Thursday, October 18, 2012

"my mommy speaks French because she went to Paris with her husband"

Griffin singing in French while playing his homemade guitar (cardboard box and rubber bands from a make-your-own-instrument science kit)

I eavesdropped today and was richly rewarded.

Griffin has recently started Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a group music-and-movement class for four-to-seven year olds.  Since the teacher's bio indicated that he received his PhD in Switzerland, I told Griffin that his teacher probably speaks French; and then on the student info form, I indicated that Griffin is bilingual in English and French.

As my son was the first student to arrive this afternoon, from outside the classroom I could easily hear the teacher greet him in English, then in French.  Without missing a beat, Griffin bonjoured him back.

Teacher: Comment est-ce que tu parles francais?
Griffin: Ma maman parle francais avec moi.
Teacher: Elle est francaise?
Griffin: Non.
Teacher: Elle est quebecoise?
Griffin: Non, elle a allee [sic] a Paris avec son mari.  Il parle seulement un petit peu de francais.

(No doubt the teacher is more confused now, as my son informed him that I am bilingual not because I am from France or Quebec but rather because I once traveled to Paris* with my husband.  [Why didn't Griffin refer to him as "mon papa"?  Etrange!])

Nevertheless, it tickled me that Griffin happily answered a near-stranger's questions in French, and I also recognize the value in having him speak French with a grown man--what with me and the other mamans at French playgroup and storytime, he hears almost exclusively young children and adult European women use the language.  And as he has a clear affinity for males ("I don't like girls!"), I expect that having a male American teacher who can address him in good French is especially valuable.

*In fact, we weren't married at the time--Ed proposed to me during that same trip to France!


  1. i just told Zach there is another boy his age named Griffin who speaks French and doesn't like girls either! we are lucky in that Zach's dad is a French speaker so he does get some exposure from males, although usually it is when he is going through a resistant phase. Then Dad comes in and rescues us! Bravo Sarah - looks like you've got a budding musician there as well! Have him listen to some French guitarists - do you know Francis Cabrel? He's one of my favorites.

    1. I'm hoping his "I don't like girls" is just a phase, seeing as he has a little sister now! It would be great to find a francophone male nanny for the kids--I'd like Griffin to hear guys speaking French more often.

      My brother lives in DC and it's been two years since we visited would be fun to get Zach and Griffin together for a playdate if we ever make it back to your neck of the woods!

      I hadn't realized (or had forgotten) that Zach has a native French speaker in his family--lucky! What language(s) do you speak at home?

    2. Oh, and Francais Cabrel is amazing. His album "Samedi soir sur la terre" was in frequent rotation in my classroom--I used songs like "Octobre" and "Je t'aime, je t'aimais, je t'aimerai" to teach verb tenses in context! I should play some of Cabrel's songs for Griffin (it's easy to get tired of the same chansons enfantines over and over, n'est-ce pas?).

    3. Hey Sarah! I am terrible about checking for posts and replies - sorry for the delay.

      Yes, hopefully at least Gwyneth will be an exception to the "I don't like girls" rule!

      I would love to get the boys together if you are ever in DC - vous serez les bien venus!! It would be fun to see whether we could get them to stick to French! Although Zach is definitely not at Griffin's level of French, we are still plugging away and he is sounding more and more fluent. It makes me more determined than ever to keep at it.

      We actually speak English at home - other than my French time with Zach, which I have always tried to do about 2 hours a day. My husband is a near-native French speaker, but we generally all speak English together. However, it is nice to have him as a backup and we do a few times a week play or sing in French all together. Yes, I'm lucky!

      And yes, I do get tired of the chansons enfantines sometimes. I figure listening to adult music is still exposing him to French, and probably good for the kids for a change as well! Wow - how brilliant to use "Je t'aime, je t'aimais, je t'aimerai" to teach the verb tenses! That is definitely one of my favorites (et quoique tu fasses…l'amour est partout ou tu regardes….dans le moindre recoil de l'espace, dans le moindre reve ou tu t'attardes..) gives me the chills every time!

      A plus!

    4. Bravo! It sounds like your consistent two hours a day of French with Zach suits your family very well, with the occasional song or game from your husband a nice bonus!

      I'll let you know the next time we're visiting DC....

      Oh, speaking of using one's non-native language part of the time, have you seen this blog, German in the Afternoon?

  2. That's so funny, the part of you going to Paris with your husband ;)
    I love the video of Griffin singing, thanks for sharing it!

    1. No, what's funny was what it must have looked like when Ed proposed during a picnic in Arles when my mouth was full of cheese and I started crying happy tears!

      Thanks for indulging me--I love showing off my kids' photos and videos.