The Truth About Raising Bilingual Children

This week we have a guest post from Muriel Demarcus from www.frenchyummymummy.com about her experience and opinions on raising bilingual children. First published 10th May 2011. Over to you Muriel…

credit Knightsbridge-villiage.com

credit Knightsbridge-villiage.com

When friends see my daughters, they are amazed that they can speak English without any hint of a French accent, and reply to me in French as if it was completely natural to switch from one language to the other. I am obviously very proud of my children, but I can’t help thinking that:

It was, and still is hard work to make them speak French. My younger one especially has explained to me countless times that French is boring and, by the way, she can’t be bothered to learn to speak it. They go to British schools and are more British than French by now;

It is me whom my friends should be amazed at, as on top of a full time job and taxiing them to their various after-school activities, I try to teach the girls some French at least twice a week, and once a day when I am ready to put up a good, old-fashioned fight against them, which can happen after two weeks of taking vitamin supplements and usually doesn’t last very long anyway.

In short, it is not as glamorous as it looks. To make matters even worse, the selective nurseries will test your little darlings at age three and, if they are coming from a bilingual family, their English vocabulary will be narrower than “proper English kids” and usually this will be held against them. I also know some kids who started speaking very late because they were coming from bilingual or even trilingual families (parents who speak different languages and communicate in English). Everybody was worried that something was wrong with them, whereas they were just confused.

The truth is, there is no such thing as perfectly bilingual. I would say that English is my daughters’ primary language, and French will remain my primary language.
On top if this, French is awfully complicated. My daughters have a tendency to use the colloquial form if “you” (“tu”) with everybody, even with doctors or policemen. Most of the times it makes them laugh, but some were really offended. French can be really stuck-up, you see. (I would know, I am French.)

So, all in all, is it worth it? Of course it is, especially in the longer run. But not as much as I thought. You see, I have seen kids really messed up with this whole “bilingual” fashion, and they ended up having to undergo years of speech therapy and seemed very, very unhappy. My advice : Happiness prevails. Life is too short. If it’s too big a deal, stick to English.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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