Whether there are bilingual speakers at home or not, parents can support their child’s journey to bilingual fluency by bringing the languages into their homes.
Children learn best through play, interactions and experiences relevant to their everyday lives. With language learning, linguists suggest the 30% rule: a child should spend at least 30% of their waking time naturally learning a language, with Early, Constant, and Interactive (ECI) exposure in their learning environment.
Along with learning about the world and taking bilingual classes at Mulberry House, we recommend fun, interactive and continuous support at home:
For families with bilingual speakers at home:
- Implement OPOL if you can: one person, one language. In order for OPOL to be successful, there needs to be consistency. The earlier you start the better however even if your child’s dominant language (ie. English) is already well established – as early as 1.5 years old — gradually ease into Mandarin. Be patient and don’t give up.
- If one parent is not able to speak Mandarin 100% of the time, designate a particular Mandarin hour such as Mandarin story time, game time, or family time. In this case, the non-Mandarin speaking family members will all learn together. You can start with 5 minutes and gradually increase the duration, the KEY is to make it ENGAGING. Thinking long term, your goal is to get your little one to want to converse with you in Mandarin naturally, not by force.
- Create an immersion environment by promoting early literacy: children learn Chinese characters visually, especially if you make Chinese characters approachable and fun, i.e. try printing out Chinese character label 沙发 and put it on your couch.
For families with NO bilingual speakers at home:
- Stay positive for your child’s language acquisition journey. Encourage them to teach you, and show interest in learning with them. We encourage parents to cultivate your child’s growth mindset and keep their learning journey interesting. We have seen children thrive with NO Mandarin at home, coming to MH just 2-3 times a week. They now speak fluently after just 8-12 months of learning. Be encouraged and motivated that you and your child can be successful.
- Enrich your child’s experience with lots of English and Mandarin exposure at home:
- Get your child interactive audio books (available at MH)
- Listen to English + Mandarin Music & Rhymes via MH youtube channel
- Listen to English + Mandarin Music & Rhymes via MH spotify channel
- Listen to English + Mandarin Stories via MH youtube channel
- Watch English + Mandarin Cartoons when screen time is allowed: refer to our Netflix blog
- You will need lots of support along the way. Aside from getting support at Mulberry House, join an online parent discussion group focused on raising bilingual/multilingual children such as “Raising bilingual children in Chinese & English” on Facebook.