Raising a multilingual child (part 2) or why I chose a monolingual daycare (by Dr. Catherine Levasseur)

As a new language-learning-crazy-mom who tries to expose her child to a maximum of languages, I made what would seem a bad decision: I chose a monolingual daycare for my baby. Yes I did. Even worse than that, I chose a monolingual day care in the majority language. Adios! Goodbye! Au revoir! plurilinguisme, le sort en est jeté, direz-vous. Well, I had my reasons and I haven’t lost hope in raising a wonderful multilingual child. Here is why.

In September, I was desperately looking for a suitable daycare for my 7-month-old multilingual-to-be-baby. I speak to her in French, Spanish and English, to which I add some baby sign language. As a single parent, I try to provide her with daily input in all languages, even though I admit French is the main language at home. A full month spent in Mexico in August was great to improve the Spanish input and I had in mind to find a bilingual French/Spanish daycare. The silver lining of not getting any spot in a CPE, is that I had to turn to private daycare anyway, so I had choices.

I found a family daycare service that was perfect in theory: well located, offering outdoor activities daily, having staff with many years of experience AND an assistant who spoke Spanish. I was delighted! As I went to visit, I was sure I had found a perfect solution to my daycare search. It turns out that it was indeed well located. The kids were playing outside daily. The lady had experience. The assistant was Cuban and spoke Spanish with at least three children to whom it was their first language. Perfect, right? No. It wasn’t perfect. I did not like the space, the room, and the playpen where my baby would have spend most of her day. More importantly, I did not like the tone of her voice when the lady was talking to the children. They seemed to have been under a strict military routine. It seemed like she tried to be nicer in front of me.

Then, doubtful, disappointed, I walked towards my second choice of a daycare. It was well located with a nice space but unfortunately, it offered fewer opportunities for bringing the children outside and only French was spoken to them. When I visited though, I realized that I had found MY daycare. The ladies were smooth, nice, gentle. They looked at the children with a caring and loving gaze. Babies could walk around and play freely. Their rhythm seemed to be respected. This is how I realized that language, after all, was not for me the most important criterion for choosing a daycare. My head wanted a multilingual environment. My heart needed a respectful and loving one.

I realized that being a French speaker in a majority context in Québec makes my choice much easier. I don’t fear that my first language will not be transmitted to my daughter. I don’t feel that my identity or for that matter my child’s developing identity is at risk. Spanish, English and all other languages that she will decide to pickup and learn, are bonus. I do hope she develops multilingual skills and gain a taste for languages, but I don’t have a sense of urgency like the one I saw in many people I have met in a minority context. I realized that I am not really trying to pass on my language(s) or my identity(ies). My goal is to expose her to a diversity of languages so she can develop a multilingual repertoire that she will later use, develop and change based on her own life experiences and preferences.

So, my daughter’s daycare is in the French majority language. Bummer. I will need to carry on and even increase my efforts to expose her to languages outside of daycare hours. But at least when I go get her at the end of day, I know she is well and happy. That is my priority.

2 thoughts on “Raising a multilingual child (part 2) or why I chose a monolingual daycare (by Dr. Catherine Levasseur)

  1. As someone who teaches about linguistic diversity and believes in the benefits of multilingualism, I can identify with this struggle. After much debate, I decided not to enroll my son in French immersion (in Ontario) because in the end, language was not the top priority in seeking a good “school experience”. I opted for the school that was two blocks away with a large green space that he could walk to by himself rather than bussing him to French immersion with only an asphalt playground. So we’ll pursue other opportunities for him to learn French and other languages (we also have Spanish at home). But this decision definitely went against the trend among my peers.

    1. Thank you karen for your comment. I am glad you could relate from your own experience. Definitely not an easy decision. Have fun with languages at home with your family!

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