Friday, 30 September 2011

My Petite Frite - Why LLC is Bilingual While Chris and I are not

As a little kid, I can remember speaking gibberish to my sister in the supermarket, faithfully believing that other customers would think we were speaking another language.

The difference for LLC is that hopefully, she actually will be.

When I was heavily pregnant with LLC one of my neighbours stopped me in the street to let me know she was becoming a childminder, and would I need her services in due course?

Having bought into the London pre-booking nursery craze, we’d already booked LLC into a local nursery three days a week even though she wasn’t yet born and I was no longer gainfully employed. Madness. So initially, I didn’t consider her offer too seriously, even though now the answer would be a total no brainer for me.

But at some point, Chris and I actually sat back and considered the convenience of dropping LLC with a neighbour literally five seconds from our front door. So I asked for more information, and really liked what I saw. The cost was significantly lower than the nursery, and my neighbour’s creative, laid back but firm style felt comfortable to me. Plus, there was the French offer.

My neighbour, I’ll call her C, is French but is married to a Brit and has been living in the UK for a number of years. And one of the benefits she pitched as part of her childminding service was speaking to LLC in French.

You might think I leapt at this opportunity, but I didn’t – quite the reverse. The offer discomfited me. If Chris or I spoke another language, I believe we would definitely have raised LLC in a bilingual style from the start. But this was different, in my mind. LLC would only be with C 3 days a week, and I was concerned whether this would be enough to enlighten her, or merely confuse her and impede her English development. Plus, if C had other children that she didn’t speak French to, would this end up confusing LLC further, leading to her mixing her languages?

I asked a number of friends and family what they would do and received a mixed reply. Some said it was a wonderful thing to do for LLC, others understood my concerns. My conversation with the mother of a little boy C used to regularly babysit ultimately tipped the balance for me. She said even if her son didn’t come away from his time with C fluent in French, she felt that exposing him to French so early on, while his sponge-like young brain was taking shape, would potentially “wire” an innate capacity for French into him that he would hopefully pick up on later.

For whatever reason this rationalisation struck a chord with me and Chris and I decided to go for it, enrolling LLC with C with the understanding she would speak French to her.

Fast forward just over a year. Oh how naive was this over-concerned mama! LLC’s inherent aptitude for learning has guided her, and she’s picking up the French in leaps and bounds. She never mixes languages or has tried speaking French to me, her English vocabulary is developing and she never appears thrown whether C speaks to her in French, or English when addressing other children or me.

On a recent trip to the Loire Valley, LLC frequently said “Merci” and “Au revoir” when I observe C speaking French to her, she understands and responds in action, even if not yet words.

So we haven’t looked back, and seeing what I do now I can’t believe I questioned giving LLC this opportunity.  Plus, perhaps this will be a kick up the bum for me, rapidly losing my six years of school Spanish, to reconnect with language. I’m tired of being a spoiled purely English speaker!
blog comments powered by Disqus