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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Top 10 To-Dos in the Family to Get Your Child Used to being Chinese Bilingual

Here are some simple steps you can do everyday so that your child gets used to the idea of  using Chinese as a second language and become bilingual.  With consistent use, the years suddenly pass and you will find your child has somehow learned Chinese already. 

1.  Be consistent
Choosing Mandarin Chinese as your child's secondary language will prove to be a handy language in the near future.  Stick with it and introduce materials little by little but consistent through time.

2.  Be insistent, but be gentle
Remind your child often that knowing more than 1 language is especially cool.  Picking Chinese as the 2nd language makes it way cooler than usual.

3.  Make Chinese rewarding, fun and something nice to remember through the years
When the kids are little, it is easy to make Chinese fun with songs and fun movements.  As they grow, it will get a bit more challenging but it is doable.  Look for ways based on what they think is happy and fun, not what you think is fun for them.

4.  Beware of being punitive.
For some families, gentle threats work.  But don't overdo it to the point of making Chinese a punishment.  The more they perceive speaking Chinese a pain, the less interested they will get and maybe completely try to shut it out in the later years.  (What's the use of letting them learn it if they'll shut it out anyway.)

5.  Use different kinds of materials
Textbooks, CDs, DVDs, books, magazines, cards, websites... learning chinese today is so much easier with all the goodies easily available now compared to a few years back.  Make learning Chinese delicious with different ways.

6.  Direct experience is the best way to learn Chinese. 
Chinese textbooks and exercise books are half the endeavor.  Talking and listening to people in the market, reading signs, writing greeting cards in Chinese, chatting in Chinese, joking with Grandma and Grandpa plus more are the big deal situations that make Chinese stick to the brain and be remembered for years to come.

7.  Don't make fun of mistakes.
You may think your child making mistakes to speak Chinese is cute, and you laugh and show people (or maybe even post in Youtube), but you may be making your child miserable and you just don't know it.  After a mistake, gently correct then move on.

8.  Chinese is for learning and communicating, not for performing.
Bilinguals report "performing" or showing they know a language for parents' friends is the least favorite part of being bilingual.  If you are so excited to let others know your child can speak Chinese, you can be a little more creative in asking, or maybe just a little more sensitive.  For example, before our Chinese-speaking grandma visits, you can recall how much it means to Gran when a cousin talks to Gran in Chinese.  You can say Grandma was so happy then, do you think you can help out and make her comfortable by speaking to her in Chinese for basic things like asking how she is?, etc.  Our kids like making adults happy even if it doesn't show.  A little considerate prodding always does the trick, compared to "Come here, show your gran what you can say in Chinese."  Yikes.  Don't forget, be nice :-)

9.  Be firm but gentle when correcting.
Correct errors but don't be mean and scary in doing it.  As a parent, I know it's easy to be impatient when there are errors.  But it can be done.

10. Ask for help from Chinese -speaking family friends to also talk to your child in Chinese.  Most likely, they'll be happy to help.

Adapted from:  Raising a Bilingual Child by Barbara Zurer

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Anonymous Dani Wang said...

Great tips! It's a great opportunity for any child to be fluent in 2 languages!

September 15, 2010 at 12:32 PM  

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