Thursday, October 25, 2012

j'ellie, tu ellies, il/elle/on ellie...

(If my niece's name were a regular -er verb,  that's how you would conjugate it.)

Someday I'll manage to take a picture of all four cousins smiling and looking at the camera!  (Ellie, Carl, Gwyneth, and Griffin in August 2012)
I have so enjoyed watching my niece grow!  With her second birthday coming up next month, she's eight months older than Gwyneth, which means they'll be in the same grade at school, but right now, those eight months that separate "baby" from "toddler" may as well be eight years: the girls don't play together yet, not really; Ellie's mostly potty trained; Ellie talks.

Watching Ellie gives me a preview of what we might expect as our baby girl transforms into a toddler girl.  (And I love, love, love hearing about her language acquisition!)

This picture was staged--neither girl really likes to play with dolls!
My relationship with Ellie is quite different from what her older brother Carl and I had when he was her age.  I had been babysitting Carl one afternoon a week for a year and a half at that point, and he would give me big hugs and speak French with me.  We would take walks together, frolic on the playground, read lots and lots of books--basically, the sorts of things that you have the luxury to explore when you're taking care of only one child at a time!

Now I babysit all four cousins every other Wednesday for two hours, which means that Ellie and I never get that one-on-one "quality time" that Carl and I shared.   Therefore, we weren't expecting that she would pick up much French.  (Unlike Carl, who produced two- and three-word sentences in French at 18 months.)

However, every couple of weeks, my sister-in-law Elizabeth mentions something that Ellie said that proves that even short, sporadic contact with a speaker of another language is beneficial!  For example....

Elizabeth: Tatie is bringing Griffin and Gwyneth over this afternoon.
Ellie: Tatie say "bonjour"!

Ellie prepares to tackle her baby cousine
Elizabeth: Be gentle with Gwyneth!  She's just a baby.
Ellie: Tatie say "doucement"! (gently, softly, quietly)

Elizabeth: You're going to Gwyneth's house today.
Ellie: Doucement!

Ellie: Mommy, sing "tete"!  (She wanted to hear the French version of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.)

Ellie, while trying to to assemble the pieces of an apple puzzle: Mommy, put 'gether pomme (apple).
Run, run, run as fast as you can

Now, if only I could get all four children to sit still and let me read to them!

(Oh, and I've given up on trying to do mini French classes with them--when they're together, Carl and Griffin want to careen around the house and the yard, wrestle, hide, holler, and throw things, not play with puppets and sing songs in French with a grown-up!)


  1. Hello Sarah,

    I've read your comment on the blog of my friend Zoe (BabyStepstoIndependence) and I came here to visit yours.

    I found it very interesting because I am living the same situation: I speak to my baby in a language that I am not native (English). Your blog makes me feel more confident.

    I also have a parenting blog, but is all in portuguese:

  2. Hi Mario, and thank you for your comment! I love meeting other people who are using their non-native language with their kids. Since my Portuguese is non-existent, I wasn't able to understand much (at all) of your blog, but would be interested to hear more about your approach.

    Thank you for stopping by, and keep in touch!

  3. Here is an Ellie update as of yesterday (Nov. 7): she noticed Gwyneth's stuffed bears, pointed to them, and said "ours" (the word for "bear," pronounced "oorse").

    She picked one up, hugged it tight, and said, "Ellie love oorses!"

    It was so cute (and so cool) to hear this 23-month-old apply the rules of English morphology to a French noun! "Oorses"--I just might start calling them that too!

  4. Sarah, you know what.. they're miracle!
    Baby bilingual is always lovely, most intelligent baby in the world. they will become famous around mommies and will become the most wanted baby ever! I feel that with my nephew :D

  5. It's amazing that you've been able to impart so much French to your niece just once a week... especially with 2 boys careering around the place! Great to get an update :-)

    1. Well, it's a start, at least! I'm just really, really eager to hear my daughter speak French too....