Friday, 28 December 2012

Do bilingual children ever think in their minority language?

Recently I find myself often wondering what language Poppette (who is 26.5 months old) thinks in. I imagine it's mostly, if not entirely, in her majority language but I could be totally wrong and have no way of actually finding out.

Her language ability in both her languages is impressive and she often translates for the other parent if she's had a conversation with one of us and wants or needs to talk about the same thing with the other. She is also expressing an understanding of the fact that Papa speaks English and Mummy speaks French and usually, when faced with an object she hasn't come across before, she will ask us both what it is and will be both wanting and expecting to hear two different words.

I know that, when I am speaking French, I'm not translating from English in my head but I also know that, when I'm sat ruminating,  I do it in English. I think that's pretty standard for someone who learnt their languages consecutively rather than simultaneously. But....If you learn both languages at the same time which one do you think in? A bit of both perhaps?

I'd really like to hear from anyone out there with experience or knowledge on this topic and, if you have bilingual children, perhaps you could ask them and let me know what they say :D

Friday, 21 December 2012

The Things They Say......[ça ne] marche pas

Poppette (26 months) came out witrh a classic the other day ... she was happily drawing away with her coloured crayons when she picked up the white crayon and noticed that it didn't make a mark on her white paper. "Oh, [ça ne] marche pas" ([it] doesn't work) she declared. She thought the crayon was broken. I showed her that it worked on her black paper and she was happy.

The next morning she was, once again, busy drawing, this time on her black paper. She picked up her black crayon and tried to draw. "Oh, [ça ne] marche pas" she declared again.

Toooo cute :D

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Books Books Books

As I have mentioned before, Poppette is a real book lover.

She has a pile on the table by her night chair, ready for her bedtime stories.

She sleeps with her favourites lined up in bed with her (usually around nine or ten at a time).

She has two bookshelves in our dining room crammed with books and never puts the wrong book back on the wrong shelf (she must get this from look at his CD collection and you would understand what I'm talking about).

So... I thought I would start to share the different books that are proving a hit in our house. I know that, in the beginning, before Poppette started to express a preference for books, we spent fortunes on books that, in hindsight, were not worth the money. Hopefully, by sharing those that have been a big hit, I can help save you some pennies and some time :D

The book that Poppette has been asking for time after time for well over a month now is one that was given to us by a very kind Multilingual Maman who's children had outgrown the book in question. I would never have thought to buy this for Poppette or Little Man yet as it is proper story book with far more words than pictures (although the illustrations are lovely) and I hadn't realised that a toddler of Poppette's age could concentrate long enough to listen to that type of story. I was, of course, wrong :D

So I present to you Babar et Le Père Noël.

Détails sur le produit

Babar has become a firm favourite of Poppette's ever since she was given the DVD, Le Roi Babar, as a gift by the same Multilingual Maman I mentioned above. The book tells the story of how Babar, upon hearing of his children's disappointment at not having received a response to a letter they have written to Father Christmas, decides to try and track him down and ask him if he will come and deliver Christmas presents to the young elephants living in Le Pays des Éléphants.

Poppette practically knows this story off by heart. A few days ago I overheard her telling herself the beginning of the story as she flicked through the first few pages....She actually said "Petit singe Zéphir dit [à] Arthur, Pom, Flore et Alexandre" (Zéphir, the little monkey, said [to] Arthur, Pom, Flore and Alexandre).... which is practically the first line of the book word for word... then she went on saying relevant words to tell the story as illustrated by the pictures on the following pages.

I don't think I will ever cease to be amazed hearing my children speak French. It's just so amazing and I am so proud of them.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Non-Native Treasure Trove : Tête à Modeler

I've known about Tête à Modeler for ages now, so why oh why have I never bothered to actually take a look around the site? It's nothing short of amazing!

It's just chocca block full of brilliant printables and craft ideas (and all other manner of really interesting and useful things such as recipes, info on health , education, culture and the environment).

There's also a free iPhone App for craft ideas on the go.

Steam will be coming off my printer by the end of the day :D

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Getting Crafty.....Mon Beau Sapin

Today Poppette (almost 26 months old) and I talked about shapes and colours whilst she decorated her very own Sapin de Noël [Christmas tree] (made with green paper and my trusty roll of contact paper).

She has known loads of shapes for months now in both of her langauges (including ones that I have often thought a little obscure such as zigzag, oval and heart) and her colours have really come on in the last week or two.

The highlight for me was when, totally unprompted, she picked up the large green star and announced "étoile sommet" [star top] and stretched up and stuck it on.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Book Review : Be Bilingual

Just over a week ago,  I mentioned (here) that I had read a manuscript for a fantastic eBook on multilingualism. Well, I'm pleased to say that this book is now out on general release.

Seriously, I have said it before and I shall say it again - this is the one book I have found to be most useful out of all those I have read so far on the topic of bi/multilingualism.

The book takes a fresh approach to the subject matter by providing a summary of what the experts in the field have to say and then asking actual bilingual and multilingual families to talk about their actual experience on the ground. 

The real gem for me is the second part of the book which has tonnes of suggested resources and tried and tested ideas to help bi/multilingualism flourish in your family. The author herself is trilingual and has two bilingual daughters, so she has a wealth of personal experience to draw upon.

You can read a free excerpt of the book here or buy a copy for download on Amazon (by clicking here) currently at the seriously low price of £3.82. Also, if you click on the 'Look Inside' icon on the book cover on Amazon, you'll be able to see the chapter list which will give you a good idea of the scope of the book. Chapter 5 covers raising bilingual children in a non-native language :D

Saturday, 8 December 2012

and we're off.....

It's happened!!!!

Little Man (8 months) has said his first word and it was "Mama".


He's been making the sound 'mama' for a couple of months now but there was no suggestion at all that he was actually linking that sound to me. Now there is!

For about a week now, he's been saying it to get my attention. If I leave the room, he crawls after me shouting "Mama, Mama". If  I put him down when he wants to be held, he cries and says "Mama". If he needs my attention for anything really.... It's a wonderful, wonderful sound.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Non-Native Treasure Trove : L'oeil d'ailleurs

Poppette loves books.

Papa and I love books.

Little Man is surrounded by books and I hope to foster in him a similar passion for them too.

So... when I stumbled upon the wonderful blog l'oeil d'ailleurs, I literally jumped for joy :D

This little gem does an almost daily review of a wonderful array of children's books (including picture books, word books, classic fables and much much more) for children between the ages of 2 and 10.

I have found some amazing titles for Poppette and Little Man here. The next on my list is 'P'tit Biscuit ou l'histoire du bonhomme de pain d'épices qui ne voulut pas finir en miettes' [Little Biscuit or the story of the gingerbread man who didn't want to end up as crumbs]. You can read the L'oeil d'ailleurs review here.

Product Details

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Non-Native Treasure Trove : Il était une histoire

Il était une histore is a fantastic free resource overflowing with French stories, songs and nursery rhymes for children between the ages of 3 and 10.

It already boasts a catalogue of around 100 stories and a new story is added to the site every Friday.

An element that particularly appeals to me is the 'Documentaires' section which teaches children about different countries, the weather, various customs and much more.

To top it off, not only are the stories available to read, you can also opt to listen to them in MP3 format. Some even have a 'karaoke' option which allows children to read along.

A large part of the site is open for access to anyone. There's also a bonus section containing colouring pages, puzzles and printables if you register to the site.

For more information about how the site works, click here to see la visite guidée.

For those of you looking for English language activities to do with your children, you will also find an 'Anglais' section containing English stories and rhymes etc click here if you're interested.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Non-Native Treasure Trove - 50 Ways to Encourage Your Child in French

Thinking of ways to group together the constant stream of great new resources that I come across, I decided to create a Non-Native Treasure Trove.

Each time I add something new, I will attach a "Non-Native Treasure Trove" label to make it really easy to find here on my blog.

First into the treasure chest is this list of 50 ways to encourage your child in French.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Non-Native Thought for the Day #4

As I heard Poppette (25.5 months) "reading" out loud to herself in French recently, it struck me that there are ways in which her use of her minority language can be optimised. As you can imagine, this brought quite a smile to my face :D

When I say "reading", I mean that Poppette was telling herself the story from memory as she looked at the pages in her book. Toddler's memories are like sponges and Poppette has memorised loads of her favourite stories.

Some of Poppette and Little Man's books are in both languages, others are in just one. Where Poppette has only heard a story in French, naturally, when she "reads" it to herself, she does so in French.... and when I think about it, it's obviously the same for experiences that she has only experienced in French too such as un tour de manège [a ride on the merry go round] which she excitedly chatters about all the time at the moment. new non-native resolution is to try and step up the new experiences and language learning opportunities that we have and help Poppette to learn about these things in French first. I'm really hoping that this will help to keep the language as alive as possible, give Poppette a very good reason to continue to speak French and, hopefully, help to prevent the English immersion experience at nursery from overpowering our bilingual endeavour.

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Things They Say.....Hairy Noses :D

Poppette (25.5 months) is now talking in sentences using verbs, nouns and adjectives although she is not yet adding in the "he's, she's it's, the's or a's etc"....

Everyday she has me in stitches.

Everyday she makes my jaw drop with the words she knows.

Yesterday, I caught her tucking her Doudou into bed and saying saying "Fais [de] beaux rêves" [sweet dreams].

I've decided to start keeping a track of some of the classics so I don't forget. The children are growing and changing so quickly that it would be easy to forget some of these gems when others occur and take their place.

Yesterday morning, the first thing Poppette said to me when she woke was "X (name removed to protect the innocent :D ) poils nez, oui c'est ça" [X hairs nose, yes that's right]. The things they say !!! Honestly!!!

The background to this little phrase is that we had a visitor a few weeks ago and Poppette noticed the hairs in his nostrils. Being the curious little girl that she is this really caught her attention. The thing about Poppette is that she has a memory like an elephant. The hairs may be gone but the memory is deeply rooted :D

Monday, 26 November 2012

Guest Post for Ma Puce : Bilingualism and My Family

When an email dropped into my inbox recently from Luci McQuitty, the brains behind Ma Puce, asking me to do a guest post, I jumped at the chance.

Ma Puce is an online resource aimed at helping parents teach their 0 - 6 year old children French. It started out as Luci's way to focus her efforts on teaching her own daughter French and grew from there. It's a great place for non-native parents to get advice, resource ideas and honest product reviews and I hope that, by sharing my family's story, I can help Luci in her bid to help others find the confidence to take the plunge and speak French to their own children.

Head over to Ma Puce (by clicking here) to read my post about bilingualism and my family.

In the post, you will also find a link to a giveaway of Be Bilingual, a great new eguide on bilingualism which is due to be published shortly. 

The book is written by Annika  Bourgogne, a trilingual mother of two girls who is, like me, extremely passionate about bi/multilingualism. I recently read Annika's manuscript and it takes the top spot on the list of books that I have read on bilingualism (and i've read a few!!!). It summarises what the experts are saying and what actual bilingual families are saying and is packed full of tried and tested tips and resource ideas. You can read an excerpt of the book by clicking here.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Le soleil se cache derrière les nuages...The sun is hiding behind the clouds

Two weeks after her 2nd birthday, Poppette spoke her first gramatically correct four word sentence. She was happily drinking her milk first thing in the morning when Little Man started to grumble to let us know that he was also rather hungry....Poppette looked over to him and announced "Bébé boit milk too" i.e. Baby drinks milk too.

I was really pleased on two levels...obviously from a language perspective this is fab...she may have mixed up her languages but she did so perfectly!! and I was also chuffed to bits at the obvious care and concern Poppette has for her younger brother.

Poppette is now almost 25 months old and her language is coming on in leaps and bounds. Papa has actually said recently that Poppette now often says things in French that he cannot understand. This is not a problem for him as he feels it is a small price to pay in exchange for his children getting the gift of bilingualism. It does, however, indicate that Poppette is beggining to use more complex vocabulary.

Yesterday we were in the car when she exclaimed "soleil cache derrière nuages" i.e. le soleil se cache derrière les nuages [the sun is hiding behind the clouds]. To be honest, she couldn't have timed it better as I have been a little despondent about this whole bilingual endeavour over the past few weeks. It can be quite exhausting always trying to think around ways to chat about things that you may never have thought about before in your second language. It can feel like trying to cram for a test.....every day. Add to that the fact that research suggests that the more the majority language exposure increases at the expense of the minority language the more of an upward struggle you will have to maintain your child's bilingualism.....and, well, it can feel like you're onto a losing battle. Both Poppette and Little Man will be in nursery 5 days a week from January :(

Rather than wallow in the why it might not work blues.... I am writing this post as a reminder to myself of just how far we have come in the two short years since my daughter's birth.

Poppette can count to ten in both English and French and does so all the time. I'd love to peak inside her head to see what influences her decision to pick one language over the other when she is playing alone.

We are still working on colours in both languages.  She definitley knows rouge/red in both languages  - as for the other colours, some days she gets them right and other days she doesn't so sometimes I am unsure whether she may just have guessed really well :D. Her knowledge of colours is definitley stronger in English right now.

We have been having regular playdates with a really lovely little French girl (5 months Poppette's senior) over the past few months. They play so well together, running around holding hands and giggling. It's such a pleasure to watch their friendship blossom. I have been really happy to note that when this young girl's mum chats away in French with Poppette, she understands perfectly. A good friendship has blossomed between us mamans too. Unfortunately, a move back to France in on the cards for them next month so our get togethers will have to come to an end.

Poppette's favourite mot du jour since this weekend is d'accord [ok]. She just came out with it whilst we were chatting and has not stopped saying it since.... much better than her other favourite word "noooooooo"!!!

At the moment she vascilates between speaking loads of French with me (about 80/20) to speaking about 50/50. That said, she only seems to speak French to other people if she doesn't know a word in English or perhaps favours the French word. Her language with Papa in the main is English although, although she peppers her converstaions with him with French words and phrases...some of which Papa understands and others that he doesn't.

I am trying to lift my game as far as Little Man is concerned and try to speak to him exclusively in French now. It still feels a little alien at times but I know it felt just the same when Poppette was tiny too.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

What Do You Love About Speaking Another Language?

If I were to ask any one of my language loving friends what they thought was the biggest benefit of speaking a second language, they would probably all give a different answer. There are sooooo many reasons to learn another language.......a lot of which can be very personal.

Ask me why I love to speak French and I would say...because to not speak French is to not be me. I am one of those people who's ears prick up at th sound of French ... who's heart accelerates when simply sitting in a little French café, soaking up the sights and sounds...for me, the French language transforms the mundane into the marvellous.

Kaplan International (who offer English language courses worldwide) have created this great infographic highlighting some of the benefits of language learning.

inspire language learning

What do you feel is the biggest benefit to you of speaking more than one language?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Non-Native Thought for the Day #3

According to Wikipedia .... a homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another, but differs in meaning. Such words may be spelled the same such as un tour [a tour] and une tour [a tower] or differently, such as vert [green], verre [glass] and ver [earthworm].

Needless to say, these sets of words have been exercising my brain!

The fact that the French use the same word to  refer to a plant pot and a potty left Poppette scratching her head when I asked her if she wanted to sit on le pot. I have since made a point of differentiating the plant pot by calling it a pot de fleurs!

Likewise, I find it a little hard to get my head around the fact that, in French, the word balançoire means both swing and seesaw...oh yeah! When I asked a French friend if she didn't find this a little confusing, she simply said, why should she. She said it was totally normal and actually she thought it a little odd that we have separate words. Right...well, I do see her point. I pushed on....asking her how on earth she would know what her son wanted to do if he said he wanted to play on the balançoire. How could she be certain not to disappoint him by taking him on the wrong ride? Simple, she said, I would just ask him whether he wanted to go on the balançoire that goes up and down or the one that goes forwards and backwards!

Belgian Maman has been having similar issues with English homophones whilst speaking non-native English with her son. "Don't touch the glasses", she said to him. He looked at her rather puzzled wondering why he would be committing an act of naughtiness by touching his lunettes [reading glasses] when his Maman was, in fact, referring to les verres [drinking glasses].

The conclusion I have come to, however, is that homophones are of no consequence to a native language speaker. You just don't think about them because you know them and have always known them and just absorb them throughout your language learning years through context and repetition and you instinctively know that your children will do the same. The issue when speaking a non-native language is that you question yourself more....if two (or more) words sound the same, you assume that your child will be confused because these words aren't second nature to you.

So...I am just getting on with it. Just because the word for sea [la mer] and mother [la mère] sound the same, doesn't mean that Poppette will be her tender age it's a question of context and, at a later stage, once she is able to read, all will become even clearer.

Click here to see a useful list of French homophones.

Have you any examples of how homophones have affected you in either a native or non-native context?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

It's Carnival Time Again

It's that time again.... September's "issue" of the Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism is out.

Head on over to All Done Monkey and take a look.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

9 Great Ideas for Exploring and Expanding Vocabulary

Poppette’s current favourite question is “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” [what’s this?], which, in itself, open’s up a whole world of opportunity to help her expand her vocabulary and knowledge of the world.

The truth is that, before I decided to speak my second language with my children, I had never given any thought at all as to the never ending ways that are available to us to practice and build language. I suppose it’s quite obvious when you think about it…absolutely every activity you ever undertake has scope for language building.

There are many, many ways that I try and help Poppette (and, of course, I will do the same with Little Man in time) to grow…feeding her curious mind and crafting a fun and educational environment for her to live and learn within.

So..without further ado, here’s a list of ideas we use in our home to promote language learning of both the native and non-native variety. I hope that this list will, in turn, give you some ideas or a framework to work around too.

I probably should point out that I am not suggesting that you badger your children by constantly talking and asking questions and disturbing their play :D Obviously, it's super important to leave children to indulge in independent, uninterrupted play. We don't use all of these ideas all of the time - we just pick and choose and pepper these things into our play now and again with great results. 

1 Block Play

I am in the process of trying to build a collection of blocks in all shapes and sizes. They are such a valuable learning material. Through block play, children learn about size, shape, weight and balance.

They can be used to recreate the child’s view of the world around them e.g. building castles, towers and bridges. They can also be used for counting practice and problem solving, helping children to hone their early maths skills.

Blocks provide huge scope for language practice.

Whilst your child plays with blocks, think about asking them questions to help them become more aware of what they are doing and to encourage them to try out new ideas.

2 Creative Arts & Crafts

Drawing, painting, sticking, moulding and gluing are not only great fun, they also provide fabulous language learning opportunities for children.

There are a multitude of great children’s craft blogs and Pinterest boards out there in both English and French. You can sign up to updates for many of these via email or through your blog reader.

I try and read as many French language versions as possible in order to build my own vocabulary. It’s a whole new world of vocab!!!

Arts and crafts open the door to your child to begin to express ideas and feelings, to discuss colour and texture and to learn to follow instructions in addition to learning to talk about the materials they are using.

3 Music and Movement

We do lots of singing and dancing. It’s great for burning off energy and also for learning to talk about physical activity. Spinning, turning, rolling, jumping, clapping….

We also love to play Jaques a dit [Simon says] e.g. Jaques a dit....lay on the floor, touch your nose, lift your arms about your head etc

We also spend a lot of time playing cache-cache [hide and seek]. It tickles me no end when we play because Poppette (who is not yet two) always hides in the same place and always peeps out to make sure you're coming to find her :D As I try to find her, I walk around the room saying things like “is she behind the sofa?….no”, “is she under the table?….no”, “is she in the wash basket?…no”…. a great way to practice prepositions and general vocabulary.

4 Books

We love books in our house. I can’t stress enough the value that I have found in reading. There are no two ways about it, my own vocabulary has increased hugely since I began reading all these wonderful children’s books in French.

Papa and I do like to read the same books in our respective languages so that it is easier for the children to absorb the vocabulary in both languages at the same time. It still blows my mind that young children do not get confused that things have more than one name. It’s just normal to them if you introduce both languages early enough.

5 Drama

Children love to make believe and role play.

Dressing up, playing at shops, hospitals, post offices etc using props to help deepen their understanding of how the world works.

In our OPOL household, when Poppette serves tea and cakes to maman and papa, she hears and uses the same vocabulary in each language. Tandem learning.

6 Toys & Games

When children are playing with their toys and games, it’s a great time to make observational comments or ask them questions to help them expand their thought process and understanding and unleash their inner creativity.

7 Cooking

We haven’t done much cooking yet but I am looking forward to doing more once Poppette and Little Man are ready for it. It’s a great way for children to learn to follow instructions and, also, for them to become mini scientists i.e. what happens when you add water to flour? What does it look like, how does it feel?

8 Outdoor Play 

Poppette loves to run, jump, swing, climb and slide. She used the French terms for each of these activities well before their English equivalents too.

Out in the fresh air, there is so much scope for discussion. We talk about the weather, the things we can see, the things we can touch. Encourage you child to see the world with wonder by asking questions as you walk along.

9 Water Play

Poppette loves water play. Another area ripe with descriptive vocabulary.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Non-Native Thought for the Day #2

As sure as eggs is eggs, if you are your child's sole input in the minority language, they will absorb and repeat any pronunciation errors you make.

What a depressing thought.

I have noticed recently that, sometimes, Poppette exaggerates her French 'R'. Particularly when saying words like 'Trou' [hole], 'Trotteur' [Baby Walker], 'Mer' [sea] and 'Par Terre' [on the floor].

Guess what.... I feel really bad about this.

It's bizarre really, because when I hear Poppette mispronounce a word in English, I don't bat an eyelid... I just accept that that's the way things start out when little ones are learning to speak. I  get much more caught up on the French side of things is because she has a much smaller sphere of input i.e. mainly me.

A simple answer to the problem came from another non-native Maman friend of mine when I asked for her advice on the issue. She simply said, 'Practice, practice and, then, practice some more'. So... practicing I am.

Two things spring to mind.

The first is a real conundrum - When I speak French to adults, I don't seem to have this pronunciation problem. It only seems to exist in my 'child friendly voice'....(you know, that slower, more deliberate and higher pitched voice that seems to come out when you address a baby or toddler no matter what language you are speaking). It crossed my mind to try to chat to Poppette and Little man as though I were chatting to an adult friend... but it just doesn't feel right. I'm not sure what the answer is....

The second thought is a lot more positive - Just over a week ago Poppette suddenly started to say 'peinture' [paint], 'ceinture' [belt] and 'voiture' [car]' correctly, whereas she had previously always  pronounced the 'ure' at the end of such words as  'choos' e.g. peintchoos.  I was beaming...and still am. This makes me feel that all will be well in the world. Provided Poppette is exposed to correctly pronounced words, she will self correct over time. So, if I can either iron out my own foibles or increase Poppette's exposure to other Francophones or, ideally both, then we are on to a winner.

Whilst on the topic of increased exposure to the minority language, I have to say that, although I have always been dubious as to whether DVDs could provide valuable language input, I am starting to believe that they can. Poppette only watches cartoons in French and her and Little Man listen to French nursery rhyme Cd's and francophone children's radio stations. Just recently, Poppette has started to show that she knows words to rhymes she has heard and from cartoons she has watched. So, I can stop flogging myself to death for letting my children watch cartoons and pat myself on the back for giving them a minority language fix! Fabulous!

UPDATE 4th October 2012

I'm feeling quite buoyed after a chat with Belgian Maman (who you can read a little more about here and here), earlier this week, about Poppette's current over emphasis of the French R.... It turns out that her son went through a phase of doing exactly the same thing (making the R sound gutteral and almost Germanic).

Bearing in mind that Belgian Maman's little boy is being raised by two native French speakers (albeit that Belgian Maman only speaks her non-native English with him) in the French speaking part of Belgium, it leads me to wonder whether this is an altogether more common occurrence during early French language acquisition and not necessarily linked to our non-native situation.....

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Non-Native Thought for the Day #1

I have been thinking a lot recently about bilingualism and the idiosyncrasies that go hand in hand with choosing the non-native approach.

There seem to be some strange traps and curve-balls that I don't think you can necessarily foresee at the outset. As such, I have decided to note them here on my blog as they occur. Hopefully, in addition to helping me remember the finer details of this journey, it will help others by flagging potential issues that may lay ahead of them.

I have come to a frustrating realisation: when a child is learning to speak, it often mispronounces its words. Somehow, when this is done in the listener's native tongue, their brain subconsciously sifts through the myriad possibilities to come up with a possible match for the sounds it has just heard. This means, more often than not, that the child's meaning deduced... Even if it takes a few guesses.

My experience (which is soooo frustrating and disappointing) is that, where a non-native language is concerned, the brain just doesn't seem to process these sound variations quite so well. It's as though its catalogue of possible options is incomplete.

It is frustrating for both parties :-(

This weekend, for example, Poppette kept saying 'Mazaza'. I just couldn't glean a meaning... She repeated it three or four times and then, simply said 'Shop'.


Of course. She had been saying 'Magasin'.

I came away from that exchange feeling as though she must be thinking 'Wait a minute! Aren't you the one that's supposed to be able to speak French???'.


Not really sure what can be done about this. I must try harder....

Friday, 31 August 2012

The August Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism is out - Yippee

This month's carnival is being hosted by Lina over at Best 4 Future - Bringing Up Baby Bilingual and there are so many entries this month!!!

If you fancy a good old read, click here.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Getting Crafty : Exploring Prepositions Dans le Jardin des Rêves (In the Night Garden)

This week, I decided to spend some time exploring prepositions with Poppette. Hoping to make it feel like a game rather than a lesson, I decided to make a 'sticky board' based on one of her favourite cartoon series - Dans le Jardin des Rêves (In the Night Garden).

It's amazing what you can do with an old children's magazine, card, glue, scissors and, of course, my old favourite - contact paper :D - from these I created a selection of her favourite characters which she could then stick to the sticky board.

The sticky board itself serves as a simple backing scene with trees and grass.

In hindsight, if I were to do this again with the distinct goal of exploring prepositions, I would probably go for something different on the backing scene. Something like a picture of a toy box - simple and far easier to demonstrate words such as on, inside, in etc

Friday, 24 August 2012

Another reason to introduce more than one language from birth

The beauty of speaking two (or more) languages, when chatting with another person able to speak them too, is that it allows you to mix the languages up and, in doing so, have an altogether more precise conversation.

In general, languages tend to be like a Venn diagram - they overlap in the middle but have distinct differences around the edges. Words that can express a feeling or concept in one language may simply not exist in the other.

Poppette is already beginning to use this to her advantage. As I have mentioned before, Poppette always answers questions that I ask her in French with "Yes" or "No" in English. She does, however, regularly use the French word "Si".

Now, for those of you who do not speak French, the word "Si" means "Yes" but is only used in answer to a negative question e.g.:

Me: (In French) "Oh, so you don't want a piece of cake then?"
Poppette: "Si" (Yes, I do).

The use of "Si" serves to stress that she is contradicting my statement. It's as though she is saying "Yes I bloomin do want a piece of cake" to my suggestion that she might not. This concept doesn't exist for us English speakers. We have to add extra words to our simple "Yes" to get the point across.

Having only one word for "Yes" in English, it can be a real task for English speakers to take on board the existence of "Si" and, ultimately, to begin to understand when and how to use it and do so freely.

The fact that Poppette has just picked up the word and uses it 100% correctly is another big tick in the box for the benefits of the simultaneous learning of languages from birth. Poppette has no preconceived ideas about, of course, it is not in the slightest bit odd to her that there is more than one way to say "Yes" when speaking in French.

Do you have any other examples of how words can be borrowed from one language and dropped into conversation in another in order to make conversation more precise and to exploit subtle nuances between languages?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Getting Crafty - Homemade Counting and Colour Recognition Game

I am definitely not known for my creative talent.... In fact, far from it. However, there's something in me that just wants to get busy with my art and craft supplies to create fun activities to do with Poppette and Little Man.

The beauty of it is that these kinds of activities present myriad language learning opportunities as well as keeping play fresh and fun.

Today I made this 'sticky fish bowl' and ten little coloured fish so that Poppette and I can practice counting and colour recognition. The water in the bowl is sticky (I attached contact paper sticky side up) and the fish are covered in contact paper so that Poppette can stick them on and pull them off to her hearts content.

I can't wait to get playing tomorrow.... In fact, I almost want to go and wake Poppette up now (it's quarter to midnight!!!) so that we can get started right away.....:-D

Monday, 13 August 2012

....and the words continue to flow

Poppette is busy building her word arsenal.

What has really amazed me lately is her ability to absorb new words so quickly. I am not exaggerating when I say that she only needs to hear a word once in context to pick it up, store it and repeat it unprompted at a later moment in time.

This is happening in both English and French but I plan to focus on the French for this post.

Two examples of this rapid absorbtion of vocab come from last week.

One day we were playing with pompoms. Poppette picked one up and, as she squeezed it, I told her that it was 'doux'  [soft]. The next day, when were were playing with her pompoms again, Poppette picked one up and squeezed it and said 'doux' and then, as if to dispel any uncertainty I might have had as to whether she actually knew what 'doux' meant, she also told me, whilst feeling her soft quilted playmat, that that was also 'doux'.

Another great example comes from just this weekend. Poppette and I were sat on my bed playing with Little Man and I told her that she and I are "des filles" [girls] and that Papa and Little Man are "des garçons" [boys]. The next day we were all sat around playing in the lounge and Poppette suddenly pointed to Little Man and said "garçon" (and with beautiful pronunciation to boot). I honestly couldn't believe it....

Continuing this theme, when Poppette got home from nursery one night last week, she ran straight into the kitchen, looked on her dinner plate and said 'couscous'! I almost didn't believe my ears...she's only had it twice before in her life....OK, so I am her Maman and, of course, am bound to think she's wonderful, brilliant, talented etc but, seriously, I really do think she has an extremely good memory for a 21.5 month old.

We have also been doing lots of counting lately. Thanks to the "L'ours dans un carré" [Bear in a square] book that I spoke about in a previous post, Papa and I both do plenty of counting everyday. The Bear books are Poppette's firm favourites and she is rarely more than a few feet away from them at any point these days!!! I digress.... I am supposed to be telling you about how Poppette is memorising and independently citing strings of numbers. Again, it's one of those things that you almost don't believe the first time you hear it. She can often be heard proclaiming 'deux, quatre, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix' [2,4,6,7,8,9,10] when stuffing her pompoms into a jar. I'm not sure where un, trois and cinq are hiding  :-) In English she tends to focus on 2,3,4.

When Papa collected her from nursery last week the nursery nurse told him that Poppette had been counting in French. She also said that she had been rummaging around in a box for a toy she wanted and, when she found it, she pulled it out triumphantly and proclaimed 'Voilà!' [here it is!].

Finally....onto Poppette's current most used word of the moment -' même' [the same]. As she absorbs the world around her she likes to categorise. So whenever she sees another version of something she has seen before she will tell you that its "même". So the owls in her nature book are the same as those on the canvas in her bedroom, the toothbrush Maman is using is the same as Poppette's toothbrush, the earthworm in her picture dictionary is the same as the one peeping out of the soil in one of her bear books....

Watching Poppette learn and grow really has taught me that, although young in years, toddlers are far wiser and comprehending than I would have ever thought possible.

Being around children really does help you to notice those things in life that you had stopped noticing...they add a touch of sparkle to the world.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Hearing about French Baby & Toddler Club, CouCou, makes me want to move to London

When I first heard about CouCou, the East London based French club for babies and toddlers, I wanted to pack our bags and upsticks.

Why, oh why is all the good stuff in London????

Well...for those of you lucky enough to live in the Big Smoke, I just want to wax lyrical a little about this great club and hopefully, you will have the chance to go and check it out for yourselves. If you do go, please come back and leave a comment here to tell me how it was.

You may have already seen the posters for the group round and about with their catchy tag "Chante avec moi" (Sing with me).

The group itself was the brainchild of a group of four non-native French speaking mothers of children ranging from 6 months to 2 years in age. When the singing group that these mamans had been going to suddenly closed its doors, they put their heads together to come up with a plan for creating an environment where francophone babies and toddlers and their mamans could go to indulge in a little singing, storytime, games and activites all in French. Thus, Coucou was born.

Each session has the same format, with a welcome song "J'ai un nom" where the group sing hello to each child one by one, followed by songs, nursery rhymes, games and activities based around a different theme each week and then, five more songs (which are the same each week to help the children learn through repetition). Each session ends with a story and a goodbye song.

Previous themes have included :- Parmi les oiseaux, les voyages, à la ferme, le corps, les nombres and un voyage à la campagne (which included singing 'Promenons nous dans les bois', il court, il court le furet', 'dans la fôret lointaine and a countryside walk where the children had to keep their eyes out for Monsieur Le Lapin).

Sessions take place every Monday at 10 am in the Childrens' Room at Dalston C.L.R. James Library, Dalston Square, London E8 3BQ.

Check out their Facebook page at .

Poppette would love it, of that I am sure!!!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Stringing Words Together

Poppette is now 21 months old.

Literally the day after she turned 20 months (Yep... i've been trying to find the time to sit down and write this post for a whole month!) Poppette said her first grammatically correct sentence - and it was in French :-) Hoorah :-) She said " Papa, regarde Maman" (Daddy, look at mummy). We couldn't believe it. In fairly short order after this, she went on to say "It's in there" and "I heard plane".

Poppette is really starting to be able to communicate, using either single words, strings of individual words (usually without the connectors (e.g. "écoute! moto" (listen, a motorbike), "maman, danse" (mummy, come and dance with me), "milk!" (i'd like a drink of milk please) and, of course, "noooooooooooooooooooo") or a combination of words and gestures.

She comes out with new words everyday. Testament to the Great British weather, the words she seems to use most often right now are "pluie" (rain), "pleut" (it's raining), "raining", "mouillé" (wet) and "wet".

Much to her grandad's amusement, she also loves to shout "pie" (which she calls any meal except for breakfast) "saucisse" (sausage) and "gâteau" (cake).

It's a remarkable feeling when your child starts to be able to communicate ... hearing the gentle tambour of her's like a hotline straight to her soul. Each time she speaks it touches me somewhere deep inside.

Another amazing development is that Poppette is starting to differentiate between her two languages or, at least, between the words I use with her and the words that others use with her. So many times now if she says an English word to me she immediately says the French word. It's fabulous to watch. She doesn't miss a beat.

Bizarrely, despite all these bilingual successes which offer proof that this non-native business can and does work, I am still really struggling to speak French with Little Man. I feel like I have gone right back to the days when Poppette was tiny and it just felt 'odd' to speak French. I really make an effort to speak French with him in front of Poppette.... I just really need something to click into place so that I do it all the time....I know deep down that (just like it has with Poppette) it will become second nature if I allow it ....

Sunday, 15 July 2012

July Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism

Hoorah..the July Carnival is here.....As always there are loads of great entries, some from bloggers I haven't had the pleasure to read before.

This month's carnival is being hosted by Tamara at non-native bilingualism and you can check it out by clicking HERE.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Non-native Bilingualism - My Top Five Tips

Recently, I was asked to share my top tips for those considering non-native bilingualism by the author of an upcoming ebook relating to multilingualism.

This got me thinking what a great blog post that could make and what a wonderful way for me to give a few tips to others whilst thanking those that have done the same for me.

When I first even considered the prospect of speaking French with my children, I did a lot of research (for those of you that know me... this will come as no surprise....oooh how I love research).

I would definitely credit a couple of really kind and helpful people for giving me the courage to get started. Papa of Papa et Piaf, Sarah of Bringing up Baby Bilingual, Corey Heller of Multilingual Living fame..... each of these people, despite never having met me, took the time and effort to respond to my queries, writing helpful encouraging personal emails to me and that is something I will be forever grateful for.

Once I got started, I came accross more and more people out there with shared goals and visions, people who had already begun wandering the same or a similar path, that were only too happy to provide advice, encouragement and personal stories. One person in particular - (Tamara... it's time for you to stand up and be counted - and I do apologise for making you blush since you are, indeed, hosting this month's carnival for which I am penning this very post) - got me through the extreme wobbles that epitomised the first 6 months or so of our journey.

Since then, I have "met" many many more wonderful, inspiring people.

So, onto my tips. I would say that for me, the following things have been invaluable:-

1 Build a support circle of like minded people.

My blog has helped hugely here. Through it I have connected with so many people I otherwise wouldn't had the fortune to connect with.

Also, I have found that utilising resources such as the forum on the Mulitilingual Living website has really helped to find like minded people.

I have also made real efforts to grow my circle of friends to include more french speakers or people interested in language.

2 Avoid people and situations that stunt your language use - at least when you first start out.

If there are situations or certain people that zap your confidence to speak your second language, then my advice is stay clear of them until you no longer feel that way. Seriously, I just always remind myself of the bigger picture and our ultimate goal of having bilingual children and think why should I let naysayers (or my reaction to them) jeopordise that?

Also, I remember just how self conscious I used to be speaking French to my English daughter in England in public. Don't let that stop you. Don't let your own insecurities deprive you and derail you. It is a fair assumption that the very people you think might be laughing at your language ability are actually rather impressed or at least intruiged - and the majority probably don' speak your second language fluently enough to hear any mistakes you might be making anyway.

3 Build your resources.

There are so many great resources out there - things to suit everyones taste and language learning/ language consumption preferences.

There's lots of free stuff online plus of course there are millions of books, DVDs, CDs and bilingual toys etc.

As a non-native, my experience has been that I am often learning niche language alongside my children or just ahead of them and so resources that they enjoy using have often first been devoured by me.

4 Practice practice practice.

At first my language use felt a little artificial. Now, due to having spoken french everyday for upwards of the past 17 months, it has become second nature and I would go as far as saying it feels artificial if I have to speak english with my daughter as I am not used to doing so.

Also, take any opportunity you have to listen to or speak your second language wth others.

5 Remember that language is only one part of your relationship with your children.

It is very easy to get caught up in the whole bilingual enterprise to a degree that you no longer see the wood for the trees. It's good to sit back and take stock now and again. A fun and loving relationship has to come first. If you are lucky enough to be able to throw an extra language into that then great.

If you are interested in looking a little deeper into how things work in our home from a bilingual perspective, you can pop over to Gato et Canard ( and read a recent interview I did with its host Annabelle - "Multilingualism in my family (Nichola's Story)".

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Tête, Nez, Bouche (Head, Nose, Mouth)

Oh how the language of a child can make you smile :D

Poppette has recently come out with another self made classic. ''Tête, Nez, Bouche'' (Head, Nose, Mouth). She says this whenever there's a chance she might fall and hurt herself.

It's brilliant. It encapsulates all the advice I have given her about being careful and all the slips, trips and falls she has had of late into one neat little phrase.

This cute little phrase came about through Poppette's love to climb. She's a fearless little girl. I find myself always saying ''Fais attention à ta tête'' (watch out for your head) because she is always banging it on something. So she had begun to say, in advance of attempting any one of her heroic climbs, ''Tête'' to let me know that she knew that she needed to be careful.

Then last week, she fell off the bed and banged her nose.

''Tête'' became ''Tête, Nez'' (Head, Nose). That was cute enough.

But then she fell again and... you guessed it, she banged her mouth.

So... ''Tête, Nez, Bouche'' it is.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Sensory Play

This week I have been exploring colour and texture with Poppette. There are so many ways to stimulate the mind and imagination of a curious toddler whilst at the same time providing a great opportunity for language enrichment. I find many of my ideas on Pinterest (you can take a peek at my boards here) and on some great activity blogs which I follow. I have provided links to my sources below so do have a look if you're interested.

By far our favourite activity so far (and, when I say this, I mean the one that Poppette responded to the best in terms of enjoyment and time spent exlporing/ playing) was the mess free finger painting (idea from Hippie Housewife). It's soooo simple. I used the idea to introduce Poppette to the colour red. I simply gave her the paint board, showed her how to make a mark with her hand and a couple of other objects and then sat back and watched.... at first she squished the paint with her hands and we discussed how it felt (or rather, should I say, I spoke to her about how it might possibly feel to her), then I gave her a selection of red toys/ objects and she experimented with the effect that they had when she used them on the paint board e.g. she drove her red car over it and we looked at the tracks it made, she scraped a red fork over it, she stamped red shapes on it... she even walked and danced on it!!! So there was plenty to discuss whilst she amused herself.

We have also had fun with discovery bottles (idea from Pink Pistachio). I filled a bottle with water, pom poms and buttons in primary colours (and a couple of googly eyes just for extra fun). This gave us fabulous scope for discussing colours, things that float and sink, about bubbles which appear when you shake the bottle, about the sounds that you hear when you roll, shake or tip the bottle upside down and that's just for starters. As with anything, the trick is to be lucky enough to  pick contents that will hold your child's attention. Poppette is quick to leave to one side items that she deems to be of little interest (despite the time and effort her poor maman has put into their creation :D )

Finally, I made up a treasure basket (idea from Counting Coconuts). This is the first one I have ever attempted and I have to say I don't think it was a grand success. I looked around the apartment for things that Poppette hadn't come accross before that I thought she might like to touch, smell or look at. Inevitably, a few of these things were subjected to the taste test so I made sure I stayed by her side to supervise accordingly :D They key here is, again,to pick objects that will intrigue your child. I failed miserably. Poppette enjoyed scrunching the bubble wrap and playing with the bottle and jar lids and measuring cups but the rest of the contents just sat there looking...well, on reflection, I guess they looked BORING!!!

I have also come across some great ideas for texture cards (here at Engaging Toddler Activities and here at My Delicious Ambiguity) which I plan to adapt so that we can continue to play, learn and explore.

If you have any ideas for fun learning activities that you would like to share, I would love to hear them.

Friday, 8 June 2012

And the winner is......


Yes, you heard correctly and, believe me, I am as suprised as you are. Little old me that never wins a thing (well, apart from the toothbrush and toothpaste kit I vaguely remember winning courtesy of Colgate when I was a child).

I am a fan of Barefoot Books In France on Facebook and entered a competiton one day without even a slight flicker of a thought that I might win. So when Nicole (the host) contacted me to say I was the lucky winner of 25 Euros worth of Barefoot's books (of my choice), I was gobsmacked.

For those of you that do not yet know about Barefoot Books, it was the brain child of "two mothers who wanted their children to have books that would feed the imagination, while instilling a respect for diversity and a love of the planet." Today, they "are a world-wide community of writers, artists, storytellers, musicians, and others who are committed to providing timeless stories and captivating art that can help children become happy, engaged members of a global society." They have a wonderful selection of beautifully told stories with fabulous illustrations.

The icing on the cake, for me, was the fact that Barefoot carry a small number of French (and Spanish) bilingual books and I was able to pick four fabulous English/ French books that Poppette and Little Man will love.

I chose :-

Bear in Sunshine/ L'ours au soleil
Bear in a Square/ L'ours dans un carré
Bear at home/ L'ours à la maison
Bear in town/ L'ours dans la ville

These books are really simple. They have one short sentence per page which will help with vocab building around the theme of the book. The gorgeous illustrations then provide a great base for open ended discussion ... so far Poppette and I have been reading 'Bear in Sunshine' as I am, little by little, teaching her about the weather.

Whilst on the topic of weather.... Poppette astounded me when she woke up this morning .. as Papa carried her into the lounge, she pointed to the window and said (for the first time ever) 'pleut' i.e. il pleut (it's raining) and boy was it... the UK is practically submerged under water right now :D

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Poppette the Wordsmith

Poppette has recently created a new word.... 'Mapa'... (an amalgamation of the words Maman and Papa) which she uses when she is not sure which one of us will give her the answer or reaction she is looking for...

'Mapa'... She says whilst looking expectantly at the treat cupboard

'Mapa' ... She says whilst pointing towards the bed she wishes to bounce on

'Mapa' 'Mapa' 'Mapa'

Ingenious. She is simply too cute for words.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Word Count

At 19 months old, Poppette has a spoken vocabulary of 67 words (this doesn't include the words she says when copying others - of which there are many). Of these 67 words, 25 are French and 42 English. Here's the list for anyone who is interested.

Interestingly, so far she seems to have mostly chosen only one word per object and I cannot work out how she makes the choice of which language to take these words from. It doesn't seem to relate the difficulty of pronunciation, as she says things like chaussures rather than shoes. Likewise, it doesn't seem to be based on groups of sounds as she says bateau rather than boat but cake rather than gâteau....

As Papa rightly says, it makes no difference to Poppette which word she chooses - at least not when she is at home, as she will be understood either way and to her there is no diffrence as she doesn't yet realise she speaks two separate languages. I would be interested to know whether if, when she fails to be understood at nursery using a French word, she switches to the English equivalent or not.

I have heard many parents who are raising bilingual children say that when they speak the minority langage to their child, the child responds in the majority language. I can understand why this happens and this, for the time being at least, is exactly what is happening in our house. Whenever I ask Poppette a question, although I will have spoken to her in French, she will either reply 'Yes' in English, or simply shake her head. I am eager to know whether this will change over the next few months as she will be spending more time with me and thus, more time surrounded by the French langauge.

I recently read a fellow blogger's post about not taking your children's bilingualism too personally. I have to say... for me this is not easy. I feel I have so much invested in this. I have to keep reminding myself that this is just one aspect of our life, our family and who we are and that realistically it is just a small part of who my children are. Surely, it's much easier not to take it too personally once you know you have suceeded in your goal.....We are certainly on the right track and I am proud of us for making this choice and sticking to it.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Themed Activities for Targeted Language Learning

As I am now on maternity leave with Little Man, Poppette will be spending far less time at her nursery and far more time with me.

This change in circumstances has had me thinking long and hard about how to fill our time together to maximise the fun and to ensure that Poppette doesn't get bored. Her days at nursery are so full of fun and frolics and focused activities that I am in danger of coming up short.

Alison over at Oopsey Daisy Blog may, however, have just provided me with a great answer. Alison prepares what she calls "Mommy School Packets" for her almost three year old son. Each pack focuses on a different theme (e.g. the Zoo, Halloween, the Colour Green.....) and contains myriad activities around that theme to help her son learn through play and direct experience.

I am really excited about this as a concept as I think it can translate to a great way for Poppette to learn and play at the same time as giving us both a platform for targeted language practice and learning. As a non-native, I am acutely aware that there will be language learning opportunities here for me too.

Our first theme will be 'Les Animaux de la Ferme' (farm animals). My mind is already jumping ahead to think of other themes too, such as the 'Le Temps' (the weather), 'En Ville" (In Town), à la Maison (at home), 'Les Animaux de la Jungle' (Jungle Animals)......

I have started to collect together a bundle of resources for our farm animals theme, such as:-

Animal Sounds
Comptines (nursery rhymes)
Recipes (perhaps animal shaped biscuits would be a good start)
Colouring Pages
Pictures/ Photographs

We will also take a trip to the local petting farm to look at real live animals.

I do need to brainstorm a little more. The trick will be to ensure that these activities are age appropriate as Poppette is only 18 months old. At this age, numbers and letters and perhaps even colours will be a little too advanced..... but adding these in for older children would widen the scope of learning. The beauty of it is that these activity bundles can be added to little by little over time to respond to Poppette's age, interests and understanding.

If anyone has any ideas for activity themes or suggested resources for the themes I have already suggested, I would love to hear from you.

I will update you on my progress in a future post.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Stork Has Been to Visit

I have been terribly lax at keeping up to date with my blog and emails lately......BUT, I do have a good excuse - I have just had a fabulous, healthy, bouncing baby boy and, I will freely admit, I have been happily floating around inside my baby bubble spending time with Poppette (who is  now 18 months old) and her newborn younger brother "Little Man".

This time around there was no question as to whether or not I intended to speak French with our new baby. The answer was a resounding 'Yes!!!'. I will admit that I am not up to 100% French with Little Man yet....he is only two weeks old so I feel that I have time on my side. But I do make a real effort to only speak French with him within ear shot of Poppette. It's quite suprising how cool it feels to have another budding francophone in the house.... I get real a buzz out of Poppette listening to me chatting French to her brother as I feel that it brings an extra dimension to the language for her.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Pinch Me

Oh my goodness.... pinch me, pinch me, pinch me!!!!!

We got some very exciting feedback from Poppette's nursery last night :-)

Poppette is in the process of moving up into the next group at her nursery. The transition takes a week or two as they 'ease' her in through short pre-visits so that she can get to know her new carers and her environment a little better before being fully immersed.

Yesterday, when Papa went to collect Poppette from her new group, her new key worker said that Poppette had been speaking French and that they had made notes of what she had been saying!!! Let me put this in context.... Poppette only speaks single words at the moment, we are not at the sentence building stage, and the only person she usually hears speaking French is me. So, for her to choose to use French words whilst running around at her English speaking nursery is super exciting for me. The fact that they noticed (rather than just dismissed the words as infant ramblings that they didn't understand) really impressed me and reinforced my view that we have picked a lovely nursery. I am also pleased that they took a note and can't wait to see what these words actually were.

It appears that there is already one little bilingual English/French girl in this new group and that the carers ears are tuned into the French as they have been looking after this other little girl (who is 6 months older than Poppette) for a while now.

I am grinning from ear to ear :-)

Thursday, 29 March 2012

La Passion du Papier.... My New Guilty Pleasure

As if I needed another excuse to spend money on building my bilingual resource mountain!!!

Just over a week or so ago, I stumbled upon La Passion du Papier and there's been no turning back. They stock bilingual books in several language pairs and also some great wall friezes.... I particularly like the weather frieze.

Originally, I had steered away from bilingual texts for reasons I can no longer recall. However, having received my first shipment, I can honestly say that it's a fantastic way to allow for both Maman and Papa to read comfortably to Poppette without the need for on the hoof translation one way or the other.

Now I'm just counting down the days until our weather wall frieze arrives. Poppette really seems to love learning about the weather and can already point out the sun and the snow so i'm looking forward to adding to this knowledge with such a beautifully illustrated tool.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A Little Girl's Love of Shoes....

This is a terribly indulgent post that will most likely only be of interest to hard core Poppette fans and close friends and family... but I just can't help myself because i'm so darn proud of her!!!!

Last night she started to say "chaussures" [shoes]... it sounds more like 'shur shuur' for now but I am totally gobsmacked at her picking such a patently difficult word to pronounce... out of all the things she could have chosen to say.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Minority Language Playdates

Minority language playdates are the things that dreams are made of. Unfortunately, for Poppette and I, they are also rather rare at the moment.

Some French friends of ours have a little boy who is one month younger than Poppette and is being raised bilingual French/ English using the Mother Language at Home technique. These friends used to live close by but unfortunately, due to work commitments, moved to another city recently :(

Anyhow, just over a week ago they came to visit for the day... a fabulous day where only French was spoken.

The great thing to come out of this for Poppette is that she had lots of fun.

The great thing to come out of it for me was that I got to see first hand that my daughter truly does understand French even when spoken by someone other than her maman.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

February's Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism - Yippee

Honestly, I am such a language geek.... I A L W A Y S get excited in the run up to the Carnival.... and today February's edition has been published.

This month it is being hosted by Jen over at Perogies & Gyoza and you can read the entries by clicking here.

Pop over and have a good old read.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Language learning by osmosis

A fabulous consequence of raising our daughter as a bilingual with my non-native language is that her Papa is picking the language up by osmosis.

Papa had a French tutor for a few years until last September when his tutor could no longer provide lessons. Since then, outwardly his language learning had come to a halt. As we all know, language needs to be nurtured and even a native language speaker can lose their skills if they stop actively using their language for prolonged periods of time.

But Papa's nature is to listen and soak up.... quietly and diligently without making a fuss...and then, suddenly... I realised - he has been soaking up the conversations between Poppette and I and now understands so much more than he ever did. To the point where, should I say to Poppette in French, "Let's ask Daddy to go and run your bath and put on the bubble machine" I don't even have to translate anymore.... Papa just gets up and gets on with his little mission... it's brilliant to see another facet of language learning in action.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

One Year On... Oh How Far We Have Come it really a year ago today that I first sat down infront of my computer and started to chronicle my hopes and fears around our efforts to create a bilingual household?

It's actually been over a year since I started speaking French with Poppette. When I think of all the angst and self doubt that typified those first months, I can honestly say there were a few times I didn't think we would get this far. If I had a list back then setting out exactly the achievements we have made to date, I just wouldn't have believed we could come even close.

So today is an exciting day.

A day of reflection and celebration.

Don't get me wrong, I still have the odd 'wobble' and crisis of confidence. But I have learnt to manage these by not looking too far forward and focussing on the here and now. If we can just get through each day with no major communication issues... then why should tomorrow be any different???

So far my darling daughter truly is bilingual. My heart skips a beat when I say those words :D Although she still only says the odd word (and admittedly right now these tend to be English ones more than their French counterparts), she understands French and English equally fact, Papa is convinced that she understands more French.... and I am inclined to agree as there are some questions, requests and instructions that she responds to immediately when I am speaking in French but that she seems not to understand when said in English by Papa.

Poppette loves books. She spends a huge amount of time each day picking them off her shelf and turning each page carefully. Papa and I sit with her and as she points things out we name them. If we ask her where something is she turns to the correct page and points it out. For Poppette it seems entirely normal that objects have more than one name....'le soleil'/ 'the sun', 'un nuage' / 'a cloud', 'un cochon'/ 'a pig'.....language aquisition and the human brain truly are mind blowing.

Now 16 months in age, Poppette has been saying meaningful words since around the 11 month mark. One thing I have noticed, however, is that her use of these words ebbs and flows and sometimes I wonder if I actually dreamt that she had been saying a word for a week or two that she then no longer seems to say. Currently, her main words are 'Didi' (for Doudou), 'More' (for 'more', 'again' and also to indicate that she wishes to do an activity). She also says 'Daddy' and 'Papa' a lot. I'm not really sure where all the other words have gone for now.

We have been talking to her more and more over recent weeks about the impending arrival of her baby brother and about a week ago she started to say 'Baby'. I don't think she has grasped the fact that she will soon be an older sister but I still think it's good to talk about it with her. The interesting point from a language point of view is that I always speak about 'le petit bébé' (the little baby) and we read 'Et dedans il y a' ('and inside there is..') so I'm not too sure why Poppette has chosen the English word over the French.... Is this a sign of things to come.....?

One thing that I am excited about and that I hope will give legs to our ongoing bilingual success is that I am due to take maternity leave which will allow me to spend more time with Poppette. The opportunity to be able to play a larger part in her life and her development than I have been able to recently as a full time working mum makes me smile wider than ever. I feel very lucky.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

English Language DVDs with French Language Options

As many of us know only too well, the costs of buying French language DVDs and having them shipped over from France can really mount up.

Fortunately for us, another non-native Maman who is a friend of mine has done an awful lot of research into which English DVDs can be bought with a French language option (she has also helpfully noted the other available language options).

I have added this list to the DVD section of my resource page which can be accessed by the "Resource" tab at the top of this page.

Many of the DVDs on the list are far cheaper to buy (through than their French counterparts (through even before you discount the cost of international postage.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

January's Carnival

It's that time again... the Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism is being hosted by Cordelia over at Multilingual Mama this month.

Thanks Cordelia.

You can access the entries via this link. What a great selection of posts.

I get excited each month in the run up to every new Carnival - I find it so inspiring that so many of us come together to share and support each other in this way.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Non-Native Crib Sheet

Since my fortuitous meeting with Belgian Maman a few weeks ago, we have been getting to know each other and excitedly trading ideas, words and phrases.

Belgian Maman came up with a fantastic idea - creating a Non-Native Crib Sheet full of useful words and phrases that we need on an almost daily basis when chatting with our little ones. She also suggested we share this crib sheet on my blog.

What a fabulous idea.

I honestly can't imagine how happy I would have felt to have found any semblance of a crib sheet when I first started speaking French with Poppette. I would have jumped for joy :-)

So... I have started a new page "Non-Native Crib Sheet" which you can access via the tab at the top of this page. I really hope that it helps a few people... even one person.

The list already runs to over more than 200 words and phrases but so far I have only had the time to upload a few onto the blog. If the crib sheet is of interest to you, I do recommend you keep popping back to have a look for updates.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A (Mini) Explosion of Words

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you have all had a fabulous time over the festive period.

Christmas at our house this year was unusual in that I had two whole weeks off work. This is absolutely unheard of. Papa also had a week off so we got to spend some great quality time as a family.

Spending such a concentrated amount of time with our daughter was amazing for both of us. We have been bowled over by the progress she makes every day. The new tricks she learns and shares with us. Little life skills and personality traits.

On Poppette's last day in nursery prior to the Christmas break, her nursery nurse told us that she had said 'banana'. I'm not sure why I was dubious (particularly as it is one of her very favourite foods) but I reserved judgement until I heard it for myself. Which I did when Poppette asked for a banana one day when we were sitting in the living room. There was no mistaking it although her pronunciation was more 'nana'. She has since gone on to say it several times.

Not only this, but she now says Daddy and Papa continually ... hundreds of times a day. She also says Mama but not quite as often. I have a sneaking suspicion that its because my littel angel knows she has Papa totally wrapped around her finger and that if she says his name there is no way on God's earth that he will refuse her anything :-)

I am also very excited to say that I have come accross my alter ego. A Belgian woman raising her young son in her non-native English. It's such a boost to meet people that are taking on the same challenges and hopefully we will be able to inspire and support each other on this bilingual journey. This Belgian maman has been kind enough to review the French vocabulary listed on the "Le Langage Enfantin en Français" page listed at the top of my blog so I have updated it accordingly.