Monday 30 April 2012

What if? Part 2- Living in France

We never intended to stay in Britain. We never intended for our girls to be born in England, and become English.

We left southern France on a rainy February morning, as if to prepare us for the gloomy weather in Northern England.
When we packed our car that morning, we were convinced we would be back in two years time.

Here we are, eight years later, still in England, with three children, new friends and a new house. Une nouvelle vie, quoi.

Currently, the girls speak Arabic, French, German and English with varying degrees of fluency.

How would have our linguistic situation differed had we been able to stay in France?

To start with, there would obviously have been no English, whatsoever.
Even though we lived in a highly international area, with some stubbornyl-refusing-to-learn-French British expats, French would have been the majority language.

BabelDad and me speaking French at home would have meant the double presence of French inside and outside the home. This would have ruled out MLAH.

Knowing BabelDad, he would have stuck to OPOL. The girls would probably have had some proficiency in German, albeit less than what they currently exhibit.

As for Arabic, I believe that the girls' proficiency would have been pretty low. The reasons, as I see them, are two-fold.

First, I would have greatly struggled to do OPOL. As a virtually-native French speaker myself, I would have had to rigidly speak Arabic with the exclusion of any French. Mission: Impossible.

Second, Arabic in France is un-glamorous, to say the least.  Arabic is associated with a civilisation that "has less value than France's, a civilisation that enslaves women, disrespects individual and political liberties and allows tyranny".

It would have been difficult to normalise the use of Arabic outside the home in this climate.

I can easily imagine how desperate-to-blend-in children would not want to use a language with such a negative stigma attached to it.


  1. Oh dear God... I hadn't read this article from Le Monde!

  2. Yep Annabelle. Hard to believe this is coming from the Interior Minister...


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