Author Topic: Bilingual babies!  (Read 1127 times)

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Offline judytuna

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Bilingual babies!
« on: October 14, 2011, 05:38:26 pm »
Here's an nyt article called "Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Tell Languages Apart" !

I am vaguely aware that research into bilingual kids is a hot topic in linguistics, because it has the possibility of teaching us about our brains. So it's cool that it makes the news once in a while.

Especially interesting to me was the part at the end about Dr. Kuhl's study that showed babies learned to discriminate between sounds in another language from humans but not from from tapes or video. Of course, we only have one study on babies, so I'm not trying to say "science proves that learning from humans is better than learning from videos for our adult brains too!" because we don't know if that's true yet. But I wanted to post here because it feels like a kick in the butt to meet up with local people to practice Na'vi more regularly! My learning has come to a screeching halt.

And now, the non-sciencey part of my post: I was a bilingual baby! My parents are both immigrants to America, and I was born here; they used to speak Mandarin exclusively in the home. But when I turned 4, my mom made a conscious effort to switch to using as much English as she could, out of fear that I would be "behind" at school (probably because of articles back then claiming that bilingual kids would grow up confused). There was also a lot of fear that I'd get placed into an "english as a second language" class, which to my parents was unacceptable because I was supposed to be a perfect angel who excelled in every class so that I could get into an elite private school. Haha. Now research has shown that your kid's language is most affected by her peers when she's growing up. Anyway, I passed all the tests when I got to kindergarten and was placed in the normal class, and grew up speaking Chinglish with my parents and English with my siblings. I'm the oldest of 3 kids in my family, so as we grew up, there were more and more exclusively-English conversations at home. My youngest sibling used to be the "worst" at speaking in Chinese because by the time she was born, there were 2 other kids to speak to in English, but then she's the only one of us that took Chinese for reals in college, so now her Chinese is the "best" =). I can't read Chinese... I can speak it okay (and it sounds sort of okay... I do have a bit of an accent from underuse, but I was able to fool people in China into thinking I was just Chinese and not an American-born Chinese =\ though it might have been just how I look/dress) but I've got a pretty small vocabulary so it's hard to communicate effectively (I do a lot of circumlocution, haha). I think a lot about how it's foolish to blame my speaking habits in english (I talk too much for too long, and take too long to get to my point because I'm busy explaining every facet of what I'm trying to say) on having parents that don't really speak my language (the not-really-working hypothesis is that I'm always afraid that the person listening won't understand me/will always mishear something, so I offer too much information). Other bilingual friends of mine don't really have this problem of overexplaining everything, so it's probably more about my personality than not being able to communicate with my parents. haha.

There are some things which are in Chinese in my brain, and so even when I'm speaking in English, they come out as literal translations of the Chinese word. For example: I don't usually say "stoplight", I'll say "red-green light" (in English), because that's its literal translation from Chinese. Silly things like that.

Were you a bilingual baby? Do you have a bilingual baby? =)
« Last Edit: October 14, 2011, 05:42:14 pm by judytuna »

Offline Ricardo

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Re: Bilingual babies!
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2011, 11:47:32 am »
Yes, I am and no I'm not.
I ever wanted to be but destiny decided otherwise.
Why did I say yes?
Because my parents taught me clear German while my grandma spoke to me in her Saxon dialect which can differ a lot.
It's a funny mix. My articulation is the clear German, the speech melody is Saxon. I noticed that because it fits perfectly when I try to speak Saxon but there may be some problems with standard German. ;)


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