learning mandarin

Since my son was born — he’s now two — I’ve been speaking Mandarin to him. My partner speaks Vietnamese to him. I never really thought much about whether to speak to him in English or Chinese; I knew I was going to speak to him in Chinese, my first language.
Once he was born, though, I found myself looking for the right words to say to a newborn! My English is much better than my Mandarin, so it’s sometimes hard to stick to speaking in just Mandarin with him. Through raising him, I’m learning about my own limitations with Mandarin, and surprisingly, learning about my strengths and how quickly things come back. These old school phrases that I must have learned as a child just seemed to come out of nowhere! And Since he’s started to pick up more words, I realized how important it is to keep the language going!
One of the things I’m learning is that, like any aspect of parenting, it’s so important to surround yourself with a community of like-minded folks, or people in similar situations. When we have our friends over, who happen to know Chinese or Vietnamese, we ask them to speak to him in those languages. When my parents visit, of course, he will have a sudden explosion of Chinese words. It’s really amazing.
We’ve also been going to the local branch of our library. We’ve been checking out DVDs of “Follow Jade!” and music videos in Vietnamese. My son definitely likes the Jade videos (who he calls “Auntie Jade”) and though it’s bilingual and targeted towards an English-speaking audience, he still picks up new vocabulary from the segments. The library, especially in these tough times, is such a great resource in more than one way. I’ve also checked out multiple books on raising a bilingual child, and those have been helpful too.
I’m wondering if there are other parents out there raising their kids with multiple languages, and how that is going. Are people considering bilingual or even full immersion preschools to keep the language going? What are some other resources out there for parents raising bilingual/multilingual children?
Momo is a freelance writer and mom of a two year-old.

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8 Comments on "learning mandarin"

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David's Mom
6 years 5 months ago

Our 2 yr old son speaks and understands English and Spanish. Our nanny speaks Spanish with him pretty much exclusively – she’s with him 4 days/week about 10 hrs/day. We speak English and encourage his Spanish using what limited vocab we have. When he was an infant we also taught him baby signs which he used pretty exclusively until he was 20 months. We plan to continue encouraging his Spanish language skills through interactions with his nanny, media, books and hopefully a preschool that has Spanish programs.

Roohi Iqbal
6 years 5 months ago

My daughter was born in Shanghai. We kept a mandarin speaking nanny for her and we speak to her in Urdu and English. She is native in mandarin but understands 100% English and Urdu and speaks more and more in these languages as well.
We also introduced signing language (www.signingtime.com) when she was 5 months. She knows over a 100 signs now and signs regularly at age 2 and most importantly enjoys it.

6 years 5 months ago

What perfect timing! This morning I enrolled my 18 month-old in a French immersion pre-school for the fall. She is surrounded by multiple languages every day. I admit, I researched all the views – from books, online blogs, other moms and instructors. In the end I looked at my little girl and realized she’s a language (and sound) sponge at this age! She is happy and healthy and doesn’t appear confused. Supposedly around age 3 there is a language ‘shut down’ period, where they sort out and architect a language construct. I’m not an expert, but my view… Read more »

Christina | MamasWorldwide.com
6 years 5 months ago

I’m an American with a German husband living in Germany. I speak English with my son and my husband speaks German. We’re planning on sending him to the public German schools rather than private English schools, since I figure there is so much English out there, and it’s required learning in the schools anyway, it should be fine. But if the roles were reversed and we were raising him in the US, I would definitely look for a German language school for him to attend. Otherwise I think he wouldn’t get enough exposure. This is… Read more »

6 years 5 months ago


Besides Jade videos (I think only two), you should try MEI MEI, she has several dvds. My kids enjoy SING AND DANCE with MEI MEI volume 4 the most. I think we played that dvd 3-4 times a day. Kids learn faster with singing and meanwhile learning new words. Good luck!