When Mother and Daughter Speak Each Other’s Native Language

My daughter had her first French class today while I recorded a story for Valley Public Radio. In English of course.
Since my husband and I only speak French at home, my daughter’s knowledge of the language is good. At least her oral skills are. That’s why she is taking a class opened to high school students who already took French for at least two years.
When I picked her up at school, she told me that she had a headache. Since temperatures had been soaring above the 100s, I thought it could explain.
“No,” she said. “I found hard to switch from English to French and vice versa.”
“But,” I said. “Isn’t it what we do at home?”
“It’s different,” she argued. “At home I mix and match. I had never thought of it before but I speak a weird language that only you can understand.”
True but no big deal since I suspect it’s happening in many American kitchens.
“Did you also have headaches when you moved from France and had to speak only in English?” she asked.
“Oh, yes! My jaw and my mouth actually hurt. Even my tongue with the “th” sound.”
I still remember these first months when so many words were new, when following a conversation was impossible and when interacting with people was a challenge.
“I had a headache,” my daughter said, “because I had to identify the different tenses for the verbs and correct my spelling. My accent was fine.”
My daughter’s French knowledge is phonetic and it gives place to candid misspelled words but she has a terrific advantage since she has heard French since the day she was born. Not enough to speak like a native but plenty enough to follow conversations and watch movies.
On the other hand, my spelling and grammar were decent when I moved to the US but my oral skills were poor. Of course I’ve improved a lot over the years.
Yet as I recorded my story for the annual Valley Writers Read program, I stumbled a few times. The co-producer picked my errors as I read and asked me to read again until the word was correctly pronounced. At least until I had tried my best.
I really like recording studios because I don’t have to start from the beginning when I make a mistake. I only need to read the word I missed and the co-producer copy/paste it. The mistake is erased.
I wish it could be that easy when I speak with people! I bet my daughter will find her spelling checker very useful over the next months.

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