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Is there anybody else out there in the same boat?


I started speaking French to my kids 6 months ago when the youngest was just 1 (he’s already fluent) and the oldest was 3 and a half (she’s still resistant).  I speak only French with the youngest, yet I speak a mixture with the eldest.


I’d love to hear the stories of other people who are juggling 2 different levels of comfort and fluency.




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i’ve got one daughter whom i speak french to all the time, she understand me but answer me in english. i get a bit upset as i wish she would speak french to me and i feel a bit isolated as i ‘m the only french in her life (all my family is in France and i don’t know any french speaker here). Am i being silly?


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Salut, Kristell!   Sorry I only just saw your message.  I think you are normal to feel a bit sad that your child answers you in English.  If you have always spoken in French maybe you can sort of insist on replies in French (i.e. suddenly stop understanding her English replies).  I know people who have done this with their kids and –helas — I have decided against it with my now 4 year old mainly because we established our relationship in English and it might be traumatic for both of us.  Kristell, don’t be hard on yourself.  Congratulate yourself for speaking French to her in the first place.  Even if she never learns to reply to you in French, think of the wonderful gift you have given her of understanding you fluently.  Where do you live?  Have you looked at this site for tips on playgroups etc.  A playgroup hasn’t exactly panned out yet for me, so I am just trying to be creative (take my kids to a Hallmark store where one of the employees speaks French, talk to the francophone lady in the deli at Safeway, etc….) We have to stop being hard on ourselves and acknowledge the great good that we have already done. And if you feel that maybe there is something YOU want to change about the way YOU are doing things, maybe this funny olympic challenge would be a good time to make a change?  Above all, congratulate youreslf.  Je suis bien a vous — Sheilagh


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Bonjour Sheilah et Kristell,


Certainly, don’t feel isolated. My daughter (a 2 year-old) still answers back to me in English even though I have always spoken French to her from birth. Her brother (a 4 year-old) is just starting to answer back to me in French, even though he, as well, was talked in French from birth (and in Serbian from his dad). They are both talking a lot more in Serbian than in French despite them being with me more often…go figure. But the rewards are coming in …slowly, but surely. The few French that my son speaks is grammatically correct, and his production in French is getting more frequent. And my daughter understands everything I say, even if she answers in English. So I only repeat their answers in French and have them repeat after me. I am still seeking other French natives so that my kids can get more French exposure from other people than me (the rest of my family is in France -so they are limited to every other year-clearly not enough as this age).





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Hi Sabine

My daughter is now 10 and fully bilingual. I had the same problem as you do, ie Céline, at 2 & 1/2 was only speaking English to me, although she understood French no problem. It lasted a few months until she was talking French and only French to me again.

Carry on speaking French to your children, no matter what, everywhere,
even if you have to shout at them in public, at school, etc, it must be in French !
TV => in French
Radio => in French

I advise you to tell them ” parle-moi autrement” whem they speak English to you, as they don’t have a clear notion of what “different languages” can be.
Another solution is to ignore them when they speak English to you, only to “come alive” at the sound of some French.

More later ! Bye for now,


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Hi Sheilagh:

I read your post and was interested about how you started speaking French with your children, especially your one-year old.  Had you spoken any French to him until you started speaking exclusively in French to him, or was it an abrupt language change?  How did you go about transitioning to French? Thanks so much, Ann

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