The 3 languages I would love for my children to acquire are:
1) English - majority language where we live
2) French - my kids will be attending French school, so I'm confident they will end up fluent
3) Cantonese - here's the tough one: my husband and I have good oral comprehension but fairly rudimentary speaking skills. I feel like I've missed the boat on this one a little. I've only recently started to speak to my girls (ages 4, 2) in 90% Cantonese since I myself am becoming reacquainted with the language after MANY years of not speaking. My husband speaks to them purely in English, so I will be the main language input source for now (once a week input from grandparents, and Saturday morning Cantonese classes in the near future). However, my own current level is lower elementary, and reading is not a main language input source since I am illiterate in Cantonese. At this stage, I'm happy the girls understand my Cantonese speech, but as my own language improves, I wonder if and how their passive language will ever be converted to spoken language.
Welcome to our community! I'm a Mum to 2 trilingual little girls too. There is no late start, especially given your daughters' ages (science says that before 12 language acquisition is easier; beyond this age it becomes as difficult as it is for adults), plus you are very lucky to have external ml sources (grandparents, Saturday classes)!
You're not the only parent in that situation of having an elementary ml level. Shangzhu and Marie are in similar situations too and they're doing well.
The kids' switch from passive to active is a recurring issue for bilingual parents, generally triggered by the child's feeling of need to communicate in the ml. We struggled with that one too. Maybe read up on the topic now that you have just introduced Cantonese, to see if you are happy with your strategy or feel like you might want to adjust it. I certainly wish I had read up more on it before starting this bilingual journey. (And needless to say Adam's book is a good read to start with... )
***"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" - Oscar Wilde***
At this stage, I'm happy the girls understand my Cantonese speech, but as my own language improves, I wonder if and how their passive language will ever be converted to spoken language.
Debbie, welcome! Yes, activating passive language ability can be a large challenge, but since your children are still small, you have many more years to cultivate their Cantonese through your daily efforts as well as the regular support of others. As long as you stay patient and persistent with this process--and, as they get older, seek out further opportunities for them to engage in "monolingual" experiences of this language with other speakers, you'll surely generate a lot of satisfying progress. And whatever level of ability your children finally reach by the end of childhood, they'll then be in a good place to advance that ability on their own. To get there will require firm and resourceful perseverance (to improve your own Cantonese, too, at the same time), but it sounds to me like you have the determination to do very well, despite the natural doubts and frustrations that will arise as the journey continues.
Keep going, Debbie! You can do it! And we're here to help!
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.
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Nellie: Adam - will watch the video as soon as I can (living circumstances not permitting right now - we are still in temp accommodation and I can't turn on volume) - looking forward to it!
Sept 22, 2017 5:56:44 GMT 9
Mayken: Skyping with grandma last night had to be cancelled due to technological problems - I needed to talk my mom through a Skype update and her phone battery died. :-(
Sept 25, 2017 20:45:42 GMT 9
Joanna: sorry Mayken...this is sad but funny as I'm sure many skype Grandparents have the same woes !(mine..) For us this weekend: potty training has led to great quality time reading and chatting, and some pretty hilarious ml questions
Sept 26, 2017 6:20:44 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken and Joanna, I can relate! My mother (Grandma) can't seem to get the sound on her computer working so when we Skype, we also have to use the telephone!
Sept 26, 2017 6:36:03 GMT 9
Mayken: Adam, and Joanna, it's good to know we're not alone in this!
Sept 27, 2017 2:46:28 GMT 9
Joanna: Planning a long Christmas minority language visit, so exciting!
Sept 30, 2017 14:46:01 GMT 9
Mayken: Yay! Skype is working again on my mom's tablet, meaning we can skype with ml grandma again!
Oct 2, 2017 23:12:24 GMT 9
Mayken: The other day my mom (monolingual ml) called while my daughter and I were out, so Daddy (monolingual ML) answered. My mom was amazed to find out he isn't monolingual ML any more after all, and praised his active ml ability.
Oct 3, 2017 23:28:39 GMT 9
Joanna: For each day my daughter is exposed to other people speaking English (here in France) I put a little star on the calendar...trying to fill it up!
Oct 8, 2017 3:52:17 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Nice motivating idea, Joanna! And Mayken, thanks for sharing your good news on two fronts!
Oct 9, 2017 7:11:50 GMT 9
Marisa: My daughter won't say number one in Spanish or English, but in German! She loves recognizing the number and saying it out loud... it sounds more like the word 'ice' in English, though, but it's 'eins.' Number 9, however, is 'nueve'. So funny!
Oct 11, 2017 10:33:45 GMT 9
Mayken: My dad's giving Adam's book to his Lithuanian friend's daughter, whose husband is sceptical about their little girl learning German.
Oct 14, 2017 21:10:20 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken, thank you for sharing my book! I hope it can be helpful to them!
Oct 16, 2017 15:57:32 GMT 9
Marisa: Adam, another bilingual monkey is about to be born near me (one of my colleagues is giving birth tomorrow), so I also got her and her husband a copy of your book... this world needs more bilingual kids!
Oct 18, 2017 0:06:43 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Many thanks, Marisa! In my humble opinion, more bilingual kids = more empathy in the world = a more peaceful planet.
Oct 18, 2017 7:33:04 GMT 9