Language experiment

On Sunday, Tall Mountain himself proposed ramping up Ayo’s French exposure by asking me to speak French to him (to papa) when Ayo was around. Up until now, if you remember, I have been only speaking French to Ayo and papa has only spoken English. That has worked out great to the point where I have had to make a conscious effort not to speak French to all babies, everywhere. The problem at this stage is that our mother/baby interactions are limited to: on va changer ta couche! as-tu faim, Ayo? or ça te dit de faire une petite promenade à la bibliothèque, ‘tit bonhomme? (let’s change your diaper! are you hungry, Ayo? how about a little stroll to the library, buddy?). Of course, I am exaggerating a bit for the effect: as mentioned previously, I feel like I work hard to constantly introduce new topics of conversation, all in avoiding going overboard in some grossly artificial fabrication (thus avoiding throwing myself overboard in my batty monologue). The thought is that our daily adult exchange might bring up further topics of conversation in a very natural sort of way. It also would demonstrate that we do indeed value French in our home just as much as English. Oh, and Tall Mountain would benefit from a free French lesson too: what do you mean by t’es de sale poil! hun?

Ayo will be five months old at the end of the week and this seems like a good time to experiment. I do think there will be a time when Ayo will be a little more frustrated being subjected to the more drastic linguistic experiments. To extend the experiment a touch, I took it upon myself to read Ayo five books during the course of the day. Hold on, no wait, did I lose you? I’m not talking Molière or Zola, just those teeny tiny board books throughout the day. If I don’t read five each day, I’m not going to fret about it. I really don’t want to have a legalistic approach to language. I promise, the number isn’t the actual goal, but I realize that I never actively use the wealth of vocabulary found in these books. It also seems like it is another easy way to demonstrate that we love and value the French language. It would be a fabulous side benefit if Ayo learned to love to read later on since I never really loved it in my younger years for some reason. I was probably too busy talking.

It’s Wednesday and so far half of the experiment is holding its own. Reading five books throughout the day is super easy. Thankfully, they are all of six pages long. The other half of our experiment is trickier. It doesn’t at all feel funny to make the switch when Ayo is up from his naps. Tall Mountain even loves it and he’ll say: et en français? to remind me when I’m backsliding! It requires more investment of TM as he has to listen more actively than before when he would sometimes tune out the French, directed at Ayo. But TM is a really good sport in all this. We’re finding that it is I who am frustrated if I’m not sure papa understands everything I’m saying. Sometimes it’s just easier to squeak: burp cloooooooth! en anglais, you know? Anyway, we’re having lots of fun with the experiment so far and we haven’t given up on it yet. We’ll reassess at the end of a week or two to see if it benefits Ayo..or Tall Mountain..or my patience for that matter! If it becomes a hassle or not enjoyable to one of us, we’ll drop it like a bad habit.

11 thoughts on “Language experiment

  1. Même si je suis convaincue qu’Ayo ressent beaucoup, je pense que les bénéfices/problèmes de vos “expériences linguistiques” ne seront visibles avec lui que lorsqu’il commencera à parler, non ?! C’est à ce moment qu’on pourra savoir s’il a bien assimilé les deux langages ou s’il confond tout 🙂

  2. J’aurais dû formuler la dernière phrase autrement. On verra à la fin de cette semaine ou de la semaine prochaine, si cette expérience est envisageable pour nous (par là j’entends moi et TM) ou si au contraire, elle nous rend complètement dingue. 🙂

  3. Ah là, je comprends nettement mieux ce délai de deux semaines, alors 😀 Mais bravo à TM pour cet effort, bravo à toi pour ta patience 🙂

  4. That’s neat that TM came up with the idea, it really does show that he definetly wants Ayo to speak french 🙂 !

  5. Met with Dr. Bucknam last Thursday and asked him about raising children bilingual. He believes the best way is to make the language at hime the minority language (exactly what you are experimenting with right now). We will see what we will end up doing.

    1. Jeanette, sorry for making you late for work! I assume you meant to make the home language the majority language? I’d agree even though it’s not an easy thing to do. Sometimes you just have to work with your family’s own linguistic DNA. I’m still speaking lots of French with Tall Mountain in front of Ayo (not when we’re with other people) but it does slow conversation down a bit. We haven’t given up the experiment yet.

      You asked Dr. Bucknam about bilingual education – is he multilingual himself? I often find that it takes someone who has experience with a multilingual upbringing to put the theory to the test. I’d definitely trust him with sleep trouble-shooting! 🙂

      1. We just asked what his view is on raising a child billingual to see how he feels about it. Not sure if I’d feel comfortable with a narrow minded pediatrician in regard to raising our boy bilingual. I agree, only other bilingual families can understand the worries and difficulties we face. But luckily his eyes just started sparkeling and he said raising a child bilingual is one if the best gifts one can give.

      2. I love the twinkle in the eye and I am so glad he is on board with your decision! 🙂 I guess I never asked our pediatrician what he thinks as we have so many developmental (physical/health) questions that we want him to answer.

        Hey Jeanette, do you know the website: for multilingual families? You can sign up for their newsletters and get lots of tips, read interesting articles and learn from other families with children of all ages who are experimenting with bi- or multilingualism!

  6. Love this! He’ll pick it up, and probably faster than you think. Kids are little sponges. We know children here who’s mom is American and dad is Ukranian. We have many friends here who speak two languages at home. The kids in each home are preschool aged and fluent.

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