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Language Confusion for 16mth old

  1. #9
    somebodyfamous's Avatar
    somebodyfamous is offline Registered User
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    Interesting thread.

    I speak Cantonese to my daughters, almost 100% of the time, but since I cannot read or write Chinese, I read 80% of stories to them in English (i make the other 20% up in Cantonese if the story is very simple). Their father speaks to them in English. Other people speak either English or Chinese depending what they speak. My daughters are now 2.5 and very fluent in English, Cantonese and are learning Mandarin. They watch 20-30 minutes of DVD everyday in Cantonese and no other TV/DVD.

    They didn't realise till recently they spoke 'two' languages, they simply said Mummy says "....." and Daddy says "...."

    When they talk to each other, they do mix up the language but nothing has the wrong meaning. When they talk to strictly English speakers, they only use English. When they talk to Cantonese speakers, they only use Cantonese.

    They KNOW I speak English as I talk to their father, their teachers, other mums etc. in English.

    There are times when I'm reading them a story in English (eg Alice in Wonderland) and they will point at the pictures and tell me what is happening in Cantonese hahahahahhaa

    Oh and about that playgroup thing where they insist you speak English? I used to WHISPER cantonese into my daughters' ears. hahahaha These days, I take them to mygym and since they do not insist parents/caregivers speak English, I'm very comfortable talking away in Cantonese (even translating the English!) to my daughters :)

    oh and the cutest thing, they sometimes translate between my husband and I (they tell me in Cantonese what daddy said to them hahahahaa)

  2. #10
    pixelelf is offline Registered User
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    my son kai, (15mths) also gets a mix of languages spoken to him. we speak mandarin, cantonese, teochew, malay and english to him. he hasnt spoken clearly, still blabbing, but definitely understands somewhat. for eg, i'll ask him if he wants to go to his room read a book in english or mandarin and he will respond by going to his room to get a book. he associates "cho cho" (smelly in mandarin) and skunk (equivalent to the work smelly for him)

    the thing is, when we speak to him, we make eye contact and somehow the tone and gesture is similar. that's how we "link" the languages up. it's not by conscious effort though. it's something i observed.

    and i remember growing up this way too, in a multi language household. i could understand everything but i din speak them all. it wasnt stressful (i dun remember it as stressful) it was a way of life for us. the stress only came when i had to go to school and reading and writing were tested. that's another story.

    you are doing a great job, seriously! heh

  3. #11
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    merryma is offline Registered User
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    Glad to see this multilingual thread!

    My boy is 14month-old now. As of now, since birth, I have been speaking to him in ONLY English, my husband, and my parents-in-law visit frequently speak ONLY Cantonese, the helper speaks Malay. I wanted to introduce Manadarin too, but thought to stick to the widely believed one-person-one-language theory. Eventually I'd definitely want him to pick up Mandarin too, just the matter of how to start introducing it and when...

    I was a full-time working mom until 2.5 months ago. So, he was exposed to Malay (with my helper) most of the time. Now that I am staying home all day with him, English has become more like his main language, next comes Malay and Canto.

    I have a few questions, and hope you share your thoughts:

    1: Despite I speak ONLY English to him, but I speak other languages to others with his presence (Eg., Canto with my hubby and parents-in-law, Malay with my helper). I am not sure if this is doing any harm?
    Any moms doing this too?


    2: May I know those in more than 2 or 3 languages with the kids, when do your kids start talking?? (utter words properly, trying to put in short sentense)

    Look forward to hear from you moms...
    Cheers,

  4. #12
    somebodyfamous's Avatar
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    Well I'm half Chinese and half English and my parents spoke to each other in English and it has not impaired me or any of the other Eurasian kids I knew growing up in the same situation..... So presumably it wont affect our children 'negatively'

  5. #13
    saun-mom is offline Registered User
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    My understanding from the scientists that study language development is that children that grow up in a bilingual (or trilingual) environment are almost always delayed in starting to speak, but end up catching up just fine.

    You can google language development bilingual, or bilingual language delays, or similar search terms, and you'll probably turn up some interesting articles.

    Sadly, we're boring old English speakers, and our kids are struggling with Mandarin (not even attempting Cantonese yet)- be glad you've got all the skills to give your kids the benefit of multiple languages!

  6. #14
    somebodyfamous's Avatar
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    i dont think my girls talked late at all!!

  7. #15
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    my son did. i don't think he talked full, proper sentences until he was almost 3. my daughter has been talking in full proper sentences since she was 21 months....

  8. #16
    OX Jess is offline Registered User
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    I speak only English to my son whilst my hubby & all relatives speak Cantonese. My son is now 9 months old and he can understand some words in English, e.g. Water (he opens his mouth), Music (he looks at the hi-fi), Shake-Shake (he shakes his hand). In my & my hubby's family, apart from my sister-in-law, nobody speaks English to my son. The only chance for my son to be exposed to English is when he is with me or with my sister-in-law and when I take him out to see my English-speaking friends. The community language is Cantonese so I don't worry about his development in Cantonese/Chinese as it will be his mother-tongue (despite his mom speaking English to him). Will he mix up with English & Cantonese? I don't know yet but I am confident that he can manage (or at least understand) two languages even if, as I have well prepared, he may refuse to "speak" the minority language English. I am told by experts that as long as your kids has 'passive' understanding of a language, you don't need to worry too much whether they speak it or not. When they realise there is a need to speak it, they will and they can. Hmmm.. hope the experts are right. I am however very anxious to see the language development in my son who is being raised in such an "imbalanced" bilingual environment and I hope I can have more mums in the same boat to share their experience & views.
    Last edited by OX Jess; 03-18-2010 at 04:32 PM.

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