Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Gwyneth "can't stand" my French!

My daughter (who recently turned four, which gives me hope for my sanity, as she's no longer a "threenager") is very, very good at pushing my buttons, and she is realizing that perhaps the best way to do this is to claim that she doesn't know what I'm saying and that I need to translate it into English for her.
joyeux anniversaire !
"Mommy!  I can't 'stand your French!  Say it in English!"

Deep breaths.

Don't let her know that I'm frustrated and saddened.

Recognize that yelling, "Mais si, je sais que tu me comprends!" doesn't improve the situation.  [But I know you understand me!]  To which she will reply, in English, "No I don't!"

Just smile, rephrase, repeat.  Point, gesture, demonstrate.  Hug, rephrase, repeat.  Hug, repeat.  Hug.  Câlin.  Hug.

"You can take a picture of me, but you can't make me smile."


  1. Courage, maman! I would love to speak more French to my 2 year old, but it's such a challenge! You're doing a great job, keep it up!

    1. It's worth it, I promise! Best challenge ever. Fortunately, Gwyneth only says that sort of thing to me every couple of days, not each time I speak to her.

      Bon courage to you too! Thanks for your comment.

  2. Hello Sarah! It's Michela from atelierstorytime. I can understand the problem! Maybe your daughter doesn't understand why she should speak French in a country where everybody speaks English. There is no "need" to speak French and she perfectly knows that you can speak English. My children have grown up perfectly bilingual as they have been living in Paris but spent all the holidays in Italy with me and my family. So they really needed to speak both languages. She maybe needs to get in contact with french children so that she can understand that there really are people speaking this language in their everyday life. If you agree I can try to find somebody in Paris who has children the same age as yours and ask if they would like to get in contact.

    1. Bonjour Michela! Thank you so much for your offer to put me in touch with a French family whose children are Gywn's age. If you know of a family with young children who would like to interact with our family over Skype (for example), that would be great--but please don't go to any trouble to find someone if you don't have a family in mind.

      We do have some French-speaking friends here whose children are about the same age as my kids, but we don't see any of them often enough to make a real impact. I also run a group that holds monthly storytimes, monthly playdates, and other get-togethers, but not enough native speakers attend consistently enough for my daughter to make a strong enough connection to them to want to speak and play with them. (She is very cautious around people she doesn't know well.)

      I also rely on the fact that for Gwyn, playing on the iPad or watching movies/tv is a privilege, and she's perfectly happy to do those activities in French!

      Your success is so inspiring! Thank you for your encouragement.

  3. That is really challenging! Hold on to your patience, Sarah. Not everyone fares well when learning a foreign language. Perhaps, her multiple-intelligence doesn’t incline to linguistics, so that’s where you have to tap more. I’m sure she’ll acquire it soon. After all, there’s a theory that kids tend to learn new languages faster than adults. Kudos to your advocacy for raising bilingual children! :-)

    Fred Lauing @ Excel Translations

    1. Thanks for your comment, Fred! Her (or, rather, my) biggest issue is that she is so incredibly strong-willed that she categorically refuses to do whatever her maman wants. I find solace in the fact that she clearly understands spoken French and loves to listen to me read to her.

  4. Hola Sarah, congrats on your blog, and your french education to your kids. I love languages, I can speak Spanish, ( native) ,English and French.
    I am Spanish and speak English to my 5 year-ol-daughter. She is bilingual. Sometimes she asks me if she can say something in Spanish to me. Other times she asks me to translate into English a Spanish conversation that was happening right in front of her! ;)

    I guess you can be a little flexible, but always explaining to her that you love practising French with her. That you have an special relationship because of that, and that English is always there available for you guys to use it, but French is also very cool. Au revoir!

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