with homework. They plan to take family holidays to
China and to continue to find activities where the girls can
be active in the wider Chinese community.
Academic opportunities
In general, schools that offer the target language(s) as a
medium of instruction provide the most effective way for
children to learn academic language skills. They learn from
native teachers and classmates, and
from engaging in activities and solving
problems. Studies show that students
learn more in using the language to
perform an activity than in attending
a language class. For example,
collaborating with classmates on a
science project in Mandarin will help
your child’s acquisition of Mandarin
skills more than if they just learned
Mandarin in a foreign language class.
Children are clever and economical
in their learning, and they will expect
there to be an end point to their efforts.
Motivation is also greatly enhanced by this method.
Sabine Lenud and her husband are a French and
English couple, living and working in Hong Kong and
raising their two children bilingually in their home
languages. They have decided to concentrate initially
on French and English to establish a strong base in these
languages. They are very grateful that their older school-
aged daughter can attend the bilingual section of the
French International School. This family is convinced of
the benefits of learning both languages academically and
they plan to continue their children’s bilingual education.
At the moment, this has been the priority over learning
Mandarin or Cantonese.
Another Hong Kong expatriate family is seizing the
opportunity for their children to become bilingual in
English and Mandarin. Sarah Shrimplin is British and
has two boys, three-year-old Tavez and six-year-old Ezra.
The home language is English and Ezra attends a local
kindergarten where two hours and 20 minutes of the
day are taught in Mandarin and 40 minutes is taught in
English. Because Sarah feels that this hasn’t been quite
enough, she’s hired a Mandarin
tutor, who works with Ezra
a couple of times a week to
reinforce what he’s learning at
school. Sarah is always searching
for fun activities in Mandarin,
such as sport, to help her sons.
She believes it will be difficult
for her children to become truly
bilingual, but she hopes they’ll
reach a fairly high fluency in
If bilingualism or
multilingualism is the goal for
your children, then it’s important for parents to plan it, and
provide support and opportunities to achieve it. Celebrate
your child’s first words and interactions in a foreign
language, for sure, but know that consistent and continual
effort will be necessary to reach fluency.
Laetitia Chanéac-Knight is a writer based in Bali and editor of the
family guidebook
Bali with Kids
). She was
a language teacher for many years and is now bringing up her two
children using English, French and Indonesian, and will soon add
Spanish, too.
Children are clever
and economical in
their learning, and
they will expect there
to be an end point to
their efforts.
Summer 2013