I’ve read, or heard, that when immersed in a new language children absorb it amazingly quickly. By the time the girls had been in school for a month I was expecting to hear the odd French word pop out.


I cajoled them. Some of the French children were practicing their English on my girls, for heaven’s sake, but would my girls try a ‘salut’ or ‘ça va’? Heck no.

I felt frustrated and a bit cross.  And guilty. I should be helping them more, tutoring them, speaking nothing but French at home. No doubt I should. But then part of me felt for them, arriving home after a long day immersed in French they wanted a break – of course they did.

And it’s not as if I was fluent anyway…

The other matter was that long school day.  The got out at 4.30 and we often weren’t home before 5.30.  Then I’d walk through the door and start on dinner. I dunno, maybe some 7 and 9 year olds just put themselves to bed, but ours need, at the very least, a stream of constant reminders. Plus bed time is meant to be 7.30 and 8pm. If someone has a vaguely human routine whereby one can arrive home at 5.30 to 6pm, cook a dinner, eat a civilised family dinner, get said children clean and ready for bed, teethed & bedded by 7.30 AND fit in some study, I’d love to hear it.

Actually writing that it really sound like fitting in homework should be easy. Clearly I’m going wrong somewhere or I’m just a useless parent…

Soz – feeling a tad ranty about the evening routine and all the cooking…. Over.

Image of girl on laptop in front of a blackboard with Hello, Hola, Hallo, Bonjour and Olå written on it

As time went on, though, I started to feel somewhat ashamed of my kids for not piping up. Then I felt bad for feeling that way – it wasn’t as if they’d chosen to be chucked in a French school. Plus there was the annoying English faction making it way too easy for them to avoid speaking French. How those annoying English get about…

Less annoying was the reassuring talk, from some English adults, telling me how long it had taken their children to pipe up in French (generally a good deal more than my expected three months). I’d managed to start to make friends with a French mum who also counselled patience – how often does nagging make someone do something, she basically said!  I listened.  I tried to swap cajoling for encouraging, sitting down with bits of homework (when they were given any, which didn’t actually seem very often and I wondered whether the teachers weren’t bothering to give it, thinking the girls wouldn’t understand it…)  I prised the odd word out of them and praised them. When a spontaneous ‘oui’ popped out now and again I cheered.

After a couple of months Daisy admitted she could understand quite a bit. Isla insisted she understood nothing. The month wore on. Daisy was engaging more with her Duo Lingo and doing amazingly. Still not speaking unless asked to, but understanding – often bits that I didn’t get. She even started correcting my pronounciation. Cheeky monkey!

Fast forward to June (this blog probably isn’t going to be in exactly chronological order – my brain does chronology then flips into categorising by subjects. It’s like metric and imperial battling for the same ground…). The eldest is definitely understanding a lot. A huge lot in fact.  I caught her translating a film the girls were watching in French for her sister (“Stop that please- it might seem helpful but it’s not.”).  The other one casually admitted she did understand quite a bit at school… And started sometimes working on her French at home of her own volition.

Miss 9 has spent a week in Paris, which is enough to make anyone feel sophisticated. She apparently spoke more French than ever before while there. On her return I noted her chucking French about with her friends without seeming at all self-conscious.

And Miss 7 was doing the same.

Given a few more months in their French school I think they’d be sweetly fluent.

If only. Cos what are we doing?

Only moving them to Barcelona and chucking them in a Catalan school (albeit while we wait for places at the French schools…)

In case you’re wondering, that’s a bit like taking your child to the UK to learn English and putting them in a Welsh speaking school.


Packing up & picking up languages as we move around the world!

Ho hum – they’ll pick everything up eventually.  At the moment my feeling is (so I don’t melt down, which I could, as it’s a bit mental, but that wouldn’t get me anywhere now, would it?  Where’s the wine….?), anyway, my feeling is that if they get put down a year in school because they don’t understand anything right now, and end up graduating from secondary a year later but with four or five languages under their belt – is that a bad, or a good thing?

I think we all know the answer to that!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Hang around, or come back!

If you liked this post you might enjoy this post on language by immersion and French school.

And this one ‘Time to knock the expats on the head?’.

See you again soon.








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