Saturday, September 16, 2006

Maylin’s language self-assessment

[Written Friday, September 15, offline while blogger was down]

I asked Maylin over dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant which language she preferred, French or English. She readily responded, “English.” I asked why. She replied, “Because it’s not French.”

When it’s time to read bedtime stories, she always requests to be read to in English – sometimes requiring me to translate from the original French. It’s usually not too bad for me, but there’s one French version of Toy Story 2 that is full of rarely used tenses and unrecognizable colloquialisms that cause me to give Maylin a real watered-down, hasty version of the story since we already know it from owning the DVD.

Maylin speaks French easily with her schoolmates, new playground buddies, and even her teacher. What a remarkable change from last year when she hardly breathed a word of French (or English) to her teachers. She’s a shy girl to begin with, so a new language made it more difficult to communicate with adults. But she has never had a problem talking with French children.

She does have a tendency to feign comprehension, which I do all the time, unfortunately, to avoid too much discomfort on my part. For example, at the park yesterday, Maylin’s schoolmate’s very cute big brother was explaining to her the rules for his simple game. She gave a resounding “oui” with a big smile, but when it came time to play, it was clear she hadn’t understood. Like me, Maylin doesn’t like to admit when she doesn’t understand something. I had no idea these complexes could be inherited.

Maylin makes the same grammar mistakes as the other children. “C’est moi” is commonly used for “it’s mine,” when it really should be “c’est a moi.” “C’est moi” literally means, “it’s me.”

So she acknowledges that her English is better than her French. When I hear French kids her age speak, they speak as well as Maylin speaks her English. I know eventually her French will catch up. I’m not worried.

I’ve met a couple moms at the school who are dying to have their kids keep up their English because I guess they’re mostly speaking French at home and their kids have French fathers. We might end up starting a English-speaking playgroup for our preschoolers next week.

[Added today]

Yesterday, I tried some Chinese on Maylin. Specifically, "I love you." She instantly recognized the language.
"Stop talking Chinese! Only English and French!"
"Which one do you like better, Maylin? French or English?"
"French AND English."

But I think she likes Chinese, too. She frequently asks me to translate the Chinese children's songs she hears on CD.


Sarah said...

Such fascinating details! Maylin's preferences and abilities in the various languages seem pretty consistent with other kids her age who are growing up bilingually (at least according to my research and interviews--I don't have kids yet myself). Caroline, would you be willing to let me quote this post on my blog, Bringing up Baby Bilingual? You can reply here or on my blog or email me at babybilingual (at) gmail (dot) com.

Caroline Jou Armitage said...

Interesting. I am flattered you'd like to quote my post. Go right ahead, Sarah!

Sarah said...

Merci bien! I'll add it tonight.