I was one of the keeners who took French right through high school. I thought it made me a worldlier version of my bookworm self. Then, when I was in my 20s, I walked into a shop in Montréal and was met by a salesperson, about the same age.
"Bonjour," she said breezily.
I channeled my best French accent and called out my reply. "Bonjooor!"
She wasn't fooled and immediately switched to impeccable English. "Are you visiting for the weekend?"
I was mesmerized.
I'd heard French before; I had 10 years of classes behind me, after all. But this was true bilingualism. The way she moved seamlessly between two complicated languages, while chatting with other customers, had me green with envy.
Fast forward about 15 years and the decision to enroll our children in French Immersion was an easy one. I could go on and on about the benefits and the research, but it came down to being the right fit for our family.
My husband and I are both avid supporters and grateful to have access to a fantastic school with phenomenal teachers. All that said, it's not without its challenges.
In the early years of immersion, progress is measured by verbal performance. Not easy for a kid who would rather write everything down (or draw it in a picture). The best strategy for these newbies is to flog them with French; the more they hear it, the more they speak it.
And yeah, that means we're all working harder to fling the French around here. Thankfully, our oldest is more than happy to show off oblige with French dialogue at the dinner table. And my husband's high school exchange program to Quebec is proving quite useful. I even took a conversational French class offered by the kids' school board.
But more is better and while on the lookout for further support, I discovered Little Pim. It speaks to all kinds of learners with the option of books, CDs and DVDs in your language of choice (they have 10 different languages).
The CD has been great for car travel and is helping our younger kids get a head start on their Frère Jacques. Since our attempts to play the French option on favourite movies has never gone over well, the DVDs are just what the teacher ordered. Being a US-based company means the French picture book also incorporates Spanish, which has proven more appealing for the Dora-obsessed set around here. Fortunately, it's really geared to their age group anyway.
At this point, I don't know how my children will use French in their grown up lives: shopping in a store, working in a government office, or during their worldly travels (let's hope so).
And though I know I'm setting myself up for a future of being talked about while I'm standing in the room, I have no doubt the benefits will be lifelong.
Little Pim graciously provided my family with their French language CD, DVD, and book. I was not compensated for this post and the opinions are my own. As for the kid in the photo? Yeah, that's mine too!