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Fluency in English and Chinese

  1. #1
    WMY
    WMY is offline Registered User
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    Fluency in English and Chinese

    Dear All,

    Please share your experience with me. How could I train my child to talk and write with fluency both in English and Chinese?


    Thank you.

  2. #2
    nicolejoy's Avatar
    nicolejoy is offline Registered User
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    I'm interested in this too coz I'm currently pregnant with a half Chinese baby. I'm Australian and my husband is Chinese (well, he's Australian too but he was born in Hong Kong).

    From what I've heard, for speaking, it's meant to be best if one parent primarily speaks to the child in English and the other speaks in Chinese. Although I don't think that will work for us because my Chinese is very poor - and my husband is actually more "fluent" in English than Chinese now after moving to Australia when he was only 6... he doesn't want to feel "restricted" to Chinese when talking to the baby...

    I know I don't have many ideas, but I wanna watch this topic to get ideas for my baby too!!

  3. #3
    Klam is offline Registered User
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    Both my hubby and I are British chinese though I cannot read or write chinese whereas hubby can. We both speak 50% english, 50% cantonese at home and sent our children to an English kindergarden that also teaches 50% cantonese.
    My daughter (7yrs) now attends Intl school, is bilingual and is also learning mandarin. However, the Intl school my daughter attends only teaches reading and writing in mandarin and not cantonese (which means her cantonese reading has suffered, but I have no problem with that).

    Whereas my daughter soaked up the languages with no problems, my son (2yrs) seems to have trouble distinguishing between the languages and hasn't been very vocal, so I've now decided to just speak english with him. He seems a lot better now and I've just started him at the same English kindie preschool my daughter attended and hopefully his speech will improve over time.

    I think what works with one child doesn't always work with another but make sure you are comfortable with whatever you decide.
    I think my daughter was very comfortable with both languages because she had a wide variety of english and cantonese speaking friends who she played with on a regular basis and was able to switch from one language to the other better than I could!
    Also if you want your child to be able to read and write cantonese, you may need to send him/her to a local school as majority of Intl schools only teach mandarin.

    I hope I've helped, but really, we kind of just went with the flow and never had a real strategy planned. It just so happened that what we did worked for my daughter but not quite for my son.
    Hopefully you will find something from this forum that will help you too!
    Take care!

  4. #4
    carang's Avatar
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    DO NOT stop speaking to your 2 year old in both languages... it is perfectly normal for children with more than one language to develop a little more slowly. they are processing two different languages afterall. they don't really start to distinguish which is which until they get closer to 3-3.5 years of age.

    the ONLY way his chinese will improve is if you speak it to him.

    my boy talked later than many and is only NOW (he's 3.5) distinguishing between the two languages. TALKING ALWAYS follows UNDERSTANDING.

    did your son understand when you spoke to him in chinese and just not verbalise? or did he not understand at all?

    my boy understands chinese, but prefers english, which is why we've put him into chinese kindergarten.

    good luck with whatever you decide.

  5. #5
    MLBW Guest
    My son is still quite young at 9 months. My husband is Hong Kong Chinese and his first and most comfortable language is Cantonese but he also speaks English really well and is comfortable with it. I am not Chinese and do not speak Cantonese so we speak English all the time at home.

    However, my son spends a lot of time with his grandparents (my husband's parents) and they speak only Cantonese with him. When he was about five months old he started saying some simple English words like "hand" and "apple."

    At about seven months old he said his first Cantonese phrase which happened to be "Hui gai gai" or "Going out" because that is a frequent phrase his grandparents say to him.

    At home my husband speaks in Cantonese to our son sometimes as well.

    I think it's all about exposure. If you can't speak Cantonese it's a good idea to get your child into a Cantonese-speaking environment on a consistent basis. I think there are these types of classes and playgroups widely available in Hong Kong and I'm sure people on this board can make some good recommendations.

    Oh, and when it comes to writing--all I know from talking to my Chinese friends who also can write Chinese is that learning Chinese characters takes a lot of time and the only system really available is to learn by route memory. I studied Mandarin Chinese--and had to take my tests in Chinese--I just remember having to write and memorize Chinese characters for hours upon hours. Of course, I was a lot older when I had to do that--but, if you want your child to be able to be fully literate in Chinese it's a good idea to start young and just keep with it. It takes a lot of work to become truly literate in Chinese--there are a lot of native-speaking Chinese people who still don't do so well with the written language when it comes to more complex sentences etc. I think that there must be some sort of class/playgroup for this sort of thing too, right?
    Last edited by MLBW; 09-02-2008 at 03:49 PM.

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    carang's Avatar
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    mlbw, you sound an awful lot like me....situation-wise...

  7. #7
    Klam is offline Registered User
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    Hi carang, I totally agree with you and my son is exposed to cantonese everyday from his grandparents and also at preschool. I do feel better now that you mentioned your son is now only starting to distingush between the languages and that I need to be more patient. He does understand what we are saying in both languages, but is just not very vocal.

    Thanks!

  8. #8
    carang's Avatar
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    my hubby tries to speak in chinese to our kids, and their grandparents here ONLY speak cantonese. however, the language my kids are more comfortable with is English.

    this is why we've put him into a cantonese kindie. so that he's as comfortable with cantonese as he is with english.


    language develops like this:

    recognition/understanding of basic commands
    recognition/understanding of more complex commands
    recognition of certain "nouns" and "verbs", usually only one word or so
    recognition of more complex nouns & verbs
    vocalisation of certain "nouns" and "verbs" (ie. cat, dog, table, tv, jump, dance, etc)
    vocalisation of very short sentences (ie. i hungry, i sleepy, me happy, etc.)
    vocalisation of more complex sentences with more grammatically correct structure. (ie. I am very hungry. I want to drink milk.)

    every child develops at a different pace and like i said before, those with more than one language to contend with usually take longer in the first few steps.

    my son can now translate for me from chinese into english, but still refuses to speak much chinese. i'm not too worried as i know that the understanding is there. (the other day, my m-i-l, told my son that if he finished his veggies, she would give him some $ so that he could buy a toy car. i asked him what she'd said, and he could translate it for me.)

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