Steps to Teaching Your Second Language to Your Kids (Part 1)

I speak French as a second language, and I’m trying, with variable success, to teach it to my kids. Here’s what I’ve done so far, in a fun, ‘how-to’ format. : )

  • Step 1: When you’re expecting your first child, plan to speak only your second language (French) to them from the beginning, unless someone else who doesn’t speak it is present.
  • Step 2: When your baby is born, immediately scrap that plan because it feels so unnatural and non-intimate to speak to your newborn in anything but your native language.
  • Step 3: After a couple of months, start attending a French program at the library with your baby and singing him lots of French lullabies.
  • Step 4: As your baby approaches age one, start to get anxious about the fact that your plan to teach him French from a young age is off to a terrible start. Decide that if you’re going to do this, it’s time to get serious about it. Make a plan to speak French to your child at specific, regular times once they turn one. Psyche yourself up!
  • Step 5: Follow your plan. (Speak only French to your toddler three mornings per week, the days you’re home from work. Sometimes less, if you’re getting together with friends.)
  • Step 6: Continue to feel like you’re not doing enough, but press forward with the plan. Then, one day, randomly ask your child a simple question in French (“Where is your head?”) and see him immediately indicate the correct answer! Realize that children’s brains are amazing sponges and that even doing a little is making a big difference.
  • Step 7: Your toddler turns two, and more and more discipline becomes necessary. This is difficult to do in your second language, especially when you’re frustrated with the child. Slowly begin to speak less and less French, until you virtually don’t do it at all anymore.
  • Step 8: Get anxious again about the lack of French input you’re providing your child with. Start letting him watch French cartoons (“Didou, Dessine-moi”).
  • Step 9: Extensively research and wrestle with the idea of French immersion preschool for 3-year-olds, as a way to give your child more French exposure. Decide against it because you’ll have a newborn at the same time and you’re not ready to spend the money.
  • Step 10: When your child turns three, start doing “French fun time” with him once or twice a week. Read a French story book, do a French activity book (sticker vocabulary book and alphabet colouring book), watch a short YouTube video, and let him play a French learning game on your phone. Especially now that he’s more aware it’s a different language and he’s quite proficient in English, you want him to think learning French is fun!

This post was becoming way too long, so I decided to split it into two parts. I hope it was especially encouraging for any of you second language teachers who have very young children. Stay tuned for the rest of the steps in my next post! À plus!



On Mother’s Day: A Reflection


I have always wanted to have kids, for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I used to make lists of baby names for when I would have children someday. As I got older and struggled to figure out my goals in life, I always knew as part of my vision that I wanted to be a wife and mother. Once I did get married, we decided to wait for several years before having kids. It was the right decision, but part of me was impatient! I was getting so close to my desire for having a baby being fulfilled.

Then, finally, five years after getting married and figuring out how to do life together, we decided it was time. Everything about that season was so exciting for me. That first time, it didn’t take too long for me to get pregnant, and I remember the surreal feeling of walking into a drugstore to buy a pregnancy test. It seemed so strange that something so simple, that could be bought for a few dollars at a store without anyone batting an eye, would be the item whose results could change our lives forever. And our lives were indeed changed. Full of excitement, we called every member of our immediate families right away to share the news. We simply couldn’t wait!

As more and more people learned the news, the excitement in our community grew, too. This would be the first grandchild on both sides, and the first baby among most of our friends. We found out the gender ahead of time, but drove everyone else crazy by keeping it a secret. We were blessed with a beautiful baby shower thrown by our church a couple of months before the due date, and I loved sorting and folding all those little clothes, imagining our own baby in them. I was thankful to have a fairly uneventful pregnancy, and for the most part was able to fully enjoy the time of anticipation.

Finally, on July 4, 2014, at 10:18 am, Jared Taylor Snook arrived. Labour was definitely my least favourite part of the whole process of having a baby, but nothing can compare to that wonderful feeling of holding him for the very first time. My mom was the first visitor after Jonathan and I had relished the first moments, and throughout the rest of the day we received many more. I remember us both attempting to nap on the hospital bed between a few of the visits, as we were so exhausted from being up all night. But we were so full of joy.

Life would never be the same again. We were tired, we were in awe, we were learning, we were overflowing with thankfulness. We knew right away that we wanted to have another baby, sooner rather than later. As we cherished baby cuddles and each new stage of Jared’s growth, we also began to think more and more about trying for our next child.

However, this time it took much longer than we’d hoped. Besides other contributing factors involved, we were shocked and saddened when we suffered an early miscarriage. After that, the months just seemed to keep piling on. I had hoped for a two-year gap between our children, but it was becoming clear that soon it would be no smaller than three years. Once I made peace with this, I was able to wait more patiently, enjoying my time with an increasingly fun and independent toddler, and no one else to look after.

At long last, we found out I was pregnant again. Though we were excited, this time we also felt much more uncertain, affected as we were by the experience of the miscarriage. As time went on, and the danger of a miscarriage diminished day by day, my heart opened up more and more to the excitement. Still, this pregnancy found me more anxious overall than the first one. Strangely, part of that was connected to the gender, once we found out it was a girl. I had hoped it would be a girl (while trying to convince myself it would be a boy so as not to be disappointed), so I was ecstatic to hear the news. But at the same time, it made me nervous. Since it was a girl, that meant I would be the principal role model for this child, whereas I’d been slightly more off the hook in that area so far. I was filled with doubts. Would I be able to be the kind of woman my daughter could look up to and emulate? The kind of wife? The kind of mother?

In the early hours of August 24, 2017, we were again heading to the hospital. Lillian Marie arrived at almost the exact same time of day as Jared had, at 10:15 am. Again, I was both happy and tired, but this time the tiredness seemed to weigh more heavily. That first night in the hospital was not at all enjoyable, and I was impatient for the pediatrician to make rounds the next morning so we could check out and go home. One of my favourite parts of being in the hospital, though, was watching Jared meet his baby sister. He was so sweet with her, and I loved having the whole family together.

Finally we were discharged, and life changed again. There were lots of baby cuddles, though far fewer than last time, because there was a three-year-old to be attended to as well. Sleep was less easily snatched, and juggling took on a whole new meaning. But as we continued to learn, we continued to be filled with joy.

Indeed, watching both of my children grow and cultivating my relationships with them is one of the greatest joys of my life. Jared, at five, is now so imaginative and creative, not to mention full of boyish energy! And Lilly, two and a half, is really starting to put together complex sentences (and made-up songs!) and develop her own personality now. Every day I feel a mixture of wistfulness for their past, enjoyment of their present, and anticipation of their future. They are the children who made me a mother. I am so thankful to God.