Thursday, May 01, 2014

converting a roomful of non-believers?

Guess who was the guest speaker at our local hospital's "New Moms' Network" class?  Moi!  The facilitator invited me to come talk to 25 mothers and their babies about why and how to raise their children with more than one language.
"Hooray for bilingualism!" (my baby girl, almost three years ago)
I was flattered, but skeptical.  I mean, I know how valuable this group is--my fellow new moms kept me sane after Griffin was born--but I also know how sleep-deprived, stressed, and screamed-at these ladies can be!  And the last thing a new mom needs is another list of "should"s.  Until your child is sleeping through the night and you're no longer regularly covered in layers of leaking milk, baby snot, and diaper seepage, you don't want to have to worry about how to teach your kid, say, Mandarin.

We started with introductions; I asked the moms to let us know if they spoke another language and/or if they were planning on using or teaching another language to their children.  Only a handful were--one woman from eastern Europe, another mom who speaks seven (seven!) languages herself, one whose husband is a native Spanish speaker.  Another couple said that they had lived abroad or studied a language in college, but that they felt they were too rusty now to share it with their kids.

"Bilingual and proud of it!" (my baby boy, six years ago)
To my surprise, though, all of the moms listened to my (very brief) overview of the research, my story about French with my nephew and then my own children, and my suggestions of how to introduce bilingualism to their family, even if they themselves are not fluent in another language.  And then some of them said they had never thought about it before but are now intrigued enough to pursue it.

Now I want to go to every hospital and school in the area and tell all the parents that they should try it too!

Oh, crap, there's another "should." Rather, I want to tell them that it is indeed possible--and fun and rewarding!

See how happy we look?  That's bilingualism at work.
Yep, that's what I need to do.  I really should.


  1. Wow, Griffin and Gwyneth look a lot alike as babies. Same nose and smile.
    I'm glad that your talk went well.

    1. Thanks! And all three of us have the same pointy family chin.

  2. Just curious: What language does Griffin speak to his sister?

    How does Gwyneths language development at her age compare to Griffins, given that she has two French speakers in her life and benefits from a more experienced "maman" than Griffin did at her age?

    1. Not what you might expect, actually--she started talking later, and more gradually, than Griffin did, and even now at age 2.5, she does not pronounce a lot of sounds accurately in English.

      She will say a few isolated words in French, but not phrases or sentences, unless she is singing along with a song. When prompted, she can give the name of something in French--if she feels like it!

      (She usually doesn't. She's two, after all.)

      But her receptive knowledge of French is strong--probably as strong as her English--so I'm not worrying about it.

      i do wish Griffin would choose to speak to her in French--heck, I'd be thrilled if he'd speak more French to me!--but forcing him to do so will backfire. I'm hoping that when he's home with me over the summer that we'll have more "quality" French time.

  3. I still think you are amazing for speaking French to your children. Spanish is my second language, and I've always started speaking to my little babies in Spanish, but somewhere along the way I have less to say, so I start speaking in English, and they like it. Maybe I'm funnier in English? Anyway, my father-in-law has moved in with us..he only speaks the pressure is off of me now. But I still say great job to you!

    1. I know what you mean about finding oneself saying less interesting, less detailed stuff to one's children in the second language. I notice that about myself too, especially as Griffin ages.

      How wonderful that your FIL is living with you--while it no doubt brings challenges, his being a native speaker will make such an impact on your kids' language use!

  4. It's good you could encourage families who weren't necessarily thinking about it to add even just a little linguistic diversity to the mix. Even if their kids don't grow up fluent or proficient in a foreign language it will foster an openness to languages.

    1. I know, right? Kids today need to grow up feeling that they are world citizens, aware that other countries and cultures use different languages and have different customs, so that later on they recognize the commonalities. (My two cents, at least!)