In my last post Children Learning to be Bilingual. I was discussing how our youngest children speak French with a local French accent and speak English with an English accent. English is afterall their mother tongue. However, we were talking at the dinner table one evening about accents and the fact that the French find it difficult to pronounce the sound ‘th’ in English. I asked my son (who was 9 at the time) if his teacher ever got him to speak during their English lessons to help the others know how to pronounce the words properly.
‘No, the teacher tells us what to say.’
‘Well at least when you repeat it they’ll hear how to say it properly.’ I reasoned.
‘No, I say it with the same accent as the teacher.’
I found this quite funny, well really funny actually. Sorry but imagining him talking like René from ‘Allo ‘Allo in class just tickled me. When I stopped laughing I asked ‘Why on earth do you do that?’
‘Because that’s the way they teach us and that’s the way the French speak English.’
Although I did find it funny, there is a more serious side. This simple answer I think highlights a fundamental flaw with teaching practices in many French schools. Children generally are not encouraged to think for themselves or question what they are taught. The teacher’s way is always right (even when it’s clearly not). I’m not sure in this case whether the teacher really did expect him to repeat her parot fashion, or if it was more down to his embarassment of not wanting to be different. Either way, he should be encouraged to share his knowledge rather than hide it for fear of ridicule.
I did of course discuss this with my son and explain that he actually speaks English correctly and he should be proud of it. He assures me that he doesn’t put on a phoney French accent in class now, I hope he doesn’t.
We have come across English teacher’s with our older son who’ve hated the fact they have an English child in the class as they seem to see them as a threat – but that’s another story…..