Archive for December, 2006

Passive Bilingualism

When a person understand two language but speaks only one of them they are considered to be a passive bilingual.

I am very sad to say it, but I am contemplating giving up on Eila as she has entered that passively bilingual stage that can last a lifetime (literally) and it is harder and harder to continue speaking to her in a minority language that is not my first language especially when she responds in another language. I spend a lot of time mixing the languages already and it irritates and confuses me, so I can only imagine what her brain is doing to sort it all out.

Right now, Eila is learning gobs and gobs of new words and phrases each day. This is very excited and extremely helpful in understanding what she wants and needs. Yet, I’m finding myself a little more disappointed at the end of each day as I realize that her vocabulary in English is already almost as good as mine in French. It’s also discouraging because she almost always responds in English. When she learns a new word in French, she’ll use it until she learns that word in English and then she drops the French word for the English. For example, last week when it snowed, we talked all about “la neige” and Eila blabbed on and on about water and cold and snow in French and then she learned that “la neige” is snow in English and I haven’t heard a thing in French, but she is talking about snow in English at least once a day.

Intellectually, I realized that this was the way it would most likely be. This is the standard way that kids in a bilingual home with a minority language spoken at home function. This is why so many parents give up (especially when they also know the majority language well and don’t see a great need or use for the minority language in everyday life). It is hard to speak to your kids in one language when they respond in a different language. It sort of messes with the brain and strange combinations of both languages come out.

Emotionally, though, I’m feeling discouraged and even a little like I fighting a losing battle. I see the benefits and have already put in a lot of work, but wonder if it isn’t a waste of energy and brainpower. There are so many things that I want to teach my kids and among the most important are things like: loving God and others and being respectful and kind. Speaking another language is a nice thing, but not essential for the end result of a person who loves God with all heart, soul, body, and mind.

For now, I continue to speak in French and hope that it will do more good than harm for Eila’s development. She’s learning lots of sign language too and using that frequently, so we’ll see what God has in store for us.

To read more about passive bilingualism, see:


First Time

There is a first time for everything. Today was my first time to be thrown up on by someone other than myself. I didn’t like it at all, but I didn’t join in, which is much better than I’d ever expected. There is some truth to that being a mom and not being bothered by some things as much. You just have to hold your breath and do what needs to be done.

Yesterday was Eila’s first time really seeing snow (at least that she can remember). She was hilarious. I’ve never seen anyone so excited about snow. I always enjoy watching the first snow, but driving in it isn’t the best. Well, we were taking a trip to the mall and the entire car ride was spent talking about the snow and how it’s cold and windy and pretty and white and basically just wonderful! It was refreshing to be reminded of the beauty around me in such a simple way. Eila was even more excited when we played in the snow for a few minutes after we got back home.

The first time that I knew my baby was smiling at me was one of the most precious things. There are lots of memorable first times for me: buying a house, running a marathon, going to a UM football game, and hearing Eila say “t’aime” (love you) are just a few of the more interesting ones. It’s remarkable how each day we do so many things that we did the day before and yet there is usually something new there as well. I am trying to take a minute at the end of the day to enjoy that first time for whatever it was that day, even if it is cleaning up puke off of everything around.

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Glory of Christmas

Earlier this week, I went to the annual Northridge show ( and was pleasantly surprised. This put me in the mood for Christmas! I love holidays, in general, but Christmas is one that can get a little hectic with lots of parties and things to do. I am one of those people who can get all caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season without pausing to remember what it is that we are really celebrating, until it’s almost over. This year is a little different, because I’m starting off with a great reminder of the birth of Christ as well as His death and resurrection that are intimately connected to that birth. In addition to this reminder, the performance had several rather humorous numbers with Christmas carols and dancing and also a wonderful and moving rendition of Happy Birthday, Jesus sung by my very favorite six-year-old! Hannah did such a great job singing, it brought tears to my eyes. The women in front of me (who were not church goers at all) were equally impressed and moved by Hannah’s song. It was neat to hear them talking about it from a very different perspective and yet appreciating it just as much!