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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Raquel: I love it, Mayken! What a sweet lady. I would have listened in and not asked, hehe. Did you use it to show your daughter how useful the ml can be?
Dec 21, 2017 20:35:38 GMT 9
Mayken: Raquel, my daughter loved it - both the coincidence, and that this lady was learning our language!
Dec 24, 2017 22:25:47 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Happy New Year to you all! Let's make 2018 a really good year!
Dec 31, 2017 7:04:50 GMT 9
Joanna: Packing to go home from Canada...luggage scale reading 23 kg of minority language books!
Dec 31, 2017 23:48:06 GMT 9
Amy: Happy new year to all! . May 2018 bring you every success in your bilingual endeavours!
Jan 1, 2018 23:08:58 GMT 9
Mayken: Happy new year to everyone! I shared a little New Year's Eve story in the Snack Bar.
Jan 5, 2018 5:08:21 GMT 9
Mayken: 7yo wrote her Christmas letter in the ml and sent it to Santa's address in our ml country. This week she received his reply - and was somewhat offended that he replied in the ML
Jan 5, 2018 21:47:21 GMT 9
Adam Beck: That's very cute, Mayken!
Jan 6, 2018 7:57:09 GMT 9
Amy: Oh no Mayken!! I'd also feel very gutted in her shoes! Hope he made up for it by spoiling her on Xmas!
Jan 7, 2018 1:12:53 GMT 9
Mayken: He totally did, Amy! Especially her most important wish - the second illustrated Harry Potter (in ml, of course).
Jan 9, 2018 0:06:05 GMT 9
Raquel: Happy 2018!! How come Santa replied in the wrong language? That's weird.
Jan 9, 2018 19:26:41 GMT 9
Mayken: Raquel, he gets letters from all over the world at that German address, and I guess the reply is in the language that matches the country fo the child's return address. Next time she'll use my mom's address (if she still wants to write to Santa then).
Jan 10, 2018 0:38:19 GMT 9
Raquel: Mayken, I just was surprised that, reading a letter in a certain language, they would reply in a different one. But if it's an standarized letter, then it makes total sense.
Jan 10, 2018 21:42:23 GMT 9
Mayken: It is. Our local ML Santa, to whom my daughter wrote the year before (in ml) replied in ML too but started the letter with her name. But then he's serving a town of 37,000 people only.
Jan 10, 2018 23:18:32 GMT 9
Raquel: Makes sense, Mayken. Thanks for explaining.
Jan 11, 2018 22:31:51 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter called me out twice this week for using the wrong language with her. The second time it was only one work (number of a métro line).
Jan 12, 2018 0:16:39 GMT 9