I happened to sit next to Jason and Gary over a dinner table on Hamilton Island, and I heard their respective stories about raising kids in bilingual families.
Jason, a new-zealander, lives in Tokyo (where he has been living for the last 20 years) with his Japanese wife. They have been speaking Japanese to their now 10-year-old child even since she was born (in Tokyo). In recent years, Jason started to speak English to her, and she can understand quite a lot. However every time when she doesn’t understand a word or a sentence in English, she gets really grumpy, to the extent that she starts to resent spearking English at all.
Jason and his wife have been considering to send their daughter to an international school in Tokyo so that English becomes one major language in the school. However the girl doesn’t want to go at all. Jason couple are even thinking of moving to Singapore so that their daughter will have no choice but getting on with English.
When he heard our plan is for me to speak Mandarin with our girl, my husband French, and let the kid deal with English when she has to, Jason said ‘That’s a great plan. The best thing you can do to your child’.
Gary, a Chinese-Australian who grew up in Melbourne moved to HK with his Polish-English wife 5 years ago. Their first son was born 3.5 years ago in HK and the whole family speak English. The boy just started to attend kindergarden recently, where the kids are taught in both Cantonese and Mandarin. While the boy picks up both Cantonese and Mandarin quite quickly, he sometimes mixes up the two. For example when he counts, he would start 1, 2, 3 in Mandarin, then 4, 5, 6 in Cantonese.