bilingual - how should I start? Advice please

(9 Posts)
moonprayer Mon 27-May-13 20:16:20

Hi, I am a new mum and need some experience on how to teach my DS two languages. Both DH and I are Chinese. We live in England. In this case, I plan to speak Chinese to DS at home, same for DH, so that Chinese is the family language. Then we speak English outside, such as when attending different activities or groups. Does it make sense? Would it work? I also have several questions:
- can I read English books or sing English songs to DS at home?
- how should I make sure DS also catches up with English at the same time? I don't want him to feel isolated if he couldn't speak English properly when he gets into nursery later. Can I set a fixed time each day to speak English with DS, such as 4pm to 6pm? Would it work? If not, what is the best way to make sure DS also speak proper English at the same time?
Thank you very much for any suggestions in advance.

MultipleMama Tue 28-May-13 09:21:27

can I read English books or sing English songs to DS at home?
Yes, you can. Maybe you switch it up. Chinese one night, English the other.

how should I make sure DS also catches up with English at the same time?
By storytime above, or spending time around other children who speak English - he will quickly pick up. As you're living in English-spoken country you may be revisiting learning Chinese with him in the older years.

Can I set a fixed time each day to speak English with DS, such as 4pm to 6pm? Would it work? If not, what is the best way to make sure DS also speak proper English at the same time?
You can, you could print out activity sheets offline so it's interactive and fun which makes learning a child easier.
This is what we did with DS1, only we hired a tutor as they're taught to explain and teach it to them the way they could understand then we'd ask him in English what he had learnt.

I think what you've already said and suggested are really good ideas, and should put them into action because I think your DS will benefit from them.

DS1 had tutoring once a week for a year (1 hr German/1 hr Russian) he's is now 4.5 and is pretty much fluent in Russian and German as well as English.

moonprayer Tue 28-May-13 18:00:22

Thank you so much MultipleMama. Your reply Is really helpful! Hopefully I can carry on with the plan. Your DS1 sounds amazing to master three languages at the same time. smile

noramum Wed 29-May-13 08:52:32

I personally wouldn't put too much structure in it.

We are a German household but DD went to nursery early so had her English exposure from there. At home we read mostly German books but when she turned 2 more and more English came in.

She also watched English television. We attended some Baby and Toddler groups where I would speak English but if it was just the two of us or three of us we would speak German in public.

We thought about German Saturday school but decided against it as a) her passive knowledge is spot on and b) I didn't want to add additional schooling to the already heavy load a small child has here in the UK. We teach her reading and writing at home and she speaks German if she wants.

If you make sure your child has enough exposure to the English language and is fit when school time comes I don't think you need to worry about setting a time table up at home.

marchmad Wed 29-May-13 13:53:13

Chinese at home, English at an eary years setting then school plus heard in the wider environment. I think you're thinking too hard about it, since you live in England, your son as he grows up will learn English just like millions of other children in England who've grown up with another language at home. IMO setting times each day to switch languages is just over-complicating it, why would you do this? Of course there'll be times when you'll read and sing in English and there'll be times when you'll feel you'll have to switch to English at home if helping with homework.

cory Thu 30-May-13 10:39:42

We had a fairly loose arrangement: I primarily spoke Swedish at home and when out alone with dc but did read English books and sing English songs and would speak English if our group was joined by any English speakers who did not understand Swedish.

Agree with marchmad that if you are living in England he will hear English all around. When he is a little older, you may join a toddler group, you will be taking him to the park and to events, he will have friends whom you will invite home, there will be endless opportunities to practise his English and he won't stand out because toddlers have limited language skills anyway. Not everybody will be speaking all that fluently or correctly when they start nursery- but they will by the time they go to school.

MultipleMama Thu 30-May-13 18:40:45

I also agree with what above posters have said. It doesn't have to be structured just do what suits your family best and don't worry so much, your LO will pick it all up. They're like sponges - they soak everything up smile

pootros Wed 28-Aug-13 14:57:31

hi -
i found your post because i am sarching for tips too - am trying to ensure that my babies grow up bilingual in spanish as we have ecuadorian family and a british other half.
I used the singalingo cd from USA and i was just on their site and noticed they had a ?mandarin one too - the spanish one was great - not sure which chinese language you'd be using though xx
http://www.singalingo.com/

pootros Wed 28-Aug-13 15:02:44

Oh - just read your message more thoroughly ( sorry).
I grew up trilingual.
My mum could only speak spanish till I was about 3, when she had picked up some french and english. We spoke spanish at home till age 3-4, when my mum got better at english.
My dad spoke more english than spanish but spoke french for work.
We lived in a french speaking country. I spoke french with my friends, english and spanish with my parents; I think dad spoke english to mum.
I picked up all the languages despite the fact that back then dad believed that being exposed to all 3 would confuse me and tried to supress the spanish!
NOw we all talk english at home.

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