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Language Confusion for 16mth old

  1. #1
    fennho's Avatar
    fennho is offline Registered User
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    Language Confusion for 16mth old

    Since birth i've always speak Mandarin to my gal, who is now 16 months. My mom speaks Cantonese to her and Mandarin as well. My husband was supposed to speak to her in English but most often than not (with the little time he has with her aft he knocks off from work), he joins me and speaks Mandarin to her as well. As a result, altho she's not speaking yet, her understanding of Mandarin language is very good. She can act on our instructions in Mandarin very well. As for English, i think she can understand us as well, perhaps not as good as Mandarin though.

    The thing is i have heard that it's good for the parent to continue speaking to the child in one language. But of late, as i'm her main carer, when i bring her for some playgroup classes, which is conducted in English, i have to talk to her in English and sometimes i'm not sure if she's confused why Mommy suddenly switches and talking to her in English? I tried telling her, prior to the class that "mommy will be talking to u in English now ok?" I'm worried this will confuse her even more and delay her talking even more. I thought of bringing her to a total Mandarin playgroup but also worried that too many classes will be too stressful on her?

    Anyone has had the same experiences?

    Opinions pls? Thanks a lot!

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    Shenzhennifer is offline Registered User
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    No experience yet, but have read looked into this a fair bit since we will try to make our own son bilingual. There are actually a few expert opinions out there but the one we will follow is similar to what you are doing. But I think you have to be stricter about it. You speak only Mandarin to her, your mother speaks only Cantonese, your husband only English. It sounds like everyone is speaking a bit of everything so how can she learn like that and differentiate between any languages?
    The playgroup thing is a bit tough... maybe you could switch your language to English? but that means you would only be able to speak English to her.
    Apparently the child will be slower in all the languages at first but will catch up soon. But you have to separate the languages or else it will be too confusing for her.

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    fennho's Avatar
    fennho is offline Registered User
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    I dont think i'd want to switch to total English with her cos she's very comfy with me talking to her in Mandarin now. But yah, the playgroup is tough cos hubby works (i'm SAHM) and i'm the only one bringing her to playgroups but the fact that the playgroups are conducted in a language that's not the same as the one i use to communicate with her is making me wondering what should i do? :(

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    if the playgroup is in english, then speak english. it will be a little confusing, and may delay her a little, but in the long run it doesn't really matter.

    my son didn't really speak until he was 2.5 and even then it wasn't full sentences (in english). he could understand cantonese, but never wanted to speak it. we put him in a cantonese kindie when he was 3.5. he now understands most of it but he ONLY speaks cantonese to his grandma and grandpa. he even refuses to speak it to my husband (who tries, but like your hubby sometimes falls into using a different language, in our case english). we will put our boy into full day kindie next september to ensure his foundation in cantonese is good.

    my daughter, on the other hand has been speaking full sentences since she was 22 months. her english is AMAZING with a vocabulary of well over 700-800 words! her chinese is slower, but she tries a lot harder than her brother does. she will talk to hubby in chinese if he pushes her. her understanding is not too bad either.

    children at 16 months don't understand that there is more than one language. that doesn't happen until about 2-2.5 years. before that, they just think that there are different names for things, not realising that one name is one language and the other is a different language.

    the long and the short of it is this: you are doing a great job! keep it up!

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    Koan is offline Registered User
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    I guess I am in the minority, I don't think it will confuse her. She's very young, children that age don't actually understand that early that they're using two completely different language systems.

    I don't think you need to be 'strict' about it or even worry about it. Just speak English at the playgroup, which probably feels like the natural thing to do anyway, since everyone else will be speaking in English. I also don't think it will delay her language development at all. How can input in English, especially given that she already understands English, delay development?

    Relax and don't stress about it. You're doing great!

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    mscheerful is offline Registered User
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    My son is now 27 months. I speak to him in english all the time and my husband is a local so he speaks to him in cantonese and English, so does my husband's parents, siblings and nieces and the locals that we met day to day. He did not speak any cantonese or did he understood at all cantonese but out of sudden, at 2 years old, he was speaking cantonese so perfectly. Also i have a few Mandarin speaking playgroup moms so we speak a lot of Mandarin, he picks up and speak well too and he switches very quickly from english to cantonese to mandarin. And now i am teaching him Malay and he now knows all the words that i taught him in Malay and few words of tagalog from our Filipino friends! so i don't think he is confuse, infact, he knows what language to speak to who and it is so cute to see him switching one language to another in such tender age. having say that, i speak a few language as well so probably he gets it from me!

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    fennho's Avatar
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    thanks everyone

    Mscheerful
    That's the thing, u speak english ALL the time TO him rite? He picks up other languages from others. I heard and read yr confusion comes when the one person speaks mixture of languages to the baby. Thus the delay. I guess since u all say they can't differentiate different languages yet, all the more she's confuse like one minute mommy told me this is "hua" (mandarin) and the next minute she says this is a FLOWER. So which one is it huh? :)

    Koan, cara
    Thanks for the reassurances. I know my gal understands a lot in Mandarin cos when I give her complicated instructions, she understands! Just feel like I'm confusing her when I talk to her in English in the playgroups

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    mscheerful is offline Registered User
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    fenho, that is the amazing part baby when come to language! for example, my son can point to the eye and say: "eye, yan jing (mandarin), mata (malay) and ngan (cantonese) or car, che (cantonese) and cheh(?) in Mandarin. Dont worry, she will amaze you soon with the language that she will be speaking. she will turn to u in Mandarin and english to her dad or helper or contonese to her contonese speaking friends. we have so many kids in our playgroup speaks cantonese or mandarin and when they come to the playgroup, they just switch to english. one little girl is so quite in switching from cantonese to english although she speaks no english in sentence but with colours, shapes and things around in the playroom.

    i don't speak english all the time to my son. I speak more on english, and speak a lot in mandarin and fair amount of cantonese and little Malay. He is surely not confuse but enjoy it so much.

    go with the flow at home and do what is best for your girl.

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