Friday 6 May 2016


J Summary (7Y2M1D): Speaking Mandarin with Grandma

Having afternoon tea time with Grandma

The reason why J could speak Mandarin today was because I spoke Mandarin to him from Day 1 as a baby right as we returned from the hospital. With a will as an iron steel, I disciplined myself to speak zero Danish to him. It was sheer hard work. I stuck to Mandarin, even in front of Danish parents. But thankfully I had his kindergarten's support. They think likewise that for J to speak like a native Dane, it is best that I don't speak Danish to him. Why should I speak Danish to him, that will only corrupt his accent? Daddy FECS can speak the Danish part. It was also only when he turned two years old that I introduced English. This was the only strategy for Mandarin to have a fighting chance to be a language that is alive in him.

I guess the new baby may not have this fighting chance. I have been worried that once J has a sibling, the Mandarin will be gone, for him and for the baby, as I have seen so many siblings speaking just Danish to each other, and they never get quite gotten fluent in their mother tongue. When I told J that when baby is born, he should speak to her in Mandarin, he said he will only speak to her in Danish. So I am worried that I am going down the same path as many Chinese parents in Denmark. What strategy should I adopt now, now that the dynamic of the family is changing? I haven't quite a clue.

Then I found the answer by coincidence by God's grace.

My mum is here. She just arrived today, and unknowingly, it has already made such a great benefit to J's Mandarin. He has been speaking Mandarin the whole day to her and to me. They could communicate comfortably in Mandarin without any struggles, looking back, it was due to the sheer determination of giving Mandarin a fighting chance. Mandarin is alive language with J. With my mum's here, it just gets better. So for the whole day, the baby in the tummy has just been listening to Mandarin. So hopefully J will speak Mandarin to baby, as a natural consequence as he speaks to my mum in Mandarin.

So perhaps when the baby is born, with my mum being here, it will give it a chance for Mandarin to take root and remain a live language in our cross-cultural family. It is not an easy task to keep three alive languages - Danish, English and Mandarin at a high level. The road ahead is tough, but I will do what I can to keep them all at a high level. It is highly ambitious, and it has already cost my work career. One of the main reason why I went part-time, forgoing the career and the salary, braving against society's norm and ridicule, is to give these languages a chance to flourish in our family. The road ahead no doubt will be tougher with a new add on... I hope I have the same energy, as it was when J was a baby...

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