Nick with his Grandma (“Yaya”) after receiving his diploma from Scotts Valley High School in June 2004
Daphné with Alban after receiving her diploma from Harbor High School in June 2005
On the left is a typical graduation scene: the new graduates, on being congratulated by a local notable, joyfully throw their caps in the air. It’s a good feeling for the audience, and they all seemed very excited. (note the Santa Cruz fog which rolled in during the ceremony
on this June afternoon!)
There’s not much point in repeating here the comments often made at such ceremonies, but Daphné and Nick do deserve recognition for the particular accomplishment underlying their graduating: mastering two languages.
Daphné was born in France, and Nick moved there when he was six months old, and both spoke French before English. The odd part was that Nick spoke French first, even though both his parents were native English speakers and spoke English at home, because when he was in the crèche and then school his little buddies spoke French. So much for someone’s mother tongue! But I’m getting off the point.
Daphné came to the US before fifth grade and was socially fluent in English in less than year. Nick had attended bilingual school in Paris, but emigrating before eighth grade was still a challenge. It is much harder than is generally known to grow up bilingual. Most importantly, sounds that appear in both languages are not spelt the same, and when one way of spelling them is already hard to master, learning two ways simultaneously is well-nigh impossible. Concepts in one language sometimes have no natural equivalent in the other.
Both our first high school graduations reflected the major accomplishment of mastering a second language and living and learning in that language. Way to go!!
On the right is an example of the upside of graduating, a gift from the proud (relieved?!) parents. Nick and his grandmother admire the digital video camera that he received. We went to the local Chinese self-service cafe after the ceremony. Nick’s maternal grandmother lives in Palo Alto and takes good care of Nick and Tom. Uncle Gary and his maternal grandfather also came to wish him well on graduating.
Daphné’s relatives from outside our family all live in France, and in France people rarely understand the significance of US graduations, even if they could pop across the Atlantic and North America for the weekend. That’s a major issue with our move to the US, how far the older children need to travel to visit their missing parent. But we in the local branch of the family were all at the ceremony, as were many of her friends, and as you can see she looked and felt great.
Alban and Tom’s 2007 Graduations are on this page.