Monday, 2 September 2013

Back on the blogging horse

Wow, has it really been nearly five months since I wrote anything here on my beloved blog. Seriously, I can't believe it. Life has been a total whirlwind with my feet very rarely touching the floor for long enough for me to keep on top of everyday life, let alone indulge in the luxury of writing a blog post.

The last few times I wrote, I was most definitely feeling unsure as to whether I wanted to carry on speaking French with Poppette and Little Man. Knowing we were due a family holiday to France this August, however, I told myself that I would be a fool to stop before then as I ought at the very least give my children the opportunity to explore what they know (and, of course, show me and hopefully nip all my fears in the bud) whilst totally immersed.

I was right to wait.

Whoever spoke to Poppette, in what ever environment, be it in the local supermarket or pharmacy, the ticket lady on the merry-go-round, our French friends, our next door neighbours, she understood and spoke back to them. It was a crazy feeling to realise that my daughter (who will be 3 years old in less then two month's time) really speaks French and that, had I not pushed myself through the doubting and spoken to to her in French all this time, we would have arrived on holiday and she would have understood 'rien'! Likewise, for Little Man (now 17 months old) who, although he still only has a few French words in his spoken vocabulary, clearly understands French when it is spoken to him.

The holiday was amazing on many levels - I mean, put me in France and watch me float - just being there makes me happy. But to watch my children just fall into being a part of it all. Wow! Watching them play in French with our friends' two little boys (who are French and also French/ English bilinguals) was just brilliant... The game un, deux, trois soleil for one really seems to have stuck with both Poppette and Little Man who still cover their eyes every time they hear the words. Also, our friends spoke only French with my little ones which was priceless.

One day whilst in France, Poppette came to me and said "Maman, je veux manger" [Mummy, I would like something to eat] - until that point, she had always said "Maman, I want manger" so, in my eyes this was a huuuuge step..... the minority language immersion environment helped push the majority language out.

She's gone right back to saying "Maman, I want manger", now were home, but at least I know now that there are words in her head just waiting for the right opportunity to come back out and that this will be just the same with Little Man.

It's back to that old chestnut of just having faith. Believe it will work and it will. Keep working towards your goal. It's not always easy (far from it, at times, to be honest!!) but.... well, the proof is in the pudding.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

June's Multilingual Blogging Carnival

Leanne over at All Done Monkey is hosting this month's raising multilingual children blogging carnival. The theme is all about multilingualism and travel and there are stacks of really interesting and informative posts.

Highly recommended reading!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Project Life: Capturing the Everyday

I've just discivered Project Life and I'm hooked!

For those of you who have not yet heard of Project Life, it's an idea originally created by Becky Higgins as a way to record your memories (both big and small) without the commitment often required to keep detailed journals or scrapbooks. It encourages you to print off the millions of photos that otherwise stay hidden on your hard drive or in your iPhone and to slip them into a book where you can peak at them whenever the desire takes you.

I can hear some of you saying, well, isn't that what a photo album is for?

Well, yes and no. Project Life encourages you to add notes and ephemera to build more than just a photographic memory.

Take a look at these blogs where seasoned Project Lifers can tell you (better than me) how it's done.

A Vegas Girl At Heart

Ali Edwards

Elise Blaha

Cathy Zielske

Rukristin Papercrafts (this post has links to over 100 Project Life resources broken down into the following categories: manufacturers, bloggers, organisation, challenges, free printables, miscellany and digital)

Anyway, the relevance of this to you guys is that I think Project Life is a great way to record language development and sound bites. All of those cute little phrases that come out of your children's mouths day after day. If you're like me, you scribble lots of them down but, most of them don't end up anywhere useful and will get lost in time.

I've been trying for half an hour to upload a photo of some examples of what i've been putting in my album so far but let's just say, it ain't working and i've given up before I throw my computer out of the window!

Two weeks in and I know already that this is the perfect way for me to document our life and build our memories ... and, believe me, it's not like I have the time to take on anything life is one long to do list right now but, I'm squeezing it in where I can. It has already spurred me on to take photos of the 'little stuff' and to be more proactive in printing them off and it has made me think more about the tiny things that I don't want to forget. The things that build a picture of who we are but often get overshadowed by the bigger bits of life.

If i'm totally honest it has also allowed me to indulge in two other of my great life passions : Internet surfing (looking for freebie printables) and shopping (afterall, who can live without a corner cutter and a date stamp?).

I'd love to know if any of you guys are already doing Project Life or something similar, or if you are thinking about it.

P.S. Here's a link to my Project Life Pinterest board where I have collected lots of great free printable journalling cards etc

P.P.S The only place in the UK I have found so far that you can source Project Life stuff from is the Scrapbookers Inner Circle website. Although there are several other companies selling similar products.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

No Mummy! Speak French!

I'm still really struggling with my own thoughts around carrying on with our bilingual endeavour. I'm pretty tired with all that's going on at work and at home so it doesn't leave huge amounts of time to sit and think all this through rationally! One thing I have decided though, is that I must keep going unless and until I decide to stop. By that I mean, it doesn't make sense to stop speaking French to my children whilst I grapple with whether or not to continue since, if I do plump for continuing, I will have wasted time and potentially confused my children into the bargain.

That said, I have let myself speak English on a few occasions with both children recently. Apart from the nagging pang of guilt that I am letting them and myself down, it actually feels pretty liberating!

However, Poppette (who is now 31 months old) really doesn't seem to like me speaking English with her.

In fact, she positively resists it.

On the few occasions over recent weeks where, for one reason or another, I have chosen to speak English with her she hasn't accepted it at all.

On one of those occasions, I needed to carefully explain to her why what she had done was wrong (as in why it was not good behaviour) and that she shouldn't do it again. I switched to English because of my own fears of not getting the message across right and not wanting to cock up the lesson for her.

Another time it was because she picked up an English language book at story time and, quite honestly, I just didn't have the energy to translate so I started reading in English.

This morning, it was because she asked me a question in English "What's that Mummy?" she said, pointing at a traffic sign. I had a blank... what on earth is traffic sign in French. eek... "It's a sign, baby", I said.

"Non, Maman! Parle en français" [No, Mummy! Speak French!] she demanded just as she had done on each previous occasion.

Obviously I'm pleased! I mean, even when she chooses to speak in English to me, she still wants and expects me to reply in French. I am rather astounded though.

I remember reading somewhere long ago, when I was first weighing up whether I dare embark on our non-native journey towards bilingualism, that bilingual children tend to identify people by the initial language they speak with them and can feel uncomfortable when that person changes language with them. I guess that in Poppette's mind, mummy equals French.

Friday, 10 May 2013

I've Hit a Big, Fat Brick Wall

Today I am not feeling very positive about speaking French with my children.

I have woken up questioning the whole thing.

It's really weird but I feel like I did way back in the early months when I started out speaking French to Poppette as a small baby.

Sometimes, I see mothers with children older than mine and I watch the interaction between them and listen to the things they chat about and the types of words they choose from their native language to have these discussions in.... and I wonder whether we will ever achieve that. Will I be able to teach my children about all the things I should teach them and all the extra things I want to teach them in my non-native language....Or not?

Should I speak English sometimes and what will the effect be? Interestingly, Poppette really pushes back if I try and speak English with her... (I will write a post about that later).

My two and a half year old daughter speaks French, my one year old son understands it and over the past two and a half years, we have built a mountain of French resources. This makes me feel that if I stop now everything will have been such a huge waste... but.... if it can't or won't work in the long term, is it better to cut and run?


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

He Really Does Understand

Please pinch me.

Little Man (13 months) had a big weekend this weekend. He moved into his group 1, forward facing car seat and into his own bedroom all in one day and then he showed me that I should stop panicking about whether he hears enough French and just have some faith.

We were in the laundry room and he picked up a sock and showed it to me. I said "C'est une des chausettes de Papa. Tu lui la donnes?" [It's one of Papa's socks, are you going to give it to him?]... He literally turned on his toes and toddled off to give Papa his sock.

My heart swelled.

My Little Man. He's been listening to me babbling to him in French, absorbing the francophone conversations between his sister and me and watching Dans le Jardin des Rêves, Trotro, Bali, Grabouillon, Sam le Pompier et al and storing it all up.

Well done Little Man.

I'm so proud of you!

Raising Multilingual Children Carnival - April 2013

I'm really excited to see that the first ever Raising Multilingual Children Carnival is out!

The original Blogging on Bilingualism Carnival has come to an end as its organiser Letizia Quaranta is so busy with other commitments. Thank you Letizia, it's been an amazing journey.

I want to say a huge thank you to Annabelle of the Piri Piri Lexicon for setting up this new carnival so that we can each get our monthly fix! It takes a huge amount of work and commitment to organise and administer something like this and so many of us get so much benefit out if it.

This first carnival is being hosted over at Multilingual focuses on 'lessons learned' and it's absolutely packed with great posts from our wonderful multilingual blogging community.


Friday, 3 May 2013

Language Mixing & Code Switching

Poppette is now 30.5 months old and, the more her language skills develop and the more able she is to speak in full sentences, I notice her substituting words from one language for another.

I can't honestly say what influences her choice as, often times, she knows the appropriate word in both of her languages.

The interesting thing for me is how she always manages to construct grammatically correct sentences even when mixing the two languages together.

I want to capture these so I can look back and smile, so I'm going to add them to my "Poppette & Little Man" page.

A couple of cute examples are:-

Pas go au lit [Je ne veux pas aller au lit]

Don't want it, go au lit. [Je ne veux pas aller au lit]

Ça va très fast [Ça va très vite]

Ça move [Ça bouge]

She also has some cute language quirks where she uses the structure from one language when speaking the other such as calling orange juice 'juice orange' [jus d'orange] or like this morning when she proudly announced "I make big sleep" [j'ai fais gros dodo] i.e. I had a big sleep!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Non-Native Treasure Trove: Everything there is to know about the summer

I've just ordered a new book and am super excited!

It's called Tout sur l'été and, if I'm totally honest, it's more of a purchase for me than it is for les enfants!

In a bid to keep up with Poppette's knowledge thirsty mind and French language needs, I'm trying everything I can to increase my own vocabulary so I don't get caught on the hop quite so often.

This book sounds like the perfect antidote to that all too common brain freeze.

Détails sur le produit

It looks at pretty much everything you can think of that relates to the summer season split into three sections :- animal life, nature and daily life.

It explains scientific stuff (using a little character called Loupiote who shares his knowledge comic strip style) e.g. Why is the weather warm in summer? What causes thunder storms? Why do stars shine in the night sky? Why is it important to protect bees?

It also covers topics such flowers, insects, fruits and vegetables, all from the angle of what happens to them in the summer months. What's it like up a mountain in the summer months? Or by the sea? Why do cows produce more milk in summer?

There are also poems, rhymes, recipes and activities for the children to get involved in to help with their discovery.

A serious gem of a find.

The icing on the cake is that this book forms a part of a series. Yep... guess who'll be coughing up for a copy of Tout sur l'automne and Tout sur le printemps when the seasons begin to change!

I'll let you know whether it lives up to the hype and to my expectations when it arrives!

Now all I have to do is find time to read it. Oh Lordy.

UPDATE : 2nd May 2013

My book arrived a couple of days ago and I'm not disappointed! It's everything I had hoped for.

Here's a few photos of what you can expect to find inside:

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Subjunctive and Other Delights

Poppette is now 30 months old and her grammar skills in both English and French are developing a pace. Each day she uses words and sentence structures that I have not heard her use before. Watching her learn to express her inner thoughts really is a marvel.

The subjunctive just keeps popping out of her mouth ...Yes! The subjunctive... so many French language students grapple with that throughout their studies..... and my two year old can use it correctly because learning a language from birth is clearly a fabulous way to learn.

Like many toddlers, Poppette is a real creature of habit and creates routines left right and centre. Her new rule is that, at bed time, she can’t go to sleep unless Maman or Papa lay beside her bed, on her flower mat, under a blanket and go to sleep too! I am determined to break this routine.... as it's starting to take longer and longer for her to actually go to sleep as distracted as she is by the novelty of having a roommate!

Last night, I laid down obediently and waited for her to drop off but she was shifting around and around for what seemed like forever.... So, I piped up "Tu fais quoi, ma princesse?" [what are you doing, my princess]. To which Poppette immediately retorted..."Chut Maman, il faut qu'on dorme. [Ne] parle pas!" [Shhh mummy, we've got to go to sleep. Don't talk!"]. A perfect little subjunctive! Of course I was so damned excited about the French grammar bit that I promptly forgot about the fact that it was 10pm, I was starving and essentially barricaded in my two year old's bedroom!

Little Man (12 months) is showing continued signs of understanding and has added a new word to his list "more". He hasn't said anything in French yet (apart from doudou, which he has now been saying for a couple of days). I live in hope that more French words will follow. I need more time with him. I feel like he hears so little French compared to the intensive English environment they provide him with at nursery.

Friday, 15 March 2013

My 29 Month Old Daughter Just Corrected My French!!!

Well, it was always going to happen. But so soon...... well, I wasn't quite expecting it just yet.

Poppette was just racing around the living room and fell over with an almightly clatter. She came running over to me clutching her elbow and we had the following exchange:

Poppette : Mal (hurt)

Me: Tu t'es fait mal à la coude?* (Did you hurt your elbow).

Poppette: Oui, mal au coude. (Yes hurt elbow).

It just shows how grammar is hardwired into a native speakers brain.

Obviously, I'm telling myself that I must have got the grammar right a million times before in order for Poppette to learn it in the first place Smileys.

Poppette the grammar teacher.

* For any of you that aren't French speakers, the word for elbow i.e. le coude is a masculine word ... I mistakenly made it feminine!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Language and My Little Man

Little Man is now eleven months old and is constantly "talking".

In and amongst his lovely baby chatter he has a selection of words, some of which he has been using for a good month or so and others which have just started to appear ... all English so far ... So,. it's time to start taking a note so I don't forget!

So far he says the following:

Bye Bye

I've also heard him say yes and no but he doesn't use either regularly as yet.

People have actually been telling me for over a month now that they have heard Little Man say certain words but I haven’t always been there to hear them. I've been quite surprised really as I had a secret fear that he would start to speak late because I haven't felt that I have had the opportunity to talk him enough. It's not as easy with your second child as you just don't get the same amount of one on one time as you did with your first. Another whip to lash myself with... except for the fact that it turns out my worries were unfounded...Phew.

He definitely understands French. e.g.

Va chercher ton ballon [Go get your ball]
Assieds-toi [Sit down]
Tu veux manger? [Would you like something to eat?]
Viens ici [Come here]
Non! [No!]

Now I'm just hoping that my other worry i.e. the fact that I don't have huge amounts of time to speak French with him apart from on a weekend (and him being in English speaking nursery five days a week), won't be detrimental and stop him from speaking French. Friends have pointed out that, as he has heard me speaking to Poppette in French since he was born and also hears the French cartoons that Poppette watches etc, that he has quite a robust French environment so will be picking up more than I think.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, 4 March 2013

All Aboard the Language Rollercoaster

Raising bilingual children can be a real rollercoaster. I've heard countless stories of children refusing to speak their minority language for a whole host of reasons, not least because they just 'prefer' the majority language.

Sometimes things seem to be going so well that I feel like I'm flying...On the days where my language skills feel on point, when Little Man (11 months) shows me that he understands what I'm saying when I speak to him in French and when Poppette (28.5 months) chatters away with me in French, singing impromptu French nursery rhymes and repeating lines from her favourite French cartoons.

On other days, that same rollercoaster has me down in the doldrums... self critiquing my every spoken word and my accent and questioning the very reason we pursue this bilingual goal for our family.

Now that Poppette expresses her own opinions and desires more and more, this creates another language rollercoaster.....the big dip last week came one evening when she point blank refused to let me read to her in French - "Pas français, Maman. Anglais! Non! Anglais!".... I capitulated and then spent the next few days panicking that this was the beginning of some slippery slope which would culminate, somewhere down the line, in Poppette refusing to speak French.

Looking back with a more objective mind, perhaps it was just another case of her expressing her individuality and right to make a choice just like she does everyday when she refuses to eat whatever was her favoutire food the day before or to wear what was, until that point, her favourite t-shirt.

Who knows!

Since then we've been on an extraordinary up ! So much so that I've been having to pinch myself every now and again.

Poppette has been really upping her French with me to the point of about 95% of all our communications. She even comes bounding in from English speaking nursery and switches immediately into speaking to me in French.

The morning after her insistence upon an English story, Poppette was watching Jake et les Pirates du Pays Imaginaire (Jake and the Neverland Pirates) and exclaimed "Oh Oh Maman, Crochet a piqué le coquillage d'Issey" [Oh oh Mummy, Captain Hook has pinched Issey's shell"].... I breathed a sigh of relief that it may not all be over just yet and gave her a big old hug.

I was really quite amazed this weekend when Poppette, who was really quite ill with a sickness bug, still maintained her French with me. I would have expected her to perhaps slip into English.... possibly because that's what I wanted to do in the first instance. In fact, when she first became ill, I actually spoke to her for a few moments in English, just to satisfy myself that I knew what was going on and that she was ok. I don't think I need have bothered. She is quite capable of telling me (and often in full sentences these days) what's going on.

Another indication that Poppette really does understand the fact that she is surrounded by two languages came this weekend when I was reading Mireille l'Abeille (Thanks for the recommendation Tallulah) to her. She pointed at the words on the page, looked up at Papa and said (in English) "It's French look! Papa can't read it" :D

I have resolved to try and be less reactive to these ups and downs and to remember that everything is a phase and that just as it's not helpful to let the downs dent my confidence nor is it a great idea to let the highs make me complacent because as sure as eggs is eggs there will be more tests around the corner!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Non-Native Treasure Trove: La Vie de Mon Doudou

Poppette loves her doudou.

For her second birthday (a few months ago now but I’ve only just got around to writing this post) Papa and I thought it would be a great idea to buy her a book in which Doudou was the star attraction.

Step forward La Vie de Mon Doudou - a brilliant French website that creates books in French where either your child or their doudou are the main protagonist.

In the interests of total honesty, I definitely think that Papa and I rate the whole idea far higher than Poppette herself. She seemed a little sceptical about the fact that it really was her Doudou. We picked the jungle theme which shows Doudou frolicking with various jungle animals in their natural habitat. Poppette must, and quite rightly too, have wondered how on earth Doudou could have made such a trip when he is never away from her side.

It's not the cheapest of gifts....and I did find myself wondering if I couldn't have created something of similar quality myself with Photoshop and a little patience!!! Still, it’s definitely worth thinking about as a gift if you want something highly personalised and original and your Photoshop skills are as lacking as mine.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Non-Native Thought for the Day #5

One remarkable and definitely enviable thing about learning languages consecutively from birth is that the words come with no baggage, no preconceived ideas about what does and doesn't sound right and no mental blocks around the pronunciation of certain sounds.

The languages simply are what they are.

What a wonderful way to be able to see the world. From a position of acceptance, free of questions, doubts and insecurities.

I often get a reminder of this wonderful phenomenon when I listen to Poppette speak. She often freely uses words that I remember finding either hard to learn or perhaps ones that in the past I had avoided using as they just sounded odd to someone who's brain is hard wired first and foremost to the sounds of the English language.

This morning was a great example. Poppette (28 months) bounded out of the front door and exclaimed " [ Il ] fait [ du ] brouillard [it's foggy]. Now you don't get many words less English sounding and, therefore, more technically difficult to grasp as a starting French language learner than brouillard!

When words and phrases like this jump out of her mouth it makes me very happy that we chose to teach her both her languages together. It reminds me that there are so many benefits to doing it this way.

Another very handy benefit is never having to learn the gender of nouns! Oh what a delight... imagine just knowing that, regardless of whether it's a boy or a girl, a baby is un bébé and that an apple is une pomme whilst a grape is un raisin. I am so happy that my children will never have to grapple with genders because they will just instinctively know....

The flip side of that is, of course, that I need to be darned careful about making mistakes just in case they become hardwired into their little brains....grrrr.....more revision then!

Friday, 15 February 2013

That's My Girl

Poppette, who just turned 28 months old, came out with a corker today. We were sat in her room reading bedtime stories and she picked a new Lucy Cousins book Hooray for Fish which Papa had read to her for the past couple of days in English.

I started to translate on the hoof and Poppette looked up immediately and we had the following exchange:-

Poppette: Anglais [English]

Me: Tu veux que je te lise en anglais? [Do you want me to read to you in English?]

Poppette: Non. Papa anglais, Maman français. [No. Daddy English, Mummy French]

That's my girl :-D

Monday, 4 February 2013

Stumbling Block

I'm feeling a little at sea today and would really appreciate any guidance any of you guys might have.

I've been flirting with the idea of teaching Poppette her alphabet. Not in a formal drill table type way but through crafts and colouring and the like. I had initially intended to teach her the French alphabet whilst letting Papa and nursery teach her the English one. Then I started to worry a little; what if learning both at the same time was just plain confusing? Also... how do the French teach their alphabet? I know the English alphabet is taught using phonics these days... I'd need to do some research into how it works in France if I were to go ahead.

Anyhow, today I called Poppette's nursery and asked when and how they go about it. It appears that I'm a little ahead of the curve and that typically they wouldn't start teaching Poppette (who is now 27.5 months) for roughly 6 months and, even, then it would be a very slow introduction. That said, they did say that if a child shows interest then it's great to let them learn earlier but the danger is that, if they don't like it, it could put them off good and proper!

What to do?

What do other people do?

What do you do?

Today is one of those days where I need to reach out and ask for your advice or even just some information about how it works in your family.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Non-Native Treasure Trove - Teachers Pay Teachers - An Educational Printables Website Covering Many Languages

I've stumbled across another great website where educators upload fantastic printables that you can download for a small fee.

There are flashcards, educational games, themed learning activities such as the alphabet, colours and numbers and much much more.

The search engine isn't as user friendly as I would like....or perhaps I'm just useless :D

I have found, for example, that you can't just select either the French or the Ressources en Français option in the dropdown menu to reveal everything they have in those sections, you also have to take a stab at something you're interested in and type it into the search engine to see what it reveals e.g.  Alphabet . This makes me think I probably haven't seen half of what there is on offer yet.

That said, if you're looking for English language resources the whole thing seems far easier.

They also cover French, German, Hebrew, Russian, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Spanish and Portuguese with a catchall category for 'other (Foreign Languages)'. There is another really helpful option to select the age group you need, starting at Pre-K right through to Adult Education and there's a separate option for Homeschooling.

If you take a look, let me know what you think....especially if you find something useful as I may well not have seen it yet :D

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Tu Veux Manger?

Oh là là

I can hardly believe that I am about to start this blog post about Little Man (almost 10 months old) with the very same words I used in this blog post about Poppette when she was 11 months old.

"I am so excited to sit down and write this post.

Little Man understands French!!!!

I have no idea why I am so surprised - afterall, I have been speaking French to him since he was born. Still, it was such a shock when I first realised."

A few days ago, I said to him "Tu veux manger?" [Would you like something to eat?] and he turned around and extended his arm towards the kitchen as if to say yes, please!!! Never one to be 100% sure whether something is a fluke the first time I witness it, I waited to see whether he did it again before writing a blog post about it and he has; several times.

I'm actually grinning from ear to ear. Not least because I have carried around a constant worry that I haven't spoken enough French to Little Man from an early enough juncture and becuase he started English speaking nursery care three months younger than Poppette so has had less time around me to help lay his language foundations.

This sign has bolstered my resolve and I find myself excitedly charttering to him all the time... he's probably wishing he'd kept quiet :D

It's so true that this whole non-native thing does become a lot easier once your children start to respond to what you say and you allow yourself to believe that they can and will understand.