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Best way to help baby learn Cantonese?

  1. #1
    JennyB is offline Registered User
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    May 2003
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    Discovery Bay
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    Best way to help baby learn Cantonese?

    We are two English-speaking parents with a 15-month-old baby. My husband is a long-term expat, born in Hong Kong, but never learnt Cantonese! He doesn't want his daughter to make the same mistake, and neither do I.

    The question is how to go about it. We're living in Discovery Bay and there's one kindergarten DMK (from ages 3-5) which has an Anglo-Chinese stream, and they're accustomed to expat kids with no Chinese knowledge before they start. We think this sounds ideal, just to enable her to make conversation with kids in the local playground. Then we plan to send her to a normal international primary school.

    But I have two concerns: (1) Wouldn't it be better to start with a Cantonese-speaking playgroup earlier than age 3? and (2) Our baby is born in December which I understand mean she'll be the youngest in her class. I'm a bit concerned that this, combined with learning a new language, might cause her education to fall behind and she would either not be ready for P1 or feel discouraged.

    Any thoughts from other parents would be much appreciated!

  2. #2
    Sara is offline Registered User
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    Hi JennyB!

    You might find this thread helpful...

    Pre-school/playgroup and a 2 year old?

    Sara.

  3. #3
    JennyB is offline Registered User
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    May 2003
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    Discovery Bay
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    Thanks Sara for the link! I hadn't heard of that Community Centre.
    I'm still hoping that some other people will reply with opinions or their experience regarding the language issue in general.

  4. #4
    GGHK is offline Registered User
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    Hong Kong
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    Hi JennyB

    We're a like you in terms of our child's age, so this is more from what I've read than experience. However I have read quite a bit about this, and everything agrees that the best time to expose children to languages is before 3. That is when children are learning to speak, so that is when learning any language is literally effortless for them, including the accent coming naturally.

    After 3 they are still very capable of learning languages - a 3 year old will still learn much more easily than an 8 year old, for example. However beyond 3 a child uses a different part of his/her brain and is essentially learning a language as a second language. For most people, beyond a certain age (which varies from person to person) it will be impossible to be completely accentless.

    There is some suggestion that being exposed to more than one language can slightly delay talking initially, but if this happens, the child quickly makes this up once he/she starts speaking. From what I've read, children who have been exposed to multiple languages also find it easier to learn other languages later in life, and some studies have even suggested that being bilingual can protect against mental decline in old age (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3794479.stm).

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