Identity issues with becoming bilingual in French

25 September 2019

Your article about native English-speakers not being top of the class in English lessons in France (August edition) rang bells.

We moved here when my children were seven and nine years old. Not all their teachers could handle the fact. They would correct their pronunciation, and mark them down.

Children easily feel sensitive if they differ from their peers.

They need reassurance from both parent and teacher.

This isn’t easy if you don’t speak good French yourself.

One has to set this against the huge overall benefit of being automatically pretty well bilingual, and experiencing a second culture at a young age.

The next hurdle comes when the children’s grasp of French outstrips yours.

They get very cocky, and you can find them, maybe innocently, using gros mots without you realising it.

You have to work at learning the language quickly, make sure you keep up.

We found ourselves saying “Speak English!” all the time, as they chattered to each other in French, and were in danger of losing fluency in their native tongue.

We borrowed copies of Shakespeare’s plays, and read them around the kitchen table, otherwise their native culture would have been non-existent.

Thirty years on and I don’t think they feel completely English or French. I still correct their English expressions – and they still correct my French!

Helen Beaney, by email

Helen Beaney wins the Connexion letter of the month and a copy of the Connexion Puzzle Book. Please include your name and address in any correspondence; we can withhold it on request. The Editor’s decision is final. Write to: The Connexion, Patio Palace,  41 avenue Hector Otto, 98000 Monaco or  email 

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