Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Bilingual Balancing Act

Puce started school in Scotland last year and is now in CP (Primary 1) in France. Infinitely more comfortable with the system that I've been through myself, I'm now trying to understand the French approach - what is expected of her, the pupil, and what is expected of me, the parent.  The age-old "what did you do at school today" question is now less of a conversation starter than a genuine attempt to find out what's been happening between propelling her through the school's front door at 8.30am and retrieving her at 4.30pm.  However, this has never been the most effective method of getting information; it's much more informative to listen in to Puce "the teacher" organising her playmobils or dolls...

Going to school opens up a whole new set of challenges for the bilingual family.  How do you keep up with the majority language, whilst allowing space for the minority language skills to develop?  What should the aim of those skills be and how best to nurture them?  How does the minority language parent fit in to the education puzzle, especially if (as in my case) they have no first hand experience of the country's methodology and approach from a pupil perspective?

Outside the school day proper, being in charge of French homework time has its advantages for me.  Having spent the last 25 years learning French as a foreign language, it's interesting to get an insiders' perspective on how the French learn their own language - this was how I found out last week that there is a 6th vowel in French: y, relatively basic information that I must have missed at some point.  As if this wasn't enough, Puce has generously accepted to help me with her homework; every night I learn a new French letter, its pronunciation and how to write it in cursive script...

Reversing roles and balancing languages...all part of the fun for a bilingual family.

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