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 book "Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability", praised worldwide by parents and experts in the field. Available at Amazon amzn.to/22XKuCt, the global Amazon sites, and other booksellers.
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!
Mayken: School starts again tomorrow. This year, exceptionally, 7yo will have all of her ml classes in 2 half days, instead of 1h/day. We'll see how that goes. (She's in 2nd grade.)
Sept 3, 2017 17:58:36 GMT 9
Amy: "Bonne rentrée" Mayken! Hope this new schedule will work well for your daughter though I have no doubt she will keep up her already excellent bilingual level
Sept 3, 2017 18:57:33 GMT 9
Mayken: Thanks Amy! Bonne rentrée to you too! My daughter has ml on Tuesday mornings (tomorrow!) and Thursday afternoons.
Sept 5, 2017 5:39:39 GMT 9
Amy: First Wednesday at home magic: ml2 bathed home and catching my 5 year old singing along her music player in ml2.... Bilingual bliss! Only you fellow bilingual parents could understand this
Sept 6, 2017 21:05:46 GMT 9
Mayken: Planning to send my daughter to ml school again during the next holidays. But it's ok, she's looking forward to it!
Sept 8, 2017 4:45:12 GMT 9
Mayken: We had our parents meetings with the ml teacher, my daughter will have a lot of work this year! One parent asked "which kids actually do speak ml at home?" Does that mean many of them don't???
Sept 13, 2017 5:02:26 GMT 9
Nellie: Mayken - my daughter is a lot younger than yours (just starting PS), but in her class there are two children with Spanish-speaking parents, but apparently neither of them actually speak it...disappointing!
Sept 13, 2017 6:28:10 GMT 9
Amy: Nellie, these 2 kids might simply be passive bilinguals, and as you know the penny might simply drop one day and they'll start using Spanish...
Sept 13, 2017 17:05:33 GMT 9
Mayken: In our ml class the kids are required to have a high level of ml. In class they only speak ml (this year there's a penalty for speaking ML!). I assumed they all speak ml with the ml parent at home. (I've known those kids for 2 years.)
Sept 13, 2017 23:42:56 GMT 9
Nellie: Yes I'm sure you're right and they are passive bilinguals! And they are young. I certainly hope by your daughter's age that my little one will be speaking ml1 with me - have already seen a lot of progress over the last week! The penny is dropping!
Sept 14, 2017 5:51:52 GMT 9
Patricia: Has anyone encountered studies, or personal accounts, of bilingualism (or multilingualism) playing a role in delayed speech?
Sept 15, 2017 1:31:58 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Patricia, please complete your Profile (see my "welcome message" for guidance), then post your questions to the forum boards. Thank you.
Sept 15, 2017 6:14:15 GMT 9