Je triche, tu triches, elle triche …

December 9, 2009

In the Spy vs Spy world of bilingualism in our house, maman has just upped the stakes by buying a Peppa Pig Christmas DVD.

Until now, DVDs (apart from Baby Einstein, which were nothing to do with me and which I wanted to hide whenever we had visitors) have been in French and, while hopefully fun for Piaf, they have been purchased primarily to provide alternative verbal “models” of French in the house. Some have been more popular with Piaf, some less so; some have been more tolerable to maman, some less so (Bonne nuit les enfants still mildly terrifies her, though Piaf doesn’t mind it at all); some I have seen so many times I could quote them for you. But the “golden thread”, as we say in the public sector when we want a break from thinking, has been about seeing French as a widespread phenomenon and a gateway to pleasant experiences. 

Peppa Pig, of course, is in English.

I hope it goes without saying (especially if maman is reading this instead of working) that I want my child to be bilingual in French and English, rather than monolingual in French; and that, even more than that, I want her to be happy. Nor, having watched it, can I criticise Peppa. It is witty, intelligent and attractive and Piaf clearly loves it.

Hence my dilemma – because she loves it so much that she asks to watch it even when maman is not there, i.e. at previously Francophone moments. And, hard though it is to confess, I lie. 

I have no problem at all with lying to my child per se. If she takes a notion to play with a favourite doll (or car, or felt-tipped pens, or paper bag) just before bedtime, I will, without hesitation, tell her “no.” If she asks why, I will, equally without hesitation, tell her that, as it is bedtime, the doll (or car, or felt-tipped pens, or paper bag) is tired. If I want her to watch DVD x rather than DVD y (typically because I have seen DVD y many times in the recent past and it is doing my head in) then DVD y will turn out to be “missing” and DVD x presented as a fait accompli.

But I can argue that I make these choices for the “good” of those concerned, be it my daughter’s physical health or my own mental health. What “good” am I defending when Peppa Pig is “lost” until Trotro is in the machine? Peppa is no worse than Trotro, and is definitely better than some of her other DVDs; and, if she is to be bilingual, then how can I honestly object to exposure to her other native language, especially when her mother has often grinned and borne it through interminable episodes of Bumba or Léo et Popi?

And yet lie I do and I still manage to sleep at night. I lie because, though English is important, she already gets vastly more exposure to English language, culture and mores. Though she knows many French words, she will often start by using the English word and need to be prompted with “que dit papa?” before producing the French equivalent. Of the 96 weeks she has been with us to date, give or take, perhaps two in total have been spent in wholly Francophone surroundings. She has all the time in the world to watch Peppa Pig; Petit Ours Brun can’t wait.

All is fair in love and bilingualism.

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6 Responses to “Je triche, tu triches, elle triche …”

  1. nurmisur said

    I think you are right.I don’t know how this can work but if you want I can try to send you some cartoons in French.Peppa Cochon, Benjamin(also know in english as Franklin),Bumba,Charlie et Lola are cartoons that show here in Canada in the French channels so it shouldn’t be dificult to find dvd’s.

    • papaetpiaf said

      Thanks for feedback – if you can tell me where to get Charlie et Lola DVDs in French I will be eternally grateful as no-one over here (ie in Europe, including mainland France) has a clue where to get them! I’ve got two of the books, courtesy of a bookshop in Quebec City, but the DVDs are a real Holy Grail …

      Bumba I already have (two DVDs from Belgium) and they are firm favourites.

  2. Dan said

    You are probably right, but – Peppa pig is rather good. I’d be soley tempted.

    The other thing that ocured to me is that you don’t want her to associate you with stuff she doesn’t like. It’s very good developing her language skills, but you need to make sure you are developing your relationship too.

    Of course I have no real insight into your life other than this blog, so I imagine that you do that too 🙂

    • papaetpiaf said

      You’re right, of course, and that’s what I do – but sometimes the choice is between something she already likes in French and something she likes in English, and I’m afraid I choose the French for her.

      Thanks for feedbakc – sound advice and a good reminder.

  3. charlotte said

    You’re being slightly paranoid. Even if you let her have all the Peppa she fancies now, in a few week’s time she’ll be ripe for any sparkling new franco DVD you present to her. I can’t imagine it will make any difference to her final ability to speak French whatever you decide, unless of course, you slack and let Maman do all the DVD choosing from now on!

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