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Bilingual or English pre-school stream?

  1. #1
    riseandshine is offline Registered User
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    Bilingual or English pre-school stream?

    Our son is 3 and a half and we have recently moved to HK from the UK so we all only speak English. We will be in HK for 18 months, but this may be extended. The preschool we are looking at has different classes - one English speaking, and one 50% Mandarin and 50% English. I hear it is best for children to learn another language while they are young so was wondering about putting him in the bilingual stream. It will be useful if we stay in HK, if we move back to the UK we should be able to find a mandarin group for him to go to to help keep up his language skills but he would obviously not be using it often. What would your advice be? Will it be too unsettling and confusing for him at this stage and is it worth it? Will he learn more overall in the English only stream as he can understand all of what is going on? I am grateful for your advice and experiences!

  2. #2
    karen bt is offline Registered User
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    Welcome to Hong Kong!
    Only my view, but I have only used the English classes. We have 2 children, 1 boy in P4 year and 1 girl, nearly 3. My girl goes 2 mornings a week to a preschool who do offer English taught and Mandarin taught, I chose English taught as I want her to be relaxed about being in a new situation and if we are here for more than 2-3 years, she will have the opportunity to learn new languages at school, as her brother is, learning French and Mandarin. We are from the UK too!

  3. #3
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    carang is offline Registered User
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    we put my son (who prefers english but has a chinese father) into the cantonese kindergarten. there are many mixed kids as well as western kids in his school. the classes (except for english class and mandarin class) are all taught in cantonese.

    my son went from last year refusing to speak any chinese to this year having full on conversations with my in-laws!

    your child will only get this opportunity once in her life...to me, there is no way i'd choose "just" english...my kids get enough of that at home.

    kids are resilient (most of them) and after a few weeks should be just fine. afterall, what do the kids relocating to the UK do? find a school in their mother-tongue or take the opportunity to learn english?

    (my kids are 3 & 5. my son started in 1/2 day school, now is full day. my daughter will be starting in september and will attend full-day... purely for the logistics of it~no school bus and it takes 30 minutes on the public bus to get the kids to school).

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    Shenzhennifer is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by riseandshine View Post
    I hear it is best for children to learn another language while they are young so was wondering about putting him in the bilingual stream. It will be useful if we stay in HK, if we move back to the UK we should be able to find a mandarin group for him to go to to help keep up his language skills but he would obviously not be using it often.
    Is this because you want him to learn Mandarin? If so, and you think it might be useful for his life and plan to keep it up, then I don`t see the problem with a bilingual pre-school, though apparently both languages suffer a bit in the beginning.
    In my situation, my son is half Canadian-Japanese, so if we are still in HK, I actually don`t really want to enroll him in Chinese-speaking school because he will already have enough languages to deal with (and will probably have to work at speaking Japanese as his main language will probably be English).
    But for the kids here who are half Chinese it would make perfect sense for them to attend Chinese schools. It all depends on your situation and what you hope the outcome to be for your child, language-wise.

  5. #5
    Buckeroo is offline Registered User
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    My son had two classmates in Tutor Time who are French (both parents) and it was just amazing to hear them speak to the Mandarin teacher in Mandarin, speak English with the rest of their classmates and the other teachers, and then just turn around and converse with each other in French --all without skipping a beat. Children code-switch with no problem.

    There is no harm in exposing your child to another language. If anything, there are more advantages to doing so than not. Children pick up languages more easily than we adults do. Between 0-6yo is a golden opportunity for them to learn a second or even a third language and be able to speak it at native level. If you have the opportunity, why not? :)
    Last edited by Buckeroo; 01-25-2010 at 11:28 AM. Reason: Added link for easier reference.

  6. #6
    riseandshine is offline Registered User
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    Thank you all for your advice. We have decided to go for it and place him in the bilingual stream. Nearly all the other children in his class have English as their first language so are in a similar position to him. My only concern is that he won't settle in as quickly as he will have the new language to deal with as well as the new surroundings / friends / teachers etc. I feel having exposure to a second language will probably be beneficial to him though and since this opportunity is available to him here we've decided to take it. I hope we've made the right decision for him.

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    okezie is offline Registered User
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    I hope you made the right choice too - a bit late for my advice but I will say it anyway!

    I am a teacher in a bi-lingual kindergarten. I have over 5 years experience in bi-lingual education and it can be a wonderful thing. I think as long as you have a school with excellent experienced teachers it doesnt matter where he goes. It could be a bi-lingual kindy with flaky teachers and a flaky curriculum. He will lose any Chinese language as soon as he gets back to the UK due to his age. Any classes you put him in will be so far from the immersion type learning he will have here that it wont be the same for him.

    So as long as the school you chose has teachers who know how to nurture his individual needs and place emphasis on things you believe in as being part of an excellent education then that will be what matters most.

    ANother thing is how the school provides a 'bi-cultural' experience. That will be what he takes away from him more than anything. Will he get to experience the best of both cultures while there? Will the exposure to Chinese and Western culture be authentic and child centred? I hope so and wish you all the best for your time here.

  8. #8
    Meera Ganesan is offline Registered User
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    Hi Rise and Shine,
    I was wondering if you put your son in the bilingual stream? My husband and I are finding it hard to decide, too. We are Indians but would love for our son to learn Cantonese/Mandarin along with English. Would be great if you would share your experience.

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