Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Question of Language

One of the blogs which I enjoy is Correr Es Mi Destino, by Zhu. Zhu is a French lady who lives in Ottawa, Canada. Her hubby is a Chinese Canadian. Zhu speaks four languages – French (of course), English, Chinese and Spanish.

Of late, I have been thinking of these questions: If Zhu were to have kids, what language(s) would they speak? If I were in the same situation as her, what would I do?

Imagine that I live in Ottawa. I would like my kids to be able to communicate with the neighbors. There, English and French are the dominant languages, so they must be given priority. Oh yes, I definitely would encourage my kids to learn Chinese, but that might come later.

The multilingual Zhu


  1. Hi there!

    You know, I actually wondered the same... English is basically a given, since it's the language we use the most at home.

    But my parents don't really speak it, so I guess my kids would have to learn French. Besides, French is important in Canada.

    But then, my in-laws don't really speak English, so they would communicate in Mandarin...

    At home, we speak a mix of everything. English, mostly, but some Chinese, and even a bit of French because Feng picked it up with me.

    Guess I have to wait a bit before we have kids, I'm not ready to yell at them in four different languages! :D

  2. I will let my kids learn the languages that I can speak! :p

  3. Hey! I think I agree with you. It's essential to equip the kids with the mother tongue at that particular place first...then later just pick up the other language! ;D

  4. 当然是自己的母语好。不过多学几种语文也不错。

  5. I agree with you guys, but what's the mother tongue?

    For example, in our case, the kids would have at least two: my hubby's English and my French!

    Plus, I'm not even sure I even consider French as my mother tongue anymore, since I don't really speak it everyday.

  6. zhu
    Haha... guess your kids are going to struggle with a few languages.

    That's understandable. If you want them to speak a language you can't speak, you gotta send them to school.

    Actually I am referring to the specific case of Canada.


  7. its great that her kids can be exposed to more languages and learn more right? it will be so useful everywhere they go

  8. Learn all the 4 languages! Children tend to pick up languages faster than adults, son it's not difficult for them.

    Me? One language already I'm in a big headache - Mandarin language!

  9. xin
    Yes, being exposed to more language is good.

    If you can speak Mandarin, that's good enough :)

  10. Zhu does have a point when it comes to her case. As for me if I could, I'd have liked to learn Chinese and English first before thinking about other languages. Korean has helped me learn Chinese indirectly.

  11. Kids have no problem with languages. they can digest anything you throw to them.

  12. JL
    Wondering how Korean helped you learn Chinese. I do know that Chinese helped me learn Japanese.

    So that means teaching of Maths and Science in English is not a problem?

  13. Chinese does help a lot for Japanese, thanks to the kanji. I love showing off by reading basic kanji... and I call the rest (hiragana and katakana) "drunk Chinese", because the characters look so simple compared to Chinese :D

    I think learning Mandarin does help for a lot of things, such as drawing and visual memory. Plus, at least for Westerners, we have to think totally differently, which is kind of cool. It's a different way of seeing the world!

  14. i'd want my kid to speak 1 specific language to each parent. if i were to live in an english speaking society, i wont speak to him/her in english bcos he'll be exposed to the language once he goes to school or when making friends.

  15. Korean uses a lot of Chinese vocabulary, what's more unlike Japanese, their pronunciation of Chinese vocab is quite close to many Chinese dialects so sometimes I can guess the Chinese by hearing the pronunciation. Koreans also still use Chinese characters in their written work sometimes.

  16. zhu
    Thanks for speaking from the perspective of Westerners :)

    You've a point. Your kids won't speak with Malaysian accent :P

    OK, I understand now.

  17. Having many languages at times can be disadvantageous. Like becoming an expert of none.

    But of course that will depend on how Zhu will handle the communication at home! :-)

  18. Baoru
    I know you are good in many languages too. Maybe kids need to start young.