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The Gift of Languages

As I write this in a café whilst on a post-Christmas holiday in Paris, I’m listening to my three children play with the words on the menu – making observations about how café is the same in English, and crêpes has a funny hat on, and isn’t panini Italian? Cue discussion about accents and loan words. They’re a curious bunch, my three little linguists.

Early in my motherhood journey, I was trying to speak only French to my eldest (now 9). It was hard. There is lots to master in the first few months of parenting, and learning swathes of new vocabulary in French was a step too far for my sleep-deprived brain. You see, my French was that of an Oxford literature graduate who taught business English. Babies, as it turns out, are more into biberons than Balzac or budgets.

I also had this odd feeling of not really being ‘me’ when I spoke only French to my new baby. My mothering instinctively needed to be done in the language I’d...

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