Wednesday, 12 October 2011

French Saturday Club

A couple of weekends ago, Papa and I took Poppette to a French Saturday club that we had found in a neighbouring city. We had been wanting to go along for a goodwhile but had had to wait for La Rentrée (beginning of the new school year).

The club had originally been set up by a group of francophone parents who wanted their children to be able to play and learn in French alongside other French speaking children. It has grown and grown and now offers a playgroup for the babies and younger children and a structured school setting for children aged from 4 upwards. Here children, who are schooled in the English school system during the week, are able to learn to read and write in French.

I am so happy to have found the school. My only regret is that it is not closer to home. With a drive of anywhere between an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half each way dependent upon traffic, it is quite commitment. That said, it is well worth it.

So... first impressions. Well, Papa and I were impressed. The playgroup kicked off with all the parents taking it in turns to introduce themselves and their child(ren). I have to say, I had been nervous for the whole drive over and sitting there waiting for my turn to speak up I could feel the butterflies in my tummy. My French friend who we had gone along with (her son is one month younger than Poppette), gave me a wink to help quell my nerves. Some of the parents seemed a little surprised that both Papa and I were English and had taken on such a gargantuan task as to bring up our baby bilingual, but there was none of the negativity I had feared.  All of the other families had at least one French native as a part of the parental mix.

Talking to some of the parents, it was really clear that even for a native speaker, there can still be many bumps in the road when trying to raise your child to speak a minority language in a majority language country.

After the introductions we sang loads of Comptines (nursery rhymes). I surprised myself by knowing far more of the words than I would have previously given myself credit for. It seems that the never ending stream of CD's and books are paying off...

Following the nursery rhyme session the babies all played together with toys whilst their parents chatted and sipped coffee. The older children all participated in an adult led activity - making masks. It looked great fun.

Before attending the playgroup, the question Papa and I had been asking ourselves was just how much Poppette would get out of it attending at her current age. Well, I don't think that the benefits of group play and seeing different faces and scenery can be underestimated, but she may not get any real language benefit for a few months yet.

Poppette herself voted with her feet.... or more accurately, her eyelids which were firmly shut as soon as the nursery rhymes had finished and remained so for the next hour and a half until the playgroup session ended...


That said, I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time in an environment where both children and adults were chattering away in French and am really pleased to say that I was fully accepted into the fold. It really does seem that my fears that people think we are odd for speaking French to our English daughter is more of a figment of my imagination than a reality and that actually people think that it’s really something quite admirable.


  1. Good for you! And definitely don't underestimate the benefits or the playgroup at an early age. I used to bring my daughter (now 5) to hang out with English speakers on Wednesdays to reinforce her English since she was in an all French environment 90% of the time. I'm convinced it was essential.

  2. Hi Reb

    Thanks for your support. I read your blog avidly and have often thought of leaving a comment but (unless I am looking in the wrong place....and I wouldn't put that past me) there isn't a comment facility on there.

    Really happy to see you following our little story too.

  3. I LOVED reading this post, knowing how nervous you must have been in that environment. I love that your friend winked at you, and I REALLY love that you didn't meet the animosity or doubt that you expected you might get--but instead, a wealth of admiration and surprise. I remember that feeling, and how much it really helped me to hear that it's not just me and my non-nativism that are struggling, but that, in fact, I have it 'easier' in certain ways because I feel like I "fit" in this culture and don't have to fight 'that' in addition to trying to get my little one to speak in the minority language. Cool, huh?!
    Congratulations on finding that group--I can imagine the doubt you might have as to whether the group is worth it, in particular because of the drive and because she's so young, but I agree with Reb, and would add this--I think that that group has the ability to raise your confidence level in a way that will immensely affect your parenting with Poppette. The support that we, as parents, find in the community makes ALL the difference in the world, even if it's not something you choose to take advantage of every week.
    I'm SO happy that you have that. YAY!

  4. Hi Tamara

    I totally agree with you about both the benefits for Poppette and the additional 'confidence' type benefits for me of becoming a part of this type of group. For now we plan to go once a month and take it from there. I think once we feel we have become a part of the little community there it will become easier and easier to make that long drive. Also I imagine that when Poppette begins to paly with the other children -rather than just sleep :-) we will definitely see the benefits.