The Quest for a Bilingual Baby


THE-BILINGUAL-BABY

Do you feel the intense pressure to make sure that your child knows how to speak his/her mother tongue?

Because I do.

I remember that even when I was pregnant, my family members would continuously remind me about the importance of Olive learning how to speak her native Chinese. I never really thought too much about it – I didn’t think it would be too difficult for her to learn. And it probably wouldn’t be, but to be honest, I’m finding it really inconvenient to try to teach her the limited number of words that I do know.

My husband and I are most comfortable conversing in English, so that is what we speak at home. This is what Olive hears about 98 percent of the time, and so naturally most of her words are English ones. Also, since I moved here to the US, my Chinese (which was never that great to begin with) has been getting rusty. I almost feel like teaching her grammatically incorrect Chinese would put her at a disadvantage.

There are a couple of Chinese-learning options here in California – Chinese immersion schools, weekend language schools, and of course, Chinese playgroups, to name just a few. But is that enough? Is part-time exposure to a language enough for a child to successfully use it in the future? And if not, is there even a point in doing so?

Personally, I would love for Olive to learn to speak her mother tongue fluently, after all, she is Chinese, so she should (ideally) speak it, too. But how should I go about this? Is there a ‘right’ way?

What are your thoughts on this? Are you trying to raise a bilingual (or multilingual, even) baby?

PS – on this note, my Mom just bought Olive the Chinese versions of Frozen, Finding Nemo and the Little Mermaid. These have been trippy to watch!

Photo Credit: Sadaf Murad Photo

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3 thoughts on “The Quest for a Bilingual Baby

  1. Dad

    By around 10 years old, a child starts to lose the ability to “imbibe” a language and somehow sort out the grammar, so I was told. I guess one should start by talking to the child in Chinese…

    Reply
    1. Jody Post author

      I know – I am currently trying to do both – but it’s proven really difficult. Also, I swing between Cantonese and Mandarin, which I’m sure is confusing her. (And myself)

      Reply

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