Monday, October 31, 2011

The Language of Love

Each week, we come away from our French class with plenty of reinforcement on the basics and lots of new material. As I've mentioned in my previous blog entries, our vocabulary continues to grow and the girls and I are having more and more fun working French into our day to day routine. We are comfortable with talking about general things like our meals, choosing which color dishes or crayons we want to use, and expressing how we are feeling (hungry, thirsty, tired, sad).  We can even talk about the weather a bit, something that got a little more exciting this past weekend with an unexpected October snow:  Mommy! Il neige! Il fait froid! Since we started our Language Stars classes in the summer, we haven't had many chances to to use these particular phrases till now, so the girls were just as excited at the sight of the flurries as they were in their ability to describe them in French.

Still, these phrases are generic and though they are necessary and we are diligent about practicing them, we don't typically stand around each day asking each other our names or having conversations about what color cereal bowl we prefer in English. Every family has their own personal lexicon of pet phrases and inside jokes. One of our latest little pleasures has been translating some of ours into French. For instance, where we used to have a back and forth exchange of "I love you! / I love you more!", we now have fun with it in French:

--Je t'aime!
--Je t'aime plus que tu m'aime!
--Jamais! C'est impossible!

This little exchange had an unanticipated benefit. Carys (5) approached me 30 minutes after finishing her breakfast last Friday:

"Mommy, j'ai faim." (I'm hungry)

Now, this is an ongoing battle with my little one. I'm trying to teach her to identify between actual hunger and thirst or boredom, because there is just no way she can be hungry again so quickly after a meal!

"Carys, that's impossible. You just ate.  Let's go have a glass of milk."

She scrunched her brow in what I thought was disappointment or defiance and said nothing for about 20 seconds. It turns out, she was thinking of her French.

"Mommy.  Jamais j'ai soif."

Never I'm thirsty.

It may not have been grammatically correct, but I got the message (and still made her drink her milk). I knew she didn't just mean that she wasn't thirsty right now, but that the next time she says she's hungry, she won't be thirsty then either! More importantly though, she was plucking vocabulary and meaning from other situations and putting them together herself. 

It was sort of terrific actually.

I've also had the chance to use French to turn around a situation that was going downhill fast.  Carys hates to wear any shoes except Crocs. This means that anytime I try to get her to wear tennis shoes or boots, the whining and crying begins. During one such incident I asked her, Pourquoi pleures-tu? She had no idea what I was saying at first, but with enough gesturing and pointing to her tears, she eventually blurted out, "I'm crying because I don't want to wear shoes!"

As I laced up her sneakers, I distracted her by translating her complaint and repeating it with as much melodrama and as thick a French accent as I could manage:  Je pleure parce que je ne veux pas de porter des chausseures! Sure enough, she was soon trying to hide her smile from me and finally had to give in and burst out laughing.  Bronte and Chloe soon joined in and asked me to keep saying it, adding, "That's why we love French:  Even a goofy sentence like that sounds beautiful!"


Anonymous said...

"Je pleure parce que je ne veux pas porter de chaussure! :-)

Renee said...

Oh man! That's what I get for relying on Google translator when Clementine isn't around!

Tracy said...

Of course, the problem with early language classes is they teach you to say things like, "It is winter. Soon it will be spring," which is the sort of thing that most people don't really need to be told. Still, they're learning! Pretty soon they'll be able to go to Paris and get ANY COLOR CRAYON THEY WANT. :)