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Bi Lingual?

  1. #1
    shri's Avatar
    shri is offline Administrator
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    Bi Lingual?

    We had a long discussions last night about the expat parents in Hong Kong who do not make the extra effort to teach their kids Cantonese or Mandarin?

    What sort of effect does this have on kids when they cannot communicate with 90% of the people around them?

    Adults tend to get away with this easily.. because they have ther fixed routines and their social circles / structures are established. Kids don't .. they need to explore and discover and to a certain extend sort out their own likes and dislikes.

    Opinions?

  2. #2
    lenima is offline Registered User
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    I believe there could be several answers as to why some expat parents don't require or encourage their children to learn Cantonese or Mandarin. They may not expect to live here for a long time, or, esp. if the children attend an English medium-of-instruction school, they may reason that it's not worth the effort, since most of the child's time will be at school, at play with school or neighborhood friends, or at home. If the family lives where there is a large concentration of expats, they may actually have hardly any interaction at all with 90% of Hong Kong's residents! Another factor, which is unfortunate, is some people may regard it as declasse to be conversant in the local language. Even some Chinese people who have lived overseas come back and have this attitude, which seems strange since it is demeaning to local people, but then a colony can leave some complexes on the colonized.

    As for the effect on the children, basically they are "stuck" with the same limited knowledge and understanding as their parents.

    On the other hand, I believe that encouraging children to learn Cantonese would contribute to making the children's stay in Hong Kong far more stimulating and pleasant, and add to the value of their children having lived here (once they go back to their home countries). Overcoming the language barrier would contribute greatly to also overcoming negative stereotypes about "the locals", and prevent misunderstandings that inevitably will occur between expats and Chinese they encounter. These are good motivations, if you need any, to teach children Cantonese while living in Hong Kong. Moreover, an important point: it is nearly effortless for very young children, and still less effort for older children than for adults, to learn a foreign language, in the country where it's spoken. Once begun, there are endless opportunities for the children to practice the Cantonese they've begun learning. But the thing to start with is the determination to learn the language.

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    Do you know of any places where one could learn Mandarin relatively inexpensively?

    I am probably more keen on Mandarin than Cantonese, as I can get away without knowing Cantonese in HK, but definately need a translator when I'm in China for work.

  4. #4
    loupou is offline Baby Guru
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    Ideas to promote bilingualism

    Hi,

    If you want to promote your kids speaking Cantonese of Putonghua (Mandarin) it's useful to speak it yourself. The YMCA and YWCA have classes in both.

    An even cheaper way would be to do "langauge exchange" - you teach some person's kids English a couple times a week and they work w/ your kid in Putonghua or Cantonese. I did that w/ a neighbor for a while.

    Another help is to live somewhere w/ fewer foreigners. I have an Aussie friend who moved here when she was about 10 and she began to learn Cantonese because she went to the local playground and wanted to play.

    Combine that w/ some simple lessons on how to count, how to say "can I play?" "give it back to me" "follow me", "please" "thanks", etc. and then the kids can begin to mix in.

    Consider sending your pre-schoolers to a Cantonese only nursery school or kindergarten, tell the teachers that you REALLY want them to speak to your child in Cantonese.

    Let them watch cartoons and teletubbies etc. in Cantonese on the local stations. Watch it with them, for your own practice. :)

    My experience in HK has been that most people are very kind about foreigners (esp. Europeans) who speak bad Cantonese. So, as an adult you need to get over your own fear, let your kids hear you speaking Cantonese or Mandarin and in a couple of years they will be proud of how much better they are at it than you are :)

  5. #5
    grace is offline Registered User
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    Bilingual

    I am new to this forum as english is not my first language. Since I married a native speaker in HK and I have keen interest to discuss this topic.

    As 90% of people speak Cantonese here and I think it is easier to learn Cantonese rather than English. However, my hubby said Mandarin is easier as it is only 4 sounds while Cantonese has 9. Learning language is not just read books and listening to casettes, we need to talk and practice. I think the cheapest way is just let kids out and meet the local. But I know there is too many misunderstanding between expats and local. While HK people pay high price to sign up for native speaker playgroup and the expats looking for inexpensive way to learn new language, why? Can we remove the boundry between them and exchange their languages in an effective and efficient way?

    My husband said the same thing that he can find his way in HK, so he doesn't need to learn Cantonese. This is not correct. He can find his way becasue he lives here longer. Blind people can find their way too. I don't want to discriminate anyone here, but it shows that time can help us to find the way out. Kids are wonderful learner and some even argue that kids born as international citizen and they can pick up any languages at their young age.

    Learning a new language is hard when you already grown up and I am the typical example for learning english. I talk with my husband everyday in english and watch english tv for over 4 years, I still having difficulties. There are too many excuse for me not to improve my english. It's just like my husband having excuse for not learning Cantonese.

    To benefit our next generation, I think we should show our initiative to our kids and learn a new language together.

  6. #6
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    Sam is offline Registered User
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    I agree with everyone here that if we live here our children should have to opportunity to learn Cantontese or Mandarin. I think it is a shame for foreign people to put their children through school here for like over 10 years without them learning a single word of the local languages. Maybe they are ignorant or think they are better than everyone else ... I don't know.

    We must think of our kids future ... do we want them to be limited with their parents native language or give them the vast opportunity that by learning Cantonese and Mandarin will provide for them, especially at their young inquisitive age.

    With China opening up and Hong Kong as a business hub of the world. Even if they go back to their home country ... being able to talk more than one language will definatley help them in their future careers.

  7. #7
    sethgrossman is offline Registered User
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    What about mandarin?

    Given that many jobs are and will continue to move up to China, many of us would like our kids to learn Mandarin. Any thoughts on pre-schools that do a good job with Mandarin in addition to English? By this, I don't mean one 1/2 hour lesson every week just so they can put Mandarin in their brochure.

    Appreicate any thoughts

  8. #8
    twinkle is offline Registered User
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    I think under ideal circumstances children here should learn cantonese or mandarin where possible.

    In our case, however, our kids will already have to learn three languages. They need French and Hindi to communicate with their grandparents, and they will learn English as this is what we speak at home.

    We are planning French at school, English at home, and if they pick up Hindi by spending time with their grandparents, then woo-hoo. Adding another language to that mix seems like a lot of confusion for the children.

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