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JB
Reply with quote  #1 

I don't yet have kids but hope to soon and have been revisiting this question of bilingual/multilingualism. I would love your advice on how to pass on the languages I speak non-natively to my kids.

Just by way of background, I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandparents when I was little, who along with my dad and his siblings spoke a mix of Haitian Creole and French among themselves. They never spoke to my generation in Creole or French in any intentional way, beyond the occasional "ma cherie," "ma petite," or nursery song.

I *always* wanted to know what the adults were saying and I think that early exposure + that feeling of never again wanting to be left out of the loop led me to acquire several languages as a teenager and young adult.

I am strongest in Mandarin (owing to having studied and intensively in college and lived in China for a few years), followed closely by French and bit more distantly, Spanish. I would love for my children to learn all three languages, but we live in the US and my husband only speaks English.

My instinct is that I need to choose one language to speak with my kids and will have to fight pretty hard even for that one language given that my husband and all of our extended family will speak the majority language. At this point, I am leaning toward French, just because it feels culturally the most familiar and a language in which I could express myself emotionally more naturally than the other two. 

But given that I'd like to share the other Chinese and Spanish as well, I wonder what my options are? Would even occasional story time (at home), at the library, or in groups of people who speak these other languages be useful? I would not expect my kids to pick up Spanish and Chinese that way, but the exposure might help them with better accents or an inclination toward them when they are older? (Perhaps?)

There is a really great Chinese/English bilingual school in my area that starts with Mommy & Me classes at 12 months and goes all the way through to 6th grade (and is 100% Chinese the first few years). Perhaps I focus on French, let the school take care of Chinese, and forget the Spanish? 

And if we threw a nanny into the mix, which language should they speak? French to reinforce French at home? Spanish, just because I'm ambitious like that? [smile]

 

Sibylle
Reply with quote  #2 
JB,
Here are my two cents if you are still thinking about it: I would speak Chinese with your kids, since it is the most different language and I believe the intonnations and the very different, more simple grama a very hard to learn as an adult, while French and Spanish have much more common ground with English, thus making it easier to learn the traditional way.
Even though may Chinese is quiet good for a Lao Wei, I never thougt about using it with my daughter, since I feel, I am and always will be too far from fluent in Mandarine. From what you are writing, this is not the case for you, and youwould feel comfortable in Chinese.
I did learn French during my graduate studies and heavyly drew from sophisticated English vocab. I did take a four week crash course class in Monpellier, before embarking on graduate studies in Chemistry (with about 50% of the classes in French, rest in English or my native German). This would NEVER have worked with Chinese, and this is why I advocate it as the language to speak to your children. (What did however work, was reviving my Chinese in some privat classes then heading to China for an internship in an almost exclusive Chinese environment. But this is where I learned how different Chinese to western languages is and if you do not know the word, there is nothing to help you, while in a western language, the word my have the same root as in one of your other languages....)
Good luck!
Sibylle

OPOL mom & dad German
Living inthe US
English, German some Spanish
Sibylle
Reply with quote  #3 
JB,
Here are my two cents if you are still thinking about it: I would speak Chinese with your kids, since it is the most different language and I believe the intonnations and the very different, more simple grama a very hard to learn as an adult, while French and Spanish have much more common ground with English, thus making it easier to learn the traditional way.
Even though may Chinese is quiet good for a Lao Wei, I never thougt about using it with my daughter, since I feel, I am and always will be too far from fluent in Mandarine. From what you are writing, this is not the case for you, and youwould feel comfortable in Chinese.
I did learn French during my graduate studies and heavyly drew from sophisticated English vocab. I did take a four week crash course class in Monpellier, before embarking on graduate studies in Chemistry (with about 50% of the classes in French, rest in English or my native German). This would NEVER have worked with Chinese, and this is why I advocate it as the language to speak to your children. (What did however work, was reviving my Chinese in some privat classes then heading to China for an internship in an almost exclusive Chinese environment. But this is where I learned how different Chinese to western languages is and if you do not know the word, there is nothing to help you, while in a western language, the word my have the same root as in one of your other languages....)
Good luck!
Sibylle

OPOL mom & dad German
Living inthe US
English, German some Spanish
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