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It's All Chinese to Me!

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Guest Blogger Angela Chee: When I was growing up, I first learned Chinese from my parents and then English at school. I seemed to learn both easily with no major problems. Even though my parents spoke English, Mandarin was the primary language at home. In grade school they even sent me to Saturday Chinese school to learn to read and write Chinese characters. I hated it. Who wants to go to school all week and then on your day off go back to school when my other "American" friends were playing sports or going to the beach?

girl in school studying

Looking back it wasn't so bad, it was only a few hours. Now I feel privileged to be able to speak Mandarin. So when I had my son, there was no question that my son would learn Chinese, but how? My husband is not Chinese but wants to learn Mandarin which is great, but I would be the teacher.

So I started to research what the best approach would be.

One bilingual mom said to make it work I should speak to my son in Mandarin from the very beginning and that my husband would speak only English to my son. It's called One Person, One Language (OPOL). It works best when started at birth and when parents have different native languages. Sounds logical, but how difficult? So I could talk to my son, but my husband would not understand. I've seen it in action and it works, but I decided that was not for me.

So since my son was 3 months old, I have been playing him Baby's First Words in Chinese -- which is mix of rhymes and songs, but I still mainly communicate with him in English. A couple of times a week we have Mandarin time, where we sing songs and I speak to him only in Mandarin usually when we are alone together. Also when my parents visit I only let them speak Mandarin in front of him.

So will it work? I won't know right now since he's only 10 months old, but just like everything I'm doing for my son you do what you think is best and hope that it all works out in the end. So when he's in grade school and tells me he doesn't want to go to Saturday Chinese school, at least he'll be able to say it in two languages.

Need more advice? Here's a site I found helpful.
www.multilingualchildren.org .


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