I speak English to Nathan as much as possible, while his Mummy speaks French. Obviously, outside the house he’ll hear mostly French except for visits to anglophone friends. He’s now nearly 16 months old, and babbling away in a language which is comprehsible only to him. The more I think about it, the harder it gets to know what the best way might be to help him be bilingual.
French shouldn’t be an issue, living here. I’d love for him to hear more English though, as I don’t see enough of him to have him hear English a lot. I avoid the television, but when it’s on it’s generally in French – we only have Sky News as an English option anyway. There are a couple of children’s cartoons on old VHS tapes though, and a few baby books in English. Reading and writing (a long way off perhaps, but time does fly) will probably be best done in French in the first instance, so as not to confuse him with the English alphabet (which sounds different, though the letters are the same).
I haven’t taken the plunge and read any books on bilinguism yet, for fear of finding out just how wrong I am about things. Should I worry? Perhaps not, but it’s harder than you’d think to stick to your native tongue when your work day is mostly in French, at least when speaking. Writing email and reading English online all day is one thing, but coming home and forcing yourself to speak English when others around you don’t understand it can feel awfully rude. I lose touch with my fluency in English when speaking too… which can be very frustrating. It’s like when you’re lost for a word, and you can’t change the subject until you’ve found it. But it’s worse when you know you can express the same concept in a language which isn’t even your own!
I’ve heard stories of children rejecting the language that isn’t spoken everywhere around them, and of children who happily pick up three or more languages. In any case the effort will be worth it… the alternative would be terribly sad. One day Nathan could turn around to me and say “je ne veux pas parler anglais, papa”…