jump right in!

To give you an idea of what it takes to immerse a child in a new language to basically a fluent level in nine months, here is a rundown:

We only have access to French TV. There is no satellite bringing in channels from the U.K.

The kids spend 8 hours a day at school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 6 hours a day on Mondays and Fridays. Carter spends 12 hours a week at the garderie. Only French is spoken.

At least four times a week, we spend time after school with our French friends. On the weekends we spend a minimum of 6 hours together.

At home, we now speak half English and half French. At first this was impossible, because none of us could form a sentence. But now the children speak to us and each other in French most of the time, even if we respond in English.

It is a fascinating experiment of language acquisition that we have been allowed, and I am thrilled with the results! We jumped in, and it worked!


Blogger The Telfers In France said...

This is very encouraging! After three months we have progressed, but certainly not to the level of fluency. Sometimes I wonder if I should be pushing the kids harder...

Anonymous Husband of La Vie Echangee said...

I would not push them harder, at least based on our experience. I think your children are about the same age as ours (10, 7, 5, 2) and it will come. Early on Stasha and I worried at times because the kids didn't say one word for probably two months, and then it was another two months before they were actually forming simple sentences. But then one day it just goes BOOM and they pass you at 1000 miles per hour and you can't stop it even if you wanted to. Then they start correcting your French constantly and it gets on your nerves, but you tolerate it with joy because you remember how you worried before if they would ever get it and now you don't know anymore if they're American (Australian) or French.

It's hard to be patient but please be anyway. They will get it. Of course our kids are everything to us (i.e. very special) but in the grand scheme of things they're just normal kids, not special at all, and they got it. Yours are at least as special and at least as capable. It will come. You have made the requisite sacrifices for them to learn it (i.e. you've come here) and no doubt they will do their part. Let time do the rest.

One last point: you may find that it's harder for your eldest to pick it up than your younger ones. That's normal. She'll get it too, it just might take a little longer.

Blogger Penny said...

Congratulations! You and your kids have done really well. It was about the same here for Lily. Within 3 months of arriving she was understanding a lot and speaking some sentences. After school started she really took off. We've been here a year and are often told her french is very good. I suspect her vocab is a bit more limited than other almost 5 year olds but that doesnt matter so much at this age. I do think it must be a lot easier for the young ones. I really admire your older kids who are picking it up so well.

Are you heading back home after your year here? Do you plan on still trying to speak some french to keep it up?

And Caroline, try not to worry or push the kids. They will get there. I know I've read about how quickly kids pick it up but I would be amazed at any child who was TRULY fluent within 3 months. But you will find those first 3 months are so important as they are taking it all in, just like when they first acquired english.


Blogger The Telfers In France said...

Thanks guys. I'll try not to push them! Our oldest (Sophie, 10) had done some French at school before we came, so she is way ahead of the others. Odette (5) is a little shy, so she doesn't say anything to strangers, in English or French. Hugh (2 1/2) has started to say things I don't understand. I don't think they are French words, I think he is under the impression that if you say something unintelligible then it is French!
It would be lovely to think the kids could still speak French when they get back to Australia, but in reality it is very hard to find any French speakers over there...

Blogger Julie said...

That is so exciting! I love to read about your experiences in France. What a fantastic opportunity.


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