The biggest bit of news in our bilingual journey is that I have decided to start up a sing along and story time in French. I think I have found a home for us at a local school, and I am really excited for the idea! It looks like it would start in September, which is a good amount of time to prepare myself. Sometimes I stop and ask myself why I am taking this on. What am I thinking? I am struggling enough to teach my child French, why add another big group of little ones? But I think, in the end, it will be a big help to me because it will force me to tackle so many of the things that are difficult for me in the process of leading a life with my child in this new language.
The monster problem is speaking French around other adults. Usually children are accompanied by adults to the story time. I will really, really have to bite the bullet and accept speaking– public speaking– in French for this to happen. I think it will be easier for me because I find it so easy to engage with children, so I will just pretend the parents don’t exist for the first couple weeks. Though I might be shaking with fear during my first story time.
Another issue I keep coming up against is that I don’t have a life history in French. I don’t have favorite books and I don’t have an arsenal of nursery rhymes. I don’t know the silly hand movements that go along with songs, and the songs I know come from CDs borrowed from the library rather than years of song with parents, friends, and teachers. I stumble, trying to memorize lyrics quickly and making shoddy, on the fly translations of songs Nelson likes in English. It somehow seems to make the little tyke really happy at this age, but I don’t think that will last. Leading songs for little ones will demand a degree of polish that I haven’t yet achieved. It will give me the imperative to research the best children’s books, songs, rhymes, dances. I am really, really excited about it!
And finally, I hope we’ll meet some other francophone families. I know there is a big Haitian community around here that I would love to tap in to, and being in Cambridge we are surrounded by universities with many international families. I know that they are out there, but I have been too scared, too busy, too shy, and too overwhelmed to connect. I feel like I would be a charity case. Little lady who struggles with her French, and a baby who can’t speak, demanding French interaction from some family I barely know with perfect English, who could communicate with me much more easily in English. I try to shy away from this mentality, try to tell myself that I can’t force anyone to do anything and there is no harm in asking, but these are my demons. I am still working on my identity as a bilingual.
I hope I’m not biting off more than I can chew– though sometimes I find it is best to keep yourself busy enough that you don’t have time to complain. That has been the French strategy so far!
I should go. My husband is with my slightly grumpy baby on a walk, and I just couldn’t resist taking a few minutes for an update but he really ought to be working on being a doctoral student, and I ought to be marching around town practicing the verses to “Il était un petit navire” with my beautiful baby.