Thursday, March 20, 2014

Say It In French

"Say it in French Mamma; please say it in French." With increasingly frequency, this is Sidney's request to me. On one hand I love it; his French immersion school is obviously paying off since he is absorbing his new language like a sponge. On the other hand, it is making me realize just how shaky my high school French really is. At the moment our French language skills are probably equal but it is only a matter of weeks before Sidney's will surpass me.

I don't actually remember how Sidney learned Albanian. At nineteen months old he was just developing his English language skills with us when he started spending his days with his Albanian speaking nanny. It seemed that each day upon returning home he was speaking a new Albanian word or two. Gradually the individual words became sentences and suddenly he was listening and speaking his second language more fluently than his native tongue. But with only the rarest of exceptions, I was forced to listen to Sidney speaking Albanian surreptitiously since he flat out refused to speak anything but English in the presences of his parents. (Or as he said, English is for Mamma and Daddy, Albanian is for Nene). But with French, it is fortunately turning out to be an entirely different experience.

It would appear that Sidney is embracing French in a way that despite his fluency, he never did with Albanian. Sidney's class is run completely in French. At first he would come home telling me that he didn't understand what was being said but after just a couple of weeks Sidney informed me that he now knew what was being said and asked of him in class. When they listened to French music in class Sidney told me that it was pretty and that he would like me to buy French music to listen to at home. When we are out in public he will ask me what language the people around us are speaking. Sometimes it is French or even English, or one of the other numerous languages that are spoken in our community. More often than not, when he now hears French he will excitedly tell me that that is the language being spoken. I've even heard him talking and muttering to himself in French. Like I said, the boy is a sponge.

And "saying it in French" has become a daily ritual at home as well. Over breakfast each morning, Sidney peppers me with requests to say things in French. Sometimes his requests are pretty basic and I can easily provide him with the translation he is looking for. Other times I am out of my league and find myself relying on Google Translate. Sidney loves it when I whip out my iPhone, tap in his request, and we listen to the translation. Often we listen two or three times with his mouthing the sound along with the phone. I know he is ready to move on when he issues a new language request. At first I thought he was just throwing out random words. Now I realize that he is asking about words or subjects that his class discussed the previous day. Earlier this week we learned the translations for "circle" and "square". This came after an exercise in tracing then drawing these shapes. Today we talked about transportation- "bus", "truck" and "car" were the words of the day. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

And then there was the morning last week when Sidney quickly and fluidly counted from one to ten in French. When I asked him how he knew the words he proudly informed me that Madam (his teacher) had taught him and he wanted to learn more numbers to impress her. Yes, my little boy is well on his way to becoming tri-lingual and I love it. It also means that I need to hone up on my own French skills but I'm game.

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