L’âne a diné: Watching My Son Learn French

Yesterday Emmett read his first sentence in French. It was “l’âne a diné.” Ok so “the donkey ate dinner” may not mean much to you, but it was a huge moment for me. I was proud and excited that he’s reading in a second language and reminded how important is to keep the teaching fun (he picked that sentence to read because it was silly!).

This was part of Emmett’s French homework, which we do together every Sunday night before he has French class after school on Mondays.

If you have followed my blog, you know that it hasn’t always been easy to keep Emmett’s interest in French. I created Little Pim for him when he was a baby and we had a few good years of learning the words in the DVDs, naming animals and numbers, referring to apples as “les pommes” and singing French songs. Then around age four, Emmett, like so many kids of parents who speak a second language to them, started seriously objecting when I spoke French (as in, “don’t speak French!! “ and covering his ears) and it’s been pretty much an uphill battle ever since (he’s now six). So that I could let Emmett continue what struck me as an otherwise healthy separation/differentiation from his mom (rejecting what he saw as “my language”) but not letting his French slide, I brought in a wonderful kids’ French tutor (he loves her! saved!) and the French continued, despite occasional assertions that he’d rather play more soccer, see his friends or do just about anything else (I was unphased…Tiger Mom, move over).

In case you have a child who is not always 100% grateful for the foreign language gift you are giving them, you may share my moment of relief when I heard “l’âne a diné.” It was like suddenly years of reading him French books, playing French DVDs and insisting he continue French, just paid off. He can read in French! He has a good accent! He was actually pretty pleased with himself. This sentence means Emmett is just small steps away from accessing the French language, culture, films, music and so many other delights I wanted him to be able to experience as a dual speaker. So if your children are in one of the phases of “I don’t want to learn French/Spanish/Chinese/German…”, don’t give up! Your donkey will come.

This summer we are going to France as a family. I can’t wait to hear Emmett read the signs at the airport. Then, on to Proust.

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