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.
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Amy: Agnese, it is simply because they never had the opportunity to be acquainted so closely to that language. Just smile and keep going. Over time (even if this may seem long), the comments will fade. Don't show your son you are embarrassed by your ml.
Jul 16, 2018 3:56:41 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Agnese, I strongly second Amy's advice! Stay strong and continue speaking Italian!
Jul 18, 2018 6:22:37 GMT 9
Adam Beck: And Agnese, keep in mind that, above all, the highest priority is your bilingual aim, not the other passing concerns that are part of this experience (for us all). Don't let these distract you from the greater goal.
Jul 18, 2018 6:24:49 GMT 9
Agnese: Thank you! After this setback I feel stronger than ever! The same day of the incident I ordered plenty of books in the ml on Amazon and I'm reading every day new research on bilingualism and bilingual education. I'm ready to defend my goal! Thanks
Jul 19, 2018 18:37:58 GMT 9
Agnese: Thank you for the suggestion!
Jul 21, 2018 15:40:43 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter met some inversed ML/ml kids today who live in our ml country. Their parents probably weren't thrilled they found n ML (for them) friend in their ml country. I'm sorry...a little bit.
Aug 7, 2018 2:07:34 GMT 9
Amy: Looks like the 3 weeks in ml1 country paid off: my ML mother reports my youngest would only speak ml1 to her! Lol Not sure ML childminder will be so happy when she returns... loool!
Aug 25, 2018 0:38:50 GMT 9
Mayken: Sounds like fun times ahead, Amy! Keep us posted.
Aug 27, 2018 23:15:08 GMT 9
Adam Beck: NEW! Something Strange Happened 2 Days After We Moved into Our New House (And Its Significance to Change and Transformation on the Bilingual Journey)buff.ly/2ww8WDD
Aug 31, 2018 10:30:39 GMT 9
Amy: Happiest bilingual mum in the world : the new lady who conducts activities in ml2 with my eldest just assessed her level as pretty much equivalent to that of a native ml2 child! After that awful back-to-school start, this is like music to my ears.
Sept 6, 2018 0:00:13 GMT 9
Wojtek: I've been thinking for a long time to write an update and hopefully, I will do it one day. My brother married a Russian woman. That was nice to see that my 5-year-old daughter could play with her and speak English together!
Sept 7, 2018 21:37:25 GMT 9
Wojtek: After some time, she ran up and told me: "She is speaking English!"
Sept 7, 2018 21:38:31 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Nice to hear your happy news, Wojtek! And congratulations to your brother and his bride! It sounds like they may have a bilingual child in their future, too! Cheers to you all!
Sept 7, 2018 21:58:17 GMT 9