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Language Confusion for 16mth old

  1. #17
    carang's Avatar
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    oxjess, my kids have been in an imbalanced environment as well...however, ours is slanted towards the english. (even though hubby tries to speak chinese...) i have found that in order for my son to actually want to speak chinese, i had to send him to a chinese kindergarten.

    now, he has full-on conversations with his "ma ma" (grandma) about stuff that i can't even tell what they are talking about. HE'S the translator for me! what a difference 6 months can make~

  2. #18
    Tini is offline Registered User
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    My son is now 27months old and grows up trilingual. I speak exclusively German to him, Daddy speaks English and Grandparents speak Cantonese. He understands all three languages and picks up words from all three. His speech development is delayed, so is in all multilingual children, that's normal. But he is catching up more and more now. He only needs to hear a word once and says it immediately. It is important though that you keep it clear to the child who speaks which language and be consistent, otherwise they will get confused. Kids are naturals in regards to language so enjoy them becoming especially smart :D

  3. #19
    lesliefu is offline Registered User
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    this is an interesting thread...just attended a conference on bilingualism and language acquisition yesterday and how some interesting findings to share...according to research:

    1) Bilingual children will have a delay in speech, however, this delay is not something to worry about in the longrun as it does not impair their cognitive development. because they have a smaller vocab. in each of the languages they speak / listen to, it just takes them longer to get started...if you know what I mean.
    2) bilingual children are supposedly better off since the two languages helps in their cognitive development in the long run - they will be better able at solving two tasks, because they are constantly doing that from a young age already...deciding which language to use and what means what in what language....
    3) bilingualism actually provides the foundation for attention, and early bilingualism has a profound effect on language and cognitive development. though there are some language delays (which are insignificant in the long run) research shows that bilingualism shapes development of a child.
    4) actually there is a book - The Bilingual Child by Veronica Ip and Stephen Matthews, that talks about not having to have one parent speak one language to avoid confusion, but rather ensuring that the environment is sound for language usage. their point being that you can never actually give your kids 50/50of each language, some days you will have more or less of each language and so long as the kids are exposed to it, they will learn.

    Finally, for parents worried about language delays (I'm one!) receptive language is much easier to learn than expressive language. in order to be able to express oneself, you need to be exposed to the word / vocab at least 12 times before it can be remembered by the learner (any learner), more importantly though, the 12 times needs to be in context so that there is meaning associated with it, rather than it just being a single word that has literally "fallen from the sky"...

    So....just talk more and read more stories is at least what I'm doing...my daughter definitely understands more than she can express, I'm getting feedback...unfortunately not in anything understandable though (well, understandable to me only)....

    Good luck to you all! :)

  4. #20
    OX Jess is offline Registered User
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    Yes, Cara, I think if you WANT your kids to speak Chinese, the only way to get it achieved is by sending them to a local kindergarten where your kids are surrounded by local kids speaking the local language. I wonder, if your husband speaks ONLY Cantonese to your kids and you English, they will at least understand Cantonese even if they refuse to speak it, won't they?!? Kids are smart (and lazy of course) - they know whether there is a need or not for them to speak the language and they will pick an easy way. Having heard so many stories from bilingual families, I know I have to prepare myself for one day very soon my son will answer me in Cantonese despite a question posed in English by his mum. He does it simply because he knows his mum can understand Cantonese! As far as I know, kids are clever enough to tell what language is what when they reach around 3 - the problem you have to deal with is whether they are willing to speak 2 or 3 languages as much as you want them to.
    One question: as your kids are raised in English environment, how did they feel/cope when you sent them to a local kindergarten? Were they happy from day one?

    Tini: Are there anyone apart from you speaking German to your son? What language,among 3 language, your son is particularly good at? Which language your son is exposed to the most since he was born? I work full time 5 days a week so on weekdays I can only speak to him an hour in the morning then another hour in the evening. He is exposed to Cantonese most of them time except on the weekends when I am with him all day. That's why I am surprised with so much joy to note my son understands some English words as I mentioned earlier... :))

  5. #21
    carang's Avatar
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    he cried for his first day of kindergarten (in 2008). then i told him if he didn't cry, our helper would take him to mcdonald's for a milkshake after school... THAT did the trick. ever since, he's LOVED going to school! we just told him before he started that at his "new" school the teachers spoke chinese and at "mummy's school" we speak english.
    he seemed ok with it from the start.

    my girl will start in the coming september... we'll see how she goes...

  6. #22
    Tini is offline Registered User
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    @Ox Jess
    I am the only one speaking German to him here in HK. He sees my parents on Skype every weekend, so that's another regular German input for him. He gets a lot of German as I spent most of the time with him. But he still sees his grandparents here in HK every day, so he is also exposed to Cantonese. English input he gets from English playgroup, Daddy and also because Daddy and I speak English, and I speak English with my in-laws. I couldn't say which language my son is particularly good at, he uses words from all three languages but maybe he knows more German words, and then comes English and then Cantonese.

    I would imagine that with your son he will be better at speaking Cantonese than English but if he goes to an Intl' Kindergarten where they speak English, there should be no problem on his English. He will understand you nonetheless and speak in English with you.

    @lesliefu
    Of course you cannot make sure that your child receives the same amount of language input on a daily basis, but it is necessary for the child to know which language is spoken to him by whom in order not to be confused. (That's what I learned during my Linguistics Studies) But it's not only that. You want your child to acquire native like language and be good at it rather than adapt mistakes by somebody who got poor language skills, which might be difficult to erase at a later stage. That is why I speak in a language to him that I know of 100% ;)

  7. #23
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    I speak Cantonese exclusively with my daughters except when I read a story (as i"m illiterate in reading Chinese) and even when my English speaking husband is present I still speak to them in Cantonese. Its their language of choice to speak and they use it with each other too. They learn English and Mandarin at school and the teachers say they are doing well. My girls are 1/4 Chinese and 3 years and 4 months now.

    I did not notice a delay in their speech, they have always (to me!) seem to talk a lot.... I think its a 'girl' thing though.

    They KNOW I speak English but chat with me in Cantonese. They only use the English word if they don't know the Chinese word and vice versa. It's not really mixing up the languages though. Cause I know being bilingual myself....

    They are pretty fluent in English too. I'd love to give them another language hahahahahaha

  8. #24
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    I wanted to add that I'm really comfortable speaking Cantonese to my daughters in ALL situations (even in 'english' setting situations) and I think they perceive that so choose to speak my 'comfortable' language. I've perceived (wrongly or rightly) that my Chinese friends who choose to speak more in English to their child, seem to give the perception that English is their 'preferred' language which I can see the child picking up (subconsciously).

    I've seen my daughters talk to complete strangers - first using Cantonese and if the stranger didn't understand, switching to English, they DO NOT persist (in the wrong language) if it's obvious to them the person cannot understand. Kids do this naturally, especially with new friends of that age, they find out what they can say to 'communicate'.

    OX Jess, I really would NOT worry but just keep increasing your child's vocabulary and enjoy your time with them, they really do grow up very fast!

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