I have a Ten year old studying in a Taiwan public school.
First to Bassman. If your child is not using English at home, you are in trouble already. (If your goal is native fluency)
Second. The concept that Dad speaks one and Mom speaks the other is errant nonesense. It’s failed every time I’ve seen it applied. The kids either don’t speak English at all, or have a bastardized sound that your bushiban kids make on a bad speaking day. You just can’t provide enough language input from one person to make it feasible.
Third, my daughter’s English is native level (speaking).
I recognized early on that the only way to make English stick was to make it her first language from the start. So, for the first five years and pretty much to this day, we speak English at home. Leave the Chinese alone, it will come of it’s own accord if you are staying here. He or she will do the kindergarten routine, go to the in-laws, get admiring stares and comments from all passers-by, and generally learn Chinese just by being here. With 22 million people providing input, Chinese at home is simply not needed.
However, if anyone is out there who has used the “one parent, one language plan” and succeded, post here and I’ll happily eat crow. I’m for whatever works! (But be honest, ok? I mean native level!)
The results after ten years? Mixed.
Speaking: Native level in both English and Chinese, with no accent of any kind. Also, speaks and understands Hakkanese. (Thanks in-laws)
Reading: Native in Chinese, about 2 years behind in English. (Shame on you, bushiban owning Dad!)
Writing: Native in Chinese, pretty poor in English
In my own defense, studying in a public school here can be overwhelming. The sheer amount of homework, rote memorization of thousands of characters, means not much time left to catch up in the English department for reading and writing. So I would say I was successful in achieving native level speaking fluency for my daughter but less so for reading and failed in the worst possible fashion for writing. I do read to her every night though, and her reading is catching up.
So, all I can say is SPEAK ENGLISH AT HOME! Get your wife or husband on the bandwagon, do whatever it takes. Make sure your foreign friends visit you often and hang with your kids. And most importantly, moms and dads, take the time out to TALK to your kids! With the in-laws, protective mothers, it’s just too easy to send the child off and enjoy a cold one. (I could use improvement here as well)
Also, they are a perfect measure for your own second language skills. You can do this by being honest and recognizing the day they pass you by. It happened in First Grade for me, which is pretty sobering considering I’ve been here 17 years…Wow, I can speak Chinese like a 7 year old, Yippeee!
Lastly, I’m saying this for those who plan to remain here. If you are a short-timer, and only plan to stay for a year or two, then everything mentioned above does not apply!
Good luck to all…