On Tue, Feb 06, 2001 at 09:04:47PM -0500, E-Ching Ng wrote:
> I grew up in a household where three languages were routinely spoken, and I
> was fluent in the two that were spoken to me before I turned five -
> Mandarin and Hokkien.  (As luck would have it, we then moved to England for
> a couple of years and so it was English, that third language, that I needed
> to survive outside the home - oh well - but now it's my best language, and
> it's the other two which I'm no longer fully fluent in.)

I grew up in Malaysia... most of my family members spoke Hokkien; my
mother spoke Mandarin; and at school, we spoke Mandarin and Malay. Then
later, my dad started speaking to me in English almost exclusively. Did
that isolate me? No indeed! Instead, I learned English much faster than I
would have otherwise. In fact, now it's my most fluent language, and I
think exclusively in English now (I remember a time when I would sometimes
think in Hokkien; not anymore). But I am still fluent in Hokkien, and
semi-fluent in Mandarin. Malay is waning, unfortunately, due to lack of
use -- no one to practice it with.

> I assumed that Brian was proposing a similar bilingual situation for his
> kids, since he said he was hoping it would be a "first" - in quotation
> marks - language for his kids.  In fact I still can't imagine how English
> wouldn't be spoken in the house, unless Brian's wife is a conlanger
> too!  And I don't see why you assume that you have to lock your kids away
> in order to teach them a language.  Exclusive usually means that no one
> else understands it, not that you understand no one else.  I have to say
> that IF Brian's going to deliberately not teach his kids English, then
> that's not ethical by my lights - kids don't need that extra handicap
> adjusting to the outside world - but I don't see where you got the
> assumption that he wasn't going to.

Even if he doesn't, I'm sure they will pick it up. A lot of chinese
couples I know here try to speak only their mothertongue at home -- and
the kids are by no means isolated; in fact, the kids learn English from
their friends at school very fast, and are more fluent than the parents.
In cases where the parents stopped using only their mothertongue at home,
the kids eventually lost it unless they had friends who also spoke it.

So... unless we're talking about locking kids up in an environment where
only a conlang is spoken, I don't see why we're making such a big fuss
over it.


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