Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Ah- the myriad joys of sending perfectly bilingual kids to a public school in France. Here's just one of them:

Yesterday evening, I asked the twins how school had gone.

"You had English today, right?"

"Yeah. It was ok, I guess" Alexa aswered with a sigh.

My 'mom radar', though damaged by my recent ill-health, is still operational, so I asked her what the trouble was.

"He told me how to pronounce the word "drawing", she announced, rather disgusted.

The entire sentence was said with a solid, made-in-the-USA accent, except for the word "drawing", which she pronounced with a drawling "a" that made her sound like Queen Elizabeth being poked in the rear with a sharp stick.

And that was the last straw.

I asked her to get out her "carnet de liason" and wrote a note to the school- an urgent request for a meeting with the English teacher.

This incident is just the latest in a series. The teacher INSISTS on correcting my girls' vocabulary and accent, refusing to accept AmE (American English) as a legitimate form of the language.

It isn't just a matter of pronouncing a few vowels differently. While AmE and BrE are mutually intelligible, there are many differences in verb morphology, the use of tenses, vocabulary and a host of other areas.

Even the use of definite articles is a bit different. In BrE, for example, certain institutions take NO definite article.

So, for example, if one of the twins would inform the teacher that "My mom is mad and she's going to put you in the hospital, buddy", the French English teacher would correct her and explain that the right way to say that sentence is " My mum is angry and she is going to put you in hospital, mate".

In short, it seems that I need to go to the school and politely explain that about 250 million or so people live in the USA and speak English just fine, thanks.
Should be fun...


Kelly said...

I've always thought that sounded weird when the Brits didn't use articles before nouns. (THE hospital).

Good luck setting the French straight on using proper grammar. Funny, they think Canadian French is old, but they think Oldie English is the way to speak English.

oreneta said...

OK, we are now officially twins.

I have been having the good fight about English with the school here this year...

They have knicknamed the English teacher the 'Vaca toticolor' The multi-coloured cow....due to her abilities/attitude and her wardrobe choice. My favourite to date has been penalizing eldest for vocabulary use on a test, Eldest used a complete synonym for the "right" word, which they were simply to memorize from the test. You would think that extra points would be gained for knowing not only the original vocab, but a perfect synonym as well. This would, of course, assume that the teacher understood the synonym herself. Seems she didn't know that word.

It was not an unusual word.

Have you had the get-got- gotten argument with them yet?

Good luck, rooting for you.

Or maybe I should say, "Chin up chap"

Beth said...

Thanks for the good wishes. I don't suppose I'll get a meeting until next week, but I'll give a full report afterwards.

I actually haven't had that many conflicts with English teachers so far. I just always made a sure to meet them early in the school year and ONLY speak English to them. Valentine had a bad one when we were in Burkina, but I just went to the school with a grammar book (from the USA, of course) and set him straight.

La Framéricaine said...


I support you wholeheartedly and am very glad that your children have a highly educated, multilingual, American mother to go to their defense in the name of American English. I do so hope that you do only speak American English to the French English teacher at your children's school. I would be willing to bet that not only is your AEnglish better then his BEnglish but that your French is better than his French. No offense.

I hate that "graduated high school" and "was taken hospital" deal, too. Just plain laziness with respect to using prepositions and articles! Ha!

Please do let us know exactly how the meeting goes because I know that there are other men and women out there fighting the same battle due to extreme narrow-mindedness, insecurity, and provincialism on the part of English instructors in France!

Go get 'em, girl!

Heidi said...

Ugh - I got into a debate with someone about using BrE on an American uni paper (ha, get that - American uni, how British of me?!). Anywho, my point was that I, for one, couldn't care less which version someone uses so long as they're consistent with spellings.

My life is too short to be so forbidding about language choices. It actually reminds me of our Paris pre-session before my junior year abroad in Geneva, when my (native-speaking) Quebecois friend was corrected on her French pronunciation constantly by the (Parisian) oral professor.

When we got to Geneva, thankfully the oral/pronunciation prof had lived abroad, loved hearing different accents in French, and told her to enjoy her Quebecois twang (and, bizarrely, picked up that I'd lived in another country because apparently the Dioula that I've now forgotten affects my French pronunciation subtly, but enough that people can't immediately peg me for an American. Go figure).

Long comment. Short point: tell said teacher to stuff it up her arse ;)

Cara said...

Wow! Guess I'm in for some of the same soon enough... my little one is still in daycare for the moment.
However, I taught English at the university in Annecy last year and the other English teacher (who is French) told me my English was not correct!!! and that I shouldn't teach filthy American English...
Needless to say, we're not working together anymore.

Joy said...

Hi again! I've been dwelling on not really this story, exactly, but more the response of some teachers to something that is out of their control and their previous scope of experience. Back home, we are waging a long term, somewhat underground, battle to change the perception of many of the teachers in our community (and some of the administration) toward French Immersion. It continually astonishes me, but yet it doesn't, how our some of our educators can become so narrow minded in their scope and practice so as to actively exclude and deride other experiences/pronunciations/etc.

So, I laugh at the stories, because if I didn't, I would run out of stainless steel pots and pans to bang around, and I really need them for cooking, and crying gives me a headache, and shouting obscenities with toddlers and small children around is never a wise move. ;D

Have fun devilling the English teacher with your perfect American English. Perhaps you could throw in some Canadian English, eh?, and really confound him/her... ;p

Beth said...

Cara- That's dreadful! I guess the administration didn't agree,though, as they kept you on. Also- get ready for possible trouble whne your little one begins maternelle. You might get teachers telling you to stop speaking to in Englsih, and other crazy stuff. But maybe you'll be lucky and only run into sensible folks...

Beth said...

JOY- ITA on that. It's amazing how threatened some teachers are by change. You'd think they'd be the most open-minded people around, but that's often far from the rule.
I'd love to throw some Canuck-isms at the teacher, just to confuse him, but I don't know very many. I guess I could call him a "hoser", but I'm not sure that would get us off to a good start...

Maryon said...

Now I know that you are feeling better.....!
We now live in a Global village and so what if we speak languages differently so long as we are communicating!
My brother in law lives in Paris and has done for 40 years - they still tell him that he speaks French with an accent and my perfectly bilingual son in law speaks French with an distinctly Midlands accent - his french friends find it amusing but are secretly proud that he speaks French so well.
Live and let live, I say.
Glad you are feeling better and enjoyed the scenic tour.

Heidi said...

I dunno - if the teacher insists on British English, I say British English the hell out of him. Want my husband to write you up a few venomous, entirely correct British phrases? ;)

Reb said...

this makes me mad and scared....