Speaking English twice a week

Yesterday talking to my FIL he asked me, surprisingly, if we as a family spoke English together. Well up to now I have only spoken English to Rémy and then I speak French with Thumpah. She only speaks French with him.

Although Thumpah can speak English excellently, she admits that she is getting a little bit rusty through lack of use. OK she uses it to speak to her Taiwanese colleagues at work, although sometimes their English can be hard to understand, but aside from that she doesn’t normally speak it.

So last night I brought up my conversation with her Dad with her and she thought it would be a brilliant idea if we could speak English together as a family a couple of days a week (the couple of days was my idea). So on Wednesday, when there is no school and on Sundays we’ll speak only English in the house.

From other Anglo-French famillies I have often heard that, as parents, we should stick to our own languages. Which up to now we have done. But my FIL’s conversation made me realise that Rémy, although being able to understand English, might end up not actually wanting to speak it. Mainly this being due to the fact that now he is in school, where of course he’ll speak and hear wall-to-wall French. So it is going against the grain when it comes to the advice I’ve always had.

Thumpah decided to speak English to Rémy last night as we ate our evening meal. We were pretty shocked by his reaction, when he told his Maman to speak French and not English. Of course I have just spent 2 weeks away, which is a long time for him and for me, so was a bit taken aback by his reaction. He even went as far as saying he didn’t want to speak English. Whoops.

Then I spoke to him in English and he actually said to me, that he didn’t want to talk to me because he was talking to Maman. I suppose you can guess how I reacted – I told him off for being so rude! Well, for me he wasn’t being very polite. Having raised my voice, that made him cry – so I had to come and sit next to him and we both explained WHY we speak in English and French and then said to him that when he starts to learn English at school he’ll be ahead of everyone. Somehow he took in everything we said to him, while explaining that it wasn’t very good to be rude to me – that it is always good to be polite to his Maman & Daddy and also everyone else.

Personally I think he is going to take some convincing to this new idea of speaking English two days a week. I’ll keep you posted…

0 Replies to “Speaking English twice a week”

  1. I have often heard that each parent should stick to their own language too. And I fully understand why it should be so.

    But in our every day life it isn’t POSSIBLE to follow such a rule.

    You write “Thumpah can speak English excellently” so in your family everyone is bilingual. that’s a big asset.. It isn’t the same in ours. Michael can’t speak French (although I suspect he understands the main part of what Edin and I say now) and my English, -although decent -doesn’t sound “natural”. Very often I know the words but I have no idea how to pronounce them. Yesterday after trying to pronounce the simple word “safari” in different ways, I finally had to spell it out for Michael to understand what I meant ! So obviously speaking English to my son isn’t a good example for him.

    But what would happen if I decided never to speak English in front of him ? Well, it would be impossible for me to communicate with his father, not a very nice family model for a child to grow in. And it would be the end of our games all the three of us together, the three of us would be deprived of our best hours together then. No, that REALLY doesn’t work ! I’d rather have my son learn my faulty English rather than building a wall in betwwen the three of us. So never mind the rule, I’ll speak English when the words come to my mind in English and that’s it.

    I think no one else but us can feel what’s good for our family. And it’s the same for your family. Each situation is unique and you have to set your own rules accordingly. Speaking English two days a week seems a good strategy to try. After a while you’ll see if Rémy gets used to it or not. Children his age often reject what is new to them and puzzles them.In a few weeks time he’ll be disappointed if Thumpah forgets to speak Englsih on a Wednesday evening ! With you being a native English Speaker and using your native language to speak to Rémy when you’re together, I think he can hear enough “natural” English to become a natural English Speaker himself, and speaking English in the house twice a week should be good to develop his vocabulary.

    As far as I’m concerned I generally speak to Edin in French and Michael in (Scottish) English but when we’re doing things together, we often speak English and if I watch a movie in English with Edin, I often repeat or make comments (ooops !) in English too.

    I think his French is better than his English so far because he learns a lot at school (from his teachers but also from his schoolmates)and also because being a woman, I mainly communicate with him on a verbal mode whereas my partner develops more tactile forms of communication. I hope this year we can spend some time in Scotland and he can talk with his grand-parents and maybe he can make friends with kids his age there.

    Maybe there’s a better way. I don’t know. We try our best, we talk a lot, we share a lot. Maybe we could express it all more correctly, but what really matters is what we share and not so much the way we express it. I trust a child’s brain to find its way in a situation that may seem quite complex to our old rusty neurons.

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