Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Suzanne's book on Bilingual Siblings

My second book on Bilingual Siblings is being published this week, after almost three years of research, writing, re-writing and proof-reading it’s finally available for pre-orders via Multilingual Matters, otherwise it will shortly be available to buy via
Language Use in Families
Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert
Taking a different perspective to traditional case studies on one bilingual child, this book discusses the whole family and the realities of life with two or more children and languages. What do we know about the language patterns of children in a growing and evolving bilingual family? Which languages do the siblings prefer to speak to each other? Do the factors of birth order, personality or family size affect language use? This book unveils the reality behind life with bilingual siblings.

Chapter 1 – What do we know about Bilingual Families?
Chapter 2 – The Growing and Evolving Family
Chapter 3 – The Sibling Relationship
Chapter 4 – Age Difference, Family Size & Language Orders
Chapter 5 – Gender & Language
Chapter 6 – Birth Order: A Child’s Position in the Family
Chapter 7 – Individual Differences: Same Languages, Different Language Histories
Chapter 8 – Bilingualism and Twins, Adoption, Single parents & Step-families
Chapter 9 – Five Themes on Family Language Use
Paperback ISBN No: 9781847693266 C. £18.95 / US$29.95 / CAN$29.95 / €24.95

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas update on the Hauwaert family

This has been a year of change for all of us, we moved down the road from our old summer house (with the blue shutters) to the Logis Vert (green shutters, of course!). The work to restore, stabilize and renovate the ruined house took about two and half years. We had three teams of workers and friends helping us out. One project was digging up the old stone floor and installing underfloor heating and then re-tiling with handmade terracotta tiles. Another was scraping off the old plaster and covering walls with three layers of natural hemp insulation and tradtional whitewash. Likewise, we redid the roof and added in windows at the back, where there were none. As the heavy work ended I was busy this year tinting windows to a traditional dark colour inside, painting the windows green outside, varnishing wood staircases and floors and ceilings and choosing paint and curtains. For anyone who has restored a house you’ll understand the high levels of stress the whole process creates, even when everything is on track! For anyone thinking about it, beware!! It takes over your life…and you talk about nothing but taps, screws, tiles or double glazing, even to total strangers!!!

View of the Logis

Jacques 40th birthday party at Logis Vert
We officially moved in on Jacques’ 40th birthday in August and celebrated with all the French family and my sister and her family, who were here on holiday. We cooked Mexican for 22 and all wore green for the occasion!! We bought Jacques a metal-detector because he was looking for treasure all the way through the work; nothing found so far….but you never know!!
Marc has grown a lot, way over my head now, and his voice has broken already. He’ll be 14 in January. He’s working hard at school in certain subjects, like maths. Homework is more challenging, hard to get him off Facebook or YouTube and he tends to start working at 9pm! He helps Jacques a lot with heavy DIY work and has learnt to make walls and dig holes! Nina started secondary school in September, she’s also growing fast and has same shoe size as me now. She loves school, works hard and is class rep. She’s still doing horse-riding on weekends and chilling out with her girly friends. Gabriel is also growing older, although he is still very cute and the baby of the family. He has a great male teacher this year, who is pushing him to read more. He loves football and plays twice a week. Sadly, he just discovered Santa doesn’t exist…so this year will be less make-believe, but he is enjoying being ‘grown-up’ and allowed to stay up till midnight on xmas eve!!
As for us, Jacques is still working for the same American company, he works from home two or three days a week now, good when he was overseeing the Logis project. My second book, on Bilingual Siblings, is published this month. I have several minor projects; teaching, writing, voluntary work, but nothing major, so next year I’m hoping to find a full-time job teaching English or possibly another book.

Here is the link for my book, via the publishers, Multilingual Matters (who give 20% discount)

Wherever you are in the world, have a wonderful christmas and good luck for 2011!!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Sloppy speech

Ask anyone in an OPOL family if they only speak their own language to their kids and they’ll assure you ‘Yes, absolutely and the kids only reply in one language too!’, but add in a quiet observer and you’ll find it’s a different story. When we have guests visiting, who are not bilingual in French and English, their confused faces reveal how much we mix languages, often unconsciously. We all have a tendency to ‘drop’ in the odd word from the other language as and when it suits us, or we have a word that is easier to say! My sister and her family came to stay from England recently and proved this point in the following dialogues (taken from video footage):
Me: ‘Hurry up and get your bombe for horse riding, Nina!’ (Cousin looks horrified that we are taking along a bomb with us to horse riding session, bombe being French for horse-riding hat)
Gabriel: ‘I want a glace!’ (Aunt passes him a glass of water, which he refuses with angry face because he wanted an ice-cream, which is a glace in French)
Me: ‘So, Marc is going to collège in September…’ (Aunt who looks confused because for her college is at age 16 and Marc is only 13, but in France secondary school is called collège)
Nina: ‘We get the car here and the chauffeur takes us to school every day.’ (Uncle wonders how we have a personal chauffeur when he thought the kids took school bus, turns out that the school bus in French is a car.)

Your recipe or mine?

It was the smell of chips with salt and vinegar that did it. A van parked in the car park of our small French town was selling the traditional British meal of fish and chips to tourists and curious locals. I was transported back to Friday nights at my parents or my grandparent’s houses, going to the chip shop to buy greasy chips wrapped in newspaper, battered orange fish and a pot of mushy fluorescent green peas. Without thinking we ordered our dinner. Forget the healthy tuna salad I’d planned. Back home the kids wolfed the fish and chips down and told stories about how they always get free chips while waiting in the queue with Grandpa in Nottingham and remembered the tasty fish and chips that we ate on holiday in the Isle of Skye last year.
Living in France I love the local food and we generally eat French food, but there are days, like the fish and chip day, when a wave of homesickness for English food takes over and I’ll fry a big English Sunday morning breakfast, bake scones or make crumbles with custard. The kids are curious and go along with it, even if they do sometimes make comments together on how could Mummy possibly like strange things like Branston pickle, baked beans or Marmite. The kids are now old enough to cook and love to get messy in the kitchen. While I bake scones with Nina we chat about how my grandmother would make wonderful afternoon teas. I think how much language and cooking are linked, and the importance and passing on a heritage through food and cooking for others.
However, it’s not so simple in the OPOL family. I have my memories of food and cooking with my English mother and grandmother and Jacques has his memories of home cooking in his French kitchen. But what happens when we both try to pass on our traditions with the same food item? Take potatoes, for example, a staple of both our childhood dinners. For Jacques it is purée, a smooth blend of potatoes with generous doses of cream, egg yolk and grated nutmeg stirred in, while for me it is mashed which is more lumpy and made with less butter and milk. Both are good in their own way. Or apple pie, for me, chunks of stewed apple enclosed in buttery pastry top and bottom, for him, fine slices of apple arranged in a circle on just one thin layer of sweet pastry. Which one do the kids prefer? It’s hard for them to choose without upsetting one parent.
Compromises have to be made too, or we mix the two cultures. As we prepare for a big family dinner or birthday meal there is a natural tendency to mix culinary tastes, like, a French salad to start, with goats cheese, then steak, cooked rare, with roasted parsnips and English gravy, followed by a plate of French cheese and then an apple and blackberry crumble with custard for dessert. Does the OPOL family become a new mélange of food heritage by default? Are we creating a new type of fusion food? As I clear the empty plates away, I wonder what food memories our children have when they are older and what kind of food they will cook in their own kitchens…

Friday, May 21, 2010

All about....Growing up with two languages and cultures - Monday 7th June in Civrary

The time has certainly flown this year and we are already at the final seminar in our popular "All About...." series for 2009/2010! We've covered the basics of the education system from Maternelle through to Collège as well as an introduction to bilingualism.

For our final seminar, we're looking at the implications for children growing up in a second (or even third) culture and language, particularly where this is away from the parental cultural background. We'll be focussing on culture in schools and at home - how to balance the needs of both, especially as children grow and are exposed to increasing peer pressure. If you've ever wondered how your children would adapt to life outside France, whether to watch French or English television or how to introduce your own culture into the lives of your children, then this is the seminar for you.

We'll also be having a general Q&A on all aspects of bilingualism and multiculturalism so please send in any questions you have before the day.

You can send questions via this blog, email me at or via the Accents facebook page.

And of course, this will all be rounded off with the opportunity to have a light lunch at the Café and chat with the other parents. Hopefully the sun will be shining and we can make the most of living in France!

Look forward to seeing you all there!


Friday, May 07, 2010

10 Little Words

Did you know you can measure the average number of words a child uses to compare their levels of language knowledge and usage? The calculation of number of words spoken over a period of time gives the mean length utterance (MLU). For my Masters course I had to calculate the MLU of a young child. Conveniently my own son, Marc, was then aged two and a half and I diligently noted and counted his words for a week.The results showed that our English conversation was heavily overloaded with ten words. Marc said No! Yes! Why? and I want! frequently, and I replied with Stop! Don't touch that! and Because.

Looking at the results I couldn't imagine how on earth this child would become bilingual with such a limited vocabulary. When I told my mum she laughed and said it was him being in the Terrible Two's phase and that things would improve. Over time, Marc did become a great conversation partner. By the time he was four I couldn't possibly count his daily word-count.

Now Marc is an official teenager, and we seem to have returned to the 10-word-count days again, which is not enough to support his English. Our daily after-school conversation goes on the lines of:
'How was school?'I ask,
'Any homework?'
'No.' (not true). Marc says, 'Can I go on the computer?'
I say 'No!' and he asks 'Why?'
An argument breaks out between him and his siblings and I shout 'Stop!' It's déjà-vu, but with a child who is now 160cm tall....

I heard on the radio that the best place to talk to teenagers is in the car. It's true if they are alone with a parent (if Nina or Gabriel are there he'll hook up to his Nintendo and ignore everyone). Car journeys are the place where we talk in long sentences. The twenty-minute trip to drop him off at tennis, or at school when he has a late start, are the rare times when he is chatty, interesting and thoughtful. Can the car be a useful tool for maintaining bilingualism? I think so, and it's worth trying at least until your child gets his own drivers licence...

Do-It-Yourself or Translate-It-Yourself

Most bulky items are sold in neat flat-packs to be magically assembled at home; climbing frames, bookshelves and even a whole kitchen from Ikea. To successfully put it together one needs to be able to read the instructions, tricky in your second language if you are living in another country. Lacking knowledge of French DIY terms I made a simple metal towel rail back to front, and mixed up all the screws until the boys came to help out and put it together in five minutes. 'How could you misunderstand it? they ask. But there's no time for translation when you are rushing to get the new product finished. Who learnt the conjugations of twist, screw or hammer at school?

There's often a part or tool missing and a trip to the DIY store is unavoidable. Not knowing the right word I feel stupid making a noise like a chain-saw or miming rope for a swing while staff gaze on wondering what I might want. The vocabulary is a black hole of jargon, because if you manage to get a staff member to understand the product you want, they'll ask you ten questions about the material, size, model or price range, until you walk out with anything just to escape.

Some electrical items from major brands come with a handy 200 page multilingual book of instructions. No matter what the linguistic mix in the family each person has their section. The older kids love this instant world language course and flip through the pages saying, 'Look how Hungarians say Plug it in!' or 'That's Chinese for Recharge the Battery'.

I hope that the translators did a good job from the original version, and didn't just cut and paste it the text into one of those free translating websites to save time. Although multilingual instructions are a lifesaver for the OPOL family, there is just one technical problem, flicking from the French version to the English pages to check the translation wastes time. While I'm painstakingly learning new words, 'A screwdriver is a tournevis...', my husband is left holding up one end of a cupboard with his shoulder and is not amused. So we revert to a more simpler communication 'Pass that red thing over there!'

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Big Bad Words - Older Children

What happens when you move to a country where another language is used and your children are enrolled in a local primary of secondary school? Chances are high they'll pick up a few swearwords as they become bilingual. It's part of fitting in and sounding 'right'. But do you actually know any French swearwords? How do you know if the neighbour's child is just being silly or really insulting you? Which words should you ban your children using?

My lack of knowledge was highlighted when my sister gave my youngest child a set of washable pens to doodle on the bathroom tiles while in the bath. My two older children and their two French cousins 'borrowed' the pens and wrote French swearwords on the bathroom wall. I was furious because I was unable to deceipher the messages. The cousins sniggered that their English aunt was so naïve, and my children saw a chance to misbehave and say rude things to each other or me without being caught. Their punisment was to give me a basic grounding in gros mots, (or Ten Things Not To Say In Front Of Your Parents Or Teachers). Here are the results. They are listed in order of seriousness and vulgarity.

Dégage! – Get out of my way!/Get lost! (often used between kids)
Ferme ta geule! – Shut up!/Shut your gob! (rude)
Chiant – a pain/annoying/boring (mildly insulting)
Emmerdeur - nuisance/annoying (mildly insulting)
Imbécile/Cretin/Idiot – idiot (can be insulting)
Con/conard – stupid (offensive)
Salope/pétasse/pouffiasse – bitch (offensive)
Pute/Putain - slut/tart (offensive)
Merde! - s**t (offensive)
Je m’en fous! – I d'ont give a f**k! (offensive)

There are also some words which have become a 'lighter' alternative to an offensive word, like the way we say 'sugar' or 'shoot', in place of a stronger curse.

Punaise! – literally a 'drawing pin' or 'bedbug' (to replace putain)
Puree! - literally 'mashed potatoe' (to replace putain)
Mince! – literally 'slim' (to replace merde)
Je m’en fiche! I don’t give a damm! (cheeky)

For parents of children growing up in France I would recommend listening carefully to your children, particulary when they are talking to their friends. If you are not sure about new words ask your child's teacher, or a French friend to tell you which words are unacceptable for your children.

See also:

Titeuf - a cartoon character based on young adolescent who knows several gros mots (see comic books/dvds, available in all good bookshops)
Useful dictionary website, which gives translations of colloquial French/English words and has an excellent forum for questions on language or swearing in context.

Big Bad Words - Little Children

Young children love French 'naughty words' or gros mots...For bilingual English/French families living in France the most commonly heard are body words:

pipi (pee or wee-wee)
caca (poo)
zizi (willy)
fesse (bottom)
prout-prout (literally the sound of farting)
crotte de nez (snot)
crotte de chien (dog-poo).
caca-boudin (poo-black-pudding-sausage),
Beurk! means ‘yucky’, or a nasty smell or taste
Conjugating verbs like ‘to fart’ (péter) and ‘to burp’ (roter) are popular!
To insult each other young kids can say grosse vache or gros cochon (fat cow/pig).
pouet-pouet camembert is a silly phrase that young children say, something like 'na-na-ni-na-na' in English.

Words which your child should be careful of using in front of sensitive adults, neighbours and teachers are Dégage! (Get out of my way!), and Ferme ta geule! (Shut up!) Some words should be avoided, for example, cul (stronger word for bottom/arse), which can be considered vulgar, and con (stupid/idiot) is insulting.

If you are not sure about rude words your child is using do ask your child’s teacher or a French friend whether they think their vocabulary is suitable. Parents do need to be clear about the difference between ‘naughty’ words used between friends or in the playground, and words which should not be used in front of the teacher or adults

*See The Connexion newspaper (May 2010) for full version of swearwords for young children and Questions from parents about swearing.

See also: les-gros mots des- tout-petits (Titou le Lapinou)
A silly song about gros mots for little children.
Useful dictionary website, which gives translations of colloquial French/English words with a forum for questions on language or gros mots.

Caca boudin’ by Stephanie Blake (5 €,
A story in French for young children about a rabbit who likes the word caca-boudin…

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bringing Up Bilingual Children Talk (BEE Association) - 24 March 2010

I am presenting an informal talk on Family Bilingualism, organised by Victoria Turvey-Sauron from the BEE association, based in the Dordogne.

Date: Wednesday 24th March 2010

Venue: BEE Association, Roumagne, Lot-et-Garonne (47)

Cost: 3 euros BEE members/5 euros Non-members

Meeting Format: A presentation on bilingualism for one hour, followed by small group discussions on your experiences of bilingualism in France. The talk ends with your feeback from the discussions and time for questions.

If you have any questions on Family Bilingualism and schooling in France that you would like me discuss in the talk please email me( the talk. Please give me brief details of your family (how many children, their ages, languages spoken etc.)

I will also bring some books on bilingualism for you to browse and copies of my book Language Strategies for Bilingual Families will be available to purchase (12euros).

For more information go to the direct link on the BEE website:

BEE website:

or via BEE on Facebook:


Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

March 2 - Talk on Young Children & Bilingualism

Tuesday 2nd March - Accents Association Bilingual Talk
Speaker: Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert
Civray Grande Galerie, 10-12am
3 euros Accents members/5 euros non-members

This talk and discussion will focus on young children (from age 2 to 6 years) and the issues of early years schooling and bilingualism for English-speaking families in France. Parents are welcome with children in maternelle or those preparing for it. Proposed areas for discussion are:

Explanation of the French maternelle school program
Communicating with teachers & the cahier de communication
Parent-teacher meetings and grading of children
Language use in the classroom and playground
Gros mots or naughty words
French accents and sounding 'right'
Library books
Maintaining English at home

If you have any questions you would like me to answer please email me with brief history of your family (age of child, schooling etc.):

You can also post ideas for the talk on the Accents Facebook page.;

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Feb 1st - Talk on Older Children and Bilingualism (English/French)

This talk and discussion will focus on older children (age 11+) and the issues of secondary schooling and bilingualism. Parents are welcome with children in secondary school or those preparing for it. Proposed areas for discussion are:

Explanation of the French secondary school program
Public versus private schooling?
Transition from primaire to collège
Being independent of parents
Parent's evenings and communicating with teachers
Increased need of specific vocabulary
Maths, History, Geography, Science: learning subjects in a 2nd language
'English is boring'
French is hard
A foreign language: German, Spanish, Latin

If you have any questions you would like me to answer please email me with brief history of your family (age of child, schooling etc.):

You can also post ideas for the talk on the Accents Facebook page.;

Or leave a comment on my blog:

Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Best wishes for the New Year!

The Accents Association will be hosting a series of monthly talks this year, in an informal setting parents and educators can discuss issues relating to French/English bilingual children and their families. Specific subjects that were requested in the talk in December are:

- Teenagers and maintaining bilingualism.
- Primary school and bilingualism.
- Pre-school and the first steps towards bilingualism.

The first meeting of 2010 is planned for MONDAY 1st February in the Chef-Boutonne area.

For more information contact Kathryn:
Tel: 05 49 97 10 17