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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Learning Chinese - Bilingual Babies - two and three year olds

Nice article that was on MSN originally from Parents Magazine about Bilingual Babies - how to bring up Children Bilingually. Having worked very hard with my wife to bring up our daughter bilingually over the last 13 years and running Childbook.com I have a few opinions on the subject...

The article does a nice job of going through the basics that small children have an incredible ability to learn, they can keep languages straight, and has some recommendations for Spanish, Italian, and German products. But nothing for Learning Chinese! The article includes some nice quotes from experts on how much children can learn at a young age. The article did mention one issue that sometimes children may know less words in their original language, but when you add both languages together they know more words than their monolingual counterparts. The number of words also differs tremendously depending on parents. What I have noticed is children soon catch up when they get into schools. Not to mention the influence of TV and video's - the wonder of Barney and his singing :-)

If parents speak to their children all the time the children will learn more words has been proven true in studies and to me is common sense. Of course I also read to my daughter as child and got weird looks from my wife. If the child is not spoken to that much following that logic, then the child will not learn that much vocabulary. In a study I read from my Teaching Credential/Masters, there may be cultural issues where parents do not realize the importance of speaking to their children when they are babies. Very interesting study that I wish I could find the link to, it deal with a school in California. I have also seen this in the class room where in kindergarten some kids came to school already knowing their numbers and colors, and others did not.

Here is an article that I wrote wrote with some suggestions/tips on Learning Chinese for Children

Product Recommendations
For learning, I like fun activities that have songs you can sing with your children such as Teach Me Chinese (done in USA) has with popular songs in both English and Chinese and come with a book with Pinyin, English, and Chinese Characters. There are also other products on the market such as Let's Sing Mandarin for ages 3 and up that was created by a Chinese teacher in Singapore. On closeout, I suggest test out Teach Me More Chinese on Cassette for only $4.95 (CD version costs more) Sing & Learn Chinese CD & Book is also popular, as well as Speak and Sing Chinese with Mei Mei

Learning Chinese DVD's
are also a great way to expose children to Chinese. They are mostly in English and introduce basic Chinese words. Mei Mei was a Montessori teacher who has created a series of 5 DVD's for Learning Chinese and states for all ages. When the Montessori method is done right (I went to a Montessori school), it's a great way to teach with the right teacher and child that can work wonders! The theory believes that kids can be self directed, I differ that I believe a little more pushing/direction is needed for some children as well as structure. The teacher (as usual) makes a huge difference and needs to keep on top of the students so they don't game the system. Other products is Early Start which has four DVD's Learning Chinese for children ages 1-5 in their series, which have been extremely popular and is recommended for ages 1-5.

For children that have started school, two DVD's I recommend are Let's Go To School with Mei Mei 5 and Follow Jade - Let's Visit Chinese Kindergarten in DVD Children can relate their experience in an American School to a Chinese one, while learning some Chinese. The Follow Jade Series has gotten great ratings.

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