Much to my dismay, my 5 year-old daughter does not speak English. As an English-speaking (a.k.a ‘anglo’) Montreal native, this is really quite devastating.
How did this happen?
My 2 boys were born in the UK. Although we never really discussed things, it was clear: my French husband would speak to the boys in French, and I would speak to them in English. They grew up beautifully bilingual, with a gorgeous British accent that they have sadly lost since our move back to Canada 7 years ago.
Law in Quebec is such that kids must attend school in French except in certain exceptional circumstances. We would have sent them to French school regardless. So, at the time our daughter was born, the boys were speaking French amongst themselves, she started attending French daycare, and was spending a lot of quality time with her French grandparents. I can’t quite put my finger on it or remember why, but alas, I started to speaking to her in French, too. That was a huge mistake.
When I later realized the error of my ways and started speaking to her in English, she would look up at me with big, confused eyes, so I backed down and reverted to her familiar French. Mistake number 2.
When I decided, ok, bedtime stories would be in English, she would complain and cry that she didn’t understand. So I started doing simultaneous translation, in the hopes she would understand and not give up. Mistake number 3 (I think). From that moment on, I could not read her a story in English without hearing her ‘en français, aussi, maman!’ (in French, too, mummy!)
How heartbreaking it’s been for […]