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Quadlingual Environment: Experiences, suggestions?

  1. #9
    mscheerful is offline Registered User
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    i have a friend that i met in my area. She is from China so she speaks Mandarin, she married to a Finland husband and has a son. She speaks to the son in strickly Mandarin and he speaks to him in his Finland language. He goes to kindergarten that speak English so he is speaking 3 languages without any problem. They have moved to Shenzhen then to India now so he is attenting international school so his best language is English and his mom said he prefers to speak in English, however, his parents are not giving in to him but continue to speak both mother tongues to him at all time. The last time they came back for holiday, he is speaking 3 languages extremely well. Oh, not forgetting that he is learning abit if Hindi too :) I guess you and yoru wife just got to speak to him/her whatever that you both want him to learn. he/she will figure out and switch immediately to speak to you both and the helper and the relatives. I am sure he/she will be stronger in Mandarin because you and your wife speaks this langugage most of the time and that is where she/he will pick up most words from it.

  2. #10
    spockey is offline Registered User
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    If I didn't speak English, I woudn't bother with English.
    Not because it is not important but if your child is attending an International school where the curriculum is taught in English, your child will pick up the language. You see this happening everywhere in Hong Kong. As far as proficiency is concerned, it's a matter of building blocks. The child will in time become more proficient. But because English is my mother tongue and our common communication language (between mom and dad), it is my son's dominant language. Plus, I'm a believer of Master of One rather than Jack of all trades but master of none.

    So, if both parents have different mother tongues and can find domains to use other languages, and the child attends an English as a method of communication international school then, leave English for later. (If you are looking for the multilingual approach).

    Like Carey, we plan to make trips to Germany and find support programmes in the future for formal acquisition of German. But right now, the focus is on developing a base from which other language development can grow. If his innate grammar system is well developed, then he'll have no trouble picking up and understanding other languages.

    And Carey mentioned that she believes that setting a foundation is important. Totally agree with this and this has been supported by a lot of research too. I don't believe in language delay but I do believe in setting foundations from which to build upon (as was mentioned). Once your universal grammar (your innate grammar) is set, there has been many studies conducted to show that no matter what other language a child/teenager/adult picks up, there is a higher chance of success.

    There are trade-offs in bilingualism/multilingualism. And there will always be one language in which you are better. And this is the language used the most.This will become your dominant language. No one is actually truly bilingual.

    FutureHKmum - I would not code switch until your child understands that there are two distinct languages at play. There has been studies to show that code-switching helps but these studies have looked at teenagers, adults, ... in general older learners tend to code switch. So, I'd refrain from mixing Cantonese and English.

  3. #11
    yellowmud is offline Registered User
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    This is an interesting topic as this has been our concern as well. I have no suggestion to offer but wants to share our situation and perhaps we could meet when our children are a little older so that they can play together. :)

    Too bad you are not living in HK. ;)

    Our son was born in Hong Kong and has a Chinese name (with my family name ) and an English name ( a first name that spells the same in German and English and he take his father's last name).

    I see. So it seems we are not the only ones with this idea.


    I think we all agree that acquiring three languages ( able to read and write) requires a lot of hard work for adults. I believe it's hard work for babies and children too although they learn faster than us. I don't want to place too high expectation on him.

    Sure reading and writing doesn't come without a lot of work (particularly for Chinese that is). The great thing is that in order to learn speaking languages perfectly, children do not have to "work" but can do it by playing. I think that when we support them sensibly with that, learning multiple languages at home is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child.
    Last edited by yellowmud; 08-14-2009 at 04:55 PM.

  4. #12
    yellowmud is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by mscheerful View Post
    I am sure he/she will be stronger in Mandarin because you and your wife speaks this langugage most of the time and that is where she/he will pick up most words from it.
    Just have to make sure he doesn't pick up too much of my mandarin. ;)

  5. #13
    FutureHKmom is offline Registered User
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    Spockey- what does code switch mean? using both languages at the same time? But it would be ok for one parent to use just one language and the other use the other language, right? But then how should my husband and I speak to each other in front of our son? With just one language or like before with both? Thanks!

  6. #14
    yellowmud is offline Registered User
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    I guess she means code-switching as switching between languages. I guess the most important thing is to stick to one language each when speaking to the kid.

  7. #15
    spockey is offline Registered User
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    Code-Switch means to use both languages at the same time. So, if you usually speak in English but use some keywords/phrases in another language, then you are codeswitching.

    For example,

    You are so ma fan! (mafan - difficult in Cantonese - I can't spell in Canto either.

    Today, I am going to belanja you. (belanja - treat you to something)

    Papa, can you hookapuck me please? (hukapuck - carry over the shoulder in German - Sorry can't spell in German)

    Two parents, each using only one language without interference from another language is not code-switching. Only the child has to switch to understand.

  8. #16
    FutureHKmom is offline Registered User
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    Hi Spockey - thanks for clarifying. Would it be ok for me to sometimes speak english and sometimes speak cantonese but make sure I don't code switch? So for example, say complete sentences in english and then complete sentences in cantonese? It's so natural for me to speak both languages to my husband and my parents that it will be hard to just stick to one language. Whereas, it would be just much easier to make sure I don't insert english words in cantonese sentences or vice versa. thanks!

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