Being the good little Canadian student that I was, I took all the requisite French classes, starting in grade 7, and continued through until grade 12. I even took a couple of comprehension classes in University. Mr.Q took his required French lessons in elementary school [one of many things they do things differently in Alberta]. But at three to five hours a week of classroom learning with a little homework thrown in for good measure, my retention- while slightly stronger than Mr.Q’s – hardly qualifies me for any more than a pitying glance as I ask, sans accent, parlez-vous anglais?. Not exactly a skill to put on the resume.
So, when it comes to the Magpie’s exposure to languages, what is a parent to do? Never mind day care – should I already be lining up for immersion classes or making sure that the French radio station is playing all day long in the background? Should we simply up and move to Quebec? Or just say to hell with this whole thought of really learning another language. Is it really necessary, anyway? Isn’t it just going to be confusing for everyone?
The most comforting bits advice for me? It’s never too late to start and I don’t have to curse myself for not paying better attention in class 16 years ago.
With respect to the former, yes, the Magpie is only 14 months old, but that means we have time to figure out what language we might want to consider for her. Yes, French is the easiest to access through the school system here, but in an area like Vancouver, it’s not difficult to find Italian, Mandarin, Japanese, Farsi and, I’m sure, many, many other classes
And my faulty memory? It is entirely possible for a child to move past the shortcomings [tsk, tsk, how judgmental: to circumvent the different skill set] of her parents and become bilingual. Despite them and their sorry accents.
Not only that, this book goes on to tell how: how to go about discovering the right language for a family, how to get past some common concerns and myths and how to look for resources in your community. They even provide a great list of print and web resources at the end of the book. And, all throughout, are quick tips, recaps and opportunities to feel out where each individual family fits in the spectrum of possibilities.
Bringing another language into the house is work – a lot of work, even for those who readily speak more than one. But The Bilingual Edge has set a solid base for getting language into this house, with lots of information to check back on along the way.