Family Language Alive - Children Learning Chinese

Situation #1.5: I can speak Chinese, but since I am not a native speaker, I am afraid to use that at home with my child for fear that he is not getting the most correct form of the language…

August 30, 2010

1.5 Main Article

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Situation #1.5: I can speak Chinese, but since I am not a native speaker, I am afraid to use that at home with my child for fear that he is not getting the most correct form of the language.Reality: It is true that being a non-native speaker can pose some disadvantages, such as incorrect usages of certain vocabulary terms or phrases, or mispronunciation of certain words. You may also be less confident expressing fully what you want to communicate. Nonetheless, unless you have someone who is a native Chinese and who can speak to the child at the length similar to the exposure you have with your child, it may not a bad idea to start with what you can offer, and complement it with English for those gaps. To the child, it may only be a fact of life to use that specific language with you, even partially. While certain improper language may stay with him for a certain period, he may resolve that eventually if there is a larger community of that language around him. Comparatively, it can be a better advantage for your child to acquire the language with certain twists now than not at all. You and your child can study it together.

You need to be aware though that switching to another language, especially suddenly, between two people is like wiping out their past experiences together. Therefore, it will never work for a family to switch to speaking Chinese from English completely if your family has been used to speaking English solely. It may work better for you to start speaking Chinese with your child, however, but not between you and the other parent, because that relationship is likely to be much more stable by this time. It will feel quite awkward and it is known to be almost impossible to maintain.

Considerations:

  • What may be the main reason I might not be comfortable speaking Chinese with my child?
  • What type of communal support do I find would complement my control of the Chinese language?
  • How can I improve my Chinese competency?
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