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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I just stumbled onto these forums and thought I would join and say hi. Our family just moved to France from Switzerland but we're originally from The Netherlands. We've lived in several different countries and decided that France was the place we wanted to settle so we immediately bought a house here and moved a few weeks ago.

So far I am loving it. We live in the Rhone Alpes in the Jura mountains in a small village called Echallon (between Bellegarde, Oyonnax and Nantua). My husband works in Geneva so it is a bit of a commute but the house is so lovely it is absolutely worth it.

My husband speaks French well, but my oldest daughter and I started learning the language in Switzerland and we are still struggling a bit (or a lot, depending on the setting). I am pregnant with my 3rd baby and I am a bit nervous about delivering here. Both my other kids were born in The Netherlands i.e. at home but the French seem to have a bit of an issue with that. There are no midwives in the area here that will do home birthing so this will be my first delivery in a hospital and I am quite frankly terrified. However France has a population 66 million people so I keep telling myself that 66 million people have not died from infections in a hospital :)

I don't really have a lot of questions at this point, however I am really eager to find some other expats in the area. As said, I do speak French and I even bravely attended the neighborhood bbq the other night, but I am much more comfortable speaking Dutch or English. I know this is a long shot because this isn't a popular expat region, but Ferney Voltaire and Lyon aren't that far so who knows who may live between there and here.

Thanks for reading,
Saskia
 

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Hi Saskia,
And welcome to France and to the ExpatForum. Actually, France seems to have pretty nifty resources for giving birth - even if they may not be quite what you're used to. You may want to contact and join an organization called Message. Welcome to Message Paris It's a group for English speaking parents, but I know they have some great resources for maternity information. There may also be some "regional contacts" in your area.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Hi Saskia
Welcome to France and the forum. You have chosen a beautiful area to live.
Good luck with the birth.
 

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Hi Saskia,

I'm new to the forum to, though I've been living in France for years now, in the Gard. A few weeks ago ago I learned that my wife (a native) is expecting our first child! We're only 10 weeks in, but I've begun to feverishly research parenting in France and the expat experience.

Like you my wife was interested in a home birth but it looks like social security in France is not cool with that, so the idea's out the window. France is very conservative in terms of practices. Otherwise things seem to be quite well organised. Although when the gynecologist gave us a box full of information about having a baby (la boite rose), I was a a bit shocked to find that it was full of babycentric adverts.

I know that it'll be a couple of years before the language issue pronounces itself, but I'm still curious as to how my kid will develop a french/english identity. It's all new to me!
 

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Ricimer, you may also be interested in the Message group mentioned above. They really do have lots of information for anglophone parents in France - and although they are based in Paris, they can help you connect to other anglophones in your area. (The local Message contact where I live has had each of her three children in a different country: the US, UK and France)

The AAWE (a group for Americans married to Europeans) did some considerable research into the issue of bi-lingual households and I know their advice has always been that each parent should use their native language with the child. Helps in developing a perfectly bi-lingual kid (though there will be times when the child "refuses" to use one or the other language for a bit). I strongly suspect that several of the presenters on France 24 in English are bi-cultural kids.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Cheers Bev, I'll have a gander.

My wife doesn't speak English so if I start talking to the kid in English I risk leaving her feeling isolated. Now she says she'll learn English with the baby! It's be good if the kid has some other English speaking kids to play with a few years down the line. I live in a small village (pop. 50?) where the average age must be pushing 70, so not many kids here.
 

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Cheers Bev, I'll have a gander.

My wife doesn't speak English so if I start talking to the kid in English I risk leaving her feeling isolated. Now she says she'll learn English with the baby! It's be good if the kid has some other English speaking kids to play with a few years down the line. I live in a small village (pop. 50?) where the average age must be pushing 70, so not many kids here.
If you don't make the effort, you risk having a child who simply refuses to learn the other language. That's not a given, but in my family of 3 children with a French father, I am the only one who speaks French and one brother has always totally refused to utter or understand a single word. I have a French friend who lived in the US for 30 odd years (and may well return) - her eldest was born in France but moved to the US at an early age, the other 2 were born and raised in the US and English is spoken at home - they generally spent their summer holidays in France yet only the youngest has made the effort to speak French.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Congratulations Ricimer on becoming a dad. I hope you and your wife will enjoy every second of this special time.

It's nice to know that apparently French women can also be a little disappointed with the French attitude towards homebirthing. I am starting to feel okay with it btw. I have met a gynaecologist here who was very friendly. (Funny to never see a gynaecologist though until your 3rd pregnancy :)) And the midwife was also really friendly.

It's nice you don't want to exclude your wife but I think you will automatically speak English to your little one once it is born even if you don't plan on it. And Bev is right, it is the advice most commonly given. If you don't speak English with your children, they most likely will never learn to speak English. If you are okay with that, then that's no problem of course. France is filled with people who don't speak English and lead perfectly fine lives.

I knew a family in Switzerland where the father spoke Arab and French with his kids, the mother spoke Hebrew and the "family language" was English. The kids were still quite young and spoke 4 languages. I thought that was really neat.
 

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By hook or by crook the child will learn English! I spend more time at home than the missus (I work from home), plus I'm a linguist so I don't doubt that the child will learn English. But I don't like the idea of 'one language per parent', it seems disingenuous and contrary to the nature of language. Maybe it works. My dog speaks both. The notion of a household lingua franca seems alright. I should talk to my wife in English, but now she's with child and that I'm not sure it's the best time to learn. Energy is at a premium, particularly with this heatwave!
 

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By hook or by crook the child will learn English! I spend more time at home than the missus (I work from home), plus I'm a linguist so I don't doubt that the child will learn English. But I don't like the idea of 'one language per parent', it seems disingenuous and contrary to the nature of language. Maybe it works. My dog speaks both. The notion of a household lingua franca seems alright. I should talk to my wife in English, but now she's with child and that I'm not sure it's the best time to learn. Energy is at a premium, particularly with this heatwave!
I'm inclined to agree, although I have Italian friends in Oz who pretty much do that because the father's Italian is poor (he was raised to speak English), although at least he understands his children. Their 5 children switch easily from one language to another, although I suspect that the parents will want them to get some formal learning experience in Italian, as my girlfriend, although bilingual, discovered on growing up that she really only spoke (in her view) basic everyday Italian and also had no idea of grammar.
 

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Oh, I think any set of "findings" or "rules" can be adapted to the situation. I don't think the idea was one-language-per-parent, but just that each parent should be free to use their own native language with the child.

It would be an interesting way to teach the kid about courtesy when dealing with a multilingual situation in a multilingual world. You know, how it's not really polite to speak a language you know one person doesn't speak or understand in front of them. If you're home most of the time, you'll have plenty of time together to influence the child's language learning. AND he or she will be perfectly bilingual, all in the bargain.

Lucky kid!
Cheers,
Bev
 

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You are perhaps right. When I was pregnant with my 2nd, I went inside the gas station to pay for my gas only to hear that I had not actually filled up my car yet... During pregnancy your brain really is just there to keep your heart going and to recognize the first signs of labor. New information won't stick.
 

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We are a jigsaw family with between us 5 kids born in three different countries. Like you, I am always suspicious of prescriptive rules about how to ensure acquisition of multiple languages. Kids are like sponges, and if there are no issues or tensions around languages they will readily pick up more than one at a time. My youngest (twins) were sat in front of Cartoon Network in Danish for three days (I know, I know - I was unpacking!) and were then able to help me out asking for things in the supermarket. They simply do not understand what is supposed to be so difficult about it!
You will inevitably speak English when on your own with your child (do you know any babyspeak in French? ;0), and French when your wife is there. We speak whatever is being spoken around us, some of us better than others ..... It`s all about communicating - and enjoying life!
 

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Hey Saskia!

Just wanted to chime in with a welcome as well. It's funny because my husband and I have visited The Netherlands several times, and have really fallen in love with it, so we keep talking about possibly moving there once he finishes his time with the French air force. But of course the major impediment is learning Dutch. :)
 

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Hey there! You would find learning Dutch really hard. Not because of any feature of the language itself, but because as soon as any hint of a UK or US accent is heard, the Dutch will speak their excellent English. Depending on what kind of day you are having, this can be such a pleasant relief and seem so friendly, or anything from slightly irritating to really annoying ;0 My daughter speaks Dutch fluently, but started from the age of 10, so natives can tell she`s not one. She has often had the experience of conversations where she sticks to Dutch (after politely saying that she prefers to), whilst the Dutch person she`s talking to speaks English back to her! Very funny to watch ;0
 

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Hey there! You would find learning Dutch really hard. Not because of any feature of the language itself, but because as soon as any hint of a UK or US accent is heard, the Dutch will speak their excellent English. Depending on what kind of day you are having, this can be such a pleasant relief and seem so friendly, or anything from slightly irritating to really annoying ;0 My daughter speaks Dutch fluently, but started from the age of 10, so natives can tell she`s not one. She has often had the experience of conversations where she sticks to Dutch (after politely saying that she prefers to), whilst the Dutch person she`s talking to speaks English back to her! Very funny to watch ;0
Ha! You probably have a point there. I don't think it'd bother me too much. I remember a couple years ago when I was in Paris, people used to do something similar to me - they'd hear my accent and start speaking to me in English, despite the fact that my French was far better than their English. Generally I just continued speaking in French until said realization dawned upon said person, and usually they'd end up asking me how/when I learned French. My accent has seemed to have decreased enough now that people have trouble placing where I am from and as a result I've not had that problem in some time, although I know I still definitely have one. But of course I've spoken French for many years, whereas learning a new language (especially once you're well past your teenage years) is always a challenge. I think the important thing is so thank people but be firm that you're trying to learn.

In any case, that's one of the things that has always impressed me the most in the Netherlands. So many people there seem to speak multiple languages well. I'd love if/when my husband and I have kids, to be immersed in a country/environment where importance is placed on that.
 

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Ha! You probably have a point there. I don't think it'd bother me too much. I remember a couple years ago when I was in Paris, people used to do something similar to me - they'd hear my accent and start speaking to me in English, despite the fact that my French was far better than their English. Generally I just continued speaking in French until said realization dawned upon said person, and usually they'd end up asking me how/when I learned French. My accent has seemed to have decreased enough now that people have trouble placing where I am from and as a result I've not had that problem in some time, although I know I still definitely have one. But of course I've spoken French for many years, whereas learning a new language (especially once you're well past your teenage years) is always a challenge. I think the important thing is so thank people but be firm that you're trying to learn.

In any case, that's one of the things that has always impressed me the most in the Netherlands. So many people there seem to speak multiple languages well. I'd love if/when my husband and I have kids, to be immersed in a country/environment where importance is placed on that.
New languages aren't so hard to learn after your teens if you have multiple languages already and/or find learning another language easier than most. In any case, they say it's good exercise for your brain :)

(I too just continue speaking French and find they pretty quickly realise my French is better than their English. Ha, depending on accent, be it a native accent from an Anglophone country or a foreign accent, I actually find I don't always understand spoken English that readily and need to take at least a few minutes to adjust my ear. Indeed, there was an old English film on TV recently - I understood about half of it :D )
 

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New languages aren't so hard to learn after your teens if you have multiple languages already and/or find learning another language easier than most. In any case, they say it's good exercise for your brain :)

(I too just continue speaking French and find they pretty quickly realise my French is better than their English. Ha, depending on accent, be it a native accent from an Anglophone country or a foreign accent, I actually find I don't always understand spoken English that readily and need to take at least a few minutes to adjust my ear. Indeed, there was an old English film on TV recently - I understood about half of it :D )
Very true! Although I remember in college when I took some Spanish classes, my Spanish teacher from Barcelona cracked up about every time I spoke in Spanish, apparently because it'd been so long (even back then!) that I'd been studying French, that I spoke Spanish with a weird French accent. Unfortunately, after college I never kept up with the Spanish like I did with the French, so now my ability to speak and make myself understood is non-existent, although if people speak reeeeeeeally slowly, I can piece together what they're saying ... usually.

Apparently Amicale Laïque Montoise has Dutch classes, so this fall when classes get started, I think I might sign up, assuming the hours are doable (sometimes the hours for their classes seem to be only for those without a job and/or retired). I figure it'll be a good way to meet new people at the same time!

Having trouble understanding English has definitely happened to me. Or what usually really throws me off is when you've been speaking French, and then someone throws in a few English words, and I hear them as a continuation of French and have absolutely no idea what the person is saying. Or when you've been going back and forth between English and French all day, because of visitors, and by the end of the day you're confused as to which language you need to speak.
 

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Having trouble understanding English has definitely happened to me. Or what usually really throws me off is when you've been speaking French, and then someone throws in a few English words, and I hear them as a continuation of French and have absolutely no idea what the person is saying. Or when you've been going back and forth between English and French all day, because of visitors, and by the end of the day you're confused as to which language you need to speak.
So true! I recently spent time with a cousin in Vitrolles - the neighbours and their family came around and the brother and his partner happen to speak really good English and wanted to practice. I ended up turning round to my cousin and saying something, to which she reply 'but you know I don't speak English!' - I hadn't even realised that I'd spoken to her in English :D :D

Unlike you, I focused on Spanish in my later studies, then lived in Spain for several years and, frankly, just about forgot all of my French. After I moved to Australia I worked for the Spanish Government Commercial Office for a while and the Trade Commissioner could never get over how good my Spanish was, but after that I really never used my languages again and, whilst I can understand and read Spanish without great difficulty, I really can't string a sentence together. I can still understand some German, but not much, and my Italian seems to have completely fallen by the wayside. So it's clearly all a matter of practice.

I think my French is pretty decent now, though not perfect, and I might also look at learning another language (or perhaps refreshing one of my lost languages) this autumn. Just have to check out what's available here and, more importantly, make a decision about which language :D

Good luck with the Dutch. I used to speak a little Dutch as I worked a lot with some Dutch people in my job in Spain, but now can't say more than hello, and how are you.
 
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