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This is a really informative website and I am so glad I stumbled across it while researching how to raise my daughter multilingual. I am Chinese who was born and raised in the Philippines. As a child, we spoke Hokkien (a Chinese dialect spoken in the southern provinces with a lot of similarities to Taiwanese) at home. I learned Filipino naturally since we lived in the Philippines and I studied English and Mandarin formally in school. I speak Filipino, English, and Mandarin equally fluently and am a little less fluent in Hokkien since I only speak it with my mother nowadays. My husband is Filipino and is equally fluent in English and Filipino. We are now living in the U.S. Our daughter is 8 1/2 months old. My husband speaks to her in English. My mother-in-law who takes care of her during the day speaks to her in Filipino. And I want to teach her Chinese. My question is: Mandarin or Hokkien? Hokkien comes more naturally to me since it is the language of my childhood but I learned Mandarin to a deeper and more extensive level. There are a lot of words that I know in Mandarin that I can't say in Hokkien and there are hardly any written resources in Hokkien that I know of (CDs, dictionaries, etc.) However, it feels somewhat unnatural to speak to her in Mandarin since it is not the language that I use with my own family. Should I just continue to speak to her in Hokkien while she is a baby and start teaching her Mandarin by homeschooling when she starts school in much the same way I learned both languages? Or should I talk to her in both Mandarin and Hokkien starting from infancy? What is happening now is I speak to her in Hokkien and then I catch myself substituting English words for the ones I don't know in Hokkien. In addition, we are teaching her sign language since my husband's brother is deaf and we would like her to be able to communicate with him on a basic level. What do you think? Is this too much for one baby (albeit a very bright one)?
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my husband is in the same situation, he is Chinese from Malaysia and his dialect is Hokkien as well. He learned Mandarin at school and we also lived in China so he is quite fluent. We have a 14 months old boy and we have decided my husbad to speak Mandarin to the baby. The main reason is that Mandarin is the "main" language, sunday school will be in Mandarin and books, songs and so on are all in Mandarin. Hokkian is spoken by many people but there are variations among the different countries. We try to look at the big picture and we felt that with Mandarin he can communicate with more people. We think that he will/can learn Hokkien by listening my husband speaking with his friends or during the trips to Malaysia. Sorry, I can not be more helpful. Bye
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I say you should use both Hokien and Mandarin with the baby at home, let Daddy speak English and Granny speak Filipino with her, she will pick up more Hokien listening to you and Granny, when reading a book, read it twice, dubbing in both Mandarin and Hokien as you see fit.
Sign langauge is a WONDERFUL link between the languages, I think. Teaching her to sign she will be able to communicate with everyone (since Dad, Uncle, and Granny should all know some ASL and you either know or are learning it, too) manually while she's figuring and formulating verbal responces to each language. You can always enroll or form playgroups for a specific language when she is older, around 3 or four, where all the parents come together and chat in the themed langauge and encourage their kids to use that langauge also. I think kids would have fun doing that. I am well from having kids of my own but I plan to teach any and all of my children Arabic, Esperanto and French from infancy, while signing to them all the way. My native langauge is English but I'm not worried about them learning it. My whole family (I have 9 siblings, both parents, and by the time I get around to reproducing I'll probably have a ton of nephews and neices too) will speak English around the kids. When they get to be 6 years old, I'll introduce one new language every two years, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin, etc... I dont mind them never reaching fluency in those langauges, but I want them to be on an advanced-conversational level in 7 langauges by the time that they graduate and having had opportunities and reasons to actively use them in life. Even if the kids allow the languages to go dormant/forget them as they get older, if they ever want to revive a specific language or pick up a whole new language, then hopefully, they'll do so with much more ease than most of their counterparts.