One of my favourite things about living in Hong Kong is our linguistic diversity. Of course, most Hong Kong residents speak Cantonese as their mother tongue, but a sizable minority speak other Chinese dialects and it’s not just the ex-pats who speak English! Because of the cities unique past, almost everybody in here understands at least some English.
This is obviously a great asset for culture and commerce, but, as I’m sure parents of bilingual children across the globe can attest to, sometimes things can get confusing for our bilingual youngsters.
Here are a couple of quick tips from my own experience:
1. Include everybody!
Whether it’s an grandparent or an ex-pat husband, sometimes not everyone in a bilingual household is actually bilingual. It is important to take peoples feelings into consideration when speaking to others in a language they do not understand.
2. Be enthusiastic, yet realistic!
This applies more to children trying to learn a new language, rather than those who already speak the language. It is important to expose the youngster to the language, but not to overwhelm them.
3. Be patient!
Again, this is less relevant to those who are natively bilingual, but quite relevant to children learning a language. If a young child in Hong Kong know basic English, but speaks only in Cantonese, let them. Eventually, via media and school, they will certainly pick up more English proficiency as they age – it is sometimes best for them to speak in the language they are the most comfortable in. The same is doubly true for Ex-Pat children in Hong Kong (as well as for immigrants throughout the globe). Over time, children will become immersed in the language of their home city, and will grow more comfortable using it.
Do you have bilingual children, either in Hong Kong or elsewhere in the world? What are some of the problems (and hopefully solutions!) you have gone through in the past? Let us know in the comments!