If so, how did it go?
Currently, DD (32 months), speaks French. I speak to her in French, but I'm also showing her some English words and songs. We live with my folks who both speak French to her, though they can speak and understand English. We generally use English to talk to each other when we don't want her to understand.
DD's daycare is ALL French. Not a smidge of English in sight. Her only exposure to English comes from a few tv shows she watches in English, from a CD of English nursery rhymes I got and from me showing her words in English. Other than that, I speak English to my boyfriend but he's not around during the week.
She also knows a few Vietnamese words my father has shown her. She regularly asks for the translation of French words in both English and Vietnamese. But, when I try to read to her in English, she gets mad and demands that I read in French. (I did myself a disservice here because half her books are in English but I translate them on the fly when I read to her).
I may have the opportunity to put DD in an all English pre-K program when she turns 4. I'm getting all the paperwork drawn up so that she is granted permission to do this. However, seeing her current reluctance to be read to in English, I wonder if it won't be a train wreck.
Anyway, all in all we have only had good experiences.
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English is my first language and I speak/understand quite a bit of Spanish. My husband was raised in an English speaking family in Mexico, so he speaks both fluently. When DS was a toddler, I spoke English to him and DH spoke both English and Spanish to him. So, his primary language was English, but he certainly had some Spanish exposure. We put him in a Spanish language preschool when he was almost 3, and the language component was totally fine (we had some other issues with the school unrelated to language). He then went on to an English language preschool, and it was fine, too. He ended at the Spanish school one week, and started at the English school shortly after, and the transition was completely smooth.
I used to teach public school kindergarten and 1st grade English to "English Language Learners" - or kids who didn't speak English. They were able to transition so easily. We also know a lot of families who have placed their children in different language programs and/or moved internationally, and everyone has been totally fine with it at this age. I think there is resistance from kiddos when they feel they are the only ones using a language (or their parent is the only one using a language) and it isn't being reinforced socially. They have to be very conscious when they are using the language, which is more work for them. But when they are in a class with a bunch of other kids using that language, and with a teacher who speaks to them in that language, it just becomes a part of their daily life. Most kids want to fit in and be a part of the group they are with, and sometimes that means acquiring the group's language. I think it isn't a struggle then, and language acquisition occurs more naturally.
The reason why your dd doesn't want you to read to her in English is because you have a relationship in French. Speaking English with her is very unnatural and uncomfortable for her. It's not the English she's objecting to but the fact that it's you using it.
I get the same darned thing in my house. I lived and worked in France before meeting my non-English speaking French husband. My kids hear me using French all and every day. But try to say ONE word to them in it and they get completely unglued. They are a lot older than your dd but even in their French world, they associate me with English and that's what they want me to use.
We put them in a French-German bilingual program when they were about the same age. They picked up German in a heartbeat. All three are top students in their classes and the older two are trilingual. I can't claim (yet) for the youngest but she knows a lot of words.
I've also seen many non-French speaking children go right into French school at age 3 and pick up the language within months. We have a lot of refugee families who don't speak French themselves but the children are fluent. I can't count all the awkward times I've greeted fellow parents in French just to get that blank look, or a meek "bonjour" while our children are babbling away to each other. I thought one dad was just stand-offish, only to take the time to speak with him and his very hesitant French... His daughters speak to each other in French at home.
Whatever you do, do NOT try to "teach" her any English ahead of time for a number of reasons. This doesn't serve any purpose and she might get rebellious towards the English. Instead, talk to her about learning English. One friend would go out in public and say to her dd "Listen to them speaking French. You're going to learn to talk like this when you start school..." Answer any questions she has about it. She can watch T.V. or films in it but don't interject anything.
What I can suggest is that you tell the teacher that she doesn't speak English. This is important to know if there is anything serious. Also, the teacher might just want to confirm that your dd is following along and knows the instructions. The little girl above became an excellent student and only had one bad incident, when she didn't know that they were using a different classroom one day. They found her in the old one.
We also had an incident where another parent (from another class) yelled at my child in front of the whole class. My dd was so upset she couldn't express herself in either English or German. The teacher immediately switched to French (notice that she would only talk to the teacher, not me, in French). Yes, it was a whole hooplah with the director involved and the mom called in... but the point is that if there is something dangerous or immediate, they need to know.
Actually, I've seen all-one-language programs work better at this age often than bilingual programs. Sometimes children who already speak both find that the level is not suitable in one or both languages. One friend's child became the "English" child and was bored stiff on English days, while not following on French ones. In an all-one-language program, children this young don't know or care who speaks what. They follow the others and just absorb it as they go along.
The most important factor is that the school is good and the right atmosphere for your child. You want to be zen about the teaching philosophy and the program they're teaching. Language is important but don't place it at the top of the list. If there are problems, don't immediately blame the language (happened once with one of mine) but look into other factors. My son needed better study habits but the teacher was too quick to blame the German and English on his problems (sorted out with some intervention and now he's on a roll!)
If english is not your mother tongue, I think it is natural a younger child does not want to hear you speak it. I speak in american english, my kids reply in danish. My husband speaks to them in danish and they reply in danish. They are 6 and 4. When we read bedtime stories at night, they want me to read to them in english, and DH in danish. So even though I can read the story in danish, the tone, the accent, the mood... is off. And they don't enjoy it. So I read the story lines to myself, and then translate it in my head to english, and say these words out loud. When DH has an english book, he does the same, in reverse.
OK, now that I am thinking about it, there are a few exceptions. Some books really do not translate well, so they let me read them in danish. But really they prefer DH to read them those books, and me to read the english books.
I think DD's reluctance to hear me read in English is partly due to her being a tempermental toddler. I haven't forced the issue and she continues to ask me the English and Vietnamese translations for words she knows on French.
I only hope that when she is placed in an English pre-k program she is as interested.
I wouldn't worry about her being "interested" in it. Sometimes my kids get a little fed up with the German. Why do they have to do German? It's so much harder. It would be so much easier if it were all in French, etc. This is totally normal. Please don't expect her to love English every minute!
In their case, they're in a special program, in a normal public school. You're in a better situation if the whole school is in English (or bilingual as the case may be). Then pulling out of English would mean saying goodbye to her friends and having to change schools...
Actually, on a technicality, our kids were allowed to continue at their old school when we moved because of the German so I can actually say that too. Putting up with the German is a small price to pay for staying with your friends!
I don't require my kids to love German all the time but as they grew older, they were pleased with the attention and the advantages that the three languages gave them. Yes, it's tough. Yes, they have to study more and have more hours of class... But then there are fun assignments, trips and projects they get to do thanks to being in the bilingual program.
It's important to us that they can speak German. We live near the border and it's a required language for many jobs here. Very few people have that magic combination of all three languages, and why we opted to do German (which we don't speak at home) vs. English, which they do speak.
What the concern would be is that she not struggle or find English difficult. If the class is filled with fluent and native English speakers, she might not be able to communicate or grasp it well. This is less because the language is to blame than that the English was not suited to her specific situation; learning it from scratch. My non-German speaking children are in a program designed for French speakers learning German specifically. Might have been a different story if I had placed them elsewhere (and we do have German-native programs where we live).
Big difference between a child who is being stubborn and doesn't like something for no real reason and a toddler in a preschool that is ill-suited to her academic and linguistic needs. The first you can handle. The second, you would need to address. Make sure there is no confusion on your, or the teacher's parts! I've seen that happen too many times, or blaming unrelated problems right away on a foreign language...
Hey Halfasianmomma - we live in Montreal too! Our dd grew up only speaking English, but we put her in a francophone school for pre-K. She adjusted pretty darn quickly, and by Christmas time was totally at ease conversing in French. I think you'd see the same thing with your dd. I know enough anglo kids who have been put into french school at that age and picked up the language quickly and easily that I wouldn't worry about her in that regard.
I also agree with pps that I wouldn't worry too much about whether she's interested or not. I'd just present it as time to go to school - this is what school is. I imagine that you're right, that right now she doesn't want to hear books in English because she's an opinionated toddler, and, of course, because she wants to hear stories that she understands. But school is so much more than story time. It's a time to meet new friends, play, sing songs, learn concepts, etc. In a short while she *will* understand those stories and will be able to enjoy them. And it might be that she never wants to hear you read stories in English. I think often kids associate certain things with certain people and they like to keep it that way. I can speak French but my dd never wants to hear me read french books. She understands them perfectly (and now reads them herself), but always prefers to have me read to her in English.
In other words I say go for it! At best you're opening the door to trilinguality (is that a word, lol?) for your dd, and at worst you will always have the option of switching her to a french school board school.
Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010
What an interesting thread! I have signed my older DD up for a dual immersion program in Mandarin in a public school. Around here the three languages for dual immersion are French, Spanish and Mandarin. The program in this school is only in it's second year, I believe, but will continue to go through 6th grade at least. I'm really hoping my DD likes it and doesn't find it too hard. Oh, and it starts in 1st grade here.
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