I have been feeling very guilty for the past 17 years or so about the fact that my daughter is not bilingual - which has been known to scandalize some of my relatives, friends, and acquaintances.Another mother on that same blog:
For many, it is a given that, if a couple of which one of the two spouses is not a native speaker of English has a child or children, those kids must and should be 100% bilingual - i.e. they should have acquired both of their parents' languages (English and, let's say, French, or Spanish, or Chinese, etc.) simultaneously.
I am no linguist, and no specialist of first and second language acquisition, although I teach French at the university level for a living. My not-so-ex-husband, Rick, is an applied linguist who, very early in his graduate school career, conducted a qualitative study on kids' acquisition of the language other than English spoken by one or both of their parents, as well as on those parents' strategies (or lack thereof) to ensure that their children would grow up bilingual. From what I recall from that study that Rick conducted, raising bilingual kids is much easier said than done - especially when only one of the two parents speaks a foreign language.
In our case, even though Rick speaks close to flawless French (he taught French at the high school level for nine years, and then for about six more years at the college level), we never really spoke French to each other. Our main language of communication has always been English. When our daughter was born, we made the decision that I would speak French to her. I found doing this a bit onerous - I cannot really put my finger on the reason why such was the case but, nevertheless, I stuck to French when addressing Claire until she was about three or four. Actually, probably until she started attending pre-school. I am still not sure why I kind of quit entirely speaking French to her. I just think that it was just too difficult. By the time I quit speaking French to her, though, her language output was mostly in English. Perhaps, one rule that we should have enforced with her was to have her talk to me exclusively in French.
I have seen, in my teaching career, a handful of kids of French expats or of Franco-American couples who were perfectly proficient in spoken French (i.e. they spoke French like natives.) However, they were practically illiterate in French - they could not write the language, could hardly read it, and did not know any of its grammar.
Thanks Elisabeth, I am honored to know that my note inspired you this interesting post about our guilt feeling, and I liked what it allowed to discuss as the many issues of raising our children in a unilingual environment.
Because this is what it ends up being for me. I spoke French to my babies for something like three or four years. (...) Unfortunately their father left several months later, locking us in the US by the same token, and after 2001 I was unable to travel to France as I used to do.
My second son was 4 at the time, and he progressively stopped speaking French with me, he was already not very verbal, and I guess he had heard French being the language his father was abusing me with...
Anyway, he started to tell me he didn't understand when I was speaking French to him. His brother was not speaking, but coult understand or at least was understanding some of what was told to him. Today, his language is very limited (he is nearly 12) and he can use French or English with a perfect pronunciation because he has a perfect "pitch" and imitates pretty well.
But his brother (...) speaks with a very nice American accent (twooa for 3) and cannot understand a conversation. I am very sad about it, and I guess my guilt feeling is there in order to make up for my sadness.