Je confesse, tu confesses, elle confesse …

August 12, 2009

Bilingualism is very rewarding, but it has led me into behaviour that really isn’t “me”. Here is a list of my top ten secrets that I wouldn’t necessarily share with a stranger at a dinner party …

1. Just for laugh, I sometimes use a Midi accent on certain words – “tu veux du peng, hein?” I also use reasonably “earthy” slang with her, again for no defensible reason except to amuse myself. “Vas-y mollo – tu vas te faire mal!” “Oh, la vache, pas mal de flics ici ce matin – ça craint un peu!” Or rather, “ça creng.”

2. She has several electronic “speaking” toys which obviously speak English. When she is not looking, these often “accidentally” get switched off, just to give French a fighting chance. I am happy to say that, fickle young thing that she is, they soon get forgotten and we move on to something else.

3. All her toys have French names as well as English names – Freddy the Frog, for example, is Gréta la Grenouille when Daddy is in charge.

4. If she asks me to read her an English book, I stall and pretend to be incapable of doing so and then suggest a French book instead. If she insists, I read the English book in French, translating as I go.

5. On the subject of books, before I had a routine for getting hold of French books for her, I would write my own translations of English ones. One of the most shameful items in our house is an ex-library copy, with a hideously ripped cover, of The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round . It is a bilingual edition – but, unfortunately, it is bilingual English and Spanish. For consistency’s sake, I have written my own translation in with a biro. How cheap is that? Piaf loved it though. Easily pleased, obviously.

6. I have made her a series of CDs of 1960s French pop interspersed with Cajun stomps and the hits of the massively-haired Charlebois. Even I cringe at some of the stuff on there. Luckily, she appears to take after her father in being wholly lacking in discernment or good taste. Dos à dos!

7. I make her help me get dressed in the mornings so that she will not be unsupervised. “Piaf, passe-moi une paire de chausettes et un mouchoir, s’il te plaît.” She has started to attempt to put on a tie if I leave one lying around …

8. The torture continues when we leave the house, as I play games with her on the way to nursery. We count the people we overtake (sometimes breaking into a jog to beat one before he turns the corner); we look for things of a given colour (cars are off-limits, otherwise it’s too easy); we look out for animals, or pictures thereof, and then I ask her to make the appropriate noise. I say, “we play” – as you can imagine, the overall effect to the untrained eye is of a man in a suit, apparently in sole charge of an infant, talking to himself in French about colours and animals and occasionally celebrating overtaking a fellow pedestrian.

9. I accidentally knocked her over one day in the park and she cut her lip. I felt dreadful and worried. Nevertheless, in spite of myself, I felt the tiniest of thrills when she responded appropriately to “ouvre la bouche, chérie” as I assessed the damage.

10. Since Piaf was born, I have started speaking to our cats, Keith and Barry, in French, so that her experience of hearing the language spoken to “people” other than her is broader. This is, perhaps, me at my lowest ebb.

If you have any similar – or, preferably, worse – confessions to make, it would cheer me immensely. Please feel free to post them in the comments box.

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2 Responses to “Je confesse, tu confesses, elle confesse …”

  1. […] 13, 2009 After yesterday’s post, it suddenly struck me that there may be some people reading this who don’t know who Robert […]

  2. […] Je Confesse, tu confesses, elle confesse (Confessions of a dad raising his daughter to speak […]

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