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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Angela: So sorry for your loss. She was a great woman. I hope you feel a bit better. Kisses from Spain.
Apr 22, 2018 23:34:43 GMT 9
Mayken: We visited a Loire Valley château yesterday. Our daughter got a kids' activity booklet and we parents got the regular tour booklet in French. She asked for one in German (our ml). When I later asked her why, she said "Because I'm a German-speaker!"
Apr 23, 2018 23:23:36 GMT 9
Nellie: Haha love it Mayken! The best thing is - she is right!
Apr 24, 2018 5:45:09 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter's ml homework for this week included baking a cake - there's a cake in the story they read, and after each chapter there are questions and tasks, and the current chapter has the step-by-step recipe. She's to bring the cake to school too.
May 1, 2018 23:48:48 GMT 9
Amy: What a nice original homework! Makes such a change from standard homework, and I wouldn't be surprised if kids remember more from it! I like your bilingual school Mayken! Lucky little girl, and lucky Mummy!
May 2, 2018 0:00:43 GMT 9
Mayken: ml cake homework update: About half the class brought cake (8 out of 15), not all of them were the cake from the book recipe, but my daughter's was the most popular. (Maybe because we added food colouring and topped it with chocolate icing and smarties?)
May 4, 2018 5:58:10 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Cake is definitely my favorite kind of homework!
May 4, 2018 11:28:51 GMT 9
Jana: One of the best parts of having kids in bilingual school was getting Mother's Day cards in two languages! (With less-than-perfect spelling in both!) Ha!
May 15, 2018 9:16:08 GMT 9
Amy: (Twice) Lucky you Jana! So nice to read exciting pieces of news like yours!
May 16, 2018 5:46:25 GMT 9
Mayken: I still have that to look forward to, Jana! Mother's Day in our ML country is two weeks later, and the ml teacher goes along with that date. (It was last Sunday in our ml country.)
May 16, 2018 5:58:11 GMT 9
Flir: Adam, uh oh. Time waits for no one. I'm very sorry to hear that. Stay strong man, your kids are looking up to you to give them as much as your parents gave you once. Best wishes.
May 24, 2018 20:11:03 GMT 9