This short but sweet story illustrates perfectly the extent to which we empower our kids when we make the bold decision to raise them bilingually.
My eldest son Sacha always told me he wanted to spend a term in a French school. So in Year 8 that is exactly what he did. As a family we worked closely with his teachers to ensure nothing interrupted his GCSEs, and that the experience would enhance him culturally and academically.
But being bilingual he had also decided he was to take his French GCSE early which coincided with the trip, so he had to come back for a couple of days to sit his exams. Whilst I was able to go and fetch him, complicated logistics meant he had to fly back to France on his own.
So like any worried Mum I called BA who said as long as he is a confident flyer all was well. Sorted!
My mother wasn’t so sure! She started to panic, worried about her grandson being in two big international airports in the same day, on his own, at the age of 12!
I tried reassuring her that he was a confident boy, that this was good for his experience but to no avail! Until Sacha piped up! He sweetly and calmly put his arm around his Grandmother (he is taller than her!) and said:
“Mamie (that is Grandma in French!) you mustn’t worry. You see, Maman will drop me off at Heathrow and I know what to do – I’ve flown with my family several times. But even if I do get lost, if I’m hungry, thirsty, or if I need to loo, I’ll just ask for help. People speak English at Heathrow and so do I!
Then I’ll land in France. Where if anything happens, I will go find a member of staff and ask for help, They all speak French and… so do I!
You only worry because you imagine yourself not being able to get about because of the language barriers. I don’t have that problem, Mamie! Getting about in English and French speaking countries is actually quite okay for me.”
Raising children bilingually isn’t a walk in the park. It requires time and dedication even in a bilingual family. But at that moment, it was all worth it. He was just 12 years old, and I was bursting with pride!!!
PS: That’s them, on the photo, on holiday together – ‘Mamie’ is relieved!
by Nathalie Danon
Nathalie is the award winning linguist & entrepreneur behind the VICI Language Academy and VICI Language Dynamics. Her success in helping people discover and learn new languages has earned her the moniker ‘the Jamie Oliver of Languages’