Bilingual Progress Update: Before Our France Trip

Bonjour! It's been a while, hasn't it? May was a whirlwind--amidst the beauty of spring, it was my husband's busy season of coaching track, but thankfully we'll have more time together soon. This past month I've figured out some details for our first trip to France as a family. It's an extended trip stretching from July to the end of September. We figured if we're going to pay for all of us to go (we opened a savings account last year towards this goal), we might as well stay as long as possible. Without a visa, we can stay close to 90 days.

  Soir de Paris - Tuileries by  Renard Camus

Soir de Paris - Tuileries by Renard Camus

I'm really curious to know how much fluency our children will gain from their time in France! Here's where they are currently at in their French knowledge and acquisition, along with my hopes for their experience:

Daughter (age 6):

  Wearing my earrings as a crown

Wearing my earrings as a crown

I'm fairly impressed with my daughter's French fluency. While she chooses to speak English with me most of the time (I continue to speak to her in French regardless), she can switch into French easily whenever she desires. Sometimes the trigger is listening to French music; other times it's playing with paper characters she's cut out or interacting with a francophone friend. She makes a few grammatical mistakes, but I consider mistakes part of the fluency process--what matters to me is that she's brave enough to try to speak and enjoys doing so.

My hope for her this trip is that she has a positive experience attending school in France (for a few weeks in September) and is able to make a friend with whom she can stay in touch. She's able to read decently in French so I don't think the academic content of Cours Primaire (first grade) will be overly challenging.

And though it may not be likely, I also hope that she will lose her first tooth in France. The French tell children that la petite souris (the little mouse) comes to collect the lost tooth and leaves a small gift in its place. What a cute tradition! (This book first exposed me the story of la petite souris. You can borrow the book from Les Petits Livres here in the U.S.)

Son (age 3):

son age three

At 3 years old, my son can express himself fairly well in English now, and I suspect his English fluency has improved significantly based on the vast amount of time he has spent playing with his older sister this year (since we homeschool). But to my dismay, he's fairly resistant to French. He uses a few French nouns consistently in his English sentences, but if I ask him to repeat something in French, he protests, "It's too hard!" I try to explain that with a little effort now it will become much easier, but he's immovable on this point. Therefore, I hope that during this France trip he will truly have a need to speak French and will develop a love for the language.

There's a small possibility that he will be able to attend preschool in France for a few weeks in September, but if so, I fear he will have a negative experience. The immersion would be fantastic but emotionally he would struggle because the French school day is quite long (until 4:30pm, usually). Hopefully he will gain speaking practice simply through playdates and public park play if preschool is not an option this time.

Baby (4 months):

  Four months old

Four months old

Our new little one, a baby boy, will be nearly six months old when we arrive in France and close to nine months old when we leave.  He won't be talking yet and he won't remember the trip, but I hope the language he hears will make an imprint on his mind. I also hope that my French friends will play with him and teach him (and me) some more comptines and rhymes such as these.

Otherwise, my baby's primary exposure to France may be through taste as he begins eating a little solid food there. I've always made my own baby food here in the U.S., but the French have such adventurous baby food--artichaut (artichoke), épinard (spinach), and pomme de terre poireau (potato leek), for starters, followed by foods like white fish ratatouille for older babies. What an education for little tastebuds!

Have you travelled to a country where you or your children were exposed to another language? How much language progress did you make?