My husband grew up speaking Thai at home, but he's most comfortable speaking English because he was raised in the U.S. (This comfort factor is why he chose to speak English to our children.) His French knowledge is limited to what he's learned in hearing me speak it with our kids, and yet he still manages to support our children's French acquisition in ways I truly appreciate. Here are five awesome ways he supports our children's bilingual development:
1. He still uses Thai with his parents and relatives. Even if my children don't understand this heritage language, they still hear their dad modeling bilingualism. I'm proud that my husband is bilingual and they can be too!
2. With our children, he uses the French words he does know. For example, he might ask our son, "Would you like some lait de riz in a tasse à bec?" (The French words he's learned through home life--like rice milk and sippy cup--are so different from classroom French!) Language instructors might frown on language mixing in the classroom, but the reality in bilingual households is that there will always be some language mixing, and it's not a bad thing. Every bit of French he uses communicates to our children that it is useful and important.
3. He attempts to read children's books aloud in French. At first his pronunciation was so off base that our daughter insisted he switch to English, but now that a few years have passed, our two-year old son doesn't mind Daddy's French reading at all--and our daughter is now old enough to enjoy correcting him. It's good literacy practice for everyone!
4. He listens well. Rather than tuning out French conversations, he tries to follow along, and asks my daughter, "What did Mommy say?" when he's doubtful of what was communicated. This keeps him engaged in family affairs and gives our children opportunities to translate aloud. (I've had to learn to stop myself from translating for him before my children can respond to his question.)
5. He's supportive of the financial costs of supplemental language materials. He trusts my judgement in purchasing magazines and books as well as paying tuition for occasional children's classes at our local Alliance Française. He also supports our monthly savings goals towards our extended trip to France next summer.
Let's hear it for supportive spouses! Merci bien, mon amour. Je t'adore!
This post is part of the June 2014 Multilingual Blogging Carnival. This month the carnival is hosted by Maria Babin of Trilingual Mama, and you will find more stories and information about how monolingual parents can support bilingual children on her post. Thank you for joining us!