Maman And Loulou

Encouragement for parents who want to give their child a gift of another language

Bonjour a tous!

First of all, I apologize for my absence. The holidays got crazy, I learned that I have a month to find a new place and Mon Loulou turns 8 this Saturday! No fear, we haven’t given up on our studies. Au contraire, I realized something one part maddening and one part slightly amusing: my son can speak and understand WAY more French than he lets off.

I found a small group of French learners and natives who do monthly hikes, completely in French. While the prospect of speaking around natives still gives me anxiety akin to spiders crawling up my spine, I signed us up.

The woman organizing it has a little boy a couple of years younger than mine. I encourage my little guy to make friends while I try to make conversation with his mom, so he offers part of his snack. In kid world (who am I kidding, adult world too), this means you are instant BFF’s. This other little boy didn’t speak much, which is normal for very young children who are learning two languages, so there wasn’t much conversation to be had.

It was a more challenging hike than I anticipated, which meant burning legs and a relentless chant of “Je ne peux plus” (I can’t anymore) and “Ton dos, maman” (your back mom.) I didn’t give in. He walked every step. Spoiler alert: his legs didn’t fall off.

When we got to the summit, I learned it was our hosts birthday. So we all sang Joyeux Anniversaire and him and I got to have our first galette des rois. The tradition involves a small figure hidden in the cake-like pastry. Wouldn’t you know it? We found the king!

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I was excited for this fun little French culture souvenir and he was thrilled for a sugary treat. The real discovery though was during our descent.

In a pause in the conversation between myself and the organizer, he took the opportunity to thank her for the treat and the king. And wouldn’t you know it? That little punk had a full blown conversation with her. They sang a song and she asked him questions about it. I DIDN’T EVEN UNDERSTAND THE WHOLE THING!

In his hooch fits, he tells me he doesn’t know that much French. He says he hates it at least weekly and cries sometimes when I redirect him from English.

It is frustrating and definitely tests me on days where I am tired and unmotivated. But you know what? I cried before I went into my first French meetup. I cried when a teacher early on told me I would never learn the language. And I screamed at verb conjugation exercises more than a few times. But I also did the most ridiculous private dances after my first Skype call in French or after reading the first Harry Potter in French.

There are time when he beams because he learned a new word. He will go around repeating phrases from his show like he is giving a speech on some scientific discovery.

Bottom line: learning a language can be an emotional process.

There are highs and lows and it is easy to default to what we are more comfortable with, in the case, the native tongue. But the feeling from the accomplishments of pushing through that far outweigh the passing disappointments. You always overcome them if you just keep trying!

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