I am a new mother and aspiring French speaker, looking to raise my son bilingual in French and English, and hopefully to improve my own French in the process. I am not a native French speaker, I did not major in French, I haven’t undergone intensive French immersion for a year, I’ve never lived with a Quebecois family, I don’t teach French, I don’t really consider myself fluent at all. Daddy just speaks English, so I can’t lean on him for much more than emotional support in this task.
I am probably a lot like you. I took Latin in Middle School, Japanese in high school, a semester of French and two of Latin in college, and started studying French in earnest to fulfill a requirement for my masters degree. And I learned pretty quickly that even when you take language study seriously, it is really hard. I rapidly fell behind and began to struggle, and decided to go to France over my summer vacation for an “immersion” program. This really only served to confuse me more, and to point out how disastrous my French really was. No one could understand a word I said. Clearly, I am no language savant. I want that to be very clear. I am, or always thought I was, BAD at languages. I have always struggled even to get passing grades in language classes, and I always found language study boring and tedious.
Again, in desperation, I decided to try teaching myself with Rosetta Stone.* This time, it started to click. I started from the very beginning, and studied two hours a day (I got through level 4). I supplemented with reading, listening to the “Journal en français facile” from RFI and watching Tin Tin cartoons in French. By the time I went to visit France and Switzerland the following summer, I could get around using my newfound language skills, and was even able to spend a full day speaking French when I was thrown in to the situation. I found it so delightful to be able to communicate that studying has been easy and delightful since then, especially because that summer I got some new motivation– I found out that I was pregnant.
I decided right away that if there was any way, I would save my son the struggle that I had been through to learn a language. I read and researched, and I tried to practice my French (admittedly, I wasn’t very disciplined during the pregnancy). Now, Nelson is here. He is a living, breathing baby embarking on his language learning experience. And he’s got me as his guide.
I’ll talk here about my evolving plans to help him become bilingual, the resources that I use and how I try to keep costs down, my triumphs and frustrations, his progress, and my progress in my own language learning. I’ll also talk a bit about my understanding of the research on bilingualism and language learning in general and what it means for a family in our situation.
*I am not paid or compensated in any way to say anything nice or mean about Rosetta Stone or any other language learning project, these are my views and my experiences.