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Apr 242016
 

Question

Hello,

I live in France. I speak with my nearly 2 years old daughter only Russian. I am just in the beginning of learning French. Her father is French. After the divorce, the court decided to share the child’s custody 50/50 (week with me, week – with him). How will it affect the communication with my daughter?

Actually my daughter spends all day in daycare or at school, that means French-speaking environment. I would like to keep the communication going with my daughter and if possible only in Russian. I’m not sure that I will be able to speak French fluently. If our daughter spends more time with me than with her father, will her French be poor?

Sincerely
Tatiana

Answer

Dear Tatiana,

Thank you for your question, I can understand that you are worried about being able to continue speaking Russian with your daughter, but I do think you can be successful in passing on your language to her.

During the week she is with you, it is important that you do your very best to support her Russian by speaking a lot. I recommend that you do a “running commentary” on anything that you are doing. Keep talking while you are together, while you are out and about, on the bus, at home, when you are cooking, playing etc. Name the things in your environment and explain what you are doing.

If possible, engage with other Russian-speakers via Skype or, ideally, in person. If you know other families with Russian-speaking children, try to arrange playdates. It is highly beneficial for children to meet other kids who speak their minority language, as this confirms that the language is actually spoken by others as well, and not only the parent.

At home, keep Russian music playing in the background and sing along with it. Read lots of Russian books and learn rhymes and children’s songs. If you watch cartoons together, choose Russian ones. Basically, try to create a Russian immersion environment for her when she is with you. Even if she spends part of the day in daycare, you will still have plenty of opportunity practise Russian with her.

Since your daughter attends daycare (and later school) in French, she lives in France and will spend every other week with her French-speaking father, French will naturally become her majority language. Learning Russian from you will not make her French “poor” – instead, she will reap the many benefits of being bilingual.

Wishing you the best of luck!

Kind regards
Rita

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