Several years ago I’d heard about a quaint restaurant in a tiny village in the south of France. The woman who ran this small bistro was famous in her little corner of the French world because she was the only American who lived there. Not only that, she was brave enough to start a business there. Her Americanism was the attraction for many visitors; it brought her business in a place where being American was exotic.
We were visiting friends in the south, not far from this restaurant and decided to check out this bold American woman and her bistro, which was reputed to be very good. Upon arrival, we were all enamored by this beautiful village and the facade of the restaurant and charming decor inside. We entered with excitement and the owner greeted us.
I said, “Hello! how are you doing? We’d heard so much about you and your restaurant, we’re very happy to be here.” Her response surprised us, as we expected a natural, fluent (in English) answer, “Euh, wehlll, uh, ‘ow ahr yoooo?”
I assumed she was not the owner, so I asked if the owner was there. She said, “Ayuh ahm zee oh-nair.” Alrighty, then! Long story short: She was born in the U.S. to an American father and French mother, her parents divorced when she was very young and she came to France to live with her mother. In other words, she grew up in France and forgot any English she might have acquired early in life.
This isn’t her fault; she no longer had exposure to English, making it disappear in no time. Had she been educated bilingually, she’d be able to speak the language of her origins (as well as French of course) and she would have been able to have a decent conversation with us in English. As it turned out, she ended up speaking French the whole time to us.
Don’t Make The Same Mistake For Your Children
If she’d been enrolled in a French English bilingual nursery school, one like The Bilingual International School of Paris, she’d have no problem toggling back and forth from French to English, and with no effort at all.
That is a shame but for others out there, let this be a lesson to you and your young children: Get your kids exposed to learning English early in France and if they continue their education (pre-school, kindergarten and primary school), by the time they are five years old, they will be able to speak two languages effortlessly! How fortunate would they be in this case and how much more opportunities will they have in the future? Answer: plenty.