Leih Hou & Ciao from Nanning, Kwangsi, South China Oct 28, 2021 19:11:26 GMT 9
Post by Kumsing on Oct 28, 2021 19:11:26 GMT 9
Topic: Challenge of turning bidialectal children to bilingual parenting
Hi, everyone. My name is Kum Sing. Very glad to join this community. A very brief "Leih Hou" before kicking off my story, hopefully that it's an enjoyable sharing of raising bilingual babies amoung us.
Let me talk about myself and my upbringing. I was brought up in a city in south China where Cantonese is spoken as the "dialectus francus" in regard to the Chinese Mandarin widely used all through the country. If Hong Kong citizens are born bilingual, we're naturally bidialectal (Cantonese and Chinese Mandarin share the same characters and syntax, but they have distinctly different pronunciations and intonations, as well as different wording customs, hence orally unintelligible). We were taught in Cantonese at school and our family is purely in Cantonese circumstance. But since the generation of our offsprings, due to the popularization campaign of Mandarin by the Chinese government, even in Canton (Guangzhou in Madarin) most children lose Cantonese becoming monodialectalist in Mandarin. My 6-year elder son attended a governmental kindergarten and now is going to a primary school in which all the courses are given in Mandarin. But his main caregiver, his grandma, speaks only Cantonese with him and my parents and I communicate with each other in Cantonese at home. Between Cantonese and Mandarin, the balance is well kept and he can seamlessly shift both dialects to another without any hesitation.
When it comes to his bilingual education, I'm running into lots of troubles, which are really frustrating. I went to Italy to attend college when I was 19, and earned my Ph.D (dottore di ricerca in the Italian system) in pharmacy at the age of 27. Now I'm working in a drug control institute in Nanning, provincial capital of Kwangsi (Guangxi in Mandarin). Every now and then, I gain opportunities to return to Italy and keep in touch with my Italian professors and other social networks in Italy. After 8 years of life with Italian students, although not perfectly, I'm quite fluent in Italian with little accent. I admit I'm still not bilingual but I'm capable to use Italian in my daily life as well as for study and work. So I decided to speak exclusively Italian from day 1 of the birth of my elder son. In the first 2 years he could understand what I said and did things right that I told him, and produced very limited amount of Italian words (less than 10). Unfortunately, I was absent from my family for a task assigned by the institute where I'm working for 3 years. What's mysterious, is that he could still understand what I said in Italian when I returned home at the age of 5, but obviously he fell a lot behind, let alone keeping pace with his two Chinese dialects (perfectly parallel).
Now I'm bending over backwards to drag him away from lagging, by playing Italian animated cartoons, reading picture books, and playing games with him. But he seems reluctant to talk with me in Italian, unlike other passive bilingual children, he doesn't answer me in the majority language (Chinese), neither in Mandarin nor Cantonese, but remains silent whilst mostly understands what to do even when I talk to him with long sentences. In our family, we're strictly implementing the OPOL parenting. He seldom asks me for help in case of necessity.
Recently, he attempts to ask me some questions like "why sth. floats on the water while others not?" (Some words missing, but I can see that he struggles to make sentences in Italian). But when there's other family members around, he never says any Italian words. What's worse, it seems impossible of me to hook him on books. He's not interested in what I'm reading, but focuses just on the images, and doesn't sit through for 10 mins. Now my concern is: how far can I go in this way of parenting? Will he be able to speak, read and write in Italian one day? Does it make sense that I persevere with this method on my second child?