Leaning to speak English

No, there isn’t a typo in the subject of this entry.  My son has a strong tendency to speak English at home.  Why?  He has one parent who speaks English with him (me) and one parent who speaks Mandarin Chinese with him (his mother).  Why is he already becoming monolingual?  He understands Chinese well enough when it is spoken to him, and he peppers his speech with Chinese vocabulary.  But nowadays his dominant language is English.  If he is already leaning to speak English at this young age, then only living for an extended period in China will help him become truly bilingual.  I’ve met many children who learn two languages at a young age and then embrace one of them by five or six years old, reluctantly humoring their parents when they insist that the child maintain both languages.  Why is this?
Well, for one, my son’s early influences use almost exclusively English.  His nanny speaks English with him.  She speaks Tagalog, a Filipino language, but she doesn’t speak it with my son.  She cannot speak Chinese.  My son’s videos are almost exclusively in English.  His books are primarily in English too.  When I mentioned to my wife that we should buy him some Chinese videos, she said that she couldn’t find any good Chinese children’s videos.  I’m not so sure that’s true, and when we’re in Shanghai, one of my goals is to find some Chinese language materials for my son.  I’m sure we can find him some good Chinese books, although Chinese characters are a huge impediment to Chinese-language fluency.  His mom does her best to speak Chinese with him, but she occasionally lapses into English became it is the lingua franca of our household.  She claims that it is because I speak exclusively with our son and might not understand when we’re together.  Nah, that doesn’t matter.  I retort that she should strengthen her resolve to speak only Chinese with him.
We hope that two weeks in China with family will help our son improve his Chinese.  If we end up going to Shenyang, China for two years starting in 2007, then his Chinese will surely improve.  If we end up going to a Spanish-speaking country, then we will have an even worse dilemma–our son will have to grasp three languages.  If the latter is true, then he may end up just like me–a novice in many languages, master of one.
Blog Notes:  All, thank you for the great comments over the past few weeks since this blog was first featured on "The Best of MSN Spaces."  I don’t want to jinx anything by mentioning this, but I do feel very fortunate to have been featured longer than just about any other blogger MSN Spaces has featured since it started "Best of…" earlier last year.  I don’t really know why I’ve been featured for two weeks and running.  My wife, in her typically understated way, suggested that perhaps the MSN Spaces editorial staff is on vacation and forgot to feature a new blog.  After more than two weeks, I’m not so sure that’s the case.  I prefer to think that the editorial staff at MSN secretly likes to read World Adventurers.  Maybe they’re grateful I pursuaded Microsoft not to invest in AOL (kidding).  Who knows.  As soon as things slow down, I’ll contact someone I know at MSN and see if I can meet the crew at MSN Spaces when I get back to Seattle in May and buy them lunch.  I know at some point this long run will come to an end.  Before it does, I want to say thanks to all of you who visited this site, posted great (mostly positive) comments, and signed my guest map.  Although I don’t have enough time right now to respond to all of your comments and feedback, I have been reading them with relish.  I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve thought seriously about taking a break from writing, but I feel obligated to keep posting so you have something fresh to read everyday.  Right now I consider it a labor of love.
Thanks to everyone who posted comments about the Yoduk StoryLi Min, special thanks to you for posting details about upcoming performances.  Now that the web site is back up and running, I plan to contribute.  I hope you will too.  If you live in Korea, please consider supporting this musical by attending a performance.  I suspect that the site was down temporarily and that the producer moved it to a new server.
  1. Chuck

        Whenever MSN takes you off their Featured Spaces page, I’ll still be looking in. I have added your space to my favorites.I really enjoy your blog both for it’s intelligent tone and the insights you provide.    
            My daughter in law- a speech pathologist -informs me that it is far easier for children to learn different languages than for an adult leaner. Your son may in fact become multi lingual and remember much of the Mandarin or Spanish he learns. 
          Keep up the good work. Don’t feel compelled to add something to your site all the time. That’s the surest way to get into the habit of NOT doing it. 

  2. LarcenIII

    Me too, Your doing great work, just remember to allways be yourself.
    " Keep up the good work. Don’t feel compelled to add something to your site all the time. That’s the surest way to get into the habit of NOT doing it."
    That’s good advice. And thanks for the B-Log.
    Wanna be world travler

  3. Editfish

    Hey Mike-We’ve had a similar dilemma.  My wife speaks Tagalog to our children, but since we live in an English speaking environment, they tend to want to use English.  When our oldest son was three, he spent about five months in the Philippines and his spoken Tagalog improved greatly.  They just naturally want to mimic the environment they live in.  Your son will really benefit from the experience!The odd thing about language, though, is once you get comfortable speaking to a particular person in a particular language, it’s difficult to change, even though you both may be fluent in another.

  4. Angeline

    Hi Mike! I was English-educated and my husband was Chinese- educated.  When our daughter was young, I spoke to her in English while my husband spoke to her in Mandarin.  Eventually, she is quite good in both languages.  However, when our son was young, both of us spoke to him in English. Later, we realised that he is not very competent in Mandarin as he is in English. In addition, through my Montessori Early Childhood training:  it is easier for children to learn languages than adults. 

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