How Do I Get My Kid to Speak Chinese to Me?

Day 3 of my FB Live every day in November!

Today’s topic is one that I feel the pain of every day. How do I get my kids to speak Chinese to me?

Find out my tips in the video.

I’m still waiting for my video to upload to YouTube so you’ll have to bear with me and see the FB version. But I am away from my laptop right now so we’ll just have to make do.

As always, a quick sum up after the video.

https://www.facebook.com/MandarinMama/videos/1763064097059257/

Ok. I lied.

You can’t.

It sucks but it’s true. Your kids are people and separate from your wants and desires.

Jerks.

However. There are some good reasons your kids probably won’t speak Chinese to you. Here are a few:

1) They lack the vocabulary.

It’s hard to talk about something if you don’t have the words or vocabulary you need in order to express yourself. I consider myself fluent enough in Chinese – but there’s no way I could talk about business, medicine, shoot – anything, now that I think about it – in Chinese. It’s not for lack of desire; I just don’t have the words.

Same for your children. If they don’t have the words to tell you about school or crushes or activities or anything other than some basic stuff, how can you possibly expect them to speak to you in Chinese about it?

The precursor to speaking is listening and comprehension. If you want your kid to speak Chinese, you need to equip them with the words. Up their comprehension as much as you can.

2) Your child may be a perfectionist.

Some kids, even if they know how to say 99% of a sentence, if they don’t know one word, they will refuse to speak Chinese at all. I personally solve for this by using Chinglish and telling my kids to do so. I also ask them to tell me in English and I will translate for them to say in Chinese.

Sometimes, I have no idea how to say something in Chinese. Then, I either look it up in a dictionary or I just use English.

3) They don’t see the use for Chinese.

My daughter, Gamera (6), has lately balked at speaking Chinese because she says we live in America and no one speaks Chinese. It’s true. But too bad. I am the Mommy.

I have had friends who have taken their kids back to Taiwan for seven months just so their kids are forced to speak and absorb Chinese as much as possible. She was sick of her kid losing their Chinese and made the drastic choice to make a huge change in her family’s life.

I am not saying you have to do that. But know that the older your kids are, the more dramatic your course correction may need to be.

Did you know I wrote a book on how to teach your kids Chinese? You can get it on Amazon (affiliate link) and it’s conveniently titled, So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

It’s full of practical advice, detailed applications, and heavy amounts of snark. Find most of the answers to your questions about how you can get your kids to speak in Chinese.

Can I Send My Kid to My Neighbor to Learn Chinese?

Hey Friends! It’s Day 2 of November and my attempt to post/FB Live every day this month.

Anyhow, today, I’m answering a question I hear a lot. The gist is, “Hey, my neighbor/friend/coworker speaks Chinese. Can’t I just send my kids over to their house and then my kids can learn to speak Chinese?”

Oh, friends.

No. No. No.

Find out more about what I have to say in the video below. If you’d rather read my quick summary, it’s after the video.

No.

Oh, right. I already said that.

1) That’s racist. 

Really, it’s racist. Are you sure they even speak Chinese? Don’t use people.

Also? Not all people of Chinese descent speak Chinese.

2) That’s super entitled.

People pay money to learn Chinese from tutors, schools, and courses. It’s incredibly entitled to think that your neighbor should just teach your kid for free.

If your neighbor works, they’re likely too tired to teach their kids Chinese – which they don’t really need to because they probably just speak to their kids in Chinese. If your neighbor doesn’t work, they’re STILL tired.

If you want to have your neighbor teach your kid Chinese, you need to pay them.

3) Their Chinese-speaking kids are not going to speak to your non-Chinese speaking kid. 

Seriously. What kid is going to spend an entire playdate speaking in a language the other kid doesn’t understand? Especially if everyone speaks English?

No one. That’s who.

4) Your Chinese speaking neighbor is not going to speak to your non-Chinese speaking kid in Chinese.

Why not?

Because your kid doesn’t understand Chinese. Your neighbor would just have to say everything in English so your kid understands what they’re saying.

Also, that’s not how people learn languages. Your kid isn’t going to hear what your neighbor says in Chinese and then hear it in English and then magically know how to say (or understand) it in Chinese.

That’s not how it works.

So, what can you do to have your kid learn Chinese instead of sending them to the neighbor’s house?

1) Take a class. 

Whether in person, online, on YouTube, via Skype, there are plenty of beginning Chinese classes for kids. This is probably the easiest and quickest way for your child to learn Chinese.

2) That’s it. 

I mean, you could have your kid also learn how to read and write Chinese, but I don’t think that’s really practical until your kid can actually speak some. I see no point in being literate in a language you cannot speak. (Also, it’s super hard.)

Did you know I wrote a book on how to teach your kids Chinese? You can get it on Amazon (affiliate link) and it’s conveniently titled, So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

It’s full of practical advice, detailed applications, and heavy amounts of snark. Find most of the answers to your questions about how you can get your kids fluent in Chinese.

And yes, it has more advice than, “Take a class.” I promise.

 

What Chinese Books Should I Read to My Baby?

As many of you know, I receive a lot of reader mail as well as encounter a lot of questions on multiple Facebook groups/boards on the topic of Chinese for babies/kids.

Recently, someone asked what Chinese books they should read to their four month old baby.

Below is my video response.

For the people who are morally opposed to watching videos, here is the gist:

Stop overthinking it.

Your baby is four months old. They can’t even see color yet. (Or if they can, barely.) They cannot follow plot or understand books.

Chill out.

Remember, Chinese picture books and baby board books are written for adults to read to their children.

That sounds like a super obvious statement – but what that also means is that you need to be literate in Chinese in order to read them. So, if you can’t read Chinese characters fluidly, there is no pinyin or zhuyin to help you out.

If you can read Chinese already then your Chinese is likely good enough to translate baby books and board books on the fly. If that is the case, you do NOT need to buy Chinese baby books. You can buy any book that you can read and then translate into Chinese.

Baby books are not meant to be complex stories. There are no plot twists or gotchas. You should be fine.

If you cannot read Chinese and your spoken Chinese is reasonably fluent, again, you can just translate books as you are reading them to your baby. Again, you do NOT need to buy specific Chinese baby books.

And if you cannot read Chinese and you cannot speak Chinese, then Chinese baby books are completely useless to you.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your four month old is NOT going to become literate staring at a Chinese baby book that you cannot even read to them in Chinese.

That sounds mean, but honestly, I just want to save you the money and the worry.

There are other ways to teach your baby Chinese if you’re not fluent, but that is not my focus today.

If you are fluent or can speak some Chinese, the best thing you can do is speak Chinese to your baby all the time.

Did you know I wrote a book on how to teach your kids Chinese? You can get it on Amazon (affiliate link) and it’s conveniently titled, So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

It’s full of practical advice, detailed applications, and heavy amounts of snark. Find most of the answers to your questions about how you can get your babies fluent in Chinese.