petite anglaise

August 11, 2005

Tadpole the explorer

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 2:50 pm

Two weeks with the French ex-in-laws sufficed. Tadpole has gone all French on me again. French and a little more square eyed than I would like.

“On va regarder Dora [the explorer], oui, d’accord?” she says earnestly, nodding her milky little chin for extra emphasis and widening her eyes. My daughter, the hypnotist.

“Mmmm I’m not sure. Why don’t you draw mummy some pictures of Noddy instead?” I reply, endeavouring to be a good mother who doesn’t allow herself to resort to CBeebies and the other delights on offer on Lover’s Sky TV until the going gets really tough.

“Si! On va regarder Dora, quand même!” Tadpole counters, seemingly very sure of herself. Her intonation is not indicative of a question. I wonder how used to getting her own way she has grown of late.

I capitulate, eventually, and enjoy Tadpole’s look of utter disbelief when Dora opens her cartoon mouth and (American) English words trip off her tongue, along with a smattering of Spanish phrases. Because the Dora whom Tadpole has grown to love speaks French, with a few token English words thrown in.

All manner of phrases with which she wow us with this week appear to have Dora-related explanations. “Tico l’ecureuil” turns out to be a character from the same. It is somewhat galling to see that my daughter can already pronounce the notoriously difficult French word for squirrel far better than I can.

At mealtimes, Tadpole repeats a previously unheard phrase over and over again. “It’s delicious!”, she exclaims. Even when it isn’t. Mr Frog confirms my suspicions, rather bashfully: this is indeed yet another Dora phrase. He then goes on to list all the activities Tadpole took part in over the past fortnight, in a feeble attempt to convince me that she didn’t just watch videos all day long.

I notice that whereas the French Dora has a pet monkey called “Babouche”, in the American version, the very same monkey is called “Boots”. How very confusing.

However, in true toddler style, Tadpole decides only to hear what she wants to hear, successfully filtering everything else out. Rather like when I mention key words like “bedtime” and “nappy”, which are generally greeted with temporary deafness and a vacant stare.

So, when I try, helpfully, to explain why the monkey has two names, she looks at me scornfully, flatly refusing to believe a single word, despite the fact that she has just watched an entire episode.

“Non. Il s’appelle Babouche, le monkey, mummy, pas Boots. Quand même!”

That’s me told.


  1. what *is* it about Dora they all LOVE SO MUCH.

    i don’t get it. in any language….

    Comment by trine — August 11, 2005 @ 2:59 pm

  2. I know nothing of Dora, but you can never convince children of anything once they have made their mind up about a TV show. It is one of those things where they will become convinced they are right no matter what!

    Comment by Alan — August 11, 2005 @ 4:45 pm

  3. I suppose your efforts for a truly bilingual tadpole will be more simple considering the current living situation. As far as her being ‘convinced’ of what she wants to believe, this is surely only the beginning.

    Aren’t we ALL like that?

    Comment by Sammy — August 11, 2005 @ 4:52 pm

  4. My cousin adores Dora the Explorer. He goes around muttering little Spanish phrases constantly. He has even informed his mother he plans to marry Dora when he grows up—she’s his “girlfriend.” It’s hysterical.

    Glad to see Tadpole is back—but I assume this means the Lover has gone?

    Comment by theinsider — August 11, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

  5. When I went to New York recently there was Dora stuff on every street corner. My neice can count to five in Spanish, not English though!!

    Comment by Anne — August 11, 2005 @ 5:53 pm

  6. My little one (almost 3) talks about Dora and Boots, le singe, in French but insists on watching them in English. If the DVD of this or anything else is set to the “wrong” language, there’s toddler tantrum hell to pay. Similarly, she used to say things like “c’est pas la lune, maman, c’est la moon,” I guess according to the language of the context in which she became familiar with an object or concept. Though she’s always had an intuitive sense that mummy speaks one language and papa another, it’s only the last couple months that she’s started formally assigning words as “in English” or “en francais.”

    Comment by Isabella — August 11, 2005 @ 6:44 pm

  7. It’s interesting to hear that squirrel is a difficult word en francais as well – Jeremy Clarkson (whose show I don’t watch, honest, well, maybe just for the cute short one) says the word “squirrel” is all but impossible for Teutonic tongues to master. Hey… maybe God only invented squirrels as a way of weeding out spies…?!

    Comment by Hannah — August 11, 2005 @ 7:29 pm

  8. I love it when you write in Tadpole-speak–it sounds kind of like my French these days.

    Comment by Bluegrass Mama — August 11, 2005 @ 10:59 pm

  9. Ecureuil- now that is one hell of a tricky one. I have been sitting here trying out various pronunciations to myself but none sound convincing. One would almost suspect the Academie Francaise had simply dreamt up this tongue-twister in order to get us back for the blatant refusal of ‘tough’, ‘dough’ and ‘plough’ to rhyme with each other.

    (note to Petite’s French readership- I’m just kidding).

    Comment by jonathan — August 11, 2005 @ 11:39 pm

  10. I don’t think I ever learnt ecureuil, I thought fauteuil (or is it fauteuille) was tricky enough.

    Doesn’t being ex-in-laws make them the French outlaws?

    Comment by the_editter — August 12, 2005 @ 12:31 am

  11. I loved the “le monkey” comment. My Franco-Australian son watches Dora in French (we live in Sydney). He’s almost 3 and sounds just the same as Tadpole (same wide-eyed nod to make sure they get his own way). However, I did order the DVD from though as Tv is th eonly one who will speak French to him at home apart from me.

    I found that my son spent an awful lot of time watching cable during our recent 3 months spent in Paris. Much, much more than in Sydney where he jas a garden to play in and where the sun shines endlessly. Glad we came back to Sydney.

    Comment by Boris — August 12, 2005 @ 1:26 am

  12. This post is simply too cute for words :)

    The correct pronunciation of “ecureuil” had been shoved down our throats in high school; I hope I’m getting it right now, I’d hate to have all that effort go to waste…

    Comment by Alex — August 12, 2005 @ 9:16 am

  13. Dora has been one of the phenomena’s I’ve learnt to live with. I told myself ‘at least it’s educational’. Like Anne’s niece my children could count to five in Spanish but not in Dutch (their second language).

    The good news? It triggered their interest in learning another language. They are 100% bi-lingual (English/Dutch) and have some conversation skills in Spanish. So, embrace it. Before you know it she will be watching real trash concealed as children television.

    Comment by Laura — August 12, 2005 @ 10:23 am

  14. A former teacher of mine (a fluent Irish and English speaker who had a Spanish husband and who reared their children in France) once regailed me of the fun they encountered when their girls hadn’t quite made the distinction between all the different languages bouncing around.

    In their attempts to teach them English, Irish, Spanish and French more or less concomitantly, they ended up with children who would start sentences in Irish, end in English, borrow several nouns from Spanish in a more or less French syntax (or as syntactical as any child can get).

    Apparently they are now polyglots, but were not averse to convieniently misundertanding their mother’s stern instructions every so often.

    Comment by Dr Jim — August 12, 2005 @ 1:13 pm

  15. You’ve brought back repressed memories of my GCSE French speaking exam, ‘A day at the park’ I thought I’d impress with the phrase ‘I saw a squirrel’ but at the last minute I chickened out and it was changed to the significantly less impressive ‘un lapin’. It made the sentence seem somewhat innocuous. I got a C.

    His name is Babouche. Why would you lie about something like that?

    Comment by Mr. Andrew — August 13, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

  16. Tadpole is so cute !!!!

    Comment by Negrito — August 14, 2005 @ 6:56 pm

  17. When I was about 10 years old my best friend was the son of an english man that lived in Antibes.Valentin Mostin spoke perfect french and we roamed and prowled around the Cap d’ Antibes for three whole years.He left one day to England and a year later I went to New Orleans to live with my daddy.
    I wrote once to him,he seemed not to remember me too well, his answering was flat and remote and his french
    outlook on life was gone(maybe it’s better).
    Your little girl might go to England to study one day
    and Babouche will no longer exists for her.Cheers.

    Comment by GPV — August 15, 2005 @ 1:01 am

  18. The Dutch for squirrel is pronounced ‘acorn’. What to make of that?

    Comment by reachy — August 15, 2005 @ 3:03 pm

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