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Q: Any tips to help a mixed child be bilingual?

My daughter just turned 2 and we live in Australia,I am Chinese,Husband is Australian,my daughter speaks a lot now,but she speaks English mostly,not Much Chinese,at Home,I try to speak Chinese(Mandarin) with her as much as I can,but sometimes I speak English with her as I keep forgetting. Husband speaks English with her,and she watches English TV,I found her English is so much better than her Chinese. It seems she doesn't understand much Chinese either which makes me a bit upset.

 

We go back to China for a holiday every 2 years , I am thinking about taking her back to China for a long holiday before she goes to Preschool,the main goal is to improve her Chinese.

 

Any ideas are appreciated.

4 years 15 weeks ago in  Teaching & Learning - Other cities

 
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I asked my wife about this. She is an early childhood teacher and constantly buys books and studies them. So here is my 2 cents.....

 

She said it will just happen. Kids just do it, the lucky little buggers.

 

But she suggests some play dates with your friend's children who are the opposite: ie their chinese is better than their english. She will become friends with them and will learn through playing with them. This will benefit all the kids.

 

As mentioned above, having a bilingual environment will be valuable.

 

From my own point of view, as we don't have kids yet, you will notice soon that she answers your chinese in english which is what I often do with my wife (child at heart).

 

Those baby books with pictures and the english and chinese words were also valuable to me a few years ago and helped build a solid vocabulary of everyday objects and foods. I still use them with my little chinese nephew who is struggling with mandarin and english and make a fun game of it. He is having some good success.

 

My friends tell me that their kids pick up one language faster than the others. Being in guangdong, the kids need to learn, cantonese, local dialect which is distinct from cantonese, mandarin and english. They say that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th language can take a bit longer and they will often mix all together but it does sort itself out over time.

 

I wish you and your daughter the best of luck. It will be challenging but rewarding for everyone.

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4 years 15 weeks ago
 
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Good to see you still posting Maggie.

 

some suggestions.

Depending on where you live, can you meet any other Chinese who you can socialise with and speak Chinese when with your daughter?

Are there local Australian/Chinese community activities you can take part in, even if it is only on SKYPE?

Maybe suggest to your husband that you speak only Chinese at home on certain days (say all day Monday, Thursday and Saturday and an alternate 4th day) so your daughter can see that it is a family language as well as English. You could post yourself reminders of which language to be speaking together on certain days.

DVD's/books/songs in Chinese you can watch together as a family.

 

It is important that your daughter see that her father considers this part of her education as necessary by taking part with you as i have observed that children are very much influenced by how both their parents behave in a day to day environment.

Learning though example is often more powerful than a 'rote learning/do as I say' environment.

 

good luck !

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4 years 15 weeks ago
 
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Hi Maggie
My wife is the main educator.
We bring some kids DVD's back from China like Dora the Explorer and in the Night Garden that are in Chinese.
We also speak both languages at home and we have lots of Chinese speaking friends.
The kids just seem to fall into it.
my 7yrs daughter speaks like a native the boy can hold is own

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4 years 15 weeks ago
 
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I asked my wife about this. She is an early childhood teacher and constantly buys books and studies them. So here is my 2 cents.....

 

She said it will just happen. Kids just do it, the lucky little buggers.

 

But she suggests some play dates with your friend's children who are the opposite: ie their chinese is better than their english. She will become friends with them and will learn through playing with them. This will benefit all the kids.

 

As mentioned above, having a bilingual environment will be valuable.

 

From my own point of view, as we don't have kids yet, you will notice soon that she answers your chinese in english which is what I often do with my wife (child at heart).

 

Those baby books with pictures and the english and chinese words were also valuable to me a few years ago and helped build a solid vocabulary of everyday objects and foods. I still use them with my little chinese nephew who is struggling with mandarin and english and make a fun game of it. He is having some good success.

 

My friends tell me that their kids pick up one language faster than the others. Being in guangdong, the kids need to learn, cantonese, local dialect which is distinct from cantonese, mandarin and english. They say that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th language can take a bit longer and they will often mix all together but it does sort itself out over time.

 

I wish you and your daughter the best of luck. It will be challenging but rewarding for everyone.

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4 years 15 weeks ago
 
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Don't let her get away with replying in English to you, when you know she can say it in Chinese. If she responds in English, "ting bu dong".

 

As mentioned by Sorrel above, hubby needs to get in on this. So, when your daughter gets frustrated with your 'lack of English', he should step in ... in Chinese!

 

If his Chinese isn't up to scratch, then he should leaan, alongside your daughter!

 

Language acquisition is VERY STRONGLY associated with 'status', and that status is shown by the parents. So, if both parents show that Chinese has status, then she'll get the idea that she should learn it.  (there is a negative if using the 1-parent/1-language idea. 1-day/1-language works better). If some of hubby's friends also take an interest in trying to learn the language, that obviously would help as well (even just the basics - ni hao, xie xie, etc)

 

You're in Oz. Unless you're up in the top end, you'll find Chinese around, and I'm sure you'll find a LOT of people who would be only too happy to help you and your daughter maintain their language. Go for a walk around the fruit & veg markets. Buy Chinese food from a Chinese restaurant, run by Chinese

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese-language_television_channe...

 

Video chats with people back home - uncles, aunts, cousins etc will also help (obviously), especially if she can teach them English while doing so.

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4 years 15 weeks ago
 
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We have 3 languages at home. Mum speaks her native tongue, dad speaks his native tongue, mom and dad speaks English together. We've been 100% consistent towards our son. He speaks my native tongue to me and his mothers native tongue to her. If I ask him to give an apple to his mother he will go and say "here is an apple" in Mandarin to her. He is Google Translate in person. 

 

As you are the only mandarin speaker be consistent, don't switch to English if you think the child doesn't understand. A child always understands mummy. 

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4 years 15 weeks ago
 
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I have a limited Chinese vocabulary, but whenever possible, I talk to my sons in Chinese. I also do on-the-spot translation by using the two language words together, so they learn them both.

In August, my oldest son will go to German kindergarten, so that will be a shock for him. His new peers will speak German, so I expect him to focus on German and English. He already has an English preference, but my wife purchased learning books to improve his Chinese in a half hour daily lesson before bed.

For emigrated families like my own, the challenge is to keep Chinese language alive. School schedules can be highly restrictive, not allowing any absence longer than the summer holidays. A 4-month claasroom course in China would do a world of good for language development. Other families in Europe hit this hurdle before, and we will see if we have a way around it in the future.

In the home, introduce what you can to emphasize the neglected language, but don't force the issue (or the child will consciously oppose it), and make it natural and organic. Every child has interests that capture their imagination, but every personality is different.

Aesthetically oriented children will be interested in attractive things connected to Chinese language.
Highly social children will benefit from interacting with Chinese peers.
Physical children might like new sports and dance fashions emerging from China.

Find your child's interests, and try to appeal to them.

Don't be disheartened when the child actively focuses on the chosen primary language and seems to forget the secondary - this is natural. He/She will include more languages once more 'storage space' becomes available. During language acquisition, the brain is already running quite hot. All you need to do, is make sure he doesn't ignore the secondary language(Drunk when there is time for them.

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4 years 15 weeks ago
 
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My daughter was born in the UK. My wife is Chinese and our daughter is 5 y/o . We relocated to China when she was 5 months old and ever since she has lived with my in-laws as my wife and i are both super busy. I am not worried about her English ability as i believe she will pick it up when she goes to the UK or starts primary school at an international school in China. In fact i'm glad she speaks perfect Chinese. Regarding English, she's a lot better than her peers. She learns faster than the normal Chinese kid which seems natural to me. I hope with time she will get to speak both English and Chinese much more fluently. 

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4 years 5 weeks ago
 
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