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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Learning Chinese SOS : Help! My Child is Mixing Up English and Chinese

A friend of mine expressed concern the other day about her 5 year old child inserting Chinese words into English. Sometimes, the order of her English sentences are topsy-turvy, noticeably the proper order if she was speaking Chinese.
Many parents are concerned that learning 2 languages at the same time may lead to confusion and lack of proficiency. Actually, mixing words and grammar (code mixing) is perfectly normal in the early stages of learning a language. If it says anything, it signals that the child HAS learned something. The child now knows what a certain thing is called in Chinese, or is familiar with the correct order of a sentence.

Anyway, the big picture of learning to become bilingual is that it is a long process. Kids will grow out of code mixing as they become more proficient at the 2 languages.

So I told my friend to not worry about the mix-ups. The important thing is that the child is learning. There are a lot of things that we don’t perfect immediately when we start learning a skill. Languages are the same. What is needed is continuous guidance and validation from parents, so that a child will be inspired to learn through the years.

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