Food for thought for non-native parents: speaking the minority language is better than not speaking it at all

This week, I attended my 6 year old’s Majority Language (ML) primary school meeting, to prepare her entry into Year 2 next September.
This school has a specificity whereby a handful of bilingual kids can follow 6 hours of their weekly lessons in English, and by the end of their schooling obtain a diploma from both the French and British Ministries for Education. It is a very demanded scheme (very few schools in the country provide it), waiting lists are long and there is only a ridiculously small amount of spots available every year, which are only given to children who passed the very selective entry test.

Now, the information meeting was for all parents, regardless of their child having a spot in that bilingual division or not; and one ML parent, clearly very unfamiliar with this division, innocently asked whether his child getting a spot in another section of the school could act as a shortcut to his child getting a spot in the bilingual division later on. The headmistress replied laughing that it was not so and that “It is not because a child watches Dora the Explorer in English an hour a day that they’re bilingual”. Though she meant it in a humorous way, I felt she was very insensitive to this father who clearly was enquiring in a desperate attempt to give the best linguistic opportunity to his child, in a country famed for its inefficient teaching of foreign languages at school.
The whole scene reminded me of my own bitter disappointment at my daughter being denied a spot in this bilingual division the year before. However, it also reminded me of how fortunate I am as a non-native parent to be able to educate my daughters in a minority language (ml). Many parents have no choice but to rely on the ML schooling system to do so, since they do not speak a foreign language, and they have to put up with what is offered by the ML schooling system. Rare are the kids here in France that finish school truly bilingual; I do not know any myself.

So if, like me, you are a non-native ml parent rearing your child bilingual, remember in your times of difficulties on your bilingual journey (we all have them! 🙂 ) that you are fortunate to be able to do so.
As I once ironically replied to a relative pulling my leg asking what if my daughters speak like me: “I wish for my daughters to speak as badly as I do”. Shocking? No, it is simply that I feel it is better to give my children the opportunity to speak another language with a few imperfections, than relying on an inefficient foreign language teaching in the ML schooling system.
Here is food for thought, in your times of doubt 🙂

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5 Comments

  1. I agree. My Spanish is not perfect but if we didn’t speak it at home and I didn’t speak it to my children then I’m sure they would only be passive bilingual and not actually speak Spanish due to the lack of exposure. If my children can speak Spanish like me when they are adults I would be pleased enough!

    Liked by 1 person

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