Do I need to speak a second language to teach my children how to speak?
No! All you need is a passion for keeping that language alive in your child’s life. You can create an immersive environment in your own home. The idea is to make this language FUN! Check out the Get Started page for idea about how you can incorporate a foreign language into your child’s life.
When should I start?
NOW! The earlier the better! Experts agree that early exposure is best, but it is never too late to start a second language. It is easier to develop phonological awareness at a young age. Children are more apt to pick up the accurate phonemes (sounds) and tones when they begin learning early in life. Check out our blog postings under Research and Trends for all sorts of data around early second language learning.
How much exposure to a second language does my child need?
As much as possible. Try to incorporate a little bit into your everyday life. Foreign-language movies in the car, a game in the afternoon, flash-cards with special treats after lunch, a babysitter who speaks the language that you want your child to learn.
That said, don’t feel overwhelmed, because your child will sense your concerns. Just have fun: make it a game. Think of it as a wonderful bonding opportunity with your child. Perhaps you will pick up a second language in the process. Check out our ideas under the Get Started page. Try one today!
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What about English? Will my child lag behind in English-speaking skills if I introduce a second language?
Actually, the opposite is true. Studies have shown that children who have been exposed to a second language in childhood have a much greater vocabulary and are able to recognize symbolic relationships between letters/characters and sounds – skills which help make excellent readers. Besides, your child’s native language is all around- through playmates on the playground, TV shows, the radio, signs, interactions at stores. Your child WILL master their native tongue. Remember the days when you worried whether your little one would ever walk? Of course your child will speak his native language! But will your child be able to speak a second language? Not without your help and enthusiasm!
How quickly will my child learn a second language?
Is my kid “getting it”? When you first start out introducing a second language to your child, it may appear as if your little one is just lost. Is anything soaking into that little brain? YES! Don’t give up! Watch your child progress through the stages of language acquisition towards fluency! How exciting! (information below based on the studies presented in the book The Natural Approach by Krashen and Terrell).
The Five Stages Of Language Acquisition:
1. PRE-PRODUCTION STAGE — THE SILENT PERIOD
Children begin to develop listening skills and competence in the second language but do not speak. Children should not be forced to speak.
2. EARLY PRODUCTION STAGE
This is a period of limited speech production and limited comprehension. Children may speak in one or two word phrases. Children begin to show their competence in vocabulary they’ve acquired.
3. SPEECH EMERGENCE STAGE
This is a period of expanded speech production; error correction should be limited to modeling. Children who have strong native language skills may demonstrate higher literacy skills in both languages. Second language literacy will be delayed for children lacking native language literacy skills because strong language skills facilitate the acquisition of a second language.
4. INTERMEDIATE FLUENCY
This is a period of continued vocabulary expansion to develop higher levels of language use in content areas. Children show little or no hesitancy to speak.
5. ADVANCED FLUENCY
Children at this stage will be near-native in their ability to perform in content area learning.
I know nothing about Chinese… how can I help my child learn such a complicated language? Can you help?
Sure! Chinese is not as scary as it seems. Standard Chinese is based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin Chinese and it is the official language of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC, also known as Taiwan), as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. More people speak Mandarin (about 850 million) than any other Chinese dialect. As a result, we will will focus mainly on Mandarin.
Knowing just 1,000 Chinese characters will enable you to understand approximately 90% of written communication. With 2,500 you’ll understand around 98% of written Chinese, and knowing all the 4000 we have listed on these page will enable you to understand virtually 100%. With that, even a native Chinese would be considered literate.
The writing – there are three different ways that you will see Mandarin written.
- Traditional Characters: used in Hong Kong and Taiwan
- Simplified Characters: used in China.
- Pinyin: The romanization of Chinese Characters (i.e. so that people who are not familiar with Chinese characters can read Chinese). Pinyin uses the standard Latin alphabet (the one we are using to read right now!) to enable non-Chinese speakers to read Chinese. Pinyin is the tool for many foreigners to learn the Mandarin pronunciation – however you still need to study pinyin charts to know exactly how the letters are pronounced as some of the combinations do not sound the way you would say them in English.