We are trying to raise our 11-month-old son trilingual (English, French and Mandarin). My husband and I are both native French speakers. We are both fluent in English. We live in a bilingual city (French/English) but our neighborhood is more English speaking. School will be in French.
I have an oral Mandarin level equivalent to a 7-year-old child and a lower elementary reading comprehension. Since my son was about 6 months old, I've been exclusively speaking in Mandarin to him (but French with my husband who doesn't know any Mandarin). I didn't start earlier because I didn't give much thought prior to that...my husband is only speaking in French to our son.
To improve my own Mandarin level, I've been studying 30min per day and it worked (my extended family have noticed my improvement). I am the only Mandarin input for now. So after reading Adam's book, I realized I am really swimming against the current (feeling like abandoning more than once). So my realistic expectation is for him to acquire a passive understanding and my ideal goal is to get him to a 5-6 year-old native speaker level. We are expecting high level for French and English (oral and literacy).
We decided to wait a little bit before introducing English since it is the majority language. I also feel that I cannot keep talking exclusively in Mandarin because at some point I'll need a richer vocabulary to explain things to him when he'll be older...but after reading a few books on raising bilingual kids, I'm determined to provide as much exposure as I can. Thanks all for taking the time to read!
Shangzhu, welcome! I know nurturing Mandarin is a large challenge for you, but I'm very glad that you didn't abandon this aim and that you now feel determined to do as much as you realistically can to foster an early foundation in this language. The truth is, as long as you sustain this commitment over the length of childhood, you and your son will travel a long way together, both of you making steady and satisfying progress.
And when you find that you need additional support from more advanced speakers of Mandarin, that support can be found locally or online. In fact, I'm sure my friend Amanda, the founder of Miss Panda Chinese, would be happy to hear from you and offer helpful advice. If you eventually reach out to her, please tell her I say hello!
So definitely keep at it, Shangzhu, day by day! Because even if your son's Mandarin level is initially more passive, it will still be a foundation that can be readily built on for further success, and then activated, in the future. And your son will ultimately be happy that you persevered!
Adam Beck is the founder of Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo, and the author of the popular non-fiction book Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability amzn.to/22XKuCt and the humorous novel How I Lost My Ear amzn.to/2EsjVRS, both available worldwide.
3 languages; lucky kid! I think you have a lot of things on your side: the fact that you grew up -if only in the beginning- speaking your ml, having access to family who speak that language, and living in a city where 2 languages are spoken.
I came across your post and realized we're in VERY similar situations. I am also from Canada, and hoping to raise our kids trilingual (English, French, Cantonese). English is easy because that's the majority language here. French will also be easy since they will be attending an all-French school. It's the Cantonese that will be a challenge.
My Cantonese level and ability sound similar to your Mandarin level and ability. I also have similar goals where I am trying to improve my own Cantonese, and would ultimately love for my kids to be able to speak at a lower elementary level. They already have a pretty good passive understanding of Cantonese (probably because the majority of what I say to them are orders repeated every day. However, I'd love to know how you plan on converting their passive understanding to speaking (i.e. how do you plan on introducing the "need" to speak Mandarin?)
Welcome Debbie! It's great that you've been able to transmit a passive understanding so far! I'm hoping to get there! My son is only 1 year old and Is not talking a lot yet. I've been trying to do some networking with Chinese families to provide some future Mandarin speaking friends (we'll see how that works out). Relating to what Adam said in his book, I'll try to be as playful as I can (will try to find some original Chinese games, treasure hunting...). I'm also trying to provide a rich written Chinese environment with Chinese translations in every children's book we have. I agree though that creating need is going to be such a challenge. Some other posts on this forum will be more helpful. I'll keep you updated as he gets older!
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Amy: Happy birthday to your 2 bilingual monkeys Mayken and Adam Beck !
Jun 30, 2018 5:15:05 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken, that's true, but in our case, the U.S. didn't make it to the World Cup this time! Japan has gone through, but they'll probably get knocked out very soon...
Jun 30, 2018 7:22:16 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Wojtek, Poland won! I was disappointed, though, to see Japan hold the ball at the end of the game because they only wanted to go through to the next round. I understand why they did that but I wish they had played harder...
Jun 30, 2018 7:24:42 GMT 9
Wojtek: Well, it suited both teams to slow down the ball. However, it was really unexpected and peculiar
Jul 1, 2018 1:16:27 GMT 9
Mayken: On the train from Cologne to my hometown, I saw a boy about 9/10 and his older sister. She was fluent in German but spoke French with a slight accent, he spoke only French. They were visiting their grandparents. I was intrigued but didn't ask.
Jul 1, 2018 22:06:55 GMT 9
Wojtek: Does anyone know an online English speech language therapist? I thought that it could be a good idea to get my girl evaluated in her ml...
Jul 6, 2018 4:02:38 GMT 9
Mayken: Yay! My 8-year-old daughter passed her ml swim test today! After swimming & diving, the pool attendant asked her to recite the swimming/safety rules (our recent captive reading), and she knew them all!
Jul 6, 2018 21:28:23 GMT 9
Adam Beck: NEW! Bilingual Lives: Ana Cristina Gluck, Author and Publisher of Multilingual Books for Children (with a Book Giveaway!) buff.ly/2ziSQ4J
Jul 7, 2018 11:28:32 GMT 9
Agnese: First words. What to expect? My son is 10 months old. He's still babbling, but I've noticed some different sounds depending on the situation. I wonder if he'll start saying his first words in the next weeks (or months, who knows?). What should I expect?
Jul 11, 2018 0:30:24 GMT 9
Amy: Don't expect anything Agnese. Just let it happen, and then what he says will hit you like a train. It's an amazing moment. Just live it and don't overthink it. Whatever he says, in whatever language it is, it is a magical moment.
Jul 11, 2018 5:11:14 GMT 9
Agnese: I've recently found a further (annoying) challenge: when I speak ml (Italian) to my child (10m) in front of ML acquaintances, they are making jokes about what I said (mostly accent, similar unrelated words...). What do you think is the best way to act?
Jul 15, 2018 13:04:11 GMT 9
Amy: Agnese, it is simply because they never had the opportunity to be acquainted so closely to that language. Just smile and keep going. Over time (even if this may seem long), the comments will fade. Don't show your son you are embarrassed by your ml.
Jul 16, 2018 3:56:41 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Agnese, I strongly second Amy's advice! Stay strong and continue speaking Italian!
Jul 18, 2018 6:22:37 GMT 9
Adam Beck: And Agnese, keep in mind that, above all, the highest priority is your bilingual aim, not the other passing concerns that are part of this experience (for us all). Don't let these distract you from the greater goal.
Jul 18, 2018 6:24:49 GMT 9
Agnese: Thank you! After this setback I feel stronger than ever! The same day of the incident I ordered plenty of books in the ml on Amazon and I'm reading every day new research on bilingualism and bilingual education. I'm ready to defend my goal! Thanks
Jul 19, 2018 18:37:58 GMT 9
Agnese: Thank you for the suggestion!
Jul 21, 2018 15:40:43 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter met some inversed ML/ml kids today who live in our ml country. Their parents probably weren't thrilled they found n ML (for them) friend in their ml country. I'm sorry...a little bit.
Aug 7, 2018 2:07:34 GMT 9