I have many reasons why I've always want to improve my French, and maybe should have by now; I have French-Canadian heritage on my dad's side, I live in the very bilingual city of Ottawa, and I'm married to a francophone whose entire family speaks only French (well, most of 'em).
What does this all have to do with having a kid? Let me explain.
Though my French is pretty good, there was always a 'but' between me and my goal.
Usually that 'but' was 'not getting quite enough good practice', since it had to be more by decision than necessity.
Practicing in the real world is tough, as other native English speakers can attest, because so many French-Canadians are bilingual. Take Montreal, for instance. Once they'd hear my Anglophone accent, they'd switch to English. I can remember I'd be all psyched up to try it out at a restaurant:
Server: Smoking or non?
Argh. Busted with only one word!
I took courses and language programs and even lived in a French-speaking community for three years, BUT I worked and mostly socialized in English. I did learn a lot about the culture and become excellent at ordering a single-double at Tim Horton's, mind you.
I even had a colleague that a friend and I would meet on Sundays for what we called "Parlez-Vous Français" brunch, BUT soon we became friends and had too much to chat about to muddle around practicing French. Foiled again.
Now I have my hubby as a real-life potential French tutor to practice with. BUT (there's that word again), we would practice for a while and then run out of steam. It is out of one's comfort zone, after all. Plus, it felt more like we were playing a game than conversing. "Next, let's do PIG LATIN for an hour! Ease-play ass-pay the etchup-kay! Har har."
So while I improved a lot over the years, I never quite had the real push to get to where I want to be. Yet.
So this year, daily practice. No more excuses.
Because my little boy will be learning French, both from my husband and likely in school. He's going to start talking before long, and HE is going to be bilingual. And currently, when I spend time in French-speaking environments (e.g., at the in-laws'), I can keep up a half-decent conversation, but I search for my words and make mistakes. Plus, once the conversation gets lively and slang-filled (which is pretty much all the time), half of it goes over my head:
|This is not the French they taught us in school! (click to enlarge)|
And there's no way I'm gonna let my little baby boy grow up to laugh along with everyone else and translate for me at parties!
So now I have real motivation. Kids-- They can make you more accountable to yourself.