Speaking to My Daughter in Chinese as a Non-native

I’m American of European descent.  My wife is Turkish.  I speak only Chinese to my 2-year-old daughter.  And, oh yeah, my Chinese isn’t great.  Sounds strange?  It certainly feels that way sometimes.   Trying to speak Chinese to my daughter at all times has not been any easy choice, especially as I'm often not confident  of my limited ability.  I hope that I can learn fast enough to keep up with my daughter and it surely makes it interesting in our household with all of us speaking different languages.

Yet I know that Chinese is a really important language and, in addition, my daughter was born in Shanghai, so the language is a part of her heritage.  Even though it’s hard for me, I know it will be worth it in the end.   She has already started speaking quite a bit.  She probably has a productive vocabulary of about 30 words, 90% of which are Chinese and she understands much much more.

Jasmine Chinese DressThere are certainly many challenges.  I often don’t know the words or I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing something right.  However, I’ve surrounded myself with resources to help us learn.  And that’s the key, I’m learning along with my daughter and, each day, I can help her more and more.  We have iPad Apps like Lingupingu and Kids Learn Mandarin.  We watch Qiaohu and Chinese children’s songs on YouTube.  And, I have my most valuable resource www.mdbg.net to look up words and hear pronunciation on my phone whenever I don’t know a word.

I also follow people like Miss Panda Chinese  and Chinese for Families on Twitter and I have Chinese colleagues and friends that I can ask for help.

Finally, I send my daughter to Mandarin classes at Language Stars.  All these things help both me and her learn the language and we have a lot of fun doing it!

The thing is, there is a lot of help and support out there.  It just takes a little bit of time to find it.  Multilingualism has so many benefits for a child and I am so happy to give my daughter that gift to help her succeed in life and connect with so many others.  Are you a non-native raising a bi or multilingual child?  What have you found successful or challenging on your journey?

I am always happy to help other families.  Feel free to connect with me on Twitter @NBJaworski or follow me on Pinterest for more tips and ideas to help children learn Chinese.

Facebooking for the children!  Language Learning tips and North Shore activities for parents who care - like my page at Where are We Going, Dad?  Remember, it's for the children.

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