DEAR ABBY: I am fluent in French and English. I want my daughter, "Chantal," to speak both languages. I am in a relationship with a man ("Clark") who has three children who live with him full time. I am wondering if speaking French to Chantal in front of Clark and his children is rude. My daughter's first language is French, and I have always conversed with her in French.
This has been a point of contention for some time now. I have asked Clark to make an effort to learn French, but he has no desire to, nor do his children.
There is a "closeness" factor, I believe, in sharing my mother tongue (my mother is French, my father American) with my daughter, and I would like to carry it down the generations. Clark says I can talk to Chantal in French when we're alone, but that wouldn't be often. What do you think? Is this worth ending the relationship? -- FRANCO-FILLE IN THE U.S.A.
DEAR FILLE: It's interesting that you have framed your question in black-and-white. Surely your daughter can remain fluent in French without excluding Clark and his children from your conversations. If you love him and care about his children's feelings, you can enroll your daughter in French language and literature classes, and send her to visit her French-speaking grandmother, and -- if it's affordable -- take her someplace where French is the dominant language for a vacation. (If Clark and his children went along, it might inspire them to learn.) This, in addition to spending one-on-one time with your daughter, would keep her French from getting rusty, without sacrificing a relationship with someone you care about.
P.S. Even if you end the relationship, there is no guarantee that your daughter would continue to pass her French along to her own children.