Family Language Alive - Children Learning Chinese

Situation #4.1: English and Chinese are very different languages. I am not sure the same theories can be applied to both languages…

October 2, 2010

4.1 Main Article

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Situation #4.1: English and Chinese are very different languages. I am not sure the same theories can be applied to both languages.Reality: It is true that English and Chinese differ vastly in structure, grammar and voice. Chinese language learning has mostly been analyzed via Western language acquisition theories and is very poorly understood. Modern-day Chinese language teaching is mostly implemented using the traditional method, relying heavily on the use of textbooks, passive learning with rote memorization and emphasis on grammar. More research on Chinese acquisition needs to be in place, both for native and non-native speakers.However, Chinese is still a language and children are still people. We can learn much nonetheless from cross-lingual theories of language acquisition and children development. We can adopt up-to-date approaches that are effective for teaching foreign-born children today even if the language is different. The mechanics of both English and Chinese are quite different, but this does not influence as much the extent to which your child can acquire both languages simultaneously. What matters the most, rather, is the value you and your child’s society at large place on English and Chinese in turn. That has direct correlation on how your child will regard prestige and power on which language is worth his time and effort.

Considerations:

  • In which language do I place my highest value as viewed by my child? Have I asked him about this? How does my action and speech justify this claim?
  • Which language is deemed to have the most prestige and power in the society my family lives in? What other (e.g. family, cultural) value might I place on the home language?
  • How can I find more information and keep updated about any research in the field of Chinese language acquisition and child development?
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