Friday, October 12, 2012

Five Reasons I Speak French to My Child

Francophone Countries
1.  I know I am giving him a tool to connect him with millions of people that may otherwise seem “foreign” to him. Because of my  French and Spanish language skills, I feel at ease talking to people in Europe, Latin America, and all over the Middle East and Africa, and like I can travel to multiple continents without being overcome by someone else’s or my own foreignness. I want this for Zach. I want him to feel at home in the world, or at least in a big chunk of it. 

2. I have always loved the French language. I love the way my tongue feels when I say merci, d’accord, and things that just don’t have as catchy a equivalent in English, like “tu dis n’importe quoi!” (“you’re talking nonsense” doesn’t really do the trick). I even feel less strict and boring when I say “range tes jouets cet instant!”. It just feels and sounds gorgeous, and I want Zach to have the pure pleasure of expressing himself in French. 

3. It is part of my psychological, if not biological, heritage (although I recently learned that we have French Huguenot ancestors--mais oui!) My father for his entire adult life was a Francophile and fluent speaker, as is my maternal aunt, and they each passed on this love to me. I have felt a close connection to French language and culture from the time I was three and my Dad taught me inappropriate drinking songs around the kitchen table (chevaliers, de la table ronde, goutons voir si le vin a bon!). It has always been a part of my life, and when Zach was born I didn’t really have to think about it.  I was going to speak to him, at least part of the time, in French.

4. We get to have a secret code. Now, as we live in a place that is swarming with multilingual families, I’m not sure how secret our conversations are to our neighbors. But it definitely comes in handy, like the other day as we plotted a prank against my brother who doesn’t speak French (how I would love to sneer at this, except for the fact that he speaks fluent Japanese). It was actually the first time I’d used French with Zach so that someone else would not understand, which, I honestly think is mean...unless you’re planning a practical joke on an unsuspecting uncle;-)

5. For all the reasons the child development experts tell you: it helps their brain develop better, think more creatively, et cetera et cetera. But these aren’t my top reasons (fifth on the list feels about right).  Maybe I’m selfish, but I don’t think this alone would be enough for me to have kept going as long as I have, although I truly admire those parents who do!  For me, reason number one is enough.  

What are yours?


  1. hello, just a suggestion that you include the ONLY DC Charter school that offer French immersion, the Elsie Whitlow Stokes school. This is a free school, available only by lottery to DC residents.

  2. Thank you very much for letting me know about this program! I added it to the list.