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Precocious Reader & Foreign Language


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#1 Expat_Mama_Shelli

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Posted Today, 12:12 AM

I have chosen to homeschool my DS, & was planning on introducing him to a foreign language in the spring.

The most obvious choices for where we live are either Mandarin or Cantonese. I do not read or speak either language. Cantonese is primarily spoken by the locals, however Mandarin is taught in all of the schools & signs are bilingual English/Mandarin.

We have no idea how long we will be living here, so I am a bit torn. He would have more opportunity to use Cantonese at play groups & such, however it is a much more difficult language & less "useful" in the world at large.

Just to throw another wrench in the works... he shocked me last week by beginning to decode. Should I add in another language, with a *completely different* written form, while he is trying to start reading? Wait until he has gained some fluency? Cover the language verbally for now & wait to introduce written Chinese until later??

#2 Mabelen

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Posted Today, 12:39 AM

Whatever language you end up picking, I would just start with verbal input and output only.

Which language is a difficult choice. Cantonese has more tones than Mandarin and they use traditional characters in Hong Kong (I am presuming that's where you are) versus simplified in mainland China. What are most schools for expat kids doing regarding languages? Do they teach both too? You would have outsource the teaching since you don't speak either, so may be pick the one language with the most convenient/ better resources to outsource available to you and then add the other language some time later?

#3 Arcadia

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Posted Today, 12:53 AM

I can't see signatures while on my phone. Cantonese can be pick up through immersion. That was how I learned to talk in cantonese before I could walk.
I learned written chinese and english at school from preK (4 yrs 0mths). I learned spoken chinese and english through immersion since I was born.

Are you in Hong Kong or Guangdong (Canton), China? Let your child pick up cantonese by immersion and teach him mandarin chinese if you want to.

My oldest is interested in languages and chinese is our heritage language. He ask us to write basic words like 1 to 100 in chinese when he was two and had no problem writing in either english or chinese if he knows the chinese word as well.
My kids can also scold friends in cantonese and hokkien as well :lol:

ETA:
I can read a fax or email in cantonese if I have to but I rather not.
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#4 Expat_Mama_Shelli

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Posted Today, 12:53 AM

Local schools teach Mandarin as a foreign language but instruction is in Cantonese.

Interational schools of course depend on the school, but most are bilingual English / Mandarin or trilingual English / Mandarin / Cantonese.

#5 Expat_Mama_Shelli

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Posted Today, 12:58 AM

I would like to believe he would just pick up the Cantonese via immersion, but I really don't think that will work in our area. We are in Hong Kong, on one of the outlying areas & everything in Canto/Mandarin is also readily available in English. Most people speak English, too so there really isn't as much immersion happening as I had expected...

#6 desertflower

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Posted Today, 06:55 AM

I would teach cantonese first (verbally) since the schools teach mandarin in cantonese. I would try to exposed your child to cantonese as much as possible. Grocery shopping, play groups.....etc.

Just like Arcadia said, my friend learned how to speak cantonese through immersion at home from when he was a baby. He now speaks both languages fluently.

Best wishes.

#7 mathmarm

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Posted Today, 08:48 AM

Honestly, I would take stock of the Mandarin and Cantonese resources that are available to me in my area and make my decision based on what is most feasible for us. I'd want to work on his oral and communicative abilities in the 2nd languages and wouldn't worry about literacy in the language for a moment. When I picked which language to support, I would not worry about the number of tones or the complexity of grammar when deciding which languages to teach the kid. I would only focus on the resources available to me. Kids learn to speak Chinese languages just fine because they aren't worrying about whether its ma[1] or ma[2] or ma[3] or ma[4]---they just mimic and refine the language as they grow organically.

 

If I were in a foreign country I'd put my little one in preschool and take him to community events so that he can hear and learn the language along with all the other kids his age--if he learned the local language--great. If he learned the "official" language--great. If he learned both--even better. Have you considered hiring a local mothers helper or a nanny for him?

 

 



#8 Expat_Mama_Shelli

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Posted Today, 08:58 AM

Unfortunately here Kindergarten begins at 2y8m, so there is no "preschool" as we know it - the local schools also have a bad reputation for being extremely rigorous (to the point of being developmentally inappropriate - think an hour or more of homework nightly for 3yo children).

A domestic helper is outside our needs or ability at the moment, however I could hire a teen babysitter who is fluent, maybe for an hour a couple days a week. A break for me would certainly be welcome...

#9 mathmarm

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Posted Today, 10:18 AM

Unfortunately here Kindergarten begins at 2y8m, so there is no "preschool" as we know it - the local schools also have a bad reputation for being extremely rigorous (to the point of being developmentally inappropriate - think an hour or more of homework nightly for 3yo children).

A domestic helper is outside our needs or ability at the moment, however I could hire a teen babysitter who is fluent, maybe for an hour a couple days a week. A break for me would certainly be welcome...

Kindergarten in HK lasts about 4 years, doesn't it? I don't think its mandatory (or free) either. If you are paying for something, then you can negotiate the terms.

 

Regardless, if they start at 2y8m, then the work that they are doing at that stage is appropriate to the students development. It just has to be. No matter how foreign the concept of toddlers getting "home work" is to you as a Westerner, the system that they are using HAS to be rooted in something that makes sense and works on a national level, because its being done all over their country, isn't it?

 

If they are doing "academics" at that age, then I can't imagine it being much different than read alouds + games + direct instruction for Jr. Kumon type stuff. At that age, you teach human beings by games, songs, movement, dialogue, interactive play and direct instruction. You just have to--the kids are still human beings. If the toddlers you see in the streets are all silent, depressed and nervous, quivering wrecks then yes--avoid the school system that is making them that way. If the HK toddlers you are seeing seem normal, well adjusted and appropriately happy and displaying a health bond with their caretakers than find a school for your son and send him if it is at all possible.

 

If you don't want to do the homework, then don't even offer the homework to your child when he as at home. I mean seriously, what is the punishment for not doing your homework when you are 3-6 years old? You aren't even sure that you are staying long term but if you do, being fluent in the language will only help your son in the long run.

 

If you want your child to learn the language, your going to have to give him a place and time to be immersed and interact with the language. I would not go by reputation--I would tour the schools for myself and look for one that works.

 

In France, students begin college at 11-13 years old--they don't have "middle school" or "junior highschool". They just call it college. The students are NOT picking majors, living in dorms and going on interships--they are still just 11 year old kids. Don't be thrown by the name "Kindergarten" and don't get stuck thinking that K is for 4-6 year old children so if they are doing K with 2y8m old children its developmentally inappropriate.

 

 

Also, I would not count on hiring a teen helper. If the Kers have homework, then I can't imagine the teens having oodles of free time to work jobs. Instead you might have to look for a grandmother, or a stay at home wife/mother who would like to make some extra $$ by watching a child in home.



#10 GThomas

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Posted Today, 10:46 AM

We are overseas too and have the same issues with everyone speaking English here in Dubai! And it was the same when we were in India. We were only in Hong Kong for 3 weeks so I figure that doesn't count ;-) There is little incentive to learn the local language.

Your son is young. You don't have to pick THE language he will learn now. It's ideal but not mandatory. He can do Cantonese now, maybe later switch to Mandarian later or maybe you'll end up someplace completely different.

Personally I wouldn't stress about it and take advantage of the local help, which sounds like Cantonese. That in itself is not a common opportunity. Let him enjoy it if he can speak a little with friends. I spent a few years prepping my daughter to take Spanish in high school, only to have her beg for Latin. Go figure!

#11 Expat_Mama_Shelli

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Posted Today, 07:08 PM

Kindergarten lasts 3 years. Only locals who are fighting to get their kids into the elite international schools send their children - otherwise the kids stay at home w/ their helpers. It is done for the child's resume, not their immediate well-being. Some kids are even placed in two schools concurrently (an AM session & PM).

They are seat-work & worksheet focused. It is truly US kindergarten-level work at least by K2. Failing to turn in homework results in public admonishment or corporal punishment. The kids who go through this local-style system are taught to be silent & obedient above all else.

Some schools do use a gentler approach & practice developmentally appropriate curriculum, more like preschool in Western countries. They are $1,000 USD / month & up. This is a bargain compared to the international schools, which start around $20k/yr plus debentures of tens to hundreds of thousands per child (paid in full up front). Still completely outside our means for the time being, & regardless my son could not join for another year.

Your example of French schools is completely different - simply a language difference. "Lycée" is middle school, "college" is high school, & "universite" is college/university.