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I’m early in the research stage of finding a way to teach our kid our native languages at home. Hopefully similar question was asked before so I can get a direction to search on my own as well.
My husband and I live in US. He speaks Thai, I speak Mandarin Chinese, and thus we communicate in English.
This is different from the multilingual environment I know and certainly different from a bilingual family. I’m concerned about the irregular exposure of the two native languages at home.
I grew up in a monolingual family (Mandarin Chinese) with both parents on board with English-learning environment at home in addition to the mandatory English courses at school. They both speak another dialect, and thus technically I already understood three languages before I move to US in my adulthood. My husband, on the other hand, was also raised in a monolingual family and he learned more English after he moved to US.
We will have our moms coming over later in the year to help taking care of the baby while we’re at work during day time. My mom will come first, and then his mom. Since there will naturally be English in the environment (between us adults) and native languages (my family and baby/ his family and baby), would this arrangement be favoring one native language than the other?
We both agree to commit, and he even said it’s ok if our kid only knows English and Chinese. There’s no way I’d want that happen since our kid is half-Thai as well!
Any thought or advice is greatly appreciated!
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Absolutely do expose your child to all three languages. I am in a similar situation but with different languages and countries involved, but our children do speak all three languages and have a very rich vocabulary in my native language (they know more words than most monolingual children in this language). With English as the community language and common language between you and your husband, I would focus on Chinese and Thai, especially if the child will be playing with English-speaking friends and go to an English-speaking school. It is possible, and maybe even likely, that the child will not be as strong in all languages, but still being able to speak and understand three languages will be a great advantage. In our case, the children do not currently have as much exposure to the native language of their father, even though he speaks his language with them consistently and us parents have this as a common language. This is because I spend more time talking to them and reading to them and they have more friends who speak my language. A couple of years ago the children preferred their father's language, because they spent more time with him. You will notice which language is weakest and can make adjustments accordingly. If English is the weakest language you could attend an English-speaking playgroup, hire an English-speaking babysitter, have the child watch TV in English when it gets older. If Thai is weak, maybe the child could spend some more time with the paternal grandparents, with friends who speak Thai, or the father could be in charge of reading bedtime stories for a while until the language catches up. Because you are the one writing here I am not so concerned about the Chinese language development, as you seem devoted enough to teach your child your language. Just spend as much time talking and reading with your child as possible. Even when the child is an infant: describe whatever you are doing, point to objects and describe them.
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Thank you so much for your input, Multimama!! Really appreciate your tips and experience!
As you pointed out, I do have more learning resources in Chinese compared to Thai (mainly because I don’t know the language well enough to acquire as much information). My mom also used to teach Chinese to American students, and she can be the one to look for professional help later on when our kid gets older. We also talked about sending our kid back home to stay with their grandparents for cultural exposure, but of course this will happen when he/she is old enough to fly solo.
So far, I guess the learning/ play group might be the most difficult resource to acquire since we are new to the community. We haven’t found a close group with either people from same cultural backgrounds or families with same age group of kids (only young families like us with English as their family language but not the other two native languages).
The adjustment strategy is definitely important and can be tailored to our situation! We’ll continue to work on what we might need in the near future. Hopefully we all can maintain a continuously positive and progressive attitude in this process.