Ok, at our interview with the Dean of IBESR last year, I was honest – I do not speak French. Although I am a citizen of a bilingual nation, my education happened in a context where learning Spanish made more sense. That being said I live in a bilingual nation with prior knowledge of another Romance language, so I do ok reading French. When we immigrated, my husband disciplined himself to attempt to learn a certain amount of French as well. I used to wake up, not always joyfully, to his language cassettes, and he enjoyed a Quebecois variety show. When my oldest daughter started French Immersion, I took a French class for parents with children in French Immersion, and I found the grammar and vocabulary quickly accessible, but the pronunciation befuddles me. Instead of a one night a week class, I needed a four day a week class to help with the sounds. In preparation for Mica’s entrance to our family, I have borrowed CD’s from the library, but still I don’t know French.
This is a humbling proposition because at times I have been impatient with parents who have deaf children and don’t know sign language – my first language. Not understanding until this season that sometimes the business of caring for children, work, life precludes acquiring a new language.
Well my lack of French but attempts to use the little bit I know have offered great laughs and a bit more humbling. We are not out and about a lot, but we are out a bit and people often try to talk to Mica which usually inspires more shyness than anything. I try to convey their meaning and move on. Accessing the washroom inspires many of our public interactions. This lovely woman warmly greeted Mica, told her she was pretty and told her what beautiful hair she had. The woman gave me a peculiar look which I thought was related to the need for French.
Later I said something to Mica about her hair in my simple French and my older daughter looked at me and said, “Mama, you just told her she has pretty horse.” Cheveux/cheval they are close, don’t you think? I had to laugh. Clearly the washroom woman had more French than I and was appalled at what I was saying to my child. Humble pie.
I do not know French. Wish I did. But as with most aspects of parenting I’ll humbly do the best I can.