We dropped off my husband’s mother and sister at the airport Saturday afternoon, after a great week spent at the beach and hanging around Boston. To have bébé spend so much time with them was really great, and it gave us a nice little break too. We even managed to get to a Red Sox game while Mamie babysat. Seeing their bond grow was super special, and she got to see firsthand that we’re really dedicated to making sure he speaks French and can have a strong relationship with his family in France, even if we live far away.
Everything you read about raising bilingual children says that visiting the country or having visitors helps immensely. Even in this very early stage of his bilingualism, I could see it. At the end of two weeks he’s now making three word sentences in French, and has added a bunch of more casual words/phrases like “ça va?” (which he said so much one day at daycare they asked me what it meant) “à tout de suite” (which comes out most of the time like “à tweet tweet”) and “y’en a plus!” (which is part of a whole monologue he does that goes “Y’en a plus! Tout mangé! Gourmand!” – There’s no more! Ate everything! Big eater! – Yeah, we ate A LOT during this visit…)
The first week he was switching up the syllables in his aunt’s name, I think by accident the first time, but since we laughed so much, he kept doing it on purpose. He could say “Tata” (auntie) and “Maddie” (not her real name) but when you told him to say “Tata Maddie” he would say “Tata Damie”. Everyone has a story of doing something like this as a kid, and it’s just insanely cute to see it happening. Even if by the end of the second week, he said it correctly, hopefully it’ll hang around as a nickname.
One very cool thing he started doing this week with a little prompting was saying things like “In English, cow, en français, vache.” I’ve been telling him for a few months now during the ride to/from daycare if he says something in one language that “in English we say X, en français on dit X.” Or when he asks for a song in English that we also sing in French, I ask him what language he wants it in (“Do you want itsy bitsy spider or la petite araignée?”). And apparently it’s starting to make sense to him! He won’t understand what a language “is” for another year or two, but it’s just more reinforcement that he is making all the connections he should be. We joked to Mamie that for her next visit, he could be her little walking dictionary!
She actually did really well in English whenever she was on her own. I think having me and her son around made her more nervous about using the little English she has, so it was good for her to do a few things solo to build a bit of confidence. My mom (a math teacher) is taking French classes as her continuing education requirement, so it’s nice that bébé has been a motivator for these women who wouldn’t have otherwise made an effort to learn another language at their age.
Overall, it was a great visit, and now we can’t wait to plan our visit to see the whole family in France next year!