Sunday, December 5, 2010

Teaching My Daughter French

When my daughter was born, I spoke to her in French.  For the first two years of her life, every word she spoke was French.  The problem was, my husband does not speak any French, only English. When I noticed my daughter was falling behind in her language development, I figured it was because we were trying to teach her both languages at once.  I began to speak to her in English and also brought her to speech therapy.  She made good progress, but in the three years that have passed I haven't been conversing in French with her.  Last year, when we moved to Iqaluit, we were fortunate in that there was a French language daycare and school.  The teachers are from Quebec and so had taught Sarah to speak French with perfect pronunciation.

We have since moved to Baker Lake and Sarah is attending an English/Inuktitut school.  Sarah is facing the same difficulties the Inuit children are in preserving their native language.  I must admit, even though I went to French school my whole life, it is easier to just speak English. We are surrounded by the English language on TV, radio and in newspapers.  My husbands family is English and all of our friends are English speaking.  Keeping up my French language has been a challenge. The more I make the effort to speak it though, the more comfortable I am in expressing myself.  If I have difficulty finding the right word, I look it up in my English/French dictionary.  It will be a challenge to go back to thinking in French. 

My next step is to find some interesting French books to read.  I found the Janet Evanovich books for sale, translated into French.  I checked it out online, and it's a slangy French that will be fun to read.  I think I will put that on my Christmas list!


  1. I struggled with fears that, growing up in an inuktitut/english household my children would fall behind in both languages. But that doesn't seem to be the case. My son has strong language skills in both languages. My daughter has seen at least a partial realization of those fears, her english is excellent, her inuktitut is very weak. However I've come to realize that it is growing and that at this pace she will catch up to the others soon.

    Her weak inuktitut appears to be a product of spending the vast majority of her young years with me, whereas Travis' youngest years were when we lived with my wife's family.

  2. How old are your children now? Did they attend an English/Inuktitut school, or an English school?

  3. Chantal. My son is 8, and my daughter turns 5 next month. Travis' school time is roughly 50/50 inuktitut/english. Hilary's preschool is supposedly mostly inuktitut, but I know (as is often the case) that people speak english to her. I often berate her aunts for speaking in English to her, as I want her to have a great command of both languages. Interestingly she often counts in Spanish while playing (Gracias a Dora y me) and loves to be read to in French. Although she demands that each page be translated before I read the next one.

  4. That's great. I wish I spoke Inuktitut so I can help her. The little bit of Inuktitut I picked up in Iqaluit is obsolete in Baker Lake! The dialect is different here. Back to square one.