Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I don’t have to learn French, I’m adopted!

Liam is currently struggling with French at school. It is the only subject that he HATES. Given the type of learning disability that he has, we aren’t very surprised that he’s having a hard time with it.

Liam’s dislike of French is not new, nor is it related just to school. I am fluent in French, having gone to French school from Kindergarten through grade 10 and having lots of French relatives. When Liam was a baby I would try to talk to him in French, read books or sing songs. He was fine with the songs (all of his lullabies were French) but any reading or talking would elicit “No Mama! Engish!!!” I still sing French songs and he often joins in, but talking is still verboten. Single words (Bonjour, Au Revoir, Merci, Je t’aime…) are alright, but if I go as far as a full sentence he starts demanding English again.

So last night at bedtime I started throwing out a few French words with mild success. In English I told him how our family comes from a French background, how Grandpa was French and how proud he had been anytime Liam would call him and sing Happy Birthday in French to him. I even mentioned that our last name is French, hoping to get Liam to take some pride or ownership in our French heritage.

And that is when Liam seized his opportunity. “I don’t have to learn French, I’m adopted! My real last name isn’t French”. All of this was said with a very smug Aha! gotcha now look. He was sure he had found the best loophole to my argument.

Too bad for him that I was adopted too!

It took the wind out of his sails when I reminded him that my first last name wasn’t French either, but I still grew up speaking French. That we can get our heritage not only from our first families, but also from our adopted families, or even from family members that we marry. He seems to be sitting on that one for now, perhaps trying to find another loophole.

Until he does, he’ll be back in French class on Thursday!


Unknown said...

Reminds me of the time my African-Canadian son told me he didn't have to wear a coat even though it was cold because his "Norwegian Roots" kept him warm :) Of course those Norwegian roots came through his daddy - who adopted him when he was 4 :)

Lori Lavender Luz said...

"Too bad for him that I was adopted too!"

LOL! Poor guy will never be able to play that card.

Mei-Ling said...

Note: I took compulsory French in Ottawa for 2 years, and then another 3 years in an English-speaking city, and I disliked it. Immensely.

Having someone who speaks it fluently didn't make me loathe it any less.

Music is okay because it's a form of emotion-filled language. Music is international. The melody is what people sense, even if they don't know the words.

Don't be surprised if he keeps rejecting it. By all means, keep trying to encourage bits and pieces, but I'm just saying, "forcing" someone to learn it doesn't necessarily mean they'll like it.

DrSpouse said...

I'm not sure it's possible to force a kid to learn a language!

But just listening to another language is probably an experience children need to either get used to having or learn to be quiet about not liking... rather like being around people of a different colour to themselves... because it's probably going to happen whether they like it or not. I have a few friends who grew up visiting family who didn't speak their main language, and some made an active effort to learn, some didn't, but I imagine their monolingual grandmas would have been really upset if their grandkids had said "noooo don't speak to me in Greek it's horrible!"

So I guess it's down to "don't complain that Abuela's house smells funny and don't tell her not to speak to you in Spanish either".