BilingualismParenting 3G-CBC

On raising bilingual kids: 6.5yo and 2.5yo

Totally back-dating this post. I had it in Drafts for so long and then lost access to this website for six months from July 2022 until February 2023. Posted in February 2023.


26 July 2021 Coaching/shouting (NPY) at getting Kiddo to say “Thank you <Friend> for the Ninjago Lego and Beyblades and for coming to my party”. It’s full sentences he’s not so sure of but plus speaking in English in front of us. Which NPY takes the opportunity to be shouting at him in English for not stepping up to do it. He’s not willing to say it in Chinese either: “yao tai do zee”.

29 July Kiddo long ago said that Baby’s favourite colour is red and siphoned all things red for her. (NPY thinks it’s purple based on her going for the purple marker first). Meanwhile, she is so confident with her colours when she doesn’t know anything and she’ll proudly proclaim hung4 sik1 when it’s blue, black, whatever!

03 Aug He’s been having unsettling dreams / nightmares tonight and he’s groaning in Cantonese.

4 Aug I decided I will cut myself some slack over the words that’s too hard to convert them to Chinese and are way more fun in English (and I don’t know the Chinese), like SPLASH and SURPRISE. I just put a Chinese (HK) accent on it!

5 Aug Trying to define hay foon (appreciate) and 目的 / muk6 dik1 / “goal”. He can still recite 大牛(小羊).

7 Aug I saw a gorgeous teal and I said it was blue and Kiddo  said it was green that was 灰灰紫紫 / fui1 fui1 zi2 zi2 / “gray purple”. That is, he would add gray and purple to the green!

I keep on mixing up 籃球 / laam4 kau4 / “basketball” and 網球 / mong5 kau4 / “tennis”. Kiddo catches on really quickly and it doens’t make sense to him how I mis them up!

8 Aug I tried to teach Baby that Peppa Pig is 姐姐豬仔 / ze2ze2 zhu1 zai2  (a Canto-Mando mix) and that George is 弟弟豬仔 / dai6dai6 zhu1 zai2. But she insists that Bobo is Peppa (larger, older) and she is George (younger, smaller).

14 Aug At home she’ll say “Moong-moong do that” so I guess at daycare she says “Paigey”?

She is classifying the world in a rudimentary way: an unfamiliar sound is 聲音? / sing1 jam? / “sound?” and unfamiliar creature is 動物 / dung6 mat6.

23 Aug So Kiddo is a little chuune / “disrespectful” now and when we fun foo / “request” him too much, his response is 乜-嘢 / me1 je 5  / “wha-ut?”, which is still a great deal better than English – but also means Baby says it too, she hears it so often!

29 Aug Trying to define 除非 / ceoi4 fei1 / “unless” about getting ice cream. NPY doesn’t know the difference with translation then proceeds to define it as yuu gwo / “if” and “maybe”!!

6 Sept It is so adorable to still hear him say “Weh-hoo” like from Cantonese Peppa. I’m trying to objectively see how sophisticated his speech is in Cantonese because I know I’m holding him back in a way. He’s got some really native sounds.

27 Sept English is creeping in, I’m defining some terms in English but when I’m at in-laws and hear the kids talking all in English, and the parents are tossing some terms in, full sentence here and there of the oft-used vocabulary and we are doing good. Even with limited vocabulary.

1 Oct For school show & tell, Kiddo had to practice reciting some 3 clues and I didn’t want to coach him in English but I was happy to be an audience. And after the recitations and practice, we’re back to Chinese. It doesn’t become the normal. I hate hearing NPY speaking in English sentences because they are practicing, like “Do you understand?” or something. I won’t slide that way, be that lazy.

6 Oct Kiddo asked to teach Baby English words and I tried not to over-react but “No!” Fortunately I think he’s not 100% committed to it.

12 Oct It drives me bonkers but we have a portmanteau of 準備 / zeon2 bei6 / “prepare” and 預備 / jyu6 bei6 / “prepare” and 預定 / jyu6 ding6 / “plan in advance”. Maybe it’s a regionalism I picked up.

13 Oct I told MY that Kiddo is in “ESL” again this year but it’s not called that (it’s called English Language Support or something) and it’s because he doesn’t follow directions well. She called me out (jokingly) that we’ve done such a good job at speaking Chinese. “His Chinese is so good” , well, not exactly that either.

18 Oct 你 覺唔覺得 我哋 撇 係最好? / nay gock m gock duck gno dee pier hai zeuy ho? / “don’t you think my pier (stroke) is the best? “- he asks. I find that when you are careful and conscientious, you write well!”

19 Oct During Mandarin class, when he’s distracted as usual, I was showing him some “cool” chinese words 凹凸亞中串 門雨雪晶品轟 回

21 Oct “Are you almost bao or what?” There’s how it happens. NPY’s quick slide to English. I’m so steamed. When I step away, it’s worse, “Kiddo, are you done?”

22 Oct It’s so frustrating to hear Kiddo breaking down a song in English with Baby, is or riffing on an English phrase, because it happens infrequently in Chinese and they know only a handful of songs in Chinese. But when they actually converse it’s in Chinese, and he talks to me on Chinese. They are on a slippery slope and I know where it’s headed.

Driving home from the ice rink on a dark night, I wanted to have recorded Kiddo enumerating his favourite fruits – that he does eat 20 fruits and can name them in Chinese – love love love.

25 Oct In Crying in H Mart, she learned Korean grades 1-6 and what does she accomplish? Will Evan last till grade 5? When did I switch to English and look how I “came back”.

30 Oct NPY commands Kiddo, “Come here”, “Open your mouth”. I’m so mad I wanted to slap the bed but that would wake Baby. It makes me feel helpless when he’s jumped the ship. He’s weak. Undermining me. The longer sentences were on Chinese, however.

3 Nov Baby spoke to me in English – like asked me something in English and I refused to respond to her, although eventually recast – she’s far ahead of Kiddo in terms of singing English at the same age. Not surprising.

Kiddo will goof around and tell me that such and such a Chinese character can’t exist (a theta symbol, yue / “moon” missing a horizontal stroke) which is slightly aggravating but it’s how kids learn ….

There’s so many nouns he’s subbing in the English word and when I recast, he’s not compliant with repeating in Chinese. So it begins…

4 Nov Baby is watching a YouTube playlist of Kiddo during the year he’s 5 and he’s speaking to us in Chinese and one day that will feel like a relic, and we recorded it – he’s speaking to us in Chinese like we’re 1st gen to age 6 and beyond!

8 Nov In his sleep he muttered gno mut lut gung / “my socks are falling off”. Am I waiting to hear him speak in English?

20 Nov I have to accept and respond to him speaking in English to me and it’s killing me. What am I supposed to do, break something every time? Lash out in front of the kids on everything?

23 Nov On his own schedule, he’ll belt out his favorite ones of the Mandarin rhymes that we’ve practiced. Of course you need some practice. And implicitly I hope he understands that the mastery and the happiness he feels that comes with the mastery is because of the practice that he sometimes is super reluctant to do. And if he doesn’t remember last year’s rhymes, I’m not crying. The new ones replace it, it’s the act of recitation, and the other knowledge is there in his head.

1 December Feeling all the English he’s slipping in – animals, nouns, “hallway”, “wong sic curvy line” – and his resistance (just ignoring me) when I attempt to have him re-cast. The bar is set so low for Mandarin, he’s doing okay and I feel proud when he rattles off the rhymes in his spare time – my heart sings with joy – I wasn’t able to do that as a kid so that’s something he’ll keep forever right?

7 December When “grandparent daycare” cancels on you, re-up the efforts to get her into full-time daycare. I have to swallow the reality of English exposure because I don’t know if the grandparents speak it anyhow, all the kids speak English when they play.

Then you hear hai mm hai seuy yiu dung dung le? / “is the light necessary?” and heart melts that she’s got it.

14 DecZook gnoh jeuy fai nay hoy yee / “catch me the fastest you can” – is he translating from English?

In the Fisher Price animal soup song ” I saw a rhinoceros and I ate it too” and it was cute in English. He knows he can switch, he’s conscious but 6 going on 6.5 is damn good to still have him speaking to us in Chinese, knowing what 6yo maturity is like. And then we speak to Baby in Chinese and I think that’s a factor either that he didn’t switch, or not yet switching.

16 Dec He’s doing math workbook and counting in Chinese :)

21 Dec Baby’s use of “le?” in questions is sooo good.

Baby was singing the “big big big small small small” song but subbing in Chinese words because that’s how I sang it in Chinese to her in ballet class (cheuy / take off?) That’s when I think we’ll be okay.

She has the tune and almost the words for Twinkle Twinkle, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Find A Friend, Lau Hu, and can definitely sing the Cantonese counting song.

24 Dec Baby: “mang giu joe mama” “mang giu joe gogo” “mang giu joe gnohhhh” another time, “mang giu joe ling moong”. It is great that she remembers we used to call her 檸檬 / ning4 mung1 / “lemon” although we call her almost exclusively call her 檬檬 / mung1 mung1.

29 Dec At younger than 2.5 yo, she knows the Mandarin brushing teeth rhyme which Kiddo learned at age 5 in Mandarin class.

Has Kiddo been home for a while and he forgot the English word for “wall” yah!!

31 Dec We are calling him 哥哥 / go1go1 / “older brother” a lot more these days, a natural shift. He still likes 寶寶 / bou2bou2 / “treasure”.

3 Jan I am back at work and the kids are at home and I can hear Evan speaking to her, playing, in Chinese and she’s responding in English. She’s going to make him switch but hopefully they also switch back too.

6 Jan Baby-isms: 邊度le? / bin1 dou6 / “where though?” and 檬檬輸! / mung1 mung1 syu1! / “I lose!” (like it’s a thing to celebrate!)

Kiddo is really into the “Who would win?” series and I’m resigned and relieved to be saying the scientific terms to him in English, e.g., carnivore, but also like a group of lions is a “pride”. Those words that if they translated, aren’t practical for him.

16 Jan I don’t so it so much any more but I would “remix” lyrics for Frere Jacques and sing in Chinese when changing her diapers and if she’s fussy these days, I’ll start singing something and she ad libbed 多謝媽媽 / do1 ze6 maa1maa1 / “thank you mama” to the same tune!

She was able to recast herself on something, I know she understands. she said something in English to me and when I asked using Chinese, she switched that word to Chinese.

23 Jan Baby follows Kiddo saying “wee hoo” which comes from Cantonese Peppa and I like it!

When I said something kind of animated, kind of adult admonishing her (in jest) she aped me and it was hilarious. Because it was in Chinese and just seemed so mature of her!

24 Jan Baby had smoothie on her forehead (額頭  / ngaak6 tau4) and she didn’t know how to say it and said she has it on her 樓頂 / lau4 deng2 / “roof top”!