Posted in Parenting

Language Acquisition in the ESL Kiddo

We are a French-speaking family living in a French-speaking environment.  My kids go to a French daycare and will be attending a French school.  However, it is important to my husband and I that our kids be bilingual (French and English).  Though we know that they will have ESL lessons in school, we started exposing them to the English language very early on because we know that the earlier they are exposed to a language, the better the chance they’ll be able to learn it.

Keeping that in mind, we’ve exposed our kiddos to English in various ways: nursery rhymes, books, songs, Youtube videos and Netflix.  We’ve even chosen to register them in swimming lessons that happen in a predominantly English-speaking city close to where we live so that they can benefit from hearing English once per week.  (The instructors at the pool they go to are fantastic, they are all bilingual and speak to their French-speaking students in French and English to their English-speaking students.  Win-win!).

Now Charles knows quite a few words in English and he is conscious that it is a completely different language than the one he is used to using.  Sometimes, he plays and “speaks” in English.  I tell you, even though the vast majority of the “words” he uses aren’t real, the intonation is spot on.  It is absolutely adorable!  But even his use of actual English words can yield interesting results.

For instance, given that the “th” sound doesn’t exist in French, it is generally difficult to reproduce by people whose mother tongue is French.  For example, a French-speaking person will typically either drop the “h” or turn the “th” into an “f”.  The number “three” might become “free” or “tree”.  Factor in a toddler who still hasn’t mastered all of the sounds in his mother tongue and counting to ten for him sounds like this:

one, toop, freen, fow, five, six, seven, yate, nine, ten

For a while, he kept seeing “fucks” everywhere.  (You know, white fucks, black fucks, firefucks).

Today, it was his turn to pick the first song from his Spotify playlist on his way to daycare.  His choice?  Row, row, row your butt.

Sing it!

Are your children bilingual?  Are your toddlers still struggling with certain sounds?  What are some of the funny things you’ve heard from them?


Thirty-something year old discovering the joys and bumps of motherhood.

3 thoughts on “Language Acquisition in the ESL Kiddo

  1. This was so funny! Loved it! We are working our butts off to get our kids to be bilingual. The baby (2 years) has had the most exposure, almost daily now to a sitter who only speaks Spanish to her. Her speech is WAAAAAYYYY delayed beyond my other three. Nobody can understand what she’s saying and she just signs her own sign language to us. I “knew” it was due to the common language delay in bilingual learners, but I still took her for a speech/hearing eval. Passed fine. So will be fascinating to watch how her two languages emerge and develop. My seventh grader knows Spanish, but is so shy to use it. I told her once she can speak well with the sitter/friend who is a native Spanish speaker, then she can pick another language, which she really wants to do. Anyhow, love this topic. I’m so excited for my kids to have an opportunity I didn’t have.

    1. It’s great that they’re being exposed to Spanish! I can relate with regards to language delays. Charles is the one who’s been exposed the most to English and I almost did bring him for a language and hearing eval at one point because he is consistently having issues with some sounds in French. I decided to wait it out until his last year before kindergarten and bring him in for an evaluation then if the problem persists. Anyways, I’m really eager to see how the early exposition will affect their development of English once they start learning it in school.

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