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Methods of raising children to speak two languages [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2013-11-2 18:05:03 |Display all floors
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Many parents in China, Chinese and foreign alike, dream of raising a child fluent in two (or more) languages. Parents go to great lengths and sometimes great expenses to secure the gift of bilingualism for their children. If you have a Chinese spouse and a half-Chinese child, one of the first things strangers will ask you is whether or not your child speaks both languages, and if you must, reluctantly say no, your child only speaks the one language, a well-meaning scolding on how easy and natural it would be to teach your child your own language will follow. What most people don't realise, however, is that raising a child to speak two languages takes a lot of hard work, no matter what languages the parents speak. Experts still debate the best way to raise multilingual children, and parents, no matter which method they choose, will encounter frustrations along the way.

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1) The "One Parent One Language" method

Without a doubt the most popular method of fostering bilingualism in a multicultural household is "One Parent One Language," otherwise known as OPOL. OPOL involves each parent speaking their own native language to their children, not mixing languages, period.

This method is deceptively simple. After all, all you have to do is speak your own language, right? What could be more natural! OPOL usually works quite well until the child starts school, at which point many parents often find that the language input from the minority language parent (that is, the parent whose language is not spoken in the country where the family lives) is simply not enough to overcome the overwhelming influence of the home country's language. Especially if the minority language parent is capable of speaking the majority language, a child will often "rebel" against the second language, preferring instead to speak the language that his peer group is speaking. Since most children do not like being labelled as different, they may find that speaking a second language sets them apart. One father, raising his child in China to be bilingual in Chinese and English noted that his daughter understood everything he said to her in English, but would stubbornly respond in Chinese.

OPOL becomes more complicated when the language of the host country is the common language between the two parents. Many parents raising their children bilingually in the United States have found it difficult to speak English with their spouse and a foreign language with their children. Multicultural families who speak Chinese at home in China may encounter similar problems. The children realise from the beginning that speaking English only is a viable option, and once they are old enough to make the choice, they may simply choose the language of the majority.

This doesn't mean OPOL is a bad option, but compared to other methods it requires almost all of the "work" to be done by one parent. As one mother said, "I got tired of always being the one who had to push English all the time. No one else was responsible for their English education, it was all on me. It was a lot of stress."


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2) The "Minority Language at Home" method

The other major method of at-home bilingual education is called "MILH," which stands for "Minority Language at Home." This means that there is a "family language" and an "outside language." This might mean that a Chinese-British family would speak only English at home, and leave the learning of Chinese up to school and society.

The advantage of this method is that there is no switching back and forth between two languages at home, and the whole family can share the same common language. The two parents can present a united front and simply refuse to engage the children unless they are speaking the minority language. In fact, many immigrant families use this method out of necessity simply because the parents do not speak the majority language, and MILH is overall considered to be quite a successful method, considering that the child gets minority language input not just from one parent, but from both parents as well as any siblings in the family unit.

The drawback of this method, however, is that both parents must speak the minority language for it to work. Families raising children to be bilingual in English and Chinese in China probably have two parents who are reasonably competent English speakers, since English is taught in Chinese public schools, but a Chinese-Italian family might not have the choice of speaking Italian at home. MILH would not be an option for such a family. Furthermore, as with OPOL, MILH is not immune to the problem of rebellious children simply giving up on the family language, especially if at least one parent speaks the home language.


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3) The "No Set Method" method

Of course some families don't use any set method, they just cobble things together as they go. Parents might speak a mixture of Chinese and English to each other and to the kids. Or they might choose schoolsparticularly to strengthen one language or another, or send their children to visit relatives abroad on summer vacations for extended language immersion (for young children especially this can be extremely effective, especially in accent reduction). Sadly, some families even give up on bilingualism entirely, throwing in the towel in the face of an overwhelming native language culture that is not always conducive to second language learning.


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Every family is different

In fact, the language choices that each family makes are highly personal. Families usually find their own way of doing things, a way that is as unique as each member of the family. Striking a balance between two languages can be a difficult task, but the results are almost always worth the effort. No matter which method, if any, you choose for your family, you can help foster your child's interest in his or her second language and culture by playing up how much fun it is being multilingual. After all, you get twice the books, twice the movies, and sometimes even twice the holidays and vacations.

Whatever you do, don't pressure your child about the second language or turn acquisition of the second language into a chore. Language learning should be an enjoyable experience for children, and as soon as it stops being fun and starts being work, that's when language rebellion sets in. It is very hard to recapture a child's interest in his or her second language, and the rebellion usually continues until, as adults, they lament the fact that they never learned how to speak Spanish, or Greek, or English, and how now, as adults with lives and responsibilities, it seems to be "too late."


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Post time 2013-11-4 06:25:20 |Display all floors
If you live in China....You should speak English( or whatever the second language is) to your Child...Both Parents should speak English all the time......The Child will learn Chinese from everyone else who is always speaking Chinese...THIS WILL WORK....
Never Let Anyone Outside The Family Know What You're Thinking.

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