Family Language Alive - Children Learning Chinese

Situation #2.4: My child used to speak often in Chinese to me, but the older she grows, the less she speaks…

September 26, 2010

2.4 Main Article

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Situation #2.4: My child used to speak often in Chinese to me, but the older she grows, the less she speaks.Reality: First, it is likely and logical that she does so. The vocabulary and sentence structure she knows in Chinese may not be sophisticated enough to express the knowledge she wants to convey at her age range. A seven-year-old girl who wants to tell her mother about volcano eruption she learned from reading an English book may have a difficult time expressing the same thought in Chinese if it is not well developed. Even if she is competent in the vocabulary, she may be delayed or interrupted a bit too often by the adult in order to express her thoughts fully and seamlessly, which is desirous at her age. Hence, it is very important to avoid situations where she is corrected too much to the point of embarrassment or discouragement, or where she is punished for making mistakes, or where she is placed in a position of comparison with others in the competence of the language. You may want to take it easy overall, but be consistent and firm about your mission, with or without your child’s commitment, depending on her age and personality.

Also, you might need to be more aware of a constant correction-making on your part when she speaks Chinese. Making mistakes is, in fact, an essential part of the learning process. It is a sign to you that your child is indeed making effort to test out the different rules that Chinese has.

Instead of focusing on the details of the Chinese language, she should at the same time be involved in learning relevant age-appropriate topics and sentence structures in the language. This can be anything that interests her: learning how to do origami, playing a sports game, or discussing current events. She can learn the content using Chinese and hearing Chinese from you or significant others. This is the most meaningful and effective way to develop her linguistic ability. Even the written part can be learned this way as you incorporate the different facets such as strokes, sentence construction and composition into playing such as games and story writing. This approach can bring the language more alive and more connected to her life.

Considerations:

  • When did my child start speaking less Chinese to me?
  • What is the rate of decrease (What is the ratio of Chinese versus English was my child using last year versus this year, for example)? Was the decrease gradual or abrupt?
  • What do I think might be the biggest influence that caused this change?
  • How often do I correct her Chinese? What is her response and attitude when I do so?
  • What are my child’s areas of interest? How can I use Chinese to help my child in these areas?
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