Should non-native speakers teach their sons and daughters?

wingyellow   Thursday, September 04, 2003, 13:24 GMT
Since understanding English is extremely important in Hong Kong, I will talk to my new born son in English. Maybe my accent is terrible, but not doing so will not make the situation any better.

My theory is that:

1. My parents were from mainland China. They speak Cantonese with a very heavey accent that some people in Hong Kong cannot understand. But I am still free of this accent.

2. The accent of a child has something to do with his friends, his teachers and TV. And kids like to imitate characters on TV.

3. As long as he can understand English cartoons and sitcoms like Friends, my job is finished.

4. Accented English is always understandable if slowly spoken and grammatically correct.

5. Getting rid of an Asian accent will not make him white. This is what we are--Asian.

I don't know if I am right or not. I don't have money. This is the only thing I can give him. I spent a lot of time and effort on English. And I want to save him all the trouble so that he can learn something else.
chloe   Thursday, September 04, 2003, 16:08 GMT
Can i just ask why is it that he has to be able to speak English. Speaking English isnt that important in Hongkong is it?
Ben   Thursday, September 04, 2003, 16:16 GMT
I lived in Hong Kong for a while. When I went, I was determined to attempt to learn Cantonese, but I found it simply wasn't necessary - everyone spoke English there, and most of them spoke better English than me!

Wingyellow - the best thing to do, I'd say, is to speak to him in whatever language you feel most comfortable with. Speaking to him in English from an early age will give him a much better understanding of the language, which will probably serve him well in later life, and give him access to a wider range of opportunities. At the same time, though, if you speak to him in your native language (Cantonese, I presume?), he will almost certainly grow up bilingual, which is an even bigger advantage.

As for accent - don't worry about it. My accent is different from my parents' accent, just as yours is different from your parents'. There's nothing wrong with an Asian accent, after all.
wingyellow   Thursday, September 04, 2003, 23:42 GMT
If you cannot speak, or at least understand, English, you will:

1. not be able to find any decent jobs. Every professional person, like lawyers and doctors, has to write in English;

2. have a hard time understanding your textbooks. Chinese textbooks are used at schools of lower grades;

3. keep your eyes at the lower half of the screen when seeing movies;

4. simply be looked down upon.
Henry   Monday, September 08, 2003, 00:37 GMT
I would say no, since you run the risk of mutating to pidgin English. My advice would be to expose to English program on TV or movies. It would be better for him/her to be exposed to a native accent rather than an accent that is not.
Clark   Monday, September 08, 2003, 00:52 GMT
Yes, that is a concern that I had about teaching children a language that you yourself do not speak well.
Clark   Monday, September 08, 2003, 01:09 GMT
But then again, this could be a way to start up new languages. Would that be so bad?
wingyellow   Monday, September 08, 2003, 07:57 GMT
It takes certain interactivity to master a language. If you are a native English speaker, try to expose your sons to TV programmes in French or Japanese to see if they can understand.

To obtain this interactivity, someone like me have to come in place. That's why I have to speak to him in, but not only in, English.

I repeat-My job is to make him understand English TV programmes, as stated in Theory #3. That's it.
Karen   Monday, September 08, 2003, 09:00 GMT
The best method for raising a bilingual kid is the one parent one language approach. Don't think too much on the accent. You are working very hard on your accent and you should be OK in 1-2 year. Your son will gradually learn a good accent from you.
wingyellow   Monday, September 08, 2003, 10:45 GMT
Actually I don't want him to learn any accent from me. I want him to learn from TV. But he can never understand a language without any interactivity.
Karen   Monday, September 08, 2003, 11:42 GMT
My friend spent $40,000 on the Disney World English. Her daugther has started to watch an hour per day since she was few months old. She is now 3 1/2 and her accent is exactly the same of my friend. They speak English at home.

My brother-in-law's story is similar to my friend. His son's accent is also same as his mom.

I don't really think a little kid can learn an accent from watching TV. There isn't any interactive when watching TV. The kid will finally copy his parent's accent.
wingyellow   Monday, September 08, 2003, 12:21 GMT
How come I don't speak Cantonese with accent like my parents? I think it has something to do with my school life.

A 3-year-old should not have a distinctive accent as most of them still cannot pronounce words properly. I think it is because of the intonation.

It is very stupid to spend HK$40000 on Disney something. It is simply not worth it. My parents didn't buy me anything or play games with me. But I am still able to command English to certain extent.

Actually, it is hard to imagine an Asian who never leave his place of birth can get an American accent.
Karen   Monday, September 08, 2003, 13:52 GMT
Do you think we should teach individual phonetic words to children?
Jorge   Monday, September 08, 2003, 23:31 GMT
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Taught my children English   Friday, September 12, 2003, 12:28 GMT is a good site for ideas on how to teach children language. Go to parenting and family and then to children's education. It will keep you busy for ages.