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You can take the little girl to Paris but you can't take the little girl out of her. Being "Mary Tyler Moore"-ish at Luxembourg Gardens.

It happened. My girl is finally assimilating French into her language repertoire. I thought she would resist it, being the stubborn and anti-social individual she has become at school. But after 8 months of being in France, and 6 months of intensive immersion à l’école, she is now a babbling brook of French sounds. I still don’t understand what she is saying most of the time, due to her speaking like a three year-old, and me just not comprehending French, but girl, it sounds sooo sweet.

History of her Language Development en français :

juilletaoût: Difficult but she picked up what we parents could only say: “merci,”s’il vous plaît,” “bonjour,” and “au revoir.” We were still reminding her “p’s and q’s” in English, too. But it didn’t help that we were all having trouble trying to speak the language. William wasn’t keen on it, either.

Our stroller in the rear courtyard of Le Louvre, summertime. Photo taken by Wm Kennedy who also photographed Mummy and little sister at the fountain.

septembre – novembre: When school started, her world really crashed down. She was away from her family for eight hours, four days a week, and stuck in a classroom of strangers who spoke French, which she could not understand. She refused to greet her teacher and assistants.  By October, we noted that William was able to translate what the characters said on the French cartoons. Clarisse was observant, but could not express herself in French. She could count to 5 and sing the alphabet in French (but identify few letters) by this time. A huge misunderstanding in her class grew into a fear of being left behind at school. She could only express her concern by unexpected bouts of crying. One day in November, Clarisse’s teacher proudly told me that she actually answered a question today, and correctly! I was sooo happy, I told Chris and we fawned a lot of attention on her. That backfired because she clammed up after that. But she was starting to acquire the new language. She could tell you that blue was called ‘bleu’ and brown was ‘brun.’ Based on those French words, she devised a technique of pronouncing the endings for French words she didn’t know. So if I asked her for the word black, it was ‘blah’ in French or ‘gar-baaaj’ for garbage. [I thought this was hilarious.] She still talked to no one at school nor made any friends.

Looking for a way out, across Le Petit Palais (one of my favourite buildings/museums).

décembre: She was still crying at pick-up in December and the teacher and assistants accepted that as part of her personality: timide, nerveuse. During the Christmas holidays she knew more words than she let on when she showed us her cahier d’activités from class. She explained in a mixture of French and English words (“franglais“) all the work she had done. Now she could count to 10 en français. She knew a couple of children’s songs (par exemple, Pont d’Avignon). She watched children’s shows dubbed in French with William and mimicked William’s answers to the shows’ questions.

Christmas Day in Paris, 2011.

janvier: She finally told mummy to go away after bringing her to class. Clarisse felt confident enough to carry on independently without mum having to linger to ensure Clarisse’s good start to the day. Upon my first parent-teacher meeting, I found out that she did ‘interact’ with other classmates. She understood what was spoken in class. She was a serious student. She did what she was told. She understood the routine. She was starting to relax…

Hiding behind some modern art display at the entrance of Le Jardin d'Acclimation, Bois de Bologne.

février:  It just happened. During the winter holidays, she babbled in French. As she played alone, her conversations to herself were in simple phrases like: “J’aime ça.” “C’est à moi!” “Jouez avec moi!” We had a little French girl in my home. And her daddy was so chuffed and loves to listen to her talk, but still hasn’t a clue to what she’s saying. [Unless she were speaking in a Monty Python French dialect — then he’d understand…]

Taking the bird by the handlebars. At a "l'aire de jeux" (playground) by the Trocadero.

C’est mars maintenant. My daughter can count up to 29 en français, she is happy at school pick-up, and although she barely speaks à l’école, her comprehension has improved dramatically. She is learning. We are proud of her and her brother.

However, my son can comprehend French better than all of us. And he’ll say, “What are you saying, Clarisse?…That doesn’t make sense…That’s not how you say it…” So we know she is fumbling through, trying to communicate and still making sense of it all, just like her parents. But it is a relief to see that our children are making progress because isn’t that what every parent wants?! C’est génial!

Catching up with the other Francophones in Le Jardin des Plantes.