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confused about the languages

  1. #1
    baguette is offline Registered User
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    confused about the languages

    We are Italian.
    Our daughter, 2 years old, speaks Italian and understand English (can actually say some sentences) as she's attending anAustralian pre-nursery in Dubai.
    now we're moving to HK and I don't know what to do.

    Carang, met here on Geobaby, suggested a "local" nursery where the directions are given in Cantonese.
    WE are very corious and interested but...

    isn't it too much?
    Italian, English and Cantonese.

    IF we succeed in keeping her English..but being in a Cantonese school for most of the day she'll probably speak Italian and Cantonese.

    does it make sense? none of the two languages are spoken worldwide.
    nobody in the family will ever be able to help her with her Cantonese.

    Mandarin would be better for us as I can speak it and I may be helpful or at least able to understand what she says.

    I am really confused and afraid my girl will turn out not able to speak any language correctly.

    What would you do?
    Is there anyone else who's not native English or native Chinese speaker here?

  2. #2
    fingerscrossed is offline Registered User
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    Actually, cantonese can be hard for the child to learn if she doesn't come home and speak it as well since it's only a spoken dialect. i would try putting her in an international school that teaches a good amount of putonghua. if she picks up the cantonese, great, but it's not a loss if she doesn't know it. putonghua is really the language to learn while you're in asia.

    try the ESF schools which, I believe, try to put some emphasis on teaching a sufficient amount of chinese. if you really want your child to be billingual, the Singapore Int'l School is another option (if you don't mind the 'singlish' accent that is) or for a local option, KCS in North Point uses Putonghua and English as their MOI and that's where I'll be sending my child who will start nursery this coming Sept.

  3. #3
    carang's Avatar
    carang is offline Registered User
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    baguette, it's a very personal decision. one that only you and your husband can make.

    for us, learning the local language was essential. even if my kids weren't mixed, i would have considered it essential. the reasons that other parents have decided on local schooling (at least for kindergarten) are wide and varied. when talking about kindergarten it is NOT necessary that someone at home speak the language, too. AFAIK the other "white" kids at school do not have anyone else at home that can speak the local language. i do agree that once you get to primary school it would be more difficult to continue in a local school if there isn't this "back-up", but at that point most western people put their kids into ESF.
    most of the local kindies will also do english & putonghua as well (at least the one in question does).

    if one parent at home speaks italian and the other one english, your child should not have any trouble with the 3 languages.

    and no, i don't think it's asking a lot from your child. it's only for a couple of years anyway...

    just my 2 cents...i'm sure others will disagree.

  4. #4
    TheQuasimother is offline Registered User
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    At my son's school, there are a couple of non-native English/Chinese/German/French speakers. And they've chosen the English stream for obvious reasons.

    The realities and ramifications of not having English or Chinese as your native language (or one parent's native language) will be shown later in the child's opportunities and language development.

    I'm not an advocate of the local school system as I've worked in the local school system. It's just not good enough and there are so many shortcomings for children in non-English/Chinese contexts. It is one thing to deal with English/Chinese at the early stages - it's easier but when they get older, they suffer as in primary schools, it's not set in stages or supported as well as in many local kindergartens. Teachers simply don't have the time or resources to support learning the learning of a non-native English/Cantonese speaker. If your child doesn't cope with either languages and you can't find a good local school, you'd be placing your child in a situation with a lot of other elements you'll be very unhappy with.

    I've worked in the system from P1-senior high and I see how bad it can get. Unless your child is extremely lucky to score a great local school with great teachers and learning support, skip the local system.

    Stick to the international school system as long as you can afford it. If you're still keen on the local system, try the DSS schools for a better fit - PLK Camoes (Mongkok), Yuen Yuen (Tuen Mun) ... such schools actually make provisions for non-native English/Chinese speakers and the kids actually cope well because it doesn't actually comply with the local system.
    “If you want to get to the castle, you’ve got to swim the moat.” Richard Jenkins in Eat Pray Love

  5. #5
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    carang is offline Registered User
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    i have been teaching kids of all ages in hk for almost 15 years, so i DO know what the local schools CAN do.... i'm not talking about primary or secondary school here, the OP's child is only 2 years old. I'm talking about kindergarten. that's it.

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    TheQuasimother is offline Registered User
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    Baguette, sorry, I forgot to mention that in the school I am currently working, there is an Italian/Chinese girl who has been in the local system since kindergarten.

    Her English and Chinese abilities are neither good nor bad. She has problems in both - not so much with speaking as her main problem is in intonation. She can't spell well nor write well. But I'm working in a Band 2 school though. And in this school, there is a great emphasis of both languages. Her parents can't afford to send her to an international school system so she's stuck with the local system.

    The decision you make at 2 in HK can affect (depending on how long you intend to be here) for your child's chances of getting into an international school. As an Italian family, there is no first priority in the international school system for you. Our son's good friend is Italian and they have chosen ESF even though they started with a local kindergarten at pre-nursery.
    “If you want to get to the castle, you’ve got to swim the moat.” Richard Jenkins in Eat Pray Love

  7. #7
    TheQuasimother is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by baguette View Post
    We are Italian.
    Our daughter, 2 years old, speaks Italian and understand English (can actually say some sentences) as she's attending anAustralian pre-nursery in Dubai.
    You've obviously started a path for your child. Best thing for a child is sometimes to limit change - especially at that age.

    I am aware of Carang's experience but as a full-time ESL teacher in a local school, I deal with, on a daily basis, the long term ramifications of parent's decisions in their child's early years - the school I work with is a through train school - K1 - S7. The problems in early years especially with languages don't disappear but are made worse in the local school system.

    Some children cope with many languages and some don't. 3 is just too many for a young child - there is such a thing as language confusion in children and the child might become a jack of all trades but master of none as linguistic research has shown (which is demonstrated very much later in their education).
    “If you want to get to the castle, you’ve got to swim the moat.” Richard Jenkins in Eat Pray Love

  8. #8
    lesliefu is offline Registered User
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    i would suggest looking into the victoria international nursery & kindergarten system. they have international streams and bilingual streams (so you'd be choosing between mandarin & english or cantonese & english). all the languages are used in context and the kids that I have worked with (that have NO chinese at home) learn to listen to chinese well because of the way it is used in context, rather than being actually taught as a language - there are classes, but very short so quite insignificant in my opinion - but having said that, the kids know when to use mandarin (mandarin teacher), english (english teacher) and cantonese (everyone else) and it's not confusing...even the most confused little girl is able to cope with all three because the language is contextualized.

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