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Old 09-06-2017, 05:09 PM
 
559 posts, read 213,753 times
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This is a topic that many immigrant families ponder everyday. How to makes sure their kids particularly those born the new country learn their native language and culture? It seems pretty challenging as kids would normally fall for the path of least resistance. And are reluctant to study more than they need to. Learning another language take time and effort in addition to what they are doing for school. It may also seem socially not cool for kids to do so.

I find that in California, where there are a lot of immigrant families and even ethnic enclaves where languages other than English are the norm. It is actually surprisingly challenging for kids to learn their mother tongue. In fact its not uncommon for kids of Chinese descent to have difficulty learning their own tongue even if they were born in or grew up in places like San Francisco where their are two major Chinatown communities or in SoCal where we have San Gabriel Valley where Chinese characters are everywhere and Asians make up nearly 30-40% of the population.

Speaking as a whole do kids of immigrant families in the US do better or worse at learning their family mother tongue than kids of immigrant families in Canada or other countries in the world?

Things get much harder if the kids are of a mixed ethnicity where one of the parents are of the new country and the other is of the old country.

I know its difficult to measure language learning skills of the population in different countries. To make a comparison I would ask do kids in Mexico, at least those in urban areas whether they are local, immigrant, expat, etc learn better English skills than US kids living in southern learn Spanish? Or is it vice versa?

How do kids who are born in Mexico of parents who emigrated to Mexico from the US compare to kids born in the states of Mexican parents in terms of parent's mother tongue skills. In speaking, reading, and writing. Given that they are educated in local, not International schools or schools that teach in their mother tongue?

I know that its difficult to measure this and people's learning ability can differ quite a bit regardless of which country they are from and how they are educated.

So what do you think? Any tricks of the trade to help these kids born outside their parent's home country learn to speak read write their own language and to keep their culture?

Last edited by citizensadvocate; 09-06-2017 at 05:17 PM..
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Old 09-06-2017, 08:01 PM
 
Location: Brisbane
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We gave the same problem, with our daughter whos 3, her mother is an immigrant from Korea. We have Korean as well as English children's books/movies/music, and my wife speaks to her a lot in Korean. Weather it works in the long run I'm not sure.

I often find however where both parents are non native English speakers, they do everything in their native language, and take the attitude that the children will learn English at school.
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:02 AM
 
Location: Germany
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Consistently, i.e. always, speaking to your children in your own native language will do the job, anywhere in the world. Speaking 'a lot of Korean' as in Daniel's case is probably not enough.
The children will pick up the language of the country they live in automatically, in nursery schools, play groups, primary school and when playing on the street.
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Old 09-07-2017, 06:40 AM
 
Location: western East Roman Empire
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The first best bet is to have the children interact with other children who speak only the native language. Generally speaking, children will use a language if they perceive that it is useful; they often measure usefulness by what other children are doing. Such an environment may exist in ethnic enclaves within the US or by visiting family with similar-age children for two-three months in the summer every summer, for example, in the native country.


The second best bet is to have both parents speak the native language at home all time from birth. Perhaps even better if they are raised by the grandparents who cannot speak English at all. The children will learn English in school, but better if they start in PK-3.

Under that scenario, at the very least they will always understand the spoken native language. In some cases, the parents or grandparents can teach the children the written language, but it takes time and commitment on the part of the adults, and aptitude and desire on the part of the children.


The third best bet is to choose a school where the native language is a significant part of the curriculum but, unless it is a diplomatic school or some such, it almost always is taught as a second language.

There are some schools in Miami, for example, that call themselves bilingual English-Spanish, but I notice that in many cases they teach both poorly, though there are pockets of excellence as well.

At any rate, in this case, success mainly depends on the aptitude and desire of the child.

Good Luck!

Last edited by bale002; 09-07-2017 at 07:05 AM..
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Old 09-07-2017, 09:25 AM
 
Location: Gatineau, Québec
18,536 posts, read 22,835,930 times
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I was never in this situation with my kids but I know a number of people who were.


When the child is very young you do have a decent amount of control over their environment and it wasn't unusual for me to run into very young kids who were in a strict one-parent-one-language régime. As in one parent spoke only language X with the kid, and the other spoke only language Y with the kid.


I know for a fact that a number of kids get to be a few years old before they realize that their parents have a language that they know in common. They always thought that parent X was unilingual in language X and parent Y only spoke language Y.


By the time they figure it out, a child will have acquired at least decent skills in any language. It needs to be maintained of course, but it's a lot easier than starting from scratch.
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Old 09-08-2017, 09:57 AM
 
Location: Finland
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I'm in this situation with my kid (6) living in Finland with my mother tongue being English (which granted has a big advantage over many other mother tongues because she will be exposed to English so much in life). I speak only English to her (except for the odd word or phrase which just works better in Finnish), read English books to her, she watches some English-language tv and we visit the UK every couple of years or so (it was the 2nd visit when she was 3 years old that kick-started her English abilities as prior to that she pretty much refused to speak English but after trying to talk to UK kids in Finnish didn't work she realised she needed to speak some English!)

Edit: She is very strict with what language she speaks to what person so to me in English, to OH in Finnish, to my parents in English even though my mum is Finnish because they live in the UK therefore they must speak English in her mind. And amusingly she only speaks to the cat in English
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Old 09-08-2017, 11:18 AM
 
559 posts, read 213,753 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Natsku View Post
I'm in this situation with my kid (6) living in Finland with my mother tongue being English (which granted has a big advantage over many other mother tongues because she will be exposed to English so much in life). I speak only English to her (except for the odd word or phrase which just works better in Finnish), read English books to her, she watches some English-language tv and we visit the UK every couple of years or so (it was the 2nd visit when she was 3 years old that kick-started her English abilities as prior to that she pretty much refused to speak English but after trying to talk to UK kids in Finnish didn't work she realised she needed to speak some English!)

Edit: She is very strict with what language she speaks to what person so to me in English, to OH in Finnish, to my parents in English even though my mum is Finnish because they live in the UK therefore they must speak English in her mind. And amusingly she only speaks to the cat in English
Interesting as I am always curious how many "English" people in the world don't understand or speak English as they are not exposed to it due to being born at a country that gives very little exposure to English. It is usually the other countries who immigrate to English speaking countries and losing their mother tongues to English as the path of least resistance for those who are born in the new country.
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