Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

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Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby maoman » Thu Sep 01, 2011 20:37

Note: I first wrote this almost five years ago, three months before my first daughter was born. (I now have two!) Language acquisition is a subject I think about a lot, and it's an important topic, especially when it concerns your own kids. Anyway, I'm resurrecting this post because I want to continue the discussion. Here's what I lead with, five years ago:

Of course with all the bicultural families being formed in Taiwan, there will be a plethora of kids who will be fluent in English AND Mandarin - and maybe more. I am curious though, about what parents want their kids' "language of eloquence" to be, and what they are doing/will do to ensure that.

A "language of eloquence" is a term I coined, because I believe that fluency alone doesn't necessarily connote eloquence. In fact, many monolingual kids grow up without a language of eloquence just because their parents or the education system failed to provide them with the necessary skills. I believe that a language of eloquence is important. I also think that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be eloquent in two different languages - no need to point out the exceptions - I'm sure there are many, but they would be scarce in number compared to those who have fluency in two languages but eloquence in only one.

I can communicate well in Mandarin, but eloquence is still a long ways off. In English, however, I can write a letter to the editor, I can whisper sweet nothings in my lover's ear, I can edit a term paper, and I can argue at length why someone should vote for Candidate A instead of Candidate B. (Well, I could if I could find a candidate I gave a damn about.)

For my daughter, safe for another three months in her mother's womb, I wish eloquence in English, and fluency in Mandarin, rather than the other way around. There are several reasons for this: First, English is my language of eloquence, and I hope to be able to talk deeply with my children about things as they are growing up. Second, English is one of Canada's official languages, and my daughter will be Canadian. Third, English is still the international language, and while fluency in it is a prerequisite for many jobs, eloquence in it is often necessary for even greater opportunities. Fourth, eloquence in Taiwan doesn't seem to be as highly valued as smart-ass remarks, grand-standing, or "putting on a show" seem to be. Fifth, eloquence in women doesn't seem to be highly-valued in Taiwan. In fact, many Taiwanese men seem to be intimidated by a woman who speaks about a topic with any degree of intelligence.

How do I hope to give my children the gift of eloquence? Through reading, books, minimal tv time, and education in English, starting in the 3rd or 4th grade. I went to Taipei European School the other day to visit an old friend who works there, and I was mightily impressed with what's going on there. They seem to be doing a phenomenal job. My former boss's son attends TES also, and he can't say enough good things about the place. Anyway, that's my plan for now. Things may very well change for us yet. We'll see.
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby Dragonbones » Thu Sep 01, 2011 20:40

Our boy will likely speak a confused mishmash of umpteen languages, much likethe hunchback in The Name of the Rose. (starts at about 1:00) That's the goal, anyway.
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby link » Thu Sep 01, 2011 21:17

Maoman wrote: Fourth, eloquence in Taiwan doesn't seem to be as highly valued as smart-ass remarks, grand-standing, or "putting on a show" seem to be.


Very well said - we could talk for days on that alone.

My daughter and son will speak fluent Mandarin and English. I have deep conversations with her (she's fourteen now) in a variety of topics and she has no problems communicating with me or my side of the family in English. I should note the though she was born here, she spent five years in the US between the ages of 3 and 8. My son has my wife's gift for languages, and is startlingly fluent in English, though he's never left Taiwan. I think I can thank MOD's Nickelodeon for that, along with my constantly being at home with him during the mornings and early afternoon (I have to give Nickelodeon credit, though - this goes back to Taiwan Student's persistence in making sure that multi-language support was turned on. If you ever wonder what kind of difference one person can make, I point you to him and Richard Hartzel).

I know what you mean about "Language of Eloquence", though - I can't say which they will end up with - I suspect that it depends more on where they end up as adults. If it's here, it will be Mandarin/Taiwanese, and if it's outside of Asia, it will be the language spoken wherever they end up. The important thing is that they can eloquently express "I'm happy. I feel safe and contented." in whatever language they end up with.
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby touduke » Wed Nov 09, 2011 16:07

For me this is a huge question. My boy is 3 and a half and our second one will be born soon.

So far I think I did everything to give him a proper introduction in my mother tongue German.
His Chinese is running away though.
We live in Taichung and he has yet to talk one single word in German to another child.
I am the only one he can associate the language with. You English speaking folks have no idea how lucky you are!

I want him to speak German with eloquence and I am willing to leave Taiwan for this. But this will affect his Chinese which will be sad for my wife. Still, there is a much better chance to speak Chinese in my hometown as compared to German in Taichung.

I think the problem of language eloquence is connected to the question which parent is agreeing to let his/her own language slide in second place, since as I see it, even a bilingual person will only have one language of eloquence (if at all).
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby divea » Wed Nov 09, 2011 16:35

Mine speaks 3 languages. reads and writes in 2. She'll acquire a few more, I am assuming, like her parents and millions of other Indians she'll be eloquent in both Hindi and English. As far as written expression is concerned, it will be English.
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby maoman » Wed Nov 09, 2011 16:53

divea wrote:I am assuming, like her parents and millions of other Indians she'll be eloquent in both Hindi and English.

:ponder: You know that for the purposes of this discussion, eloquence and fluency aren't considered equivalent, right? I mean, a lot of people aren't even eloquent in one language, never mind two.
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby super_lucky » Wed Nov 09, 2011 16:54

My kid is still in the pouch for another 10 weeks or so, but he's already getting language lessons. My wife speaks to him in a mix of Tagalog and English. She reads to him in English only, however. (All our books are in English -- the wife says it hurts her brain to read Tagalog). I speak English and pidgen versions of Italian and Mandarin to him. Plus, his lolo and lola speak Illocano, which is a regional dialect. Half the time I don't even understand their Tagalog, so he's going to learn Illocano, too. So this poor kid is going to have five languages jammed down his throat (no pun intended).

If I were to venture a guess, considering he'll be born and (for the most part) raised in the Philippines, that English will be his language of eloquence. Tagalog is not a terribly attractive language and the majority of his educated peers are going to speak English. My wife says that it will be kind of like the situation in Taiwan where a lot of people speak Mandarin in public but Taiwanese at home. He'll use Tagalog/Illocano at home and English everywhere else. I would be overjoyed if he showed an interest in learning more Italian than his papa, who often has trouble communicating with his own parents in their native tongue(s).
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby divea » Wed Nov 09, 2011 17:18

maoman wrote:
divea wrote:I am assuming, like her parents and millions of other Indians she'll be eloquent in both Hindi and English.

:ponder: You know that for the purposes of this discussion, eloquence and fluency aren't considered equivalent, right? I mean, a lot of people aren't even eloquent in one language, never mind two.



I am fluent in five languages, Anthony. The husband, four.

In English, however, I can write a letter to the editor, I can whisper sweet nothings in my lover's ear, I can edit a term paper, and I can argue at length why someone should vote for Candidate A instead of Candidate B. (Well, I could if I could find a candidate I gave a damn about.)


Yeah I can do that in Hindi and English.

But okay so you want one?? Then English it'll be. How?? School, reading, listening and all that.
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby maoman » Wed Nov 09, 2011 18:05

divea wrote:
maoman wrote:
divea wrote:I am assuming, like her parents and millions of other Indians she'll be eloquent in both Hindi and English.

:ponder: You know that for the purposes of this discussion, eloquence and fluency aren't considered equivalent, right? I mean, a lot of people aren't even eloquent in one language, never mind two.

I am fluent in five languages, Anthony. The husband, four.

You lost me. I don't understand your point. :ponder:
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby Taffy » Wed Nov 09, 2011 18:19

divea wrote:I am fluent in five languages, Anthony. The husband, four.

But that's not the point of this discussion—I speak a number of languages too, but I will only ever be eloquent in English.
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby sandman » Wed Nov 09, 2011 18:30

I imagine that if mine turns out to remain fully and completely bilingual then he'll be equally eloquent in either. Or neither, of course.
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby divea » Wed Nov 09, 2011 20:00

Taffy wrote:
divea wrote:I am fluent in five languages, Anthony. The husband, four.

But that's not the point of this discussion—I speak a number of languages too, but I will only ever be eloquent in English.

That's you. What if you have a child who is raised bi-lingual?? I was raised bi-lingual and went on to pick up other languages.

You know if your kiddo goes to Intl. schools, is exposed to your sense of humour, your family's anecdotes,understands puns, reads the newspaper and writes a term paper English books. And then, is also taught to read and write Mandarin, lives in TW, jokes in Mandarin, understands ribald jokes, can pen down a letter of apology and wants to work for the TW govt. Won't the kid be eloquent in both, coz she was raised that way??

But whatever. Let's focus on the fact that our children can be eloquent in nothing but one language.
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby Kal El » Wed Nov 09, 2011 23:44

My son is four, fluent in English, Chinese and Taiwanese. Eloquence? Too soon to tell which will hold sway.

And just an aside, but if someone claims to be "fluent", let alone eloquent, they should at least be able to grasp simple sarcasm and between the lines writing/speech. :twocents:
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby asiababy » Thu Nov 10, 2011 07:54

My two children are still quite young, but so far I would say my seven year old is going to be more eloquent in English, and my five year old may well be more eloquent in Chinese. I can hear differences in the way they use the languages, and (I think, more importantly), which one they tend to be more attracted to for reading, describing things, and for using in dramatic play.

My seven year old is quite talented in literature, particularly English. For fun yesterday, he translated a Chinese story book into English, and then turned it into a new spy challenge of his own. He loves to play with words, and will say things like, "It's a glorious morning! The mist is hanging from the sky and we are going to break through it to go out and enjoy the day." He's never disappointed, he's devastated, and he's not happy, he has a song in his heart. In contrast, he's quite happy to say "I'm angry" in Chinese and leave it at that, and when I try to help him get excited about Chinese poems, rhymes, or even to write something other than "I love mummy" in his sentence book, he'll run away and write a story or rhyme in English instead. Perhaps, if he finds a teacher that inspires him in the area of Chinese, he'll change, but I just have a feeling his natural affinity with English is stronger than it is for Chinese.

Conversely, my daughter loves learning Chinese rhymes and poems, and if she has to describe something in detail or wants to express her feelings, she will use Chinese words in a way that just sounds like poetry. She is also a native speaker of English, and she has a lot of exposure to English literature at home, but she seems to be able to manipulate Chinese language much more easily than English. When we go to the library, she will choose Chinese books, even though I am there and could read English books to her. Additionally, my daughter has taken more to math and numbers than to words, and will spend hours sitting down writing out math equations for herself to answer, and asks me to quiz her on math when we are driving around.

That is where we are now with a sense of the direction each of them will take. It is really fascinating to watch how two children in the same environment develop, and I am particularly interested in this language difference, and working out how to support each of them whatever direction they take.
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Re: Your kids: What will their language of eloquence be?

Postby Just Jennifer » Thu Nov 10, 2011 12:52

This gets more interesting as our bilingual or multilingual kids get older and move between two (or more) school systems. The gaps become more obvious when they're writing research papers, writing creatively, taking part in debates, studying multiple subjects in two languages (in the case of my 9th grader, math, science, social studies, music).

We just try to cover the 'gaps' as we discover them. For me personally, the objective is for my children to be effective communicators in both languages.
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