When we first moved to Singapore at the end of July 2010, Pacifique was suddenly spending all this time with me and her French started to blossom. Fast forward to Claude’s birth and the arrival of Cherry our wonderful helper from the Philippines and English resumed its pole position but I could still get a lot of French answers from her.
The final nail in the coffin – or so I thought – was the new local nursery.
My daughter came home to me speaking English and it seemed as if French had completely fallen off her radar. It isn’t as if she hadn’t answered me in English in the past but once I would repeat her answer in French, she would then repeat it in French as well. Now I would repeat her answer in French and she would repeat it in ENGLISH.
What can I say, totally totally disheartening.
Please is a word that gets used a lot and it isn’t the easiest thing to say in French “S’il te plait”. It was never something I could really get her to say though she always signed it (ASL) and once she learned it in English, I was happy she was using it and willing to overlook the fact that she used it if the rest of our exchange was in French. (We have a lot of replacing words in one language with another when needed). I’ve probably been trying to coax her into saying this phrase in particular for nearly two years and really working hard over the last year. I had actually reached a point lately where I was starting to wonder whether I should even bother… yes one of those momentary lows.
And if I thought French was falling behind, Spanish appeared to be non-existent with my husband’s long working hours. Sometimes he would say something to her in Spanish on a Sunday and it seemed obvious to me that she was no longer understanding him as she was so out of practice.
I know this seems increasingly dire but when you least expect it – and isn’t it always that way with kids?!- we seem to have turned a corner. My husband started taking her to school every morning on his way in to work and insisting she answer back in Spanish. I was hesitant about the insistence part but it seems to be working. The benefit to me is that she suddenly seems more willing to answer in French. Not as often as before but it is coming back and then…the icing on the cake is that she turned around the other day and when I asked her to say please (I am mortified to admit that I even think I asked her this in English!) she responded the golden phrase
“S’il te plait maman” and I heard angels sing.