Hello everyone, I am Diane, a first time mum in Australia. My husband and I both come from Hong Kong but have grown up here in Australia. Our little boy Isaac is now 5 months old. We speak Cantonese to Isaac (ml) as do his grandparents (his other carers).
I am wondering what to do in a class setting. We attend a baby class where the teacher may say lift your baby up and down and say it to your baby or is teaching flashcards. Should I speak in ML during class? Speak exclusively ML in the whole class or only that which the teacher is doing? Would love to hear other's experiences, when you speak which languages in a particular setting.
Hi Diane, I speak as much ml to my 10-month-old son as I can. Sometimes I feel awkward speaking it in public but I'm trying really hard to push past that. It does depend on the class. If I am chatting to my son I use ml and I usually translate instructions. But I sing songs in the ML to join in with everyone.
We are a ml@home trilingual family but when I am outdoors and address my daughters directly I always use my ml. I don't translate anything because I consider they don't need me to, I deem them trilingual and they understand the three languages just like I do.
The only time I use the ML with my daughters is when a third-party ML speaker is involved in the discussion.
My husband does the same with his ml.
Why do we always use my ml with our daughters outdoors? Because if our daughters hear us speak the ML all the time we are outside, they will not feel the need (one of the 2 core pillars to raising a bilingual child, the other one being language exposure) to using the ml with us. It took us a long time to trigger the use of the ml in our eldest daughter so we don't want her to lose this good habit now that she does, and we don't want the little one to feel that it is alright to speak the ML with Mummy and Daddy.
I have come to learn from our experience that the influence of the language used in the environment of the child is very powerful. Once the child starts nursery school the influence is even worse. So the more the ml is spoken and the less ML is spoken the better.
***"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" - Oscar Wilde***
Diane, welcome! I wish I could escape the chilly winter in Japan and join you for a warm summer in Australia!
About your question, I would second the good advice given by others. As a general rule, the more you can proactively emphasize the minority language when speaking with and within earshot of your son, while mindfully "de-emphasizing" your use of the majority language to the degree that's realistic, given your circumstances, the more you'll raise the odds of successfully "conditioning" him to respond to you in the minority language when he eventually begins to speak. As Amy mentions, this emphasis on the minority language helps satisfy both "core conditions" of raising a bilingual child because more emphasis on the minority language means more exposure in that language, while limiting use of the majority language (at least until later in the process, after this "conditioning" to the minority language takes effect) means that the child will come to feel a greater need for the target language, too.
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.
Posts: 40 Country (residing now): US Country (originally from): Spain Children, Ages: Girl, born in March 2016 Majority Language: English Minority Language(s): Spanish, German, and hopefully French some day!
On Saturdays I take my daughter (she's almost 2) to a music class, followed by art class. Spanish is the only language I use to talk to her (I was born in Spain, we live in the US, where she was born), but sure, when it comes to singing in music class, I sing along in English like anyone else (fortunately for me, a good amount of songs are just rhythms, or the emphasis is on the music, not the words), although when it comes to commands (for example, if the teacher says "jump now!," or "dance with your kid!," I always use Spanish with her (for example "oh, let's jump now with Ms. Adele, let's do it!"... mainly, I use Spanish to tell her to stop grabbing everything she finds from other parents and kids, ha, ha!). For art class, the teacher always begins her class with a very cool rhyme, so sure, I recite the rhyme in English like everyone else, but when I tell my daughter "listen to Ms. Claire," or "hey, which colors do you want to use today?" after the teacher explains what activity we're doing, I always use Spanish. I have to admit it felt weird to do that in front of people who would only speak English to their kids, but hey, now I'm more used to it, and those parents seem to think it's a great thing that I talk to her in Spanish, so...my plan is to keep speaking Spanish to her, no matter what.
She hears me speak English with her teachers, to the other parents, or to my colleagues, but she only uses Spanish (or some words in German, her second ml) when talking to me, never English. Like Adam says, the more you talk to your kid in the minority language, the better chances you have to 'condition' his response to you in the ml. So far, this is the approach that has been working for my daughter.
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Jul 11, 2018 0:30:24 GMT 9
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Jul 11, 2018 5:11:14 GMT 9
Agnese: I've recently found a further (annoying) challenge: when I speak ml (Italian) to my child (10m) in front of ML acquaintances, they are making jokes about what I said (mostly accent, similar unrelated words...). What do you think is the best way to act?
Jul 15, 2018 13:04:11 GMT 9
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
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Agnese: Thank you for the suggestion!
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