Je précise, tu précises, elle précise …

August 19, 2009

Thinking about what I posted yesterday about Piaf’s competence in French, I realised it didn’t tell the complete story. 

Don’t get me wrong – it’s all true. But I wouldn’t want to give other parents, be they bilingual or monolingual, an inferiority complex.

So I should start by saying that some of the words mean more in Piaf’s mouth than they would in the mouth of an adult speaker. For example, a word I didn’t mention, “Co-Co” (her attempt at “Trotro” – see here) means, fairly obviously, “Trotro”; but also any other DVD she might want to watch or even the disc itself. “Loor” means “lourd” as in “heavy”, but is also elicited by most acts of carrying (because I mimed it initially by pretending to be weighed down by her dirty nappies and exclaiming, “elle est lourde, cette couche!”)

Some words on the list are clearly understood (“attends” normally does make her wait patiently, albeit only for five seconds) but, when she uses them, she is more echoing me than using them independently. 

Still others are used with real meaning and intention, but the meaning is not necessarily the ordinary meaning. “Bateau” has been in her vocabulary for some times, but it has only recently meant “boat” in the sense of a sea-going vessel. Prior to that, it referred to the children’s singing game, Bateau, ciseau (a bit like See-saw, Margery Daw) which she demanded every time we got the picnic rug out. 

So there you have it.

I also wanted to update the topic with a bit of news – we have just, in the last day or so, noticed what I think is the first instance of her having two words for the same concept. When she wants a story a second (or third, or fourth …) time she will say, sometimes “gen” (“again”), sometimes “acor” (“encore”). She doesn’t always use the “right” word for the “right” parent, but I understand that’s normal and will improve with time. It’s definitely a big step forward. 

I also forgot her favourite, most consistently and most accurately used French word, “noonoo”, meaning “nounours” and referring to her fluffy, pink, bedtime teddy bear.



3 Responses to “Je précise, tu précises, elle précise …”

  1. Santiago said

    Hello Piaf’s Papa,

    I’ve been reading your blog since you started it and would like to thank you for all the wonderful posts on your experiences raising a bilingual child. At the moment, I don’t have any children, but I’m planning to in the near future. I’m a linguist and I’m really interested in the topic. I read the book The Bilingual Edge and I just ordered Saunder’s book…well, one of them. I’m thinking about raising my kid(s) bilingually, too. This blog is pretty useful. I hope you succeed in this amazing…process. I also hope you keep on blogging about your experience. Merci. (That’s the only French word I know)

    • papaetpiaf said

      You’re welcome, and I’m glad you like it and that it’s helpful.

      What’s your other language? I’m guessing Spanish … Are you following Spanglishbaby? Link at the bottom of my page.

      Bonne chance!

  2. Santiago said

    Thanks for your reply. Yeah, Spanish is my other language. I can also speak Japanese because I live in Japan, but I don’t feel as comfortable in Japanese as I do in English or Spanish. I’m going to check Spanglishbaby out. Thanks again.

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