropriate Indian holidays. I'm sure if you looked/asked around you could find something. Maybe start with the French dept at your main university and they could probably point you in the right direction.

I think that's great that you are trying to keep the French culture in her life.

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#9 of 10 Old 02-22-2009, 11:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Merci beaucoup to all for the great suggestions and kind words.

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#10 of 10 Old 02-22-2009, 01:44 PM
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My daughter is half Japanese and her father is completely out of the picture (and out of the country). She's not even a year old yet but I'm already making plans on how I'll expose her to her Asian heritage.

She has Japanese lullaby CDs that she listens to. I read her Japanese books. I don't speak enough Japanese to teach her but when she gets older there's a Japanese immersion school I want to send her to if she's interested. I also can cook quite a few Japanese dishes so she'll get exposed to that. I'm planning on celebrating Japanese holidays with her. Like in two weeks we're traveling to Portland to celebrate the Hina Matsuri, Girl's Day Festival. Her father may have abandoned her but that doesn't mean she can't learn about her heritage.
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