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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bonjour Zach!

I can't believe it's been two years since my last post (which was like, the second one ever, anyway.) But here I am - for no specific reason other than I am not caught in the Hulu trap. Those commercials with Alec Baldwin where he was introducing it like aliens invading our minds was a little too accurate -- I am ashamed to say how many hours I have spent watching pretty much everything suggested to me!

And I am also wanting to recognize how far we -- my now 4-year old and I -- have come in our French!

"We" comes as a surprise to me...I don't think I realized how much I would improve along with him. It was never my goal to get better at French - in fact, I had pretty much given up on that ages ago when I couldn't remember vocabulary words from one day to the next, despite reading it quite regularly.

I think what I didn't realize was how little exposure I had actually been getting to the language. Exposure which I am now getting regularly because of my efforts to make Zach a French speaker, I have had to keep up with him! Which on a daily basis is pretty much some combination of: watching Flash Mcqueen (Disney's French "Lightning") then acting out scenes from the movie, going on playmates with other French-speaking moms and kids, acting out "La Chèvre de Monsieur Seguin" with French-speaking Dad, and reading endless silly - and occasionally disgusting -- stories from the French children's section at the local library. Outside the bathroom, he is only allowed to say "pipi" and "caca" - not the English versions! When possible, with dictionary or word reference.com close at hand to look up words I inevitably don't know, i.e. derapages (skidding, as in off the race track).

And for all the effort after 4 years (wow) of mostly battling -- as nicely as possible, but still -- to get him to say anything in French, let alone a full sentence....he is now speaking in 10+ word sentences on a regular basis. At some magical point we shifted from "getting French done" to actually communicating and having fun in the language. It never happens for more than an hour or two per day - which is actually less than optimum according to the research I read (two hours minimum to ensure fluency?) and I still often hear "I want to speak zero French Mommy!" but you know what, I am thankful for what we can do and that, for the most part, once we start going, he seems to enjoy it. It probably also has to do with the fact that I think I am more fun in French. I think I put in that extra effort to play on a higher level than when I am playing with him in English. And I actually feel more fun in French. Since the beginning, switching languages gives me a breath of fresh air after however many hours of reading, playing, talking, and watching videos becomes monotonous in one language. Then...voilà!  Maman becomes très drôle again!

Latest bag of tricks/tools:

DVD: La Famille Berenstein (yes, the Berenstein Bears in French!) Found it at a Toys R Us bin of $4.99 videos which I occasionally rifle -through for anything with a French track (too hard to find!). This is actually a little advanced for him -- sophisticated sentences that I don't always understand - but very good and is pushing my French to a higher level - how sad that I have to aspire to vocabulary a native six year old has already mastered. But it is shaking things up a bit for both of us so Bravo Berensteins!

Book: La Souris et le Voleur by Jihad Darwice -- this has been a magic wand in switching to French reading. Here is why: lots of references to "caca" -- a 4 year old's favorite topic and giggle-inducer. The really quick plot summary: the mouse is robbed of half of his meat in the night- he goes to the town judge for advice for how to fend off the thief when he next attacks. The judge proposes replacing the meat (which is a brown lump) with an alternative (you guessed it), wait for the thief to swipe his hand in it and also plans various other tricks in store for the unlucky "voleur". This is hands down the most fun French children's book we've read. Thank you Bethesda library!

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