Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Griffins say the darnedest things!

At 25 months old, Griffin continues to say things that make us go "Wow!" or "Awwww" or "Oh!" or "Huh?" Here are a few recent notables:

Griffin had been fighting a persistent ear infection for a month when one night he grabbed his head and said "My ear hurt!" We were so glad to hear that--it was the first time he had ever articulated what exactly was causing him pain. "Ne t'inquiète pas, chéri," I told him. "J'ai tes médicaments ici. Ouvre la bouche!" I brandished the syringe of antibiotics and the second one of Tylenol and tried to get him to open his mouth. He looked at me, confused, angry, hurt, and shook his head, and clapped his hand on his ear again. "No bouche, oreille!" Poor kid--here he was, in pain and telling me about it, and I wanted to put the medicine for his ear in his mouth! No wonder he looked so misunderstood and betrayed.

As we wean him, I've been trying to replace the bedtime nursing with a different kind of special Maman-Griffin time, creating a routine of reading and singing to him. One night, while sitting in a comfy chair with just a lamp on above us, I looked him tenderly in the eyes and said, "Griffin, je t'aime de la tête aux pieds" (I love you from your head to your toes). Without missing a beat, he responded, "Je t'aime la tête à la lumière" (I love you your head to the light)! Now he says it to me every night (and sometimes even during the day).

One day, I was reading him a book that ended with the mommy walking out of the room after tucking the baby into bed. Griffin must have thought that I missed one important detail as I closed the book; he added "Bébé fait dodo. Maman fait pipi." (Baby's going to sleep. Mommy's going to the bathroom.)

At playgroup, Griffin and some of his friends were "cooking" at the toy kitchen. They would bring pots and bowls of plastic food around to us moms, and we'd oooh and ahhh over how yummy everything was. One mom asked him what kind of soup it was. Griffin paused a moment and then replied, "Hot!"

We went to the zoo this past weekend, which thrills him. I was asking him, in French, which animals he wanted to see there. He named things like elephants, lions, and giraffes--all pronounced more or less correctly in French!--and then concluded his list with "dinosaures." At least he said that one with a French accent too! (Oh, and his pronunciation of "hippopotame," hippopotamus, is adorable--he calls it a "hippo-madame.")

And finally, I taught him the word for "download," "télécharge," because sometimes when watching YouTube, the video would stop and splutter and we'd have to wait for it to finish downloading. I realized that he clearly understood the concept (if not the technical reasons behind it) when were listening to a cassette tape in the car. We came to the end of the tape, and it automatically turned over to the other side, but only after about a minute of dead air. Griffin didn't get mad, though; he just said, "Ça télécharge" and waited patiently!


  1. Sarah, I am surprised that Griffin can speak so many French words. I find it is not easy to teach my daughter Chinese in a non-Chinese language environment, even I am a native speaker of Chinese.

    I talk to my daughter Chinese every day except reading time. As far as I can find, there are not many high-quality Chinese programs and book in the US market.

    Do you read French books to your son exclusively? Should I read my daughter Chinese books instead of English books?

  2. @Best--Well, Griffin definitely prefers to speak English, even though he understands just as much in French. I'm sure it's really challenging trying to raise your daughter bilingually in this country--like you said, there are many fewer resources.

    I do read to Griffin exclusively in French, since I only speak to him in French too. The only exception is when we attend storytime at the library--then I sing the songs, do the rhymes, and read along with the librarian in English.

    I have made some books in French for Griffin and my nephew by using photographs I took and adding captions (see this one for example:, cutting out magazine pictures and labeling them, using post-its to cover up English words in board books and then writing on them in French, and also using to make more professional-looking books with photographs and captions.

    I also think it's perfectly fine to "read" a book written in one language in a different one. If you don't want to translate as you go, simply talking about the pictures as you turn the page is valuable and effective.

    On the other hand, if you've established a routine of having storytime in English, then your daughter knows what to expect and might react negatively if all of a sudden you started to read her English books in Chinese. Maybe you could create a new routine--for example, every book you read in the morning is in Chinese, but the afternoon is English. Or one piece of furniture in your home is Chinese--read Chinese on that couch but English on the other furniture.

    This is an interesting (and important) question, and I'm planning on posting further about it soon!

    Let me know if you have other questions....I'm no expert, but I'm happy to tell you about what has worked for my family.

  3. I haven't stopped by for a visit in a while and am so impressed with how well he's doing! Great work Sarah for sticking with the French! I don't think I could have done it in your shoes. I see lots of my bilingual friends here whose kids will not speak to them in their non-native tongue. Congratulations!

  4. @Reb--Thanks! And I'm glad things are going so well for your littl'uns too. I'm looking forward to posting an update on your family when Max is talking more!

  5. Thank you so much for your detailed reply!! I rushed to get some Chinese books and tried to read to my daughter as much as possible. At the same time I still read English books to her, since she already knew the fun of Dara the explorer and Go Diego go and wanted me to read to her.

    Therefore, I am not the tipical one parent one language to my daughter. Don't know whether this will work or not.... Will let you know the result in the future. Best luck to your teaching!