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#1 of 13 Old 06-20-2008, 03:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm afraid of being a dual language home! I'm metis/french canadian, and "Canadian" (ie: mostly British with some Cree tossed in - my ancestors were among the first heads of the Hudson Bay Company). I grew up in both languages. My mom is the English speaker, and was home with us, so English was the dominant language until we were in school (entirely in French) and other activities, which were also all in French. Because of school being in French, most of our friends were non-english speakers. I am comfortable in French, certainly, but we live in a very English speaking community now and all of my early parenting memories (of my mother) are in English. We only spoke French with my father when my mother wasn't around. As a family, we spoke English, so I can't really base this on what worked in my growing up family. My DH does not speak French, and our kids are a mix of (known) donor conceived and adopted from french-speaking Africa. (well, will be, babe #1 is due in Dec., adoption of #2 should be final in Jan. 2010)
It is incredibly important to me that our children speak French, for a multitude of reasons, but I'm really apprehensive about being the French speaker in our home. I'm apprehensive about speaking a language DH doesn't understand in front of him. I speak very little French in my day to day life, and, at this point, the language feels a little forced. I can see myself reverting to English just out of habbit.
Is anyone else in this situation? How do you enforce (with yourself) language? How do you deal with the language barrier with your spouse? What language do you speak at the dinner table, for example? I don't want to exclude DH in any way, but I know that if French is the dominant language in our home, our kids won't be getting it anywhere else. What to do, what to do?! Does it get easier, and more natural as you "just do it"? Any hints?

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Katia

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#2 of 13 Old 06-22-2008, 02:58 PM
 
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I can sympathise but have never been in your situation and it is so particular that maybe you should also post in the adoption forum, however, to answer a few points, we speak eng/french and have nights of french and night of english so that it is shared I have had to learn french so I'm sure your dh could do so too, it's not particularly hard. Also I wanted to say from what I have seen that it is exceptionally important to continue the language the kids are used to speaking so that they don't feel alienated, I saw a documentary of a Thai child adopted to France she had so many integration problems and really hated her adopted family it was almost cruel and exceptionally hard to watch, I know they take the extreme cases but this was particularly difficult. i don't want to spook you at all but maybe starting your dh on french now so that the integration of english and french is easier would help in this situation so that later on it's easier on the kids. If you start speaking french now getting films out - watching french tv and news then you'll be amazed at how quickly you're dh picks it up. Good luck and I mean all that I have written in the kindest of ways.
Take care

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#3 of 13 Old 06-22-2008, 04:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hmmm. I figured this was the wrong forum when I got 0 responses. I don't think it fits in adoption though. I hang out there too, but this is just more of a multi-lingual family issue. I'm a little lost, but I guess we still have at least 5 months to figure something out. Hopefully I'll meet a family like ours in the meantime.

DH will not learn french. He isn't opposed, he just won't put in the effort at this point, especially because it really isn't something that is even remotely usable in daily life where we currently live. He knows basic phrases, but is completely lost when the language is spoken quickly, with an accent different from mine, or addresses subjects beyond basic small talk.

I'll leave this up here though. I know there must be families out there with a similar situation. Surely not everyone speaks their partner's language!

Thanks for the reply, ewe+lamb.

Katia

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#4 of 13 Old 06-23-2008, 01:00 PM
 
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OK I really don't want to be confrontational here however, your dh not wanting to learn french because it won't help him? - of course it will, he's learning to communicate with his kids who won't speak much english, knowing that their primary caregivers understand what they are saying is exceptionally important even in a total immersion system, personally I would highlight that to my dh if I were in the same situation. I know some people don't respond well to different languages and can sympathise but maybe you could ask him to make a bit of an effort to make life easier for the kids and in turn you and your dh too.
Good luck.

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#5 of 13 Old 06-23-2008, 02:24 PM
 
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Katia,

We're not in the same situation, which is why I didn't respond earlier, but I'm happy to share a couple of thoughts. By way of background DH is French, I'm African-American and we live in the States. I have a bit of French from college, but nothing near fluency. I want to learn the language and support DD's exposure and immersion to it precisely because we're in such an English-dominated environment, and because it's an important link to half her family and culture.

What are your DH's thoughts? Is he understanding/supportive of your desire to speak French with the kids, despite his reluctance to learn the language himself? If so, I wouldn't worry too much about his feeling excluded, so long as you don't use it to purposefully exclude him (eg "let's switch to French to talk about daddy" a mean thing itself that I'm sure you wouldn't do). If he trusts you as a parent and partner, he shouldn't take issue with the fact that he can't understand precisely what you're saying to your kids.

If he wants to get in on the game at some point then he can learn. And it's easier than he'd expect -- I find that listening to DH talk to DD has helped me a bunch without much effort on my part. It's not like they're talking about philosophy or higher math right now, it's pretty basic, concrete stuff. I expect that they'll surpass me at some point, but that's just my motivation to get better, and/or to be proud that she has the gift of bilingualism.

HTH!
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#6 of 13 Old 06-23-2008, 02:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Barbamama. I do think he will pick things up just from hearing me speak to our children, but I have distinct memories of my siblings and I passing my mom's abilities at about age 7. So, we never speak french in front of her. This didn't really compromise our own language development, just because we were living in such a French environment. We could easily go a month without interacting with anyone in English, other than my mom.
DH is supportive, and was entirely fluent in French and Kituba until he learned English at about age 9 (he grew up in what was then Zaire), but he has lost it all. I hope this means he will pick it up again easily, but he seems to have lost three different languages over the course of a not so long life. I'm not certain of his ability to retain! It's not that he doesn't see the point, he just is the sort to put things off and think they will be easy, when in reality, becoming fluent in a new language is insanely difficult. Certainly achievable, but not an easy feat to be accomplished in a few weeks. Since the babe isn't here yet, and won't be speaking for a good while after he/she appears, I don't think he feels this is important in the now.
I think my main fear is that I will not speak french to our child because of my own fears of excluding DH. I don't want to be adivided family!

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#7 of 13 Old 06-23-2008, 10:49 PM
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I only have a minute, but I wanted to reply. I am Mexican and my husband is american. DH's father's side of the family is hispanic (Puerto Rico), but he wasn't thought Spanish growing up, so now he knows only a little (pretty much just the basic, though he is being learning from DD and I in the past three years!). He understands more than he speaks, partially because he is not very confident speaking it. Anyway, I have spoken Spanish to DD (3 years old) since birth, and I'm actually pretty strict about it. I talk to her in Spanish no matter where we are, or who we are with (and most of our time we are with English speakers). DH is very supportive of DD's learning Spanish, so that helps a lot. In any case, although I know that DH doesn't understand a lot of what DD and I talk about, I don't feel like we are excluding him, and he doesn't feel excluded. Not everything you talk with a three year old (or a person of any age, for that matter) is relevant for a third person, and when things are relevant and DH didn't understand (or if she said something funny or cute, or whatever), I just translate to him (I do this with other English speakers too). I'm not really sure how to explain the dynamics, but I just wanted to reassure you in the sense that it is possible, and that it doesn't have to be a source of "division" among family members...and DH has been learning a lot in Spanish from hearing DD and I speaking it all the time (she knows way more than him already). Often I'm talking about something with her and he will suddenly join the conversation (In English), which is always a pleasant surprise.

So, I'd say, if you have DH's support, go for it. It is a little hard sometimes and it requires dedication when everything you hear around is English, but it is totally worth it! also, if you feel that speaking French for you is a little forced at this point, I would recommend having a french-speaker family member or friend staying with you for the first week or so after your baby arrives. It would make it a lot more natural for you to speak French, and if you start speaking to your baby in French from day 1 you will get use to it and it will come quite natural to you after just a little while. My mom was with me for the first three weeks of DD's life and it helped me so much to get me into the Spanish mode.

Hope this helps, and feel free to ask more if you'd like or if I wasn't clear. I'm rushing and tired, so I may be rambling!

Best of luck!
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#8 of 13 Old 06-24-2008, 01:39 AM
 
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Hi,

Just wanted to say that I feel your pain. I am not a native French speaker, but DH is Lebanese/French and DS was born there. We've since moved to the US, so we are in an English dominant situation. The deal we made was that DH would speak exclusively in Arabic with DS, I would speak French and English would be school/family/friends. And our family language would be French.

It's challenging for me. Since I came to French as a teenager, I don't have any reflexes for speaking French with small children, but I'm doing the best I can. And, for the record, my Arabic is quite limited, but I'm very happy to say I'm learning it along with DS. So if your DH is interested in understanding French, he will be able to pick it up if he hears enough of it. As a previous poster said, you won't be discussing philosophy or politics-- it'll be stuff like, "Do you want a glass of water? Is your diaper dirty?" Stuff that's simple and easy to learn.

It's really, really important to me that DS speaks French, and even though I'm not a native speaker, I figure that what I can give him is much better than nothing at all! It'll at least be a base, and hopefully he'll one day be able to be truly immersed.

Good luck!
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#9 of 13 Old 06-24-2008, 02:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, thanks for the responses! I like the idea of having a french speaker in the home after the babe is born to get myself in the swing of things. My parents will be here, so I'll just have to make a deal with my dad to speak only french while they are here.
I have another question - for those of you who speak a language your partner isn't fluent in with your child. What language do you speak at the dinner table? When discussing things with your partner in front of your children?
These things were all in english in my home as a child, but we got more french than english in the course of a day just because nothing but interactions with my mom were in english. This will absolutely not be the case for my own children (at least not for the next few years!). Are your children fluent in "your" language even if they only hear it spoken directly to them by yourself? How do they pick up the more sophisticated vocab and syntax without being exposed to "adult" conversation in the language? I know you just do what you can, and I honestly never worried about this before, but now that children are a more immediate thing, I'm suddenly phobic! Ah!

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#10 of 13 Old 06-24-2008, 04:43 AM
 
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Originally Posted by selkat View Post
Are your children fluent in "your" language even if they only hear it spoken directly to them by yourself? How do they pick up the more sophisticated vocab and syntax without being exposed to "adult" conversation in the language? I know you just do what you can, and I honestly never worried about this before, but now that children are a more immediate thing, I'm suddenly phobic! Ah!
OK my kids speak english fluently and we live in france, they only really hear me speak unless we go to scotland for the holidays, we have a couple of friend's with english speaking kids who go to french school but even then the kids tend to 'play' in french - does that help? I don't dummy down my english when speaking to the kids so I guess they'll learn what is acceptable through me - so I'll have to be on my toes!!

ewe + dh = our little lambs + we and have many just : and : life .
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#11 of 13 Old 06-24-2008, 09:43 AM
 
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I don't speak my dh's language and I have no problem with them speaking a language I don't understand. In my case, I'd love to learn Armenian, but there are no structured classes.

I think that if you use the OPOL method, your children will end up with a good grasp of French.

Good luck!
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#12 of 13 Old 06-24-2008, 01:17 PM
 
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I think if your DH used to speak French fluently as a child, he will be surprised how quickly it will come back once you are speaking it every day.
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#13 of 13 Old 06-26-2008, 10:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by selkat View Post
I have another question - for those of you who speak a language your partner isn't fluent in with your child. What language do you speak at the dinner table? When discussing things with your partner in front of your children?
These things were all in english in my home as a child, but we got more french than english in the course of a day just because nothing but interactions with my mom were in english. This will absolutely not be the case for my own children (at least not for the next few years!). Are your children fluent in "your" language even if they only hear it spoken directly to them by yourself? How do they pick up the more sophisticated vocab and syntax without being exposed to "adult" conversation in the language? I know you just do what you can, and I honestly never worried about this before, but now that children are a more immediate thing, I'm suddenly phobic! Ah!

Conversations between my DH and I are always in English whether is at dinner time or any other time in front of DD. The same goes for conversations between DD and me, they are always in Spanish whether or not DH is present. I translate whatever is necessary. DD is fluent and has an excellent vocabulary in both languages. She IS exposed to "adult" conversational levels from me and DH...we don't really change the way we speak when we are talking to her...she is not shy to ask when she doesn't know the meaning of a new word, anyway. Other great sources of vocabulary are books, it is amazing how many words she picks up from them even when it seems like they are over her head or she doesn't ask right away...she will sometimes just come back and ask us later, when we've forgotten where the word even came from!

If I sound passionate about this topic is because I really am. I think language acquisition per se is just a wonderful phenomenon to witness, and more so in a bilingual child!

Hope this helps!
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