In this blog, Jennifer, the founder of hihilulu Chinese immersion platform, is going to share her experiences in raising bilingual/multi-lingual kids and talk about how she creates a Chinese language environment of learning for her kids.
We live in France, though not far
from Paris, it's still tough enough for kids in terms of learning Chinese. Basically, I am the only stable Chinese language environment for my kids. When my kids were born, I had made an agreement with my husband who is a French, that at home I only speak Chinese to our kids and he only French. Through this arrangement, we try to keep a bilingual environment around the kids and make sure French and Chinese play the same
equal role. Looking back, I think that's
probably the best decision I've ever made since the kids were born.
We tried our best efforts to stick with this arrangement. It is proved to be very good and effective. Eight years afterwards, kids still speak fluent Chinese with me, French to their father. Here below I share several practices we had done to raise bilingual even multilingual kids.
1. Staying with the rule of bilingual/multilingual speaking.
While I insist, kids smartly enough to understand the only way they get mom to understand, do, act and react, is to speak Chinese to mom. This arrangement from the very beginning gives my kids a very good understanding that the Chinese language is important in their life, one of their mother tongues besides French.
Of course, I am a Chinese mother, on top of that, I'm a very busy working woman. The older my kids are, the less time I can spend with them. I always look for alternatives to maintain a stable Chinese language environment for the little ones.
2. Hiring Chinese speaking babysitter is helpful
It is not only about taking care of babies but getting kids "hear" that there are other Chinese speakers around them, besides their mom. I think it is quite important for young kids to also understand Chinese is not only mother's tongue, but there are also bunches of people speaking Chinese. Chinese language is a different, but normal and important language even they live in a country where French is their majority language.
3. Language speaking playgroup is strongly recommended.
I always try to make it possible to play out with other Chinese speaking people in the neighborhood if possible. I think it's important for kids to understand that other kids speak Chinese as well. They are encouraged to make friends with other kids who speak Chinese, not only with French kids. In such a way they got the idea there are a lot of people speaking Chinese, so do we speak, so do grandma, grandpa. This is somehow the human factor of the Chinese language environment I try to create for them.
4. Using proper multi-media content enlarges the horizon.
We have no Chinese TV program (at home) and there is also no easy access to Chinese kids' books. But I believe multimedia is so powerful and so effective if we use it in a really controlled way. Kids will be stimulated because the language expressions used in a multimedia resource are much more diversified and rich than home language that parents use to communicate with their kids in daily life. Employing good quality multimedia content, from e-books to video to audiovisual content, whenever possible, will enrich and enlarge kids' vocabulary.
In an easy way, I started as early as they were babies, really playing 10 to 15 minutes maximum each time and twice or three times a week, like baby video animation, kid songs, audiobooks, to them. Listening skill is vital in developing kids' comprehension. When they grew old, the interest of learning Chinese language in depth also grew. They then would ask me what is this book written about? So I got the opportunity to introduce them to Chinese picture books naturally and started showing them Chinese characters from flashcards. We keep enriching our learning materials according to their age. We even bought blackboard at home and left it just in the living-room. So that kids can access it anytime when there's something showing up in their mind, ideas pumping out, they are encouraged to draw then write Chinese characters on it. Repeatedly, this game of expression led them to memorize those characters they chose to express.
5. Home stage setting works.
Making natural contact with the Chinese language in our daily life setting is very necessary. For example, we display Chinese books everywhere, living room, bedrooms, and dining room..... So they can pick them up as easy as they pick up their French books. They can sit at any corner and read Chinese books as same as reading their French books. All of those tactics used at home aim to create a signal to my kids: the Chinese language is an essential part of their life.
So this is what I have done in the past and present for my kids in order to raise them as bilingual or multilingual kids. Hope this blog gives you some inspiration. You are welcome to leave your comments as well as share your stories with us.
Click here to watch my video.