My youngest daughter has had difficulty with speech. When she was born she had a lot of medical needs and couldn’t even drink milk regularly. As a result the muscles that develop in the mouth from sucking were weak; at ten months we were wrapping muslins round her little neck and she’d have about half of the the milk in an 8oz bottle, the rest ending up in the muslin. As she hadn’t been drinking regularly it took a long time to also diagnose her with reflux, so for her consuming nourishment was associated with pain.
When children are delayed for whatever reason in their eating milestones the subsequent lack of muscle formation also effects their speech. We worried about this moving to France as, having been a teacher and read about the common three month delay on children with a second language, it concerned us that she would again face another stumbling block. However we knew too that she evidently understood language and was communicating to us using signs so we thought the risk was limited.
Once living in France she was naturally taking in lots of new information and the few sounds she’d had in the U.K. seemed to disappear. For example she can say hello quite clearly (“ewow”) and had started to say a “b” sound for goodbye, but the b sound went, although we often heard the hello. Although I’d joked to my mum that if she’d started speaking French I may not recognise the words, as time went on I grew more concerned.
Then one day we were in the supermarket and we were about to leave she was waving wildly and making a “awaw” sound. She’d done the same thing the day before waving goodbye to my mum and I’d been reminded of her step back from the b of bye bye sound, so had been a little saddened by it. However the cashier looked delighted, saying back to her “au revoir”. This time though something about the cashiers reaction and La Petites intent whilst saying it made something click as I observed; it was au revoir. Her first French word! My humorous observation was accurate; when you are unused to a language you don’t pick up the similarity.
I immediately phoned Le Marie to tell him as well as my mum. Then over the weeks I started to doubt what I thought was happening was actually happening. Was it just wishful thinking? But over time a ‘v’ sound has been added to her “awaw”. On the day she first started to use this new, more precise, pronunciation there was obvious surprise and delight on French people’s faces as they recognised their tongue from the mouth of an English woman’s infant, so it became clear that it wasn’t just me, she was saying a French word.
In the last few weeks her ability to verbally communicate has developed significantly. She can now say about 20 recognisable words and is starting to add 2 or 3 words together. It finally looks like the second language gap is closing!
Our next stage is to organise a crèche for her, but that’s a story for another post as developing social networks for our toddler is proving far more complicated than I thought.
With our second move last year just before Christmas I got behind on my things to do list, namely arrange the baptism for La Jolie Fille. Originally we had wanted to have it done in our nearby cathedral, but as a more permanent move was on the cards we thought that it would be better to do it when we were involved more in a community.
Since our arrival in this corner of La Manche we’ve been going to our nearest church for mass and the congregation have been incredibly welcoming. It’s funny, but it’s the same parish that my husband and I visited over a decade ago and, as we where stood there, said how we’d like to live in France.
Each week the parish priest calls all the youngesters up to say The Our Father in the mass and he gets one of the older children to read a part of the liturgy. One of the first weeks we were there Le Marie was away and I was on my own with Les Petites. Trying to concentrate on mass in a second language, whilst trying not to kill your kids for being naughty, is no mean feat (only joking about the killing part, they’re adorable 😕) and I suddenly realised when I heard the word ‘poussette’ that the priest was talking to us.
The next week it seemed like their was a bit of an organised ‘get the poor strangers involved’ thing going on as one of the older men came up and offered to take La Belle up to the alter. It was so lovely to be invited in like that.
So today off I went to speak with the priest about the baptism and we have Easter Sunday booked with two other children being baptised in mass on the same day! That makes it even more lovely.
The priest (whose name I still don’t know, because I couldn’t quite make out the pronunciation) seemed intrigued to have English people as part of the congregation; there was no mention of any other English, so I presume we’re the only English in the village as Little Britain would say. He kept randomly stopping people in the parish office and asking “Do you speak any English?” and then having a little chuckle to himself.
He also said how the baptism service would be in French and asked if that was ok; so that’s me looking up the service to translate now then.
Le Marie and I have spent the last few days, with the help of friends, moving all of our things into our new French home. If the utilities are connected we think we’ll spend our first night in our new home tomorrow – I’m so excited. In the meantime I thought I’d take some time to tell you how La Belle Fille is doing in school.
When we first started to talk about moving out of our friends gite into our new home she was very apprehensive – she seemed to just stop talking French in school! It’s understandable considering she’s just five and her experience of moving has been to a different country.
Gradually, as we’ve talked more and more about the process and I’ve driven her to and from the house to her school to demonstrate its not that far she’s coming to understand that this time not everything will change. She’ll be able to stay close to her friends, in her school, near her grandparents – the world will not shift again!
As she’s realised this her speaking in French has increased once more. The other day she brought home a little note to say she’s spoken 50 French words in one day. Then I spoke with her teacher and had a really pleasant surprise.
I had started to teach La Belle Fille to read when she was about 2 1/2 years old. I used lots of Alphablocks episodes so she could identify how to spell basic cvc (consanant, vowel, consanant) words. However when we started to read together it became obvious that a good number of the most frequently used words are irregularly sounded and this can make it difficult to read a story unless you have a book written with that in mind. However, when you have those kind of book there is the additional problem that the restriction of such words means that there isn’t a real story, so for La Belle they held little interest.
So from the base of phonetics I moved onto the see and say method; remember Peter and Jane books? That’s see and say. It’s the repetition over and over of the most frequently used words so that they’re learnt by site. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, personally I think it’s best to use both as far as they’re successful and then swap to the other when ea hot loses their utility.
By the time we moved here La Belle had very good reading skills. By that I mean she reads word dense books with intonation, sounding out new words until she has them right. As a result I’d started to teach her to read in French whilst Le Marie continued to read in English. My accent isn’t great, but I’m not too bad at pronunciation and I think that it’s best to do something rather than nothing because it’s not perfect.
This seems to have payed off! When I dropped La Belle off at school the other day Madame La Professeure asked me if she could move her up a reading group – La Belle’s class is composed of two age groups, hers and the year above. So she now reads with the year above!
When I asked Madame if this was just for English she said that no, this was for her reading in French. I was thrilled. I’d noticed more and more that she had started to read to her self in the French, but as she’s tends to hide what she’s doing until she’s confident in it I had been unable to ascertain just where she was.
She’s also started to imitate her French peers – her accent is perfect! “Oh maman, ce n’est pas juste” she’ll declare. I know that by the end of this academic year she’ll be correcting me left, right and centre!
Our packing stage by stage. We can hardly move!
Still at it. It seems to be never ending. My body aches. I thought I’d done loads in the last few months, but apparently not. There’s only so much packing that you can do a significant time before you move after all. So now box after box, vacuum pack after vacuum pack – it’s all going away. My whole body aches.
The kids are just watching tv. I feel like I’m abusing them. Any minute now their going to go ferile with boredom. Sometimes La Belle Fille ‘helps’ me, but it’s too boring even for her and she wonders away to watch tv again. She’s starting to refer to the tv characters as friends now. So I’m aching and feeling guilty.
We’ve cancelled our child benefits.
And then I pack.
We’ve sent a letter to our GP to take us from the list.
And then I pack.
We’ve alerted the council we’re going.
And then I pack.
We’ve cancelled the direct debit for the tv.
And then I pack.
We’ve sorted out the car registration, insurance etc.
And then I pack.
I’d turn to drink, but I’m so busy packing that I’d actually have to have it fed into my arm on a drip and pull it round on one of those stand thingies. I have seriously considered it, but I know it would get it the way of the packing.
Somebody, somewhere – for the love of God – tell me it all ends and that it’s going to be worth it. Please. I’m losing the will to live!
I just thought I’d let you all know why I’ve been a little bit quiet recently.
We’ve discussed changing our move to an earlier date as my poor husband is finding it really difficult to get all the decorating that needs to be done around the furniture and the kids. So he thinks that if we move earlier than anticipated he can come back and do it without the interference. Luckily we have my folks house to stay in as our new home won’t be ready then.
This means that I have to deep clean the house as I go along as Le Marie can’t have all that as well as the decorating to do as well. So our expected departure time left has been cut in half? HALF! I’ve spent my day moving furniture out of the conservatory and going up and down a ladder deep cleaning it to make a space for the boxes marked ‘house’. It means that they can be the first to go in the van to be stored at the front of my Pa’s hanger for easy transfer to our home on move in day.
As for the boxes marked ‘house’…….
We expect that our new home for the next year, though lovely, will be cold. I suddenly realised though after a conversation with Le Marie that I’d packed away all the eiderdowns that we own amongst the things that were due to go in storage for the year. We will, of course, be needing them!
Which led me to think – now that we know where we’ll be living what else have I packed that I think we’ll now need? So I’m now faced with the task of unpacking, sorting and repacking all of our boxes into those that we will need for the rented property and those we’ll store.
Doing all this with a 4 and 1 1/2 year old is trying to say the least. Especially as La Belle Fille is starting to realise that all the fuss made at both her preschools last week (three picnics in one week) was because she won’t be going back. She keeps demanding to go to school and getting stroppy when we try and explain.
I’m tired. Je suis épuisé.
So for the next few weeks I’m afraid our house will see no proper cooking; I’m just making the most of the good weather and doing a piece of meat and a salad everyday. As there’s no cooking there are no recipes, but between now and when we go I’ll share some of my old baking recipes with you.
Hope you’re enjoying the summer sun!
When we started to prepare to move to France I scoured the Internet looking for tips on how best to organise it and I think I’ve managed to come up with quite a comprehensive list of things to do; so I thought I’d share them here. Obviously if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear from you.
- I’ve been making appointments with our healthcare providers so that we can have these conversations in English before we go. From watching my parents deal with the beaurocracy of moving to France, and how exhausting dealing with a second language can be, I want to limit as much as possible our initial, technical conversations. So this means we’re currently having eye appointments, dentist visits and other essentials done this side of the water. See health paperwork too.
- We’ve already obtained our cat’s pet passport, but I need to book her in for a sedative to help her travel.
- Create a folder for all your important documents. From what I’ve read and witnessed from people I know who already live in France it’s a beaurocratic country. Therefor quick access to the most important documents is a necessity. I’m actually putting ours together at the moment, so I’ll update you on this during the week. It’s worth noting though that some people have said that it’s good to have these main documents in an accessible format, but also be sure to keep a copy in case something disastrous should happen to it during the move – you never know! This means that you can maybe get on with those essential moving in tasks with photocopies (if they’re accepted) whilst you wait for official copies to come from the UK. It may be worth thinking of a set of paper copies and scanning these documents too.
- You have to inform your local council when you move abroad. This may involve cancelling any direct debit payments for your local council tax or, if you pay it in one go, getting a rebate too.
- If, like us, you’re moving to France with your little ones you can continue to claim child benefit. You can get details about CAF here. I haven’t gone so far as to cancel our child benefit yet, so I’ll tell you about it when I’ve done that too, just in case anyone’s who’s researching the move wants an idea of what’s involved.
- One of the things I’ve had to specifically arrange and not just collate is our medical records. I’ve paid £10 per person to have the salient points documented for us to give to our French doctor when we arrive, and I’m arranging to have the children’s translated. We have our dentist appointments next week and they’re going to let us know if we need our dental records too.
- You can have your mail redirected even to an international address for up to a year and, unfortunately, with a fee.
- We also need to cancel our DD for the tv licence. If you’ve paid in full in advance you can claim this back.
- My husband has already cancelled our Amazon Prime account (I’m trying to watch as much stuff before it goes 😀). If you have any similar subscriptions you need to consider how much notice you have to give and time it right.
- We need to let HMRC know we’re going with a P85 (?). That’s one for Le Marie then!
- As we have a child she requires insurance for school, so this needs to be arranged.
- As we’re renting out our house we have to arrange renters insurance and ensure we have insurance for our French property.
- We have to arrange health insurance too, but at present we’re just relying on our EHIC cards.
Cars and Driving
- There are lots of entries on what is required in terms of driving licences and vehicles, but I found this government site which I assume has up to date information. It states that If you spend longer than six months of the year in France with your UK-registered car, you must register your vehicle with the French authorities, going through your local prefecture to do so when you arrive.
- UK-registered vehicles being driven in France must comply with all UK requirements for road tax, MOT, and third party insurance covering the full time period the vehicle is used in France, up to the six-month limit.
- It may be advisable to register our UK licences at the same time with the local town hall or prefecture. If it is lost/stolen/destroyed they will have proof that we held a UK licence which will help in the process of replacing it with a French licence, as there needs to be proof you are entitled to drive. Or we could consider just changing our UK one for a French one. As a UK licence needs to be renewed every 10 years – this cannot be done if you live abroad. However if you ever need proof of your entitlement to drive you will need to apply for a ‘Certificate of Entitlement’ from the DVLA.
- As we are moving ourselves we’ve already bribed freinds to help and hired a van. We’ve booked a 7.5tonne van for our 3 bedroom house. This means that we can’t go across on a fast ferry and we had to book the ferry through the freight line. We’ve also booked a car crossing and cabins for the journey (always handy with little ones – if it’s a rough crossing it’s better to have somewhere they can stay stationary).
- I’ve double checked our cat box is up to the journey, decided it wasn’t and bought a new one. See above about cat sedatives.
- We’re in the country so we need to arrange internet access. I’ll update you on this later too as it appears it may be a little complicated.
- As we’re renting somewhere that has no phone we’ve had to decide whether to have one put in. We decided against it, going for mobile access only. Again, I’ll update you on this when I find out more about it.
- Of course we’re renting our house out so its a little different, but we’re now getting our house ready. We’re gradually going through the house and doing those pesky jobs to make the house in good order.
- We’ve just spent the weekend making the garden presentable.
- Over the last couple of months I’ve been packing away things that aren’t needed now. For us this means our crystal (we can’t really use it as the children are too little), pictures on walls we need to paint, out of season clothes etc (more ideas here). As we’re moving to rented accommodation I’m starting to make a list of things that we will need to take there and things that we’ll store in our parents basement when we’ve arrived.
- As some of our stuff will be stored I need to order some builders polythene to keep the damp out.
- I’ve been taking a good look at our furniture to decide which will come with us and which is more advisable to leave behind. I have a lovely cabinet that I’d previously hand painted myself, but I’m afraid no matter how well I wrap that it may not make the journey, so my friend has offered to give it a home.
- Books, DVDs and CDs are definitely coming with us. Even if they’re bulky and heavy – they’ll be necessary for those long, winter nights.
- Of course, there’s the leaving your house deep clean.
This is how far we’ve got – if you have any tips, let me know!