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My wife and I are french and we live in the US.
Our 3 1/2 boy goes to day care in english. His english has become quite good, almost on par with his american friends.
At home we speak french (with some occasional slip up). He understands us perfectly but his spoken french is very limited. The situation now is that he speaks in english or a mix of french-english to us and we answer in french.

We have not followed any method (as you can see ).

Shall we refuse to answer when he speaks english to us ?
He does seem to get frustrated when he can’t express himself in french.

Many thanks,



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Hi Sebastian,

I have found that repeating back what my daughter said in my language has helped her a lot. Occasionally she will answer me in German (or throw in a German word) I will repeat it back in English as a confirmation or a question. Occasionally she will repeat it again. Mostly, though, I have just noticed that she has fewer slips when we are speaking English together.

Another thing that helps a lot is a visit to the relatives that only speak your language . Grand parents are great for that

Jodi in German speaking Switzerland

Mother American

Father Swiss German


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Bonjour Sebastien!

We are a French-Finnish family living in Finland. I agree with Jodi about visiting the relatives, we just got back from 10 days in France and the kids are still talking to each other in French :-). The regular trips to meet the grandparents (who don’t speak the other language as far as the child is concerned) create the necessary need to speak the language, with you the motivation is not there as he knows that you speak English too. Still, really great that you answer in French and no, I don’t think you should refuse to answer him. This might make him resent French and speaking it! Living in the U.S I understand it’s not all that easy to travel to Europe all the time so I would suggest having different materials in French. Dvds, cds, books etc. Perhaps even a French speaking nanny or babysitter?  You might also want to look for other French speaking people, recently arrived expats for example, who have children. I have noticed that children learn the best when they are around other kids who speak that language. If you’d like to email me, I can give some ideas about French materials we use in Finland and I can send you the link to a study (in French) I did on French-Finnish bilingualism at the university.


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