With a baby on the way, I am trying to find out the best way to ensure my daughter learns English properly. As a native English speaker I will be speaking to her exclusively in English, but everybody else, including her mother will only speak Chinese. I speak to my wife in Chinese too, so there will certainly not be an English environment. I’ve heard in the past that speaking to a child in a language isn’t enough for them to become fluent. Without sending them to an English speaking kindergarten or primary school, what can I do to encourage English learning?
I don’t have a child but AFAIK, it should be at least 25% of the day everyday in English.
We did English language only at home when I’m there, Chinese only kindergarten. My 9yo daughter is bilingual although her reading in English is behind where it would be in an English speaking country. I’m sure other people have tried different methods. As long as there is enough input of both languages every method seems to work.
I was lucky in that my working hours allowed me a lot of time with my daughter. Do NOT listen to teachers about natural language acquisition. You will be better at it.
Child language acquisition research dictates that in the early years, a child must hear a physically present human voice and interact with it in order to pick up on language. Recordings and videos do nothing, so put away the iPad.
As they get older, generally past the age of 3, videos and audio recordings can be effective, but nothing ever replaces the superiority of human interaction, as evidenced by distance learning in the pandemic.
The thing about raising a bilingual child is that you have to be persistent and consistent. You’re the English speaker, so you only and always speak English to your child. You also have to interact with your child in English. As with monolingual babies, they need exposure to language. Language rich environments are necessary for fluent speakers of any language(s). Read books to them daily, narrate what you’re doing, talk to them about what they are seeing in their environment. Go to the park and when they point to a tree say “yes, that’s a tree! Trees can grow to be so tall.” Or talk about the fruit at the grocery store and where they come from. Point out colors. Etc. When they get to eating solid foods (@6 months or so, whenever they’re capable of sitting up by themselves), tell them the name of what they’re eating and explain the flavors that they’re experiencing. The reality is that you have no idea how much a baby’s brain is absorbing, but it’s on a quest to know and understand everything. You can help by offering the language of everything English until the day comes that your child begins to speak.
As they begin talking, be firm in that you speak only English to them and they use only English to respond. When I see failures in bilingualism, it’s because one language dominated in the family and the kid stopped getting exposure or any push to use the other language. Speak only English around your kid, even if it’s to your in-laws. If your in-laws can’t understand English, now is a great time for them to learn alongside your child. If they want to be stubborn and insist that they can’t learn English (languages can be learned at any age, but insisting you “can’t” makes it easy to not be able to), have your wife translate on your behalf anytime your kid might hear you. And always remind your child to speak to you in English, even if they begin saying something in Chinese.
Hang out with the kid, talk to him or her as much as you can, have fun. The harder part, as already noted will be the reading and writing part.
We’re doing the same as @BiggusDickus mentioned. English only in the home. I really encourage my wife to do it as well. He will study Chinese mostly at public school but we will keep up the English only at home and I will read/do English practice books.
He’s almost 2 now and can only say a few words in English. He’s saying Chinese phrases more. But I’m sure the English will improve.
I’ve talked to many friends from Canada who did the same. Choose one language in the house and the other in school. Their kids all turned out bilingual
Don’t worry. It takes a little longer for the English to kick in, but it does.
Just speak to them in your language and push them to read, in English, as early as possible. The earlier and more they read, the less you’ll need to worry about the issues mentioned above. I’d say a good goal is reading teen/adult novels by third grade. Rewarding them for completing and discussing books works wonders.
You don’t say how much time you’ll have at home. This is going to affect the speed of language acquisition. I worked from home for the first 5 years, so kid had full exposure to plenty of English, all day long.
But ‘yes’ to everything that is written above.
Get some good audio material for the car too - you can start off with nursery song CDs (decent ones, not ‘made in Taiwan’) and progress from there to actual stories (we started Enid Blyton’s Famous Five during her kindergarten years).
As the kid gets older, they may choose to spend their free time listening to audio books and absorb more language that way too. She’s somewhere in the middle of Mordor right now, the Rings trilogy. Forget the narrator, but it’s all fine and unabridged.
Other than the month after the birth, I’ll be working a 9 to 5 from Monday to Friday.
It of course depends entirely on the parents and household. But i can say my daughter, 6, is quite fluent in english without classes. I speak to her entirely in english and she gets random outside encounters with english via friends and such. Read her english books etc. She is on par in taiwanese via grandparents as well. Mandarin comes naturally through day to day.
Granted thats not enough for say university entrance exams, but getting that base will without doubt put your child in the position to study without issues. Then it just depends on her further environmental experiences and choices.
It will be a large investment on you though, both time and energy. Get hem smart, tough, logical and.able to figure things out early. Their teenage years might be annoying, but your work as a parent will be so much easier if they are capable human being. No one actually wants their kid to NEED to live with you after they graduate. If they choose to its different.
It seems pretty easy for kids here to learn at least 3 languages naturally without much effort if one parent is a foreigner. Mandarin, Taiwanese and the foreign parents native language.
I agree with pretty much everything that was said above.
Just one more thing,
You might end to change that. At least in front of the kids.
It’s important to expose them to your language as much as you can, and not only when talking to them.
Agree too on ditching the Chinese with wife, especially as you won’t be there during working hours. Your kid will need to hear English on almost every occasion during the evening, that’s between you and kid & you and wife.
When you’re not around, which is 5 days a week, there’ll be no English input.
I suggest watching baseball or one of the boring sports with the kid. It’s a prolonged activity and you get to talk about it, speculate about it, react to it. The first time my son said, “The Red Sox suck.” I shed a tear.
Oh, and I read to him every night at bedtime. The Magic Tree House books…like 50 of them. Just to expose him to vocab I didn’t normally use.
Honesty, the best way to ensure you kid is fluent is to be a good dad.
I speak English to my son, my wife speaks Chinese. He will speak English to me and Chinese to my wife, he switches easily in the same conversation. He’s 3 now and his main flaw is he sometimes uses Chinese sentence structure with his English.
Nonsense. I personally know many people who are indistinguishable from natives and learned mostly from media.
Edit: Apologies. I should have read beyond the first paragraph. Lol.
If it’s CPS in Bahstin, they probably can’t read, so how will they know I did something bad?
Ah, the old “Eye Sawrit happin” defense.