It’s A Piece Of Cake… Or Is It?


It’s interesting to see people’s reaction on my plan of bringing up a trilingual child. Some expected, some not. Mostly positive encouragement, some suspicious. Some find me courageous, and some find me unrealistic.

What I thought quite fascinating is getting two opposite views from people: one that it must be just incredibly easy to teach your child your mother tongue – the child will pick up just like that; and the other that if you don’t live in the country where the language is spoken by the society, don’t even bother trying to teach the child speak  – she will eventually speak only the ‘majority’ language of where she lives.

Quite surprisingly, the latter view is most strongly shared by a few Chinese-mother friends,  who live outside of China, and who have tried with their own children, and found the experience either ‘difficult’, challenging, frustrating, or simply not worth it. One wished me ‘good luck’, and another told me ‘why not pamper yourself with a relaxing massage or facial instead of trying hard to teach your little baby how to speak’.

While these didn’t discourage me, it did get me to think, harder: what are the extra challenges along the way that I haven’t thought of? What I can learn from their experience? What can I do, better or differently? And perhaps we should be prepared to be more flexible with our expectations? After all these parents have been there and done that, and I trust they share their thoughts with me wholeheartedly and sincerely, so there is something to learn.

There is another friend – H.X. – who found it very difficult / unnatural to speak Chinese with her 2-year-old son due to the fact that she doesn’t really need to use Chinese in her daily life – find my blog quite encouraging though, and would like to give it a try with her soon-to-be 2nd child and even started to squeeze in a few words here and there with the 2-year-old. I will share more of her challenge/thoughts on this in a separate post (with her consent – quote from her ‘I think it’s as important to show difficulties, failures and frustrations as to show success stories’).

A comment left on this blog by a reader Deb is finding this blog a great resource for her with her plan of teaching her bilingual child a third language. I have to admit that I am very glad to see my blog becoming a source of inspiration for others, even just a few others 🙂

In return, comments like this from a total stranger also encourages me to further research, study, and practice on multilingual upbringing. It’s perhaps not a piece of cake bought from the shop, but definitely one that tastes particularly good after taking all the trouble to find the right recipe.


4 responses »

  1. I am bringing my daughter up bilingual (French and English) and I am faced with the same reactions of disbelief! I had always thought it an immense advantage in life to be bilingual that I was at first baffled by such negative reactions… I then moved on to be annoyed (to put it nicely) and I guess I now don’t care too much about what people say.
    What is your set answer(if you have one)? or do you take the time to “educate” people on bi/trilingualism?


    • Bonjour Camille !

      I guess like many other things in life, I take time to share/discuss with those who are open to share/discuss (thus take in valuable lessons as well), and save the trouble with others 🙂 What I do make sure though is to take time to do is to reach an agreement with regard to multilingual plan with those who would matter a lot to Nina: my husband, my immediate family (since sooner or later Nina will be spend some time with them such as vacation time), my husband’s immediate family, our close friends. So we all know what we are doing and then can work together on the plan.

      One of good things about having a blog (which I didn’t realize when I started it) is that I can just refer people to it so that I do not have to explain my philosophy once and again. Whether they agree with me or not, I’ll leave it to them to decide 🙂


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