Question

I would like some advice on how to continue the language acquisition process for my son. He is 22 months old. We live in an area which is part Dutch, part French but English is the common language used. Although I have some knowledge in both Dutch and French, my parents chose to send me to an English school because my dad spoke only English and although my mom speaks both English and French, they felt at that time a solid English education was best. She always assumed I would be able to learn French when I was older, and as much as I wanted to, and I understand a lot, I don’t feel fluent.

I don’t want the same for my son. Plus I feel like he will have more opportunities here and abroad if he is fluent in both French and English. So my dilemma is this: I feel like a good way to get him to learn French is to send him to a French day care. I feel the immersion would be good for him while I continue to do my part by teaching a few phrases, reading, and watching French DVD’s with him at home. I am not sure if I should leave him in the French system for complete schooling though as I feel there will come a time I won’t be able to assist him as my language knowledge won’t be strong enough. So my thinking is to send him to a French day care from the ages of 2-5 and then switch him to English school from Kindergarten onwards and then seek opportunities for him to continue to interact with French speakers and possibly a French tutor so that he doesn’t lose the language. While I know every child is different and there’s no way to say what would be the “correct” thing to do, my fear is that my parents feel that I will be confusing my son by starting him at such a young age and that by switching his schooling he will then be behind with English. I am a teacher by training and feel that I should be able to help him with learning English but I guess I am doubting if my plan would be the best way for him to acquire the second language. Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

Thank you!
Meg

 

Answer

Thank you very much for question, Meg!

I think that you should trust your intuition. The fact that you want to give your child something good that you didn’t have is a wonderful and worthy goal and your teaching background confirms this heartfelt desire. I think that your language plan is well thought-out and complete, starting while he is young, planning for in-home teaching opportunities as well as foreseeing the future by planning continued and native input. I think you are right on track. Just believe in yourself! What I suspect is the most difficult aspect is the opposition you may receive from your well-intentioned parents. And this is quite normal given the generational gap and the evolution of the world’s way of thinking about early childhood bilingualism. Your parents mean well and are concerned for the best interest of their grandchild – they love him! But you can prepare yourself to ease any tension by first finding out what they truly fear and then two gently helping them understand why YOU feel this is the very best choice for your child. And remember, it is your child and you are the mom and it is for you to decide. This article about defending your decision to raise a bilingual child might help.

I wish you all the best in your bilingual endeavors. Please don’t hesitate to write again if you have any additional questions and I’d love to hear of your progress!

Sincerely,
Maria

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