Parenting & Family

would bilingual education be too much burden for young kids?

  • Last Updated:
  • Nov 8th, 2018 2:10 am
[OP]
Newbie
Jun 23, 2017
14 posts
5 upvotes

would bilingual education be too much burden for young kids?

Hi
Just want to get some opinions here.

our son is 17 months old and he is already picking up a lot of English words from daycare. At home, we are both native mandarin speakers and we speak both Mandarin and English to our son in a roughly 1:1 ratio. Right now, our son is mostly uttering English words now(baby version). I'd say 80-90% words he picked up so far is in English.

We often talk about whether our son should have more mandarin exposure. Because of its unique nature, the Chinese language requires much more time on reading and writing practise for kids to understand them. Most native Chinese speakers in mainland China learns to remember at least some of the most commonly used characters before they enter grade 1. I even began practiced writing a bit at Kindergarten.

My question is, do you think it's worth to make a child learn a heritage language which is so fundamentally different from English and requires so much effort? I've met many Chinese Americans and Chinese Canadians who apparently resent their experience of being forced to learn Chinese at youth while other kids go play video games at weekends. I really don't want to be that kind of parent. However, I also see a lot of people (including my wife) saying that bilingual is super important in the future and heritage languages should be a natural gift for kids from immigrant families.

Any thoughts?
34 replies
Deal Expert
Aug 22, 2011
23263 posts
9714 upvotes
Ottawa
This is my opinion as a Canadian living in Canada.
English and French are the main languages we want our kid to learn and a 3rd or 4th would be up to them later on.
Member
User avatar
Oct 21, 2009
464 posts
270 upvotes
Brampton
It's good for your kid to learn another language now. Although French would be beneficial, learning Mandarin is good too as it would introduce them to the basics for starters.
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Sep 21, 2010
9636 posts
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Montréal
Learn as many languages as possible. It's really a no-brainer esp since both parents are native speakers as well. Kids' brains are like sponges, they can definitely take it. Good for you OP to think of that for your kid.

I find it very discouraging some parents are native speakers and for whatever reason don't pass on their languages skills to their kids. That's just wrong imho and will be a disadvantage later in life.
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Jan 17, 2002
6726 posts
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Toronto
Just speak more Mandarin at home, more like 80%, no need to put them in classes at that age. They learn easiest before they turn 5. It is a no brainer choice to pass on Mandarin. Several of my JK son's classmates learned Mandarin first at home before English and are decent at both. Our son learned Korean at home and now says he wants to learn Spanish and French too like his mom.
Sr. Member
Oct 17, 2002
634 posts
42 upvotes
Toronto
I'd agree, it's good to learn another language.

While English is obviously important, from someone who has seen it first hand in the financial services industry, the second most important language is Mandarin.
Sr. Member
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May 12, 2009
735 posts
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My bestie emigrated to Canada from Hong Kong at age ten, making him perfectly bilingual. It's such a huge benefit.
Deal Addict
Apr 21, 2014
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Alberta
vkizzle wrote:
Nov 2nd, 2018 4:28 pm
This is my opinion as a Canadian living in Canada.
English and French are the main languages we want our kid to learn and a 3rd or 4th would be up to them later on.
If I had a choice I would rather have learned English and Mandarin vs French or even Spanish which is the second most spoken language in the world
Moderator
User avatar
Jul 5, 2004
23215 posts
2812 upvotes
You should absolutely teach your children Mandarin, but not at the expense of them being able to have fun. Just let it come naturally. Speak mostly Mandarin at home and let your child pick up English from daycare and school.

Friends of mine only spoke French and Greek at home. They would never speak a word of English at home. Their kids picked up English all on their own from other sources and now can speak all 3 languages. Your kids won't need to be in classes nor do they need to learn Mandarin at the expense of them being kids.
Deal Expert
Aug 22, 2011
23263 posts
9714 upvotes
Ottawa
abc123yyz wrote:
Nov 4th, 2018 8:03 pm
If I had a choice I would rather have learned English and Mandarin vs French or even Spanish which is the second most spoken language in the world
Public school's 50% French curriculum starts in kindergarten.
Not much choice to not learn it, other than enrolling into a private school.
Deal Addict
Nov 13, 2013
1363 posts
521 upvotes
OTTAWA
It is tough to keep up the home country language at least to an educated level. It might also be a cultural thing but most of the people I know who grew up speaking Mandarin to their parents can't talk about much more than food and other home topics.

Frankly any language besides French is rarely useful in the Canadian job market. Once in awhile it can be a benefit but mostly lower level jobs. Ironically sometimes being ethnically Chinese is a disadvantage for these jobs as they will be treated differently in China.

If you don't really care about the cultural side of it it might not be worth it for you. That said kids can easily learn two languages just be prepared for some times in the kids life when they refuse to speak Mandarin.
Deal Addict
Nov 24, 2004
3630 posts
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Toronto
fogetmylogin wrote:
Nov 5th, 2018 2:32 am
Frankly any language besides French is rarely useful in the Canadian job market. Once in awhile it can be a benefit but mostly lower level jobs. Ironically sometimes being ethnically Chinese is a disadvantage for these jobs as they will be treated differently in China.
I think this is an important point. I have a lot of friends who are fluent Cantonese and / or Mandarin speakers (having grown up speaking those languages at home), but who are nearly illiterate in Chinese.
One former professor of mine (Chinese-American, raised in the USA in a Mandarin-speaking home) told me a story of being mocked for asking directions, in Mandarin, while travelling in China -- apparently the sign he was standing next to clearly showed the answer to his question, but he couldn't read it.

On a global scale, Mandarin is no doubt useful; within Canada, except in certain contexts, much less so; Mandarin also has the challenge of a very different phonology and high barriers to developing literacy vs. other widely spoken Germanic or Romance languages.
Newbie
Apr 8, 2017
10 posts
1 upvote
Markham
My son is a little over 3, me and my wife speak mandarins only to him at home, and we encourage him speak too. Hope he can speak mandarins when he grows up at least.
Deal Expert
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Nov 15, 2004
15835 posts
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Toronto
Listen to your wife and definitely teach your kid Mandarin in addition to English. It will be a massively important language globally in the future, and going to weekend classes with other Chinese kids will help your kid be around others like him/her and weather any racism or bullying in their regular school better than playing video games ever will. The connections made will also last longer and be of more use in their life. Think of it as getting the benefits of the community aspect of church without the religion.

French isn't anywhere near as important as a global language like Mandarin, especially for an Asian kid. Even in Canada it's only marginally useful if you want a government job, and French speakers here are hostile to English speakers (just look at Quebec's utter refusal to be bilingual or integrate into the country) and non-Quebecois. The 'old stock' speakers also tend to hold a very ethnocentric small town mindset and racism against non-whites is far more normalized in French Canadian culture than it is in English Canadian culture. Unless you're pointing your kid at a federal government job, I wouldn't bother learning it. Mandarin would be of far more use in medicine, IT, engineering, finance, policing, etc.
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Jan 27, 2015
1037 posts
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Edmonton, AB
abc123yyz wrote:
Nov 4th, 2018 8:03 pm
If I had a choice I would rather have learned English and Mandarin vs French or even Spanish which is the second most spoken language in the world
Exactly. Mandarin would be way more valuable than French, simply given the sheer # of people who speak Mandarin. Couple with the fact that China will be a force to reckon with economically speaking over the next 5 decades.

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