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.....


  1. Actually, I noticed my daughter has a better accent in English than I have, thanks to music and cartoons DVDs she's been watching. (I let her watch cartoons only in English, since she was about 2 years and a half, our majority language is Romanian). So yes, I agree with you, since you are the main/sole provider of the minority language, CDs/DVDs are very good to offer more 'language input'(and eventually the Ipad for us -- it has lots and lots of read-aloud stories - so you might want to look into that as well, for more language input).
    Funny thing, when my daughter watches Ben&Holly and Peppa Pig for a while, her accent becomes British, and when she turns to American show, she definitely sounds American.
    As for the French 'R', I have trouble pronouncing it and apparently, so does she. (I have been teaching her a bit of French, starting 6 months ago). Her French is fairly good, but without the nasal 'R'. I guess she's already a bit older and not catching on the accurate French accent from music/DVDs either, as she did with English accent (I started using English with her when she was 1).
    I have 2 videos of her here, in French, the second one is only audio and here's a funny video in English :)

    1. Those two clips are brilliant - thanks for posting the links. Your little girl really is doing amazingly well!!! Three languages...and I can't believe how quickly she picked up the French ... six short months from speaking no French to being able to chat with a native speaker!!! Her English is very good!!

      Thanks for your feedback on how DVds etc have worked in your house. I'm pleased to hear that it can and does work...the fact that your daughter's accent changes depending on which cartoon she has been watching is definitley testament to that :D

      I have visited your blog before...oh how I wish I could read Romanian :D

  2. You know, this whole pronunciation issue is an interesting one. I speak French with a near-native accent, but my native tongue is English and I've only ever spoken to Zach for about 2 hours each day in French. Yet, his french pronunciation is almost perfect while in English he has several impediments, like he can't do the hard r so "red" comes out "wed", and has a tough time with th, sh and s sounds. I would have thought it would be the other way around...strange!

    on the subject of french children's radio - can you share your links? I have found one or two on the internet, but would love to know more, i am especially interested in sites that offer content like talk, not just music, as Z tends to not like music, believe it or not!!

    Merci bien!!!

    1. Hi Jennifer... thanks for your comment and for leading me to your blog - I had a good read of it last night and will be following your story with interest.

      As for the childrens radio channels... our favourite one is Radio Ouistiti

      If you have an iPhone, there is an App called TuneIn Radio which gives you access to tonnes of French children's radio stations. If you don't have access to this App, do let me know as I will happily list out the names of some of the stations.

  3. Thanks so much for the Ouistiti link - I'd never heard of it and will be tuning in tomorrow morning- i think it is too late our time as I see they have Queen Latifaah playing!;-)

    You know, I do have TuneIn and will check out the stations - thanks for the tip!!

    And thanks for looking at the blog - it is quite new but I am enjoying being part of this community!! The more I connect, the more it keeps me motivated to try new things with Zach and stay on top of all the great language resources - and share my own finds as well. Bonne nuit!