Thrown in at the Deep End: P’s First Week at the Lycee Francais de Bangkok.

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!

6 thoughts on “Thrown in at the Deep End: P’s First Week at the Lycee Francais de Bangkok.

  1. How sweet she had a great first week! I guess all us moms have this glass half full and empty moment. I once heard a quote that says, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I have a feeling she’ll be fine.
    My daughter was two when we first moved to China. Despite my effort to speak Chinese with her not all, but most of the time, she refused to speak a word of Chinese to me, for the same reason that I speak and understand English. For her, why bother with Chinese? Now she is fluent in Chinese, perfect with her tones!
    It will come!

  2. How lovely – my six year old took a year to speak french despite understanding it. One day I was in the kitchen and he had a friend round, and I heard some incessant chatter from what I thought was his friend, only to be wow’ed when i discovered that the perfect french accent and happy chatter was coming from him – only he didn’t know I was watching!

    • What a fun way to discover his French! The closest I’ve come to that is overhearing Pea order Claude around in French. She seems to pick up certain phrases I must be saying a lot like: Assis toi and Attend! Her latest, which she must have picked up at school, is: C’est a moi!

  3. Even if she doesn’t answer back to you in French (ever), you know she understands and can speak it. So why worry! That being said, I would feel the same way…

  4. How exciting. Just remember that when we were growing up in New York, every French speaker that we knew also could speak and understand English and that didn’t prevent us from learning and integrating. They’ll do great.

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