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 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.
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