Saturday 22 January 2011


J Summary (22M17D) - Struggling to survive the Singapore's multilingual environment

J can repeat half sentences that I say in Mandarin and is talking more now since we came back from Singapore on the 11.01.11. He now combines 2 words, usually verb and noun such as "gan su" - read books in Mandarin, "chi mian bao" - eat bread in Mandarin, "yao zhou" - want to walk in mandarin, "yao shui jiao" - want to sleep in Mandarin. He would point out things and say it when we were walking on the street. He also asked us what the name of the different objects are. He now says "he nai" or "he sui", when he wants to drink water, instead of "han han". "He" is drink and "nai" is milk in Chinese. He is combining more verbs and nouns together now.

J can say "hoppe" (hop in Danish) and he is trying hard to hop and stand on one leg, but he can't. He is still not developmentally ready yet. I read somewhere that the ability to hop occurs around age 2, and it is also related to language development. It is a milestone of the maturity of the brain. So I will try to record down when he can hop.

The trip to Singapore revealed some weaknesses that I need to fine-tune. J could not interact with other toddlers who can only speak English. J also could not interact well with my beloved Auntie who is a Malay and only speak English and Malay (my uncle married a Malay).

This got me paranoid, and I am now more determined to be more disciplined and speak to J only in English only on Sundays. It is hard being a Singaporean, you have to juggle with Chinese and English. It is tougher to be J, as he has to juggle with Chinese, English and Danish. The good thing is that he could communicate with my mother (who only speak Mandarin, Teochew, Hokkien and Malay, but not English) and my dad (who speak mainly Mandarin and Hokkien, although he also speaks English).

I admit that I am very ambitious - I want J to be able to to interact well with my parents, the Chinese-speaking Singaporeans, the English-speaking only Chinese Singaporeans (some Chinese in Singapore have lost touch with their Chinese roots), our Malay part of the family and also the other Malays and Indians in Singapore. I, of course, also want him to interact well with other Danish kids and our Danish side of the family.

Corrective Action:

Discipline is paramount, and I strive to be very discipline from this year on to speak only English to J on Sundays, but only Mandarin from Mondays to Fridays. I have been very slack about the English Sunday in the past, and kept forgetting to speak to him in English on Sunday. Today is Saturday, and I have already prepared my English book for our blanket time or bed time tomorrow. I shall make this preparation of books into a habit and slowly build it into my routine so that it just come naturally.

I still watch with amazement how my mother, age 62, and my granny, age 80, could still converse in Malay with my Auntie. I am so proud of my mother and my granny. One of my life's many regrets is that my mother did not teach me Malay when I was a kid, although she had learned to speak it herself. I would love to be able to speak it with my fellow Malay Singaporeans in Malay.

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