A new reader, Kate, a French teacher from Denver, writes that she "just had a daughter, Eleanor, in March…. I speak French to Eleanor, but not exclusively because I'm the only one around her who does speak French. I worry that since I'm her primary caregiver (and therefore spend the most time with her) that I'm responsible for her English language development first, and French comes second. Do you have any thoughts on that?"
Actually, I think that Kate should try to speak French exclusively with her daughter! (Admittedly, I'm biased.) Eleanor's first words might be in French if she spends most of her awake time with her mom, but she'll probably end up more fluent in English by the time she's a toddler. After all, just about everything else surrounding her will be in English--interactions with the rest of the family, friends, neighbors, and babysitters; playgroups, playground time, library storytime, swim lessons, etc; television and radio and movies; library books and books received as gifts; and so much more. Eleanor will hear her mom answer the phone in English, speak English at home with non-francophone family and friends, and use English in the outside world.
Eleanor will have no trouble acquiring English from everyone else as naturally and easily as she will acquire French at home with her mom. I'm not too worried about Griffin, because he's getting tons and tons of exposure to English from his dad and his caretakers (Ed's parents one afternoon a week, daycare two afternoons a week) and as the "background music" for much of everything in his life, thanks to the media and the sheer number of angophones I interact with on a daily basis with him listening from the stroller or the sling.
Those of you who have children who are growing up with a primary caregiver who speaks the minority language, what have you found? Should Kate and I be concerned?