Mother and Father tongue

It was our pediatrician who eventually decided to refer our 3 year old to a speech therapist having seen little progress in his language development over the preceding 12 months, but it was our pediatrician himself who gave us the best advice as to how to solve the issue.

His opinion was that our son put no value on the English language, after all he could see no use for it, as every other child he met spoke French or German. English was just this bizarre marginalised language that his parents spoke – and what child truly wants to be like their parents?

His sage advice was this “He needs to spend at least a month in the UK if he is to put any value on the language”. It might seem bizarre to some that we had not spent any significant amont of time in the UK since moving to Strasbourg, but hell we’d spent the best part of our lives in the UK and simply loved Stasbourg to bits – why on earth would we slope back to Blighty? This at least was a good reason.

So we spent the whole of June in the UK (at Granny’s house) and our 3 year old attended the local playgroup five days a week for the entire month. The effect was immediate, while still not entirely coherent at times, he learned very quickly to speak using the back of his mouth, and so lose the French accent when attempting new English words and sounds; he became much more confident in his use of English, and by the end had most definitely identified a clear cognitive distinction between the two languages.

How do we know this? Well he would start singing “London’s burning” and then slip into “Au feu les pompiers” half way through; both songs are about fires and fire engines, which he worked out all by himself (we’re so proud!).

Needless to say his speech therapist was amazed at the progress he had made when we returned to Strasbourg. Lets hope she clocks that one for future reference!

A month later his English is progressing nicely, but already we are concerned about the next hurdle on the horizon – he starts French state school at the beginning of September. Zut alors!


  1. A couple of tips, for what their worth:
    get yourself English TV. Also, get him to watch movies in english “VO”. That might help balance out against the overbearing school French influence.

    Otherwise there are a few international (ish) schools in Strabourg you could try to get you young’un into.

  2. We’re fully schooled on the schooling options thanks Alex, and VO is the order of the day as far as Winnie the Pooh, Thomas, Bob the Builder etc. are concerned (DVD wise).

    We don’t have British TV though, and having seen some recently, I’m not entirely convinced of its worth, but perhaps you’re right – if only for CBeebies.

  3. Just stumbled across your blog and am enjoying it very much. I’m very interested in what you have to say regarding raising bi-lingual children from the standpoint of them learning the second language outside of the home. We have recently moved to Bosnia and put our 20 month and 3 1/2yr old into a Bosnian nursery (no English speaking nurseries around so that was not even an option). I would be very grateful for any tips/pointers anything really that might help them deal with the transition. Many thanks.

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