September 20, 2013 § 3 Comments
This language thing is hard. I admit that in the frenzy of dealing with all of the logistical details related to the move, I allowed it to slip fairly low on my list of worries. After all, Sebastian had a year of dual-language kindergarten under his belt, right? In truth, I knew it would be hard, but there was nothing we could really do about it until we got here, so might as well pack another box. Plus, everyone always says, “Oh kids, they are little sponges. They will pick it up in no time at all.” No doubt there is truth to that—kids do it all the time—but the “no time at all” kind of glosses over those weeks and months in the beginning when you simply don’t understand a word that’s being spoken to you. It’s hard for me really fathom that that is how Sebastian and Xavier are spending every day right now.
It has been understandably difficult for Sebastian especially to make friends so far. In the very beginning, on a few occasions I tried to make some inroads with kids in his class by smiling at them, asking their names, and introducing Sebastian. Then after school I would ask Sebastian if he played with any of those kids that day, and he’d say he tried but that he doesn’t speak French! Just the other day, though, he said he had played with a girl during their lunchtime break. I asked what they played, and he looked sort of embarrassed, and then said “Blah Blah.” I think the gist of the game is you pretend to have a conversation, but all you say to each other is blah, blah, blah. Kind of silly and poignant at the same time. This girl now flashes him a big smile every morning.
I can tell that the language is slowly getting under their skin, though. Sebastian will ask me about words or phrases he often hears, such as “Ce n’est pas grave,” or “À toute à l’heure.” He seems proud of himself when he picks up something new. And Xavier walks around saying things like, “Thank you beaucoup, thank you beaucoup.”
After school the other day, as Xavier and I were waiting for Sebastian to get out, Xavier was engaged in one of his favorite new pastimes: looking for snails and/or slugs. (There is no shortage of either here.) He was very excited when he found one, pointing and saying, “There’s a snail! There’s a snail!” In one of my moments of trying to pepper our everyday conversation with some French, I said, “C’est où ça?” (Where is it?), and he said, “Ooo sah.” I repeated, “C’est où?,” and he said, “Ooo.” It took me a moment to realize that when I said “c’est,” he of course heard “say.” It was just another reminder of the mental goulash that must be bubbling away in their heads right now.