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Emily Beir
Multilingual babies from monolingual families!
Hi, I am awful at languages. At school I studied French, but in the UK languages are not taught well or prioritised and I don't have a good understanding of the language now.
I am determined to give my daughter a better education in languages than I received, and even though she is only 14 months old we have started italki lessons in French and Mandarin.
Is anyone else trying to bring up a multilingual baby in a monolingual family? Do you have any tips? Would anyone with Mandarin/French speaking children like to do a Skype meet up to help expose their children to English and language exchange? I can do English nursery rhymes, you could do French/Mandarin ones?
May 10, 2020 1:12 PM
Comments · 4
I’m natively bilingual (Arabic & English), even though both my parents are natively monolingual (Arabic; although they speak English quite well). I went to an international British school from my first year of education up to my final year, which is to say from KG1 all the way to the sixth form. My school had a strict English-only rule, and we weren’t allowed to use any other language except in Arabic and Islamic Studies classes. Arabic was essentially treated as a second language. I also grew up consuming English-language media (mostly American). I actually had more exposure to and immersion in American culture than my local culture. I had to put a lot of effort strengthening my Arabic language and my connection to my culture after graduating.

If you want your daughter to speak French fluently from a young age, you will have to invest in it. It’s not just about the immersion, but also about how she relates to the language. I never “learnt” English. I never took English lessons and practiced English, etc., the way non-native speakers need to practice, the way a person needs to practice a musical instrument, etc. The approach of lessons and practicing makes the language feel like work and can easily be abandoned if the child finds it boring—and the truth is, the child is likely to find it boring. Your daughter needs to live and breathe French alongside English.
May 10, 2020
Hi, I think Mandarin and French are great choices. As someone who grew up essentially monolingual in a multilingual family (lmao), the reason I slowly lost touch with Mandarin was because I only spoke it with my grandparents (who died) and in school lessons (which I hated). I think (from personal experience) the best thing you could do for her would be to find her a "live" Chinese-speaking friend or caregiver/babysitter (when possible, of course), and encourage her to interact with them as much as possible. Unfortunately, in these times a second-best option would be to get her to watch some Chinese shows which she genuinely enjoys, and ask someone to read her books regularly in Chinese. All of this is of course difficult to do over a camera for a 2-year-old, so I guess shows would be the best bet. I don't trust myself to read to her, but I would be happy to send you some of my favourite Chinese kids' series and comic books recommendations if you'd like (still a kid at heart)! Just send me a message :) I'm sure there are a lot of Chinese speakers who would be willing to help in exchange for some English help, too.

Here are two articles I found interesting, one from my country and one from another mum:
May 10, 2020
I only have a suggestion. Find another parent in the same situation only speaking your target language. Let them spend a lot of time together at each other house where they only speak the home language. I heard of something similar from my French tutor. She grew up speaking French when alone with her mother, Korean when alone with father, and English when with both.
May 10, 2020
I am looking for a English native speaker like you. Would you like to be my speaking partner? Really, I would be thankful of you if you are agreed. I just want your 30 minutes of everyday.
May 10, 2020
Emily Beir
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin), French