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3-4 languages

  1. #1
    asalles is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Hong Kong

    3-4 languages

    Hi moms and dads,

    Was wondering if anyone is in a similar situation...
    I have a 2 1/2 year old and want to put her in once a week Mandarin classes. I speak with her in English while my husband speaks to her in Italian. (on top of that, the far away grandparents speak only Portuguese with her) My husband feels that learning Mandarin this young would only confuse her even more. I, of course disagree and believe the earlier the better. Anyone up for sharing their viewpoints or experiences?? Thanks:

  2. #2
    Nemo is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Hong Kong

    Hi asalles, i'm for you. My mother language is Mandarin, but i speak English a lot at home to my 5 months boy while my wife speaks in mandarin. It's no doubt the eralier the better. Kids have their own system to distinguish language. I wish I have a multiple language family just like yours. :)

  3. #3
    Sylvieng is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Park Island

    Well... here is my feedback :

    I'm chinese, but born in France.

    At home, we lived with my grand-parents who spoke only chui-chow.
    In the beginning, at school, it wasn't so easy because we were not able to communicate so easely with other children, especially for my big sister as I had her to speak french to.
    But children are really adaptable, so we manage. But I have to say that even so, I know that my level in french isn't so perfect. I can see the difference with my husband who is french-french, fully french ! Of course, I'm fluent, but well, at school I always had difficulty in french class... And now sometime, I have to think before finding a word. Is it because I'm not in a french environment anymore ?...

    But something for sure, I learn other languages much easier than other kids. Still do. Since coming to Hong Kong, I have learn quite enough cantonese to have small conversations and I never did have cantonese class.

    2nd example : My niece.
    The situation is even more complexe : she was born in Hong Kong from a french-born-chinese and a Japanese. My parents spoke to her in mandarin. And she goes to the french international school.
    Now, she speaks French, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese and English !
    But even in french, which is the language she use the most, she hasn't got the perfect level. She is fluent but she hasn't got the level that my husband's niece who leave in France, have.

    My nephew, for some reason, doesn't want to speak in Mandarin and Cantonese. But his level in French is better !

    So in conclusion, I would say that it does seem that the more languages you have, the less you will be able to reach perfect level.
    But do we need to have a perfect level when we speak so many languages ? What is the use of languages after all ? If people understand you, it should be enough isn't it ?

    Well, except if you want to be a diplomate. But then, maybe you would work harder on languages to reach a better level ? It's a matter of choice.

    For my part, I'm quite happy to be able to speak many languages, and I do believe that we are going in a world where being able to communicate in different languages is a must.

  4. #4
    Histamin is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Hi, Everyone.
    Our children have been experiencing similar situation with yours,
    But recently I noticed it's important to give them different places for every language to practice, otherwise they will confuse to control many languages.
    For my son's case(4 yrs), Japanese, Cantonese, English, Mandarin, Hakka(dialects of chinese).
    From my point, he seems to be best speaking in Japanese because I'm native Japanese speaker, but when I'm not there, he's extremely not speaking Japanese any more.
    He is influenced by TV, he likes to watch cartoon on TV, he will speak same language with them while he's watching TV.
    Now I'm researching how can I teach him writing well and reading well, I think it's the key which language do you want to push them remains perfect.

  5. #5
    joannek is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Hong Kong

    children have a funny ability to tell the differnt languages apart. in fact, each language (or actually, dialect) have their own unique property which a little child can pick up. do expose her to more languages when she's young. when they turn 13, you'v missed the chance. ref :what's going on in their mind for the first 5 yrs of life

  6. #6
    Charlotte is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    Hi All,

    I agree that being bi/multilingual gives you a distinct advantage both in the work environmnet and socially. People who learn to speak different languages and become fluent are invariably exposed to differnt cultures and this usually helps them to become more rounded individulas than they would be otherwise. However, those children brought up in a bilingual households tend to do better if each parent always speaks to the child in their NATIVE language so that the distinction between the languages is clearer and they also get the correct pronounciation etc. They would then pick up their third language at school.

    Most (but there are exceptions) children who do have parents who speak to them in different languages and have a third language at school struggle with the finer points of most of the languages that they learn unless they make one of them dominant. Their written skills also tend to lag behind. It is really important that the parents and teachers of these children work together to prevent these problems developing.

    Multilingual children need to have a mother tongue in order to learn effectively. They should use this to process information and translate to their other languages if necessary. When the mother tongue is not properly established in a multilingual environment serious problems associated with learning result.

    Having worked with many children who are just bilingual, I can say that they may sound fluent but find it very difficult to express themselves in writing in either or both of the languages. This is especially true of Hong Kong born Chinese children who grow up in an English speaking countries and then return to Hong Kong. Their spoken English is generally quite good but the written bears no comparison in terms of level. Their spoken and written Chinese is even worse so I am told. In fact a lot of these children can't read Chinese characters at all.

    Going back to the original question it is proven that learning languages at an early age is alot easier. However, at 2.5 years old I think that it might be a little too early to coach a bilingual childin an additional language especially if it is only once a week or just when they meet their grandparents. To become fluent in a language and truely mulitlingual (if that is your goal), you need to have some sort of motivation. At such a young age that might be communicating with your parents and to play school friends. Older children would be motivated by exam success, adults by travel and better CV's etc. You also need the opportunity to use this language frequently. In addition at 2.5 they haven't fully established a language for learning with yet and you could unknowingly allow misconceptions to go unnoticed especially if your own ability in this additional language isn't that great.

    That said, I believe that as long as you are aware of the issues and take precautions to avoid the problems it is a great idea to expose your child to different languages and to facilitate their learning of these languages.

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