Friday, February 11, 2011

je vais, tu vas, il va, nous allons, vous allez, ils vont...

i lived in the south of france for several months in my early twenties. i didn't take high school french and quite honestly didn't have an affinity for the culture or language. i just wanted to live abroad and the spain program was fully booked. so off i went to what i thought would be a little cow town, aix-en-provence, which many of you know is anything but. i took several semesters of latin and, while i was really quick at grammar, i couldn't speak a word of french. nothing will humble you faster than trying to communicate with someone and have them look at you with a blank, haughty stare. luckily this just made me want to understand more and i pored over my books and befriended those who were committed to only speaking french (the germans and swedes naturally). by the end of my 10th month i flung aside the books and hung about in the cafes with my french boyfriend. needless to say, about 18 months in i had that a-ha moment when i was at a dinner party and all of a sudden i lost track of whether we were conversing in english or french. such a great feeling. i also genuinely grew to love the people and the culture in the south, it's home away from home for this california girl.

this weekend elodie will take her first french class with me at the alliance fran├žaise in pasadena. i really want her to learn spanish (or italian would be perfetto!) but mine is so rusty that i think at this point it is a pipe dream. so french it is. beautiful and complex. although i won't be able to protect her from that humbling, i am a stupid american feeling, at least she will have more tools at her disposal when she goes to live abroad. if anyone has any tips on language acquisition for toddlers, i'm all ears!

image: i can't remember where i found this and tried to use tineye. i'd love to credit if anyone knows!


  1. What an awesome Mom you are! My son goes to a school that is introducing him to languages and I have learned that now (toddlerhood) is the absolute best time to start! Have a lovely weekend! xo Samantha

  2. listen to french music with her and sing along, speak french with her while doing every day things like brushing her teeth and having breakfast, i have done this with my nine year old daughter and her english is really good, great blog and you have a beautiful family, thanks for sharing it

    all the best to you from iceland

  3. All is great in your blog, congrats! The only thing I would like to comment on is the second person, plural for 'aller'. It is not 'avez', because that is for 'avoir' (to have), and for aller, it`s 'vous allez'. I live in Nice, France at the moment as well. Good luck to you!

  4. aaaah vous AVEZ raison! another reason not to blog late at night ;)

    have a pastis for me won't you? xo

  5. Hello, I was searching for how to do a particularly crude conjugation that people would hate me for, and your page came up. Ended up reading your post. I'm a neurobiologist and to offer advice for language acquisition in developing children, it's turned out to be surprisingly beneficial to language aptitudes if a child is raised with an exposure to music and playing it. So, if you haven't, I'd go with an instrument and audio engineering lessons when they're a teenager. If you couple this with having them in a sport or physical activity they really enjoy and practice on their own, then research suggests a deeper kinesthetic sense for rhythm and motion, which transfer over as cadence and syntax in language. Ish.

    I know it's a few years late for this to apply to toddlers, but I felt like commenting.