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!
Amy: And to all other fellow zookeepers of course!
Nov 4, 2018 18:13:28 GMT 9
Wojtek: Yesterday my daughter used a Polish word in an English sentence. From time to time she does it (don't know if I should be happy about that), but anyway what was amusing about that, she said it with an English accent!
Nov 5, 2018 18:23:45 GMT 9
Wojtek: I feel the English accent in our monolingual family has seemed to be something unreachable but in that mixed sentence, I heard the difference. It surprised me slightly.
Nov 5, 2018 18:23:55 GMT 9
Amy: So cute Wojtek! And such a lovely piece of news!
Nov 7, 2018 6:29:36 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Nice Wojtek! Give that little girl a big hug from Uncle Adam!
Nov 7, 2018 10:16:33 GMT 9