When we first became pregnant, Brian and I immediately decided we wanted to raise our children in a multilingual home. English, Cantonese, and Chinese Mandarin, plus whatever language they later decided to take in school.
I grew up in a multlingual home, and I am trilingual. Well, maybe five-lingual since I can scrape by with Spanish and I understand Taiwanese (I just can’t speak it back to you!). I spoke with my mom in Cantonese, my dad in English, and family friends and nannies in Mandarin.
But anyway, when Bunny was born, we immediately went to work on the languages! Brian has an incredible skill of being able to pick up Cantonese and Mandarin, so he will speak with her in a crazy combination. I speak to Bunny primarily in Cantonese, and then will repeat myself again in English. My mom speaks to her in Mandarin and Cantonese as well.
It’s been an amazing journey to see our daughter’s language skills develop. Most of her spoken words are in Cantonese, but she totally gets all three languages.
In fact, she ends up doing a lot of what I do. She will either say the word in Mandarin or Cantonese, pause, and then say the word in English (if she knows it).
Just the other week when my nephew was over (he only knows English), Bunny kept trying to talk to him.
“GeGe (Big Brother), wan! Wan!”
My nephew looked at her blankly.
Imagine her doing this:
He says, “Huh?”
She sighs and shouts, “PLAY!!!”
Well, back to the original point of the story. Since Bunny loves songs (dear God imagine having to hear The Sound of Music’s “Do Re Mi” over and over on an 8 hour car trip), imagine our delight on another car trip to hear on satellite radio a Chinese song that was not sung by horribly annoying children.
We loved it so much we bought the actual cd (our first cd purchase in over 10 years!). A Little Mandarin has definitely helped us expand our language lessons with our little one. Hopefully she will come out with more songs!
One of our goals is to eventually send our kids to Chinese school to learn to speak Mandarin, so every little bit helps.
I do get a bit nervous if we are stunting her ability to learn language. Like, what if she goes off to school but then they decide to put her in ESL? But I tell myself to calm down a bit. I grew up just like Bunny and I turned out fine. I didn’t need ESL. I knew to speak English when I was in school. 🙂