Having just celebrated her first anniversary at Kids Space, a fantastic little local pre-school on Pasir Panjang in Singapore, we moved our family 13 degrees north to Bangkok. Still tropical, still roughly the same number of daylight hours and still a minority, P would now have radically different schooling experience.
She went from being accompanied to a small traditional Singaporean black and white house with a total of 25-35 students splitting their days between English and Mandarin to taking a school bus alone to a ‘campus’ housing hundreds of students complete with pool, track and other amenities. But these pale in comparison to the biggest change, that her days would now be entirely in French.
To any newcomers to the blog, P definitely understands everything I say in French but has for the most part been extremely resistant —read she always answers in English— to speaking French to me with a brief exception during month we spent alone together upon our arrival to Singapore. She had only really just started speaking and our entire condo was empty. This left me as her sole companion and quickly translated in to her switching from English to French. Seven weeks later, our English-speaking helper started and it has been English-only ever since with only the odd word or expression thrown in here and there to tease me.
Getting my parenting neuroses out-of-the-way: I was extremely worried she would feel isolated, confused, frustrated and turn to independent play vs. mingling with other kids as I’ve witnessed so many times in the past.
Apparently I don’t know my kid at all! Week one came to a close and I received an email from her teacher which among other things said:
“La semaine a été encourageante pour Pacifique qui se montre très motivée en classe, participe beaucoup et s’applique dans son travail! Elle s’est très bien intégrée aux autres et s’est déjà fait des copains.”
Roughly translated: Great week, P is very motivated, participates and works hard. She is integrating well and has already made friends.
I nearly cried, mostly of relief but with a splash of pride. So why haven’t I cracked open the Champagne? Despite coming home uttering new french words here and there like calling me ‘la cuisiniere’ or ‘the cook’ – a word I’ve NEVER used, she is so far refusing to answer in French to anyone.
Holding my glass half full, I am not too worried. I already feel that she is using more french and willing to repeat more french words in passing in just one week and it is only a matter of time before my little girl will start frogging it with the rest of them.
Now my glass half empty thinks that short of some major intervention, she is never going to make the switch. So far all her experience has shown her time and again that every ‘french speaker’ around her understands english so she doesn’t need to make the effort and that I should start refusing to respond to her unless her requests are in French.
Just to be clear, there is no way I could do this for a number of reasons, so I am holding tight and hoping for the best.
Let’s see what week 2 brings!