As Club Petit Pierrot is entering its 25th year, we have interviewed one of our wonderful French partners for the occasion!
Arnaud de Montille is the Co-founder/Finance Director at Merci Maman, husband extraordinaire to Béatrice de Montille and father to four bilingual children!
Having lived in London for 14 years, he now lives with his wife and children in Lyon!
The first Merci Maman bracelet was crafted in 2007 by Béatrice, from her kitchen table in London!
Merci Maman — ‘Thank you Mummy’ — is a nod to the creators’ French roots.
We love the personalised hand-engraved jewellery and are especially fond of the cursive French-style handwriting. But we are not the only ones. Even The Duchess of Cambridge wears a Merci Maman necklace engraved with Prince George’s name!
In 2017, Merci Maman was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise and the founders were presented with the award at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II.
Let’s see what Arnaud has to say:
- How did your children learn English while you were living in London, and did they learn very quickly since they were in an English-speaking environment?
Both my wife and I are French and we speak French at home. Our 4 children were born and raised in London. They learned English from a very young age in playgroups, nursery, then Primary school – they learned quite quickly and effortlessly.
- Did you find it a challenge to encourage your children to learn English? Did they want to?
We didn’t really think about this. We were in London, they were toddlers surrounded by English speakers from birth and it was natural for them to learn French and English at the same time. We’ve encouraged them to watch cartoons in English and from Reception to read books in English but it was not really a challenge.
- Now that you live in France do your children have any opportunities to speak English and to keep improving? Is it difficult to keep them motivated?
We encourage them to read and watch videos in English but it is definitely more challenging, especially for our youngest daughter (aged 6). We have decided to enrol our youngest daughters in an English class during the Autumn holidays to make sure they keep practicing and improving their level. The older ones are more naturally motivated and our teenage boy loves watching English television programmes online.
- Do you have any advice for parents who want to or are raising children as bilinguals?
Being bilingual is surely a massive asset in today’s word. It’s difficult to give advice especially as every child is so unique but I would say that the best thing would be to give your child the hunger, the willingness to learn a foreign language, so that it’s not something that the parents ask them to do but something they – themselves – want to do. Travelling abroad helps them understand the point of learning the language too. Another advice would be regular practice and making sure that they read books and watch videos in the native language.
- Bilingual children sometimes mix up both languages, but was this an issue in your family? Are there any funny stories where languages were mixed up?
Well, we mix languages all the time as parents, don’t we? I think you should correct it but it’s cute and reduces over time. A funny anecdote that stayed in the family’s memory is when our eldest daughter was surprised and said “Quat” a mixture of the French “Quoi” and the English “What”. Sweet!
- Did your children enjoy singing songs? What are/were their favourite songs and rhymes in English and in French?
Oh yes they love singing. In English we have fond memories of the Reception songs when they were learning letters with the Jolly Phonics method “A A Ant on my arm” or “Bring your bat and bring your ball b b”…etc. We had a CD at home and they would listen to it all the time. In French, we’ve had all summer “Trois Petits Chats, Trois Petits Chats, Trois Petits Chats Chats, Chats, Chapeau de paille, Chapeau de paille, Chapeau de paille, paille paille”….
Merci Papa aussi !!