Showing posts with label french. Show all posts
Showing posts with label french. Show all posts

Monday, 5 September 2016

"Boy those French! They have a different word for everything." (Steve Martin)


Responding to my last post, where I mentioned my love of reading in French, Ellen (A tiny house in Normandy) suggested that I might take this a bit further for anyone keen to do the same thing. Back living in Sydney, now, and without the full breadth of the French libraries, bookstores, supermarkets and vide-greniers that I have previously had at my disposal, my own reading choices are not really choices at all. I don't discriminate and happily take whatever is rotated through our one French shelf at the local library, be it fiction or non-fiction: biography, reference book, children's story, mystery etc.

Let me preface this post by pointing out that I have been studying the French language since the age of 12 (so a while!). Initially, it was probably the academic nature of the subject that drew me in: the deciphering, code breaking and working out how to put parts together to make a whole. Perhaps, not surprisingly, I was also fascinated by Maths and Music, with similar challenges. From the very beginning, the sounds of the French language were interesting, sometimes difficult, immensely pleasing to try and reproduce, but I'm not sure that communication was what motivated me. After all, I had never left Australia and the world was not connected like it is today.

A year after reading my first "Bonjour! Ca va?" scripted text book dialogues, my sisters and I accompanied my parents to Scotland for my father's sabbatical year at Edinburgh University. Squashed four abreast in the back seat of the family car, we subsequently travelled the continent in our mid-year break, and things started to really change. I encountered languages, food and customs that were unfamiliar to me and, even though we did not visit France on that trip, when a new school year recommenced, my desire to be able to communicate in a different language had been well and truly ignited. My older sister tells me that I used to refuse to speak with her if she didn't try and speak French with me. I'm sure that she is exaggerating, but what a pain I must have been if she's right! (NDLR No need to agree!)

Naturally enough, the resources at my disposition back then were extremely limited. I didn't have podcasts, 24-hour news services, Youtube and song clips with convenient translations to refine my aural skills, French speakers were thin on the ground in suburban Adelaide and the terraced houses of Morningside, and written material was confined to the inked sheets that my French teachers printed off for us and dusty editions of Hugo, Voltaire, Flaubert, Zola, Camus... when I hit University later on.

Today, what a different world.

What has not changed, though, is that learning requires commitment, patience, hard work, practice and determination. If you think that you will just pick things up by being exposed to the language, everyday or on the odd occasion, you will probably be disappointed.

But, let's go back to reading:



  • Read everything that you can lay your hands on...bus tickets, concert programs, flyers, advertisements, invitations, bills, Facebook posts...
  • When you read these familiar documents you know roughly what should be where, but pay attention and look up anything (vocab, verb conjugation, tense) that is unfamiliar to you. Keep a notebook on you or use the Notes function on your phone to record new words that interest you or that you want to look up later.
  • Even as an adult, children's books are for you. Imagiers or Baby books with single words and pictures, hardcover books with one or two sentences and bright, simple pictures, familiar stories from your childhood (see Peter Pan and Le Club des Cinq (Famous Five) below). Read them aloud, read them often and if you have children, read them to your children.
  • When you are cooking, look up your recipes on the Internet or spoil yourself with a print edition (see Mon cours de cuisine below).
  • Subscribe to a French magazine for children. A brand new magazine is a treat to receive in the post every month or so. Select according to your level of language. Cultural affairs are much more accessible initially in this format than in a daily newspaper.
  • Just as it is for young learners, it is easier to persist with something that interests you (see below Insectes, L'Australie, Dinosaures)
  • After the heavily illustrated books, progress to children's novels and young adult fiction (see below Sheltie et le poney abandonné and Poisson d'Avril).
  • Familiar mysteries and crime stories (such as the John Le Carré novel below).
  • Best-sellers such as Harry Potter and Dan Brown's Da Vinci code
  • Historical fiction (such as Régine Deforges, an interesting French author whose erotica writing was ahead of her times, but who is equally as well known for her trilogy, which begins with La bicyclette bleue and starts in 1939 in WW2 France.)
  • For easy romances and quick reads take your time browsing and selecting from the Pocket Books  selection.
  • Try simpler classics such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince
  • Get a news feed from France Info to your phone, consult it without moderation and keep abreast of the news of the world at the same time as working on your French.
  • Consult the books and ebooks at Decitrefnac and make your choice.
  • Finally, read as often as you can and enjoy!

 

                


Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments box below.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Bilingual Baby - Chapter 2




Our language journey continued and, as those of you who have been reading my blog or book would know, it ultimately took us to France. Not to holiday, but to live. Undoubtedly, there was no better way to reinforce the learning and give it some sense. Of course, there were other reasons, yet, again, I cannot tell you exactly the detail or timing of our very first 'let's go and live in France' discussion.

The practicalities of getting there were not easy and not quick, so in the meantime we kept doing what we had started. For those of you who are doing the same thing, or interested in trying - here is another snippet of our (one-sided) early conversations.

On se lave? Bathtime ?

  • Qui sait qui va prendre son bain. Le bain est prêt. Viens mon coeur. D’abord on se déshabille.
  • On enlève le pull, le pantalon, les chaussettes, le t-shirt et la couche et voilà, tu es tout(e) nu(e), tout(e) nu(e), tout(e) nu(e).
  • Tu as les mains toutes sales. Un bon bain va te faire du bien.
  • Regarde, maman a mis tous les jouets. On va bien s’amuser. D’abord je te lave. Ne bouge pas comme ça, tu vas glisser.
  • Attends, maman regarde si l’eau n’est pas trop chaude. Oh si! C’est trop chaud. Attends je vais mettre de l’eau froide. Voilà. C’est bon. Je vais te mettre dans l’eau et d’abord on va se laver.
  • Alors, où ai-je mis le savon? Et le gant de toilette?
  • Où sont tes jouets? Tu me montres la balle jaune? Le petit canard? Tu remplis les petits réservoirs? On fait des bulles? Tu veux que je t’arrose avec le petit canard?
  • Allez, on tape dans l’eau. Maman va t’arroser. Et doucement. Tu vas en mettre partout. Petit(e) coquin(e), tu as arrosé maman. Je suis toute mouillée.
  • Regarde maman va faire des bulles. Tu les attrapes.
  • Allez, je vais te laver les cheveux. Un peu de produit/shampooing. On rince, on rince et voilà. Ca ne te fait pas mal aux yeux.
  • Tu es tout(e) propre. Allez, l’eau est froide. On va sortir maintenant.
  • Regarde je vais t’enrouler dans cette bonne serviette bien chaude afin que tu ne prennes pas froid. On fait un petit câlin avant de se mettre en pyjama.
  • Je retire le bouchon. Tu vas voir. L’eau va s’en aller et ... elle est partie. Plus d’eau.
  • Allez, on va dans ta chambre mettre une couche, un pyjama et te sécher les cheveux.
  • Où est-il, le petit séchoir à cheveux?

Jumping back to the present ...

Occasionally, my son forgets that he has always answered me in English and replies absentmindedly to my French, in French. Occasionally, he will search for an English word and get it wrong e.g. listening to me talk about les poireaux (leeks) he will refer to them as celery, or he will mix up an English word ('registrate' rather than register), but this in no way detracts from his fluency and capacity in the two languages.


I admit to not reading to him in French still every night, but when we get the chance, we zig-zag from Le Club des Cinq, through to Les grandes questions des tout-petits, passing by Le journal d'un dégonflé on the way. Always, at Christmas, we count down with our 24 histoires pour attendre Noël.

I don't sing 'Fais dodo' to him at night anymore either, but he knows his (adapted) nighttime song and it is recalled often enough in conversation for me to know that it is special.

If you would like any of the other chapters of language hints to use with your baby (mealtime, dressing etc.) then please don't hesitate to contact me.






Monday, 4 April 2016

Bilingual Baby - First steps



In my last post, I reflected on the twelve-year French-language journey that my son and I have been on (and are still on) and promised to share some of the specifics of this adventure.


I guess at some point, it must have been a conscious decision that my husband and I took, but to be honest, I do not remember the dialogue that went with the decision. I don't remember having a serious discussion, just prior to directing my first French word at my Australian-born son, about the benefits of so-doing. Possibly, neither my husband or I really thought that it would be anything more than a passing phase.

So, knowing only the 'when' (always - hopefully!) but being somewhat vague about the 'why' and 'how', much of what followed initially, could probably be put down to good luck. Soon, though, I recognised that I was totally invested in the process, enjoying it despite the difficulties and challenges, and going down paths that I would never have previously considered, which were exciting and enriching on a personal level.

What did we do?


  • I knew that I did not have enough vocabulary and worked as often and as hard as I could on building the baby vocabulary that I needed.
  • I employed a native French speaker to tutor me and verify that the words and language that I had begun to use were indeed accurate and appropriate. Our household funds were limited, as I was on maternity leave with no second salary coming in, so I had my long list of language questions drawn up and ready before we started each time, and restricted myself to just a handful of lessons.
  • I joined a council-subsidised, local, French-speaking play-group. French was the only language spoken, and all levels of fluency were welcomed. It helped immensely that there was a paid 'leader' who set up activities in French (colouring in, songs, stories) for the children. This was followed by a free-for-all play and morning tea, which gave the children and parents an opportunity to socialise in French.
  • I found a French-speaking pre-school and enrolled my son in the program as soon as I was able (he was 3 yo).
  • I kept on talking. Every moment with my son was an opportunity to tell him how I was feeling (Comme je t'aime. Tu es si beau) or describe what I was seeing or doing (Je te mets dans la poussette. Vois-tu les jolis oiseaux colorés? Penses-tu qu'ils chantent bien? Ah non, voilà mon chapeau qui s'envole...). Of course, there was nothing in return, initially, but this meant that making mistakes, or stopping half-way through a sentence because I was unsure how to finish it, or changing tack to something I did know how to finish, was never a problem. I got used to what I was doing and my son just smiled and did what babies do back at me.
  • I read to my son in French during our play times, but also just before I put him into bed. By that stage we would already have gone through our dinner and bath routine. Then, when he was old enough, we would sit on the floor in his room and I would read aloud to him. It was a moment of pleasure for both of us and one that I shared reluctantly! When he was capable of so-doing, he would turn the pages and interact with the book, pointing to objects that I asked him to show me, giving me the words to finish sentences or well-known rhymes, clapping and reacting as per the book's instructions.
  • For his day-time sleep, I would often also put on, very softly, a CD of French lullabies or rhymes for him to listen to as he was falling asleep.
  • I bought French stories on CDs to listen to in the car, which helped reinforce my language as much as giving my son (and by default my older daughters) the enjoyment of the sounds.
  • I kept a pen and paper on me whenever possible to write down the things that I wanted to look up or ask about. (This is 12 years ago after all! Using the Notes function on your mobile would be just as good). 


And
  • I drew up pages of sentences (cheat sheets) relevant to each of the stages of my son's day, listed as chapters. Of course, they are just a sample of all the possible language - but I needed to start somewhere.
I'd love to know what you think.

Here is my Chapter 1

Réveille-toi

Pour un garçon :-
Bonjour mon chéri.
Coucou mon chéri/mon loulou/mon canard/mon lapin/ma puce ...
Tu dors ou t’es réveillé?
Coucou. Je te vois. Je suis là. C’est maman.
Maman est contente de te voir. Je t’aime mon petit chéri.
Tu viens. On va faire un petit câlin.
Tu es tout mouillé. On va te changer.
On ouvre les rideaux. Est-ce qu’il fait beau? Bonjour le jardin!
Allez! Allez! Tu dois avoir faim mon petit chéri. On va aller manger?
Allez! On va s’installer. Je vais te donner le/ton biberon? C’est ça que tu attendais?
S’il pleure
Tu pleures? Qu’est-ce qu’il y a? Tu as faim? Tu es mouillé? Je suis là. Pendant toute la nuit on était séparés.
Pour une fille
Bonjour ma chérie. Coucou ma chérie/ma louloutte/mon canard/mon lapin ...
Tu dors ou t’es réveillée?
Coucou. Je te vois. Je suis là. C’est maman.
Maman est contente de te voir. Je t’aime ma petite chérie.
Tu viens. On va faire un petit câlin.
Tu es toute mouillée. On va te changer.
On ouvre les rideaux. Est-ce qu’il fait beau? Bonjour le jardin!
Allez! Allez! Tu dois avoir faim ma petite chérie. On va aller manger?
Allez! On va s’installer. Je vais te donner le/ton biberon? C’est ça que tu attendais?
Si elle pleure
Tu pleures? Qu’est-ce qu’il y a? Tu as faim? Tu es mouillée? Je suis là. Pendant toute la nuit on était séparées.








Saturday, 19 March 2016

What have I learnt from the past 12 years speaking French to my son?

Let me go back a bit ...

I was born in Australia to English-speaking parents and did not speak a word of French until high school. Fast-forward a few decades, married to an English speaker, I had the, perhaps crazy, idea to only speak French to my son. Ok, in the intervening years, I had fallen in love with the language, majored in French at university, spent a year in France as an English assistant in two French colleges and had been teaching the language to secondary students for, well, longer than I would care to admit.

But, none of that, despite my best efforts, actually made me French. So, why did I even consider that I could do such a thing? Truthfully, I did not, but I gave it a shot anyway.

Lesson 1 - I knew very little to start with, but that did not put me off trying - and it should not put you off either, if you are prepared to work hard and learn along the way.

Lesson 2 - A simple, crazy idea can change your life. e.g. Step 1 - let's see how only speaking French to my son turns out ... Step who-knows-how-many - let's go and live in France! This was definitely a road less travelled (thanks Robert Frost) option for us.


Lesson 3 - I love the well-rounded, global citizens that my children have become. Would this have happened if French and France had not become part of our family make-up? Possibly not. At least not as quickly.

Lesson 4 - In my quest to respond in French to the increasingly complex and philosphical questions posed by my son, I have to keep learning ... every day.

Lesson 5 - My life, and that of my family, has been enriched. Speaking another language does that. It allows a deeper understanding of another culture that would not otherwise have been possible.

Lesson 6 - It has not always been easy.

SO, to answer the questions of those who have contacted me on the subject of bringing up baby bilingually - what exactly did I do?

In the next couple of posts, I will take a look at our language journey so far, including posting the first few pages of what became my cheat sheets of baby language and phrases.

Please do contact me with questions and/or comments. I'd love to hear from you.