Family Language Alive - Children Learning Chinese

Situation #3.5: I am not sure whether my child can benefit from being a part of a Chinese community when learning the language…

October 2, 2010

3.5 Main Article

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Situation #3.5: I am not sure whether my child can benefit from being a part of a Chinese community when learning the language.Reality: It seems apparent that having communal support in the environment helps a child learn the heritage language more effectively. It is quite true that it is so. But only to the fact that it justly reflects the positive attitude the family places toward the language for the child and that the child finds his cultural identity in the community, which are both crucial to learning a language.

There is one caution, however, that there are two different types of communities that a child can be involved in, one that often uses the heritage language for interactions and one that has only the cultural elements sans language. The former can definitely build his confidence to use the home language with others. If you can find different settings where the child can speak regularly to adults or children his age range in Chinese, it would help immensely. The latter community can help your child in the sense that there are Chinese people out there, other than his family, who look similar to him, eat similar things he likes, and celebrate similar holidays. Take heed, however, that this group cannot help him learn the language much. Also, be aware of any sign showing that your child feels odd being one of the few who is learning Chinese, while the others may not need to do so. Be sure to talk with him to clarify any misconceptions if this is the case.

Periodically, you need to weigh and balance the amount your child is exposed to Chinese listening and speaking in day-to-day living. These passive skills are sometimes missed out in a typical Chinese school curriculum. Especially in a monolingually-dominant society when he is exposed to mostly English in school a major part of his day, the amount of exposure to Chinese is extremely low. Make a plan as a family to provide your child a balanced experience from the impact of both languages.

Considerations:

  • What is the ratio of time my child is exposed to English versus Chinese during his day in the areas of speaking and listening?
  • Does this ratio represent fairly what my mission is in his learning the two languages? How can I reshuffle his exposure to the languages?
  • Are there people in my community circle who can help my child practice the home language, for example, grandparents and relatives, my friends, his friends? What if the encounter is not even required to be face-to-face, but perhaps through phone calls?
  • Would I be able to use other alternative media, such as picture books, comic books, audio books, videos, computer software, and television programs in the home language from stores and libraries to balance the exposure?
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May 30, 2016

What Makes a Community or Play Group An Effective Language Learning Environment?

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It is not always easy to find a community that works for your child. As we know, communal support can help foster the meaning in learning the language, but what are the factors that make it effective?

Board game as the focus.

 

Allow Creativity

Language is not always learned through words. It is expressed via all senses, e.g. smells, touch, movement, gestures and facial expression, thinking, to name a few. Through games and meaningful activities, one can engage to accomplish the goal at hand, without realizing the use of language. Certainly, the most organic way to go!

 

Allow Learning For Everyone

It is easy to turn into a “teacher’s mode”, especially when the focus of the group is too heavily in learning a language. Aiming for another goal, such as a

The Actual Game on the Floor for Everyone to Participate!

The Actual Game on the Floor for Everyone to Participate!

craft activity, a social play time, or a bible study, can take this pressure off. When all, including the adults, concentrate in learning how to fold an origami, or reflecting upon a life question, then language stops being a “means to an end.” After all, what is the purpose of knowing a language but for communication and expression?

 

Allow Mistakes

One of the biggest fear factors in learning a language (or anything) is to be laughed at. Everyone needs at least one setting where he is secured to use what he has learned. The adults, especially, should be there to encourage, rather than judge, what a child has said, however improperly put. It is fine to correct, but should be in a positive, rather than in a demeaning manner. One method would be to repeat what the child has said, but with the proper vocabulary or grammar and ask for confirmation. “Is that what you mean?” Model this behavior for everyone present.

Believe me, this WAS the board game we played. Messiness = Engagement!

Believe me, this WAS the board game we played. Messiness can mean Engagement!

Allow All Ages

Society makes it a norm to place similar age groups to learn a subject together. It is not always about the age, but rather, the level of expertise. But research has shown that one learns best when the next advanced element is present, naturally moving him to the next stage*. When more language-competent adults or children are present, your child can learn much more naturally and quickly than if he were placed in a classroom at the same-level.

 

Allow Enjoyment!

Enjoy being together! That is really the main ingredient to helping your child succeed to the next level of expertise in the language! Fostering your love for the language is an attitude you cannot forego.

 

* scaffolding theory and constructivism by J. Brunet

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