petite anglaise

June 1, 2005

perfectly formed

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 11:46 am

Tadpole opens her mouth, showing her near complete set of milk teeth, and beautiful, effortless, grammatically perfect sentences fall out.

Admittedly these are mostly in French, but so awestruck am I by her new found ability to string together up a dozen words at a time that I forget that I am supposed to be disappointed that French appears to be dominating at the moment.

“Tu vois, il est là bas, dans la chambre, sur le lit, le biberon de dolly,” she says earnestly, her tiny hand seeking out mine, because she wants to us to fetch it together.

“Non, je n’ai pas fait caca dans la couche, je ne l’ai pas fait!” she cries over her shoulder, having wriggled out of my grasp and rapidly distancing herself from the changing mat. I wonder what on earth she has eaten which could be responsible for such an unpleasant, lingering odour, if what she is saying is true.

Barely a week ago, Mr Frog and I both remarked upon the fact that Tadpole’s language skills seemed to have reached a plateau: we hadn’t heard any new words or seen much evidence of her attempting to string those she did already know into phrases for some time. Now, with hindsight, I realise that she was simply biding her time, quietly soaking up every last word, assimilating, processing and digesting until she was ready to take the plunge and dazzle us with her new abilities.

As a non-native speaker of French, who had to endure many a tedious grammar lesson over the years to learn how to manipulate preceding direct objects and indefinite articles, I marvel at Tadpole’s flawless grammar. I’m insanely jealous of the way in which, as a native speaker, she remains blissfully unaware of how these complex phrases break down into their component parts, or why the words behave as they do in different contexts. The individual pieces of the jigsaw – which she has memorised as sensible, meaningful chunks of completed puzzle – slot gracefully into small and perfectly formed sentences. She makes it look so easy.

I’m willing to bet that the day she corrects one of my infamous gender blunders is only just around the corner.

I can’t wait.

Bébé Cats!

Remember way back when I talked about the baby cats? Well two of the litter of five are now ready to go to good homes in or around Paris. They are eight weeks old and litter trained, and you can see a picture here. Drop me a gmail if you want to be put in touch with the owner. Oh, and they are free, of course.


  1. It’s brilliant when they start doing this, isn’t it?

    I’m still constantly amazed by my littl’uns language skills, even though he is now three. It’s hard to relay it to others sometimes though… He shouted “Told you!” at me the other day, which amused me greatly as it’s a brand new weapon in his language arsenal. But I tell others and they just look at me blankly.

    How old is Tadpole?

    Comment by Clare — June 1, 2005 @ 12:38 pm

  2. Tadpole will be 2 years old next week.

    Comment by petite — June 1, 2005 @ 1:00 pm

  3. Merveilleux! :)

    I can’t wait until I’m outdone by passing children on their tricycles as I garner the best French-skills I can, to purchase something or perhaps pose a question.

    Humble pie, indeed.

    Comment by ludivine — June 1, 2005 @ 1:05 pm

  4. cool!
    my son at 9 still raises his eyes when i mistake le for la!!!
    have fun

    Comment by mary — June 1, 2005 @ 1:18 pm

  5. That’s so lovely – and at least you understand her!

    When my now 14 month old starts speaking, I know it will be in french – and mine is terrible – his father and stepbrother will need to translate for me.

    Comment by bronwyn — June 1, 2005 @ 1:36 pm

  6. Is it “un gender blunder” or “une gender blunder”?

    Comment by Ms Jones — June 1, 2005 @ 2:46 pm

  7. You know I love hearing about this stuff as a bilingual. Anyway, you have a fun time ahead of you language-wise.

    Random factoid: approximately at the end-twos to mid-threes, kids develop their grammar so fast that linguists still can’t figure out in exactly what order all this stuff happens.

    Comment by Sierra — June 1, 2005 @ 3:05 pm

  8. Wonderful isn’t it? when I lived in Africa, I had an Italian friend who’s son at 4 years could speak 5 or 6 languages fluently from mixing with all the different nationalities at his play school.

    If I am ever going to master French properly, I think I will need some stem cell therapy to turn the clock back and put my brain into auto assimilation mode!

    Good luck with sorting out your life.


    Comment by Keith — June 1, 2005 @ 4:51 pm

  9. Biberon? Couche? Where’s the translator? Damn it, whatever my half-degree in French prepared me for, it obviously wasn’t motherhood.

    Comment by Hannah — June 1, 2005 @ 7:40 pm

  10. Don’t worry, the time WILL most likely come when Tadpole will correct your genders. My sister and I went through that phase from about 5 to 14. As a result I think our Mum’s French did improve (she got tired of having us complain and the most common mistakes were corrected), which possibly explains why we stopped correcting her.

    So, you can look forward to speaking better French as Tadpole grows up! :)

    Comment by Daniel — June 1, 2005 @ 8:03 pm

  11. hannah – I didn’t learn words like ‘baby’s bottle’ and ‘nappy’ at university either. Let me reassure you on that point. Or epidural either!

    Comment by petite — June 1, 2005 @ 8:18 pm

  12. I remember my amazement the first time I heard a toddler speaking fluent French. It just didn’t seem possible–even in France.

    Comment by Bluegrass Mama — June 1, 2005 @ 9:03 pm

  13. What encouraging news from Daniel!

    While it’s true that Anglophones seem to have more trouble than other speakers when it comes to learning foreign languages, it is also true that everybody else has an awful time learning English. At least you will spare Tadpole that labor.

    Comment by R J Keefe — June 1, 2005 @ 10:43 pm

  14. maybe my nephew is French? His name for his little cousin is BeBe … his name for cousin’s mum is MoniBeBe … nice that he connects them :) …

    Loving the connection thing too, he’s not quite 2 and is putting concepts together ie Didda’s truck is called Didda, a borrowed small white sedan is Ish because it looks like my car etc – too cute! and hilarious! Tadpole must be giving you lots of laughs at the moment :)

    Love the kittens too, makes me miss my giant Abysinnian (lives with his grandparents in the country! – know as Meeow to the above mentioned nephew) … they’re gorgeous :)

    Comment by Miss Lisa — June 2, 2005 @ 1:17 am

  15. Yes, I remember correcting my father’s le/la mistakes. His French definitely did improve over my childhood — though I’m not sure how much credit I should take for it.

    Comment by Steph — June 2, 2005 @ 9:22 am

  16. just to add another comment
    i recently set up ‘canalsat'(french satelite tv)as they have BBC prime and i thought this would be great for my kid’s to hear other English speakers,rather than just me
    So my little India of 3 and a half happily sings along to Balamory and seems to understand most of it,despite the strong scottish accent….so far so good!
    Ben,9,has been watching all sorts of ‘educational’ stuff,so i thought!!!
    He said to my Mum on the phone the other day ‘INNIT’!!
    and something else that obviously wasn’t from me as i haven’t ‘lived my language’for 14 years now!!
    My mother was shocked!!(she’s from surbiton!!) and Ben just told her that he had heard the words from the BBC!
    MY dear mother told him to tell me not to watch Eastenders!!!
    So much for the BBC!!!

    Comment by mary — June 2, 2005 @ 12:34 pm

  17. I always remember picking my kids up from the Garderie in Brussels, maybe about three months after we had moved there, and one of the teachers asking in French of my eldest son, all of six at the time, if he knew where something was, and watching him almost instantly point and say “Oui, il est la” and being dumbstruck by the fact that in that short time he had understood and responded to something in a foreign language that it would have taken me longer to think about and decipher after having gone through five years of learning the language at school. Kids just seem to absorb these things by nature, and somehow we as adults have forgotten how to.

    Comment by Alan — June 2, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

  18. Me (15 years in France): “Tu ne peux pas aller à la piscine aujourd’hui parce que l’eau est trop froid”
    Daughter(Born in France 13 years ago): “Froide, papa!”
    This has been going on since she was 3.
    Your time will come.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — June 2, 2005 @ 2:05 pm

  19. Having learnt French from the age of 7. So, I get corrected occasionally. I do like to speak Frnch, but not too easy when you live in London…

    Comment by Andy — June 2, 2005 @ 8:43 pm

  20. It has already happened for a child to correct my french. It’s weird and at the same time they just do it and don’t act like anything has happened. THey don’t tell you that it’s cute that you make mistakes like that because you are foriegn, etc… so I can accept it. I don’t know how it will feel when Tadpole starts to do this… but I can imagine how jealous you feel about her ease with the French language. I feel the same way being a later bloomer with the French language, too.

    As for the bebe cats, CUTE! I think we may be intrested… we have one cat who’s terribly lonely when we’re at work.

    Comment by Flare — June 2, 2005 @ 9:44 pm

  21. Sigh…I remember when our son was that age. We had such great hopes of him speaking many languages (including French, Spanish & Italian) like his papa.

    Instead, we were pleasantly surprised with an anglo grammar nazi genius who excels at speaking “geek”!

    Look forward to your future, our 17 year-old is constantly korrecting our inglish!

    Comment by Koko Mongeot — June 3, 2005 @ 5:09 am

  22. I lived in France with a 3-year-old who used to go into regular bedtime spasms of obsessive rage because she didn’t like my pronunciation of Blondine in her favourite bedtime story (I think my French accent is pretty good, but the ‘on’ before a consonant is one sound I guess I can’t quite make like a native). Following many tantrums on her side and increasing wounded annoyance on mine, I managed to ‘lose’ the book and she found a new obsession which I could pronounce better.

    Comment by Jean — June 3, 2005 @ 11:14 am

  23. When I put my 18 month old daughter to bed, sometimes instead of singing “Mary had a little lamb”, I change it to “Marie avait un petit agneau” – she finds this hilarious, for some reason.

    Comment by Mancunian lass — June 3, 2005 @ 11:49 am

  24. You might find the research of Anne Cutler very interesting

    and here

    Googling on “Anne Cutler” gives you hours of reading….

    Comment by Rene Smit — June 4, 2005 @ 11:07 am

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