Back in June I wrote a post called My Toddler Thinks I’m An Idiot. Essentially I recounted how my wife and I were attempting to bring our daughter up to be bilingual in French and English. We were always quietly confident about the English bit of that particular ambition, what with English being our first language and the fact that we live in England. Indeed, barring any developmental difficulties for Little Proclaims, we would be somewhat remiss were we not to provide her with the capacity to communicate in our native tongue. Our ambitions for French stem from the fact that both Mrs Proclaims and I can speak French (though she far better than I) and we thought it was worth a go.
And back in June it all seemed to being proceeding rather well. Little Proclaims was actually demonstrating a greater knowledge of French than English, partially I think because lockdown had removed much of her access to friends and family and so she was stuck with just her parents for company. And we were speaking to her in French a lot.
Nonetheless, the odd English word was slipping into her babbling and it had become apparent to me that those little English cameos appeared to be more common when she was in my company.
And I used that as the premise for the aforementioned blog post.
But I didn’t really believe in my heart of hearts that Little Proclaims genuinely thought I was an idiot.
Fast forward several months and, like it or not, the UK is starting to return to something that isn’t quite normality but is more normal than before. A state of affairs that has been dubbed by some as ‘the new normal’ but it might be more accurately dubbed as ‘the state of affairs that results when a government massively misjudges the appropriate response to a pandemic and then panics about the economy’. Anyway, as a result of this quasi-normality, Little Proclaims has been exposed to lots of English again and consequently her conversational skills in her native language have caught up with those of the language we have rather forced upon her. And although she is still only two-years old, her verbal communication skills are coming on really well.
And obviously, as a proud father, I’m delighted with this development.
Except it has now become quite apparent that she genuinely thinks I can’t speak French. Because she only ever speaks to me in English. Literally she will say something to me. Something like “look daddy, look at the dog” and then she’ll turn to her mother and say the exact same thing in French “regardes maman, regardes le chien”.
And yes, this is impressive. But it’s also a little heartbreaking.
Because my toddler really does think I’m an idiot.
Although it occurred to me that she never, ever speaks to Mrs Proclaims in English.
So presumably she thinks my wife can’t speak English any more than she thinks I can speak French.
So, as my wife was gently mocking me about this the other day I turned to her and grinned
“It’s ok, she thinks you’re an idiot too.”