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Summer resolutions, linguistics-style

So, here we are officially summer and officially on summer vacation. This summer brings a lot of major events for my kids; we are taking our now-six year old twins to the US and Canada (their passport countries) for the first time. They are interested and intrigued to meet people who can “only speak English” (in the areas we are visiting, this is mostly true). So, I need to up my game in both French and Dutch, so they don’t get too rusty! Of course, that leads to strange looks in public, when you are speaking a language other than the majority language to your kids (or another widely spoken language).
In addition, the end of summer brings a major shift in their linguistic universe: they are changing schools. Until this year, all three kids have been at school at the French Lycee. In September, they are moving to a newly opened European school. What does this mean for their language landscape? Most importantly, it means that they go from almost-exclusive use of French at school (with some drip-feed Dutch and English), to majority English, with French mother tongue lessons daily, and Dutch as well. All of a sudden, my linguistic back-up is being pulled out from under me! I admit it, I’ve gotten slack with the OPOL thing since the kids started school in French. They were getting enough French that I no longer felt my input was critical to their language growth. I spoke some French to them, some English, and occasionally Dutch. I felt my role was more to support and use all their languages, and be a model of bilingualism for them. With the switch to English school language, there is now a real risk that my younger two will not get enough input to continue to grow towards linguistic maturity and literacy in French.
So, my linguistic resolution for the summer is to start to shift back to using more French and less English, and to throw in a bit of Dutch here and there. What is the summer going to be, linguistically, for your family?

7 thoughts on “Summer resolutions, linguistics-style

  1. HI Eowyn,
    My son went from Dutch (3 days) at creche to Dutch full time at school with English always at home. He favours speaking Dutch (also to us) as it is the language of his peers. Our goal this summer in Canada (4 weeks) is to flood him with English and hopefully meet some English 5 year olds.
    xEliz

  2. No real goals–we already do OPOL and the kids are solid in both languages (Swedish and English). We do want them to keep up with their school French a bit every day, which has been so-so.
    Mostly, I wanted to comment on your line about strange looks in public, something I really recognize from when mine were small, especially when they were babies. So many strangers commented, “That baby isn’t going to understand that foreign language!” 🙂 You really have to be determined to keep up bilingualism in the family.

    1. Ah, your kids are lucky Beth! Two great languages. I’ve never heard the won’t understand comment, but I have been faced with the “You should be speaking…. ” from time to time. Interestingly, I get more sideways looks when I speak French to the kids than when I am speaking English…

  3. Hi, I wanted to ask, how do you deal with strange looks? I know there is no simple solution here, but may be you have some tips.

    1. Mostly, I just ignore them. I try to presume that they are just interested, and not disapproving. I try very hard to use all our languages in public, because I don’t want my kids to be embarrassed about their languages.

      1. True. But also I’m worried that my child may be laughed at at the playground or kindergarten once she gets older. Kids can be very mean.

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