Thursday, July 17, 2008

French mistakes

Yesterday we ate salmon and I explained Milo that the salmon is a very strong fish that likes to swim upstream. This morning he was eager to share this new bit of knowledge with his nanny Sofie, but he lacked some vocabulary. I heard him say:

“Tu sais, Sofie, le salmón (instead of saumon) est un poisson très fort, et…et…l’eau vais comme ça et lui il nage comme ça (he mimics with his hands the fish going in the opposite direction of the water)”.

Sofie was changing Zeno’s pamper, an activity that requires much attention as Zeno makes it as easy as trying to put a diaper to a wild octopus…so between that and Milo’s metaphors, she was not getting at all what he was talking about, which frustrated him. So I decided to jump in to give him a little hand, and I said in French:

“Oui, Milo, le saumon est très fort et il nage contre la courant …”

Sofie got the picture and once she managed to put the octopus down, she picked up on the conversation. I was then summoned by the Belgianite in the bathroom, to learn that it’s ‘le courant,’ i.e. masculine and not feminine, as I pronounced it (I admit I was uncounsciously translating from the Italian ‘la corrente,’ which is indeed feminine).

As much I am fluent in French, I am aware that I still make the occasional mistake…should I be more restrictive with my use of French around the kids ? Somehow I feel Milo already has a strong enough base, and in terms of the pronunciation, he does not hesitate to correct me if I miss a nasal « e » or « oi » sound ; however I hear the Belgianite, we need to be careful not to pass on our mistakes!


Yom said...

I wouldn't worry about French. Unless you move to another country or you send him to a non-french-speaking school, Milo's strongest language will be French, it's just a matter of time. He is already correcting you, so he's perfectly aware that you're not the model regarding French language.
My son says this kind of italianisms very often when speaking with me and he knows French much better than children of his age and little Italian. I often simply ignore it or correct saying something like "Si dice saumon in francese". It's just temporary in my opinion, due to their still limited vocabulary.

Anyway, I would never speak French with your children, but for another reason. If you get them used to hear you speaking French to them they may have later the temptation to speak French with you all the time. I think it's less likely to happen if you're more consistent in speaking only Italian.

A recent anecdote: Our oldest son came to his mother and asked about me, refusing to say anything to her. She told me about it and he finally found me and said "Papa, j'ai vu un ogre" (I saw an ogre). I asked him why he refused to speak to his mother he answered that it's because he did not know "ogre" in Bandjoun, his mother's language. I found it was a bit sad that language difficulties could limit communication with his mother, but then I think it's good to see that the language is so well rooted in him that he now can't speak anything else to his mother.

Tanya said...

I am also concerned about that since my native tongue is English but my husband is French. We live in the US and would like our future children to be fluent in both languages. I am afraid that I will pass on my bad habits of pronunciation and m/f mistakes as well. But I think the more exposure to the language the better they will be in it...i'll leave it to my husband to correct the children (and myself ;-0)

Noelia said...

I agree with yom, as long as there are other means for the kids to be exposed to the language, they won't learn your mistakes!