Languages are important to learn as soon after a baby is born as possible. Babies are born with the ability to speak any language on Earth, we just prime them to speak the language they hear at home. In their early stages of development, babies take tally of the syllables they hear over and over again. Then, as early as a few months, their mouths start to permanently form to speak your home language best. While it is never to late to learn a language, this is why it is best to start encouraging them to speak their heritage languages from an early age.
- My favorite way to learn Putonghua with ÀiShī is through music. It is such a sensory way to experience culture. With smartphones, now music is always available to us pretty much whenever we want. Kids do like sing-song baby music, but they also love to listen to the kind of things that are on the radio. We play a lot of Chinese pop, rap, and ballads for ÀiShī on car rides and around the house. And I am just starting to catch her singing it to herself around the house. It makes my heart soar!
- Youtube has thousands of songs in Putonghua, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, etc.
- You can also buy CDs on Amazon.
- If you are looking for Chinese Lullabies, we really like “Chinese Lulabies by the Beijing Angelic Choir”
- Note: As with Writing, Ming and I are not teaching ÀiShī to Read. Ming moved to the US before starting formal education in China, so his reading skills are less fluent. Additionally, Chinese and Japanese are character languages, making learning that type of writing two of the hardest languages in the world. We prefer to use the time we would spend learning reading on practicing speaking. It is all preference. Should ÀiShī decide later that she is very interested in Reading/Writing, we will make that happen for her.
- Reading is definitely one of the early skills to try to pass on to your child, if you are fluent in reading in your native tongue. Amazon has books in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese, etc. available, and some of them are bilingual books. Bilingual books add an extra layer of usefulness, because both parents can read the same book, but will be reinforcing their own languages. It is an easy anchoring tool to help your child automatically link the words in English and Korean, for example.
- Even if you/your partner don’t know how to read in the other language, try labeling things in picture books, first one parent in their native language, and then the second parent in theirs. This way you can still help the child associate those two separate words both to that object.
- Speaking is the most important in our family. In general, I speak to ÀiShī in English, and Ming speaks to her in Putonghua. She is probably equally comfortable with both of them. I know that after she starts grade school, we will have to make a special effort to increase the Putonghua she interacts with daily.
- For us, it hasn’t been practical for ÀiShī to learn hanzi writing. I’m definitely of the mind that it’s healthy to draw the line somewhere, since there’s only 24 hours in the day. My husband doesn’t read much Chinese, though growing up there made his speaking excellent. I haven’t made a special effort to learn it, and Ming and I decided that ÀiShī’s time would be better spent on other things. It’s all up to personal preference–you know what’s best for your family!
- However, I will try to collect resources for those who might be interested in learning hanzi writing. I will also make an effort to include any Korean, Japanese, or Vietnamese resources I can find.