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Old 12-02-2012, 05:19 PM   #1
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Teaching Toddlers Foreign Language

Hi I'm looking for some pointers on teaching my 16 month old mandarin. We are expats living in China and I'm taking lessons three hours per week. I want to be able to teach her without confusing her.

Has anyone successfully done this without knowing the language themselves? What worked best?

My biggest issue is getting her to focus. Sometimes she is really on and others not so much. When she isn't on she stares at me blankly as I chatter simple words in mandarin. When she is on she walks around pointing and saying the word in both languages.

I keep reading to do mini lessons with her all the time but I'm not sure what is getting thru and what is not. How do I know if I am overwhelming her?

Not learning the language isn't an option she has to interact daily with nonenglish speakers.

Xie Xie! (thanks!)

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Old 12-02-2012, 05:32 PM   #2
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At that age she will pick up tons just by hearing you speak it
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Old 12-02-2012, 07:14 PM   #3
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We live with my mom and she has been teachig my son cantonese ( and DH and I a bit too ) what she's done is speak to DS in cantonese only. His cantonese comprehension is great, understands as much as he does in english. However he doesn't speak as many words as he used to so what we do is for everything that i say in english that i want him to repeat she will say it in cantonese. Example

'DS, put that on te table please'
She will repeat table please in cantonese. Then she will point to the table and say it again until he says it.

He is very advanced verbally though and can pick up a new word after 1 repetition or even just from listening while we talk about stuff offhand.

We've started to teach him a few french words too, and he has complete understanding that bonjour, good morning and jo-sun mean all the same thing. He is 20 months now but he's been able to do this sincehe was about 15-16 months old.

I would just talk all day in both english in mandarin and when you point out objects or use verbs repeat the mandarin until she says it, a few words a day and then focus on those words until she's learned them (like if you say table in mandarin or english he can point at the table) and just keep adding a few new words each week depending on her pace. Just talk about what you're feeig her or when you tell her to put a book back etc we've never sat down and had a 'lesson' with DS but we do word learning all day i guess?

Hope that helps, i think this was kinda long lol

Good luc it's a lot of fun and a lot of talking! Lol
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Old 12-02-2012, 08:38 PM   #4
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Also when you count vocabulary words of bilingual children you count words in both languages. They often know some words better in each, but they get there!
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Old 12-02-2012, 09:11 PM   #5
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Re: Teaching Toddlers Foreign Language

It may be a little difficult if you don't speak it. They learn best by hearing you talk and being exposed to it. We are trilingual and our children are bilingual in English and Italian. We speak to them in both languages on a regular basis as well as read books that are in both languages. Listening to music, etc helps too. Maybe Muzzy would be a good option for you.
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Old 12-02-2012, 09:15 PM   #6
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Re: Teaching Toddlers Foreign Language

I'd say find some (native speaker) kids for him to play with. He'll pick it up from them...and you can practice with their moms! Zhu ni hao yun!
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Old 12-02-2012, 09:15 PM   #7
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Re: Teaching Toddlers Foreign Language

Have her hang out with other kids/families who speak Mandarin. You can also speak only Mandarin outside of the home with her. Maybe get a Mandarin speaking babysitter for a few hours each week. I would also put her in a Mandarin speaking preschool when she is old enough. If you are living there for a while, she will learn it at school and with her friends.

Don't worry about "confusing" her. She may switch back and forth between languages all the time, but it doesn't mean that she's mixed up. She'll practice both and it will sort itself out. While it may seem like she is learning both languages more slowly in the beginning, she will really come out ahead with better cognitive control, better executive function, higher ACT scores, and a slower decline into Alzheimer's when she's older (statistically speaking). Speaking two languages is a great gift you are giving her!
(I have an MA in Language Acquisition and I just taught a Linguistics class about bilingualism last week, so it's all fresh on my mind!)
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Old 12-02-2012, 09:48 PM   #8
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Re: Teaching Toddlers Foreign Language

I use to watch a 2 yearold that didn't speak English and by the time he was 3 he could understand any thing I said to him but wouldn't really talk to me. When he didn't know I was listening he talked just fine to my boys.
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Old 12-03-2012, 10:11 PM   #9
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Re: Teaching Toddlers Foreign Language

I agree with pp saying to find native speakers for her to be around. If there are parks you can go to where she can be around kids speaking alot it will help. While we were in France for 2 months, our kids played with kids that didn't speak any english and by the time we left they had picked up more French than us.
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Old 12-03-2012, 10:56 PM   #10
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Re: Teaching Toddlers Foreign Language

There are many DVD programs that you can use to bring more immersion into your home. If you can at least read the language, get some story books, stickers, etc. to bring even more of it into her world. Finding people for her to interact with is great! Maybe you can setup a play date, or a preschool she can go to a couple hours a day, or a few days a week.
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