Friday, November 22, 2013

it takes un village... raise children in more than one language, especially when only one parent speaks the minority language, and--especially!-- when that parent is a non-native speaker.

A lot of circles have to intersect for me to succeed in this quest, and I'm so grateful to be a part of all of them:

My education: High school, college, and grad school teachers who made French language, literature, and linguistics come alive for me; summer camp counselors at Lac du Bois (one of the fabulous Concordia Language Villages) who helped me interact in French outside of a formal classroom; my professeurs at the Universite de Savoie who tolerated this terrified but enthusiastic American exchange student in their classes, evaluated my halting literary analyses, and graciously conducted oral exams with me as if I were any other student; Rachel, my co-locataire in Chambery, who with her friends and family taught me how real French people speak outside of the classroom; and the school year I spent in Mulhouse as an assistante d'anglais, where, truth be told, I learned much more than I actually taught to my high school students.

My family: In particular my Francophile mother, whose renditions of French folk songs made up a large part of the background music of my childhood; but also my extended family, who served as  cheerleaders as I studied abroad and went on to become a French teacher; and my in-laws, who never question my passion (or my ability, or the point) of raising the children bilingually (heck, my sister-in-law and her husband even offered me their son as my first guinea pig!); and, most importantly, Ed, the love of my life, whose "hopeless monolingualism" (his words) doesn't prevent him from enthusiastically supporting my efforts to raise our children bilingually, even though he doesn't always understand our dinner conversation and doesn't know what to do with the steady stream of books entering our home.

The Internet: Providing forums for me to connect with other multilingual families and teachers all over the world; offering used French books at bargain prices from eBay Canada; serving up French music and videos via YouTube, streaming radio stations, and more; tempting me with educational (and also uneducational) apps and games in French for the iPad; and giving me free access to French stories and books, lesson plans, and more Pins than I'll ever be able to read, much less implement!

The local community: The public library that let us use their space to offer a regular French storytime; the now-defunct Parenting Place who hosted a regular French playgroup; the parents from that playgroup who became my friends and whose children spoke French to my kids over countless puzzles, dump trucks full of sand, and crayons worn down to nubbins every Monday morning for years; CCFLT, the Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers, which puts me in touch with nearby teachers and parents and creates a yearly convention where I can share what I know and learn lots more; the Alliance Francaise de Denver, which offers classes, cultural and social events, and most importantly to me, a library that includes lots of children's books, CDs, and even games; the area universities plus major local industries such as aerospace, atmospheric science, and Internet companies that draw students and employees from all over the world, thus making it a non-issue if strangers overhear me speaking French to my kids in the grocery store; and even our very own Pioneer Elementary, my son's dual-language immersion school (English and Spanish), which reinforces for him the importance of knowing more than one language.

Merci, mon village.  I owe you big.

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