How do I say that?

31 months, Nessness

We’re trying to speak to Nessness in Cantonese all the time. The hubs and I are both born to immigrant parents in Canada. While I needed a couple years of ESL in my early school years, it’s safe to say Cantonese is our second language now as we both think in English. My guess is that I can speak Cantonese at a grade 2 level compared to someone from Hong Kong. (Pardon moi, mais mon francais est terrible…pretty much wasted unfortunately.)

This past year we’ve had an English speaking nanny so Nessness hears English spoken to her most of the day, she hears Cantonese spoken to her by us, and she hears English spoken around her since that’s the language hubs and I speak. It’s a bit of a confusing blend so it’s amazing to see how she develops her language. She understands both and can interpret short phrases depending on the language the listener speaks to her in.

While we can speak Cantonese for the functional day to day activities, we’re starting to falter in conversations that are more emotions based. I don’t have the vocabulary for conversations about appropriate or inappropriate expressions of emotion…particularly as the Terrible Two Tantrums seem to be making a regular occurrence. Or vocabulary that speaks to her character, like “That was very kind/thoughtful/generous/etc of you.”

Nessness is also starting to share her preference for one language over another. When reading stories, she’ll specifically ask for some to be read in English, and others in Cantonese. She likes to pretend babble in “English” but when directly communicating with us she uses mostly Cantonese still. I hear once she enters preschool it’ll be really hard to retain the Cantonese. How are other dual language families handling this? Any tips or suggestions? TIA!


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