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Bringing up baby bilingual

  1. #9
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    oreomama,

    I think that it's really normal for bilingual (or multilingual) children to mix up languages when they are young. For example, in Cantonese the phrase for "a lot" is "ho duo" (ho=good, duo=many; 'a good many'=a lot). In English we might say "so much" or "so many." My son started blending the two into "ho many" when he wanted to say "a lot."

    Last week he said to me, "Mama, I give you see." He was literally translating the Cantonese "bei lay tai" which literally translated into English is give (bei) you (lay) see (tai). In English he should have said, "I will let you look" or "let you have a look" or "let you look at it."

    These are all common errors with anyone who is learning another language. I think it's cute.
    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

  2. #10
    littleho is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by oreomama View Post
    I am a Malaysian Chinese and my husand & our sons are Singaporeans. And we have stayed in Beijing for the past 2 years, and i notice my toddler boys have a strong liking towards Mandarin, and my elder one speaks with Beijing accent (which i love it and hope this accent retains as long as possible!).

    We are bilingual or maybe trilingual as my husband converse in English with our boys while i speak in Mandarin with Malay once in a while. We have been here in HK for 2 months and my boys start to pick up some Cantonese as well.

    From what i notice, kids at this age pick up new languages very fast and they are enjoying and passion about learning a new language. But there's a little problem here as i notice my boys tend to "mix" different languages in sentences, for eg: I love to eat "dim sum", are we going to the place with 小巴?" etc.. I have been trying hard to correct them on this problem but i wonder is this a norm for a 3yo bilingual to converse like this?

    My elder boy is attending an international kindergarten, and there's Mandarin lesson 3 times a week (20 mins each session). His Mandarin teachers had feedback to me that he is very good in Mandarin, and the standards are too easy for him, as he's into reading and writing Chinese words (simplified version) now. Hence, i am quite worried his proficiency of Mandarin will start to stagnant. Does any mummies sharing the same situation as me?

    And now it comes to select an appropriate Primary school for him (he's 4 this year), i am quite clueless which is more suitable for him as he understand very very little Cantonese so local school is probably out, and i prefer a school has strong focus on Mandarin as well. And not forgetting we may return Singapore one day, hence English is equally important. Headache!

  3. #11
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    Gataloca is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by thanka2 View Post
    oreomama,

    I think that it's really normal for bilingual (or multilingual) children to mix up languages when they are young. For example, in Cantonese the phrase for "a lot" is "ho duo" (ho=good, duo=many; 'a good many'=a lot). In English we might say "so much" or "so many." My son started blending the two into "ho many" when he wanted to say "a lot."
    .
    In this case "ho" doesn't mean good, but "very". Like "ho len" (very beautiful), "ho ho" (very good), "ho tai" (very big)
    :-)

  4. #12
    Gataloca's Avatar
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    I think the problem of mixing different languages in one sentence is common in HK, even on adults. You can hear people talking/chatting in cantonese, and it is very common to hear one of two english words in a sentence as they speak. When I first came to HK, I found that quite annoying. Even I, having grown up outside HK, would not mix language up when I speak in cantonese or another language (unless it is for technical things). But here, don't know if is fashion, or people are just lazy speaking and just use the first word that come to their mind instead of finding the right word...

  5. #13
    CFM
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    Language acquisition is very complex. it is really important, whatever you decided to do, that your child can identify with one (or 2 if you want truly bilingual) language as a mother tongue. The kids that struggle later on in schooling are those whose parents have spoken to them for 3+ years at home in one language (for arguments sake let's say Cantonese) and then suddenly stop that using that language with the kids when they go to school in a different language (let's say English). Using the above languages as example....Many parents make the mistake of abandoning the Cantonese and speaking in English to their child, under the false belief that it will help their child's English language development. In fact it is usually the opposite as the child then has confusion about their 'base' language, or mother tongue. There have been many, many studies that emphasise the importance of solid mother tongue development. This sound foundation will give children a solid foundation for developing additional language skills.
    If you speak one language at home, then for your child's sake you should continue it at the same level, regardless of what language you then choose to have them schooled in.
    I know many parents who have gone successfully down the one parent/one language route and kids are successfully bi and tri lingual at a young age. Provided you are consistent then this could be a good way to go.

  6. #14
    ozmerc is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by thanka2 View Post
    I'm not sure what school he's going to but if you want him to learn Chinese then send him to a local school where the medium of instruction is Cantonese and English and Mandarin are taught as additional classes (this is becoming the norm in the schools now). If you need help deciphering his homework, hire a tutor--you probably only need to hire a secondary student or university student who is looking for an after school job. If he's in that environment every day you can assume he's communicating in Cantonese. You can also check with his teacher and see how he's doing. It's all about exposure and if school is the most natural way to expose him to the language then that's a good way to start.
    Thanka2 - I wish I even knew where to start with the local school system. I am concerned about the quality of education and class sizes, not to mention that I have heard the local schools won't accept non-Cantonese speaking kids because they don't have the extra resources to help them out. I know immersion is the best approach but I'm not sure it's practical to send our son to a local school. On the other hand I am not crazy about the idea of sending him to ESF (our other option) because I think it's such a wasted opportunity. He is 3 so we have a little time up our sleeves to consider our options.

  7. #15
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gataloca View Post
    In this case "ho" doesn't mean good, but "very". Like "ho len" (very beautiful), "ho ho" (very good), "ho tai" (very big)
    :-)
    I do understand this but the most likely way we would say something similar in English is "a good many" (which is an actual phrase in English). I did study Chinese in the past. It's amazing how many variations of meanings there are for this one character.
    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

  8. #16
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by ozmerc View Post
    Thanka2 - I wish I even knew where to start with the local school system. I am concerned about the quality of education and class sizes, not to mention that I have heard the local schools won't accept non-Cantonese speaking kids because they don't have the extra resources to help them out. I know immersion is the best approach but I'm not sure it's practical to send our son to a local school. On the other hand I am not crazy about the idea of sending him to ESF (our other option) because I think it's such a wasted opportunity. He is 3 so we have a little time up our sleeves to consider our options.
    I don't have any answers here. All I know is that I have colleagues who have older children who also don't speak any Cantonese in their family and chose to put their children in the public schools here when they were young. Although it was difficult, they found creative ways to make things work. Now that the children are older, they really believe they made the right choice. When it comes to education in HK, my observation is that 1) nothing is straight-forward or simple 2) nothing is easy 3) nothing is truly "cheap" (you always have to pay in some way--money, time, stress...etc.)

    But, having said all that, it is not possible to make a blanket judgement about "all the public schools in HK" because truly (and I can say this as a primary school teacher in a local school) every school is "it's own kingdom." You'll find that the local schools are loosely connected through the Education department but have a lot of flexibility--especially at the primary school level. There are a few "hidden jewels" as far as schools go. I think whether or not you and your family will be able to navigate the system here depends on many factors but one of those is how connected and educated you become about how the system actually operates here--the best way to do that is to ask a lot of questions of the people who have their children in the system--not the ones with the children outside of the system. If you find the right kindergarten, I'll tell you what, the government subsidy for kindergartens is unbeatable (this means that my family and I send my son to kindergarten 1/2 day, 5 days/week at a school we like and we pay $800 HKD/month plus about $400 HKD/month for his bus transportation to and from school every day--most private kindergartens are charging a minimum of $3,000 HKD/month as far as I know).
    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

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