Family Guide to Raising a Bilingual

Family Guide 2017 

(click on the Family Guide icon above  to view or download the Family Guide booklet.)

The Journey of Becoming Bilingual

What are some of the ways of teaching and/or

learning a second language

The grammar translation method – this method instructs students in grammar, and provides vocabulary with direct translations to memorize. It was the predominant method in Europe in the 19th century.

The direct method – This method is sometimes called the natural method. It is a method that refrains from using the learner’s native language and just uses the target language. It was established in Germany and France around 1900. The direct method operates on the idea that second language learning must be an imitation of first language learning, as this is the natural way humans learn any language – a child never relies on another language to learn its first language, and thus the mother tongue is not necessary to learn a foreign language.

The audio-lingual method – The audio-lingual method has students listen to or view tapes of language models acting in situations. Students practice with a variety of drills, and the instructor emphasizes the use of the target language at all times. This method was used by the United States Army for “crash” instruction in foreign languages during World War II.

Communicative language teaching – CLT is an approach to the teaching of languages that emphasizes interactions as both the means and the ultimate goal of learning a language.

Language immersion– Language immersion puts students in a situation where they must use a foreign language, whether or not they know it. This creates fluency, but not accuracy of usage. This is the method used by STARTALK camps in the U.S. and common in Canada of the state school system as part of the drive towards bilingualism.

Minimalist/Methodist (Paul Rowe’s) – This new approach is underpinned with Paul Nation’s three actions of successful ESL teachers. Initially, it was written specifically for unqualified, inexperienced people teaching in ESL situations. However, experienced language teachers are also responding positively to its simplicity. Language items are usually provided using flashcards. There is a focus on language-in-context and multi-functional practices.

Directed practice – Directed practice has students repeat phrases. This method is used by U.S. diplomatic courses. It can quickly provide a phrasebook-type knowledge of the language. Within these limits, the student’s usage is accurate and precise. However, the student’s choice of what to say is not flexible.

Learning by teaching (LdL as in Lernen durch Lehren) – Learning by teaching is a widespread method in Germany (Jean-Pol Martin). The students take the teacher’s role and teach their peers

Silent way – The Silent Way is a discovery learning approach, invented by Caleb Gattegno in the ‘50’s. It is often considered to be one of the humanistic approaches. It is called the Silent Way because the teacher is usually silent, leaving room for the students to talk and explore the language. It is often associated with Cuisenaire rods and wall charts where words are color-coded; each phoneme a different color.

Other methods2 :

➢ Pimsleur Language Learning System – The Pimsleur method is an audio-based language acquisition method developed by Paul Pimsleur that stresses active participation over rote memorization. During lessons, the listener repeats words and phrases given by native speakers and constructs new phrases by inference.

➢ TPR- Total Physical Response is a language-teaching method developed by James Asher, a professor emeritus of psychology at San José State University. It is based on the coordination of language and physical movement. In TPR, instructors give commands to students in the target language, and students respond with whole-body actions.

➢ Stephen Krashen and Tracy D. Terrell ’s natural approach – Dr. Krashen is a very well-known figure in the world of second language acquisition. Along with Tracy Terrell, they came up with the “natural approach” to second-language learning. The natural approach is a comprehension-based language learning methodology which emphasizes the idea of exposure and the lowering of affective or emotional barriers to learning.

Which method does CSEB use?

Our teachers are aware of all of the above methods. They know the advantages of and disadvantages of each. At CSEB, we employ the method that is the most appropriate and timely for that particular topic and will adjust according to the child’s development.

To answer the question of “what is the method that CSEB adapts in our teaching”, it really depends. For example: In Preschool Chinese, we use English as the instructional language to teach Chinese because we know students at this level have very limited life experience and exposure to the world. We use a combination of TPR, CLT and Immersion methods because this program meets three times a week because children are in daycare, Wee Care program. (We wish we could implement more programs like this in more schools so students can get more exposure to the Chinese language.) We use a lot of songs and movement that are similar to the methods Music and Movements uses because we know that children at this age need physical movement in order to grow. While teaching Chinese, we take this as an opportunity to develop students to get ready for the school environment for kindergarten. For example: We develop listening ability and teach students how to wait to speak in turns and how to raise one’s hand to speak in class …etc. All these seem so fundamental to older children but are hard to learn at this age of a child’s development.

In Chinese 1 class: we continue to use TPR and continue to employ songs as needed. As time progresses, we use more Directed practice, direct method and language immersion. At this stage, we continue to develop students’ ability in academic topics. As students go up to Chinese 1.5, we use more Chinese as the instructional language or the language immersion method because students at this stage already develop a firm foundation for Chinese language and culture. We want them to adapt to the speaking and listening in Chinese. Immersion method is well-known for training fluency. As student’s fluency is developed, they will look for ways to improve on their Chinese. Therefore, accuracy will become automatic and self-posed by the students. Nevertheless, the teacher keeps the needs and the development of the students and may fluctuate from one method to another to meet the needs of the students and help them develop in the Chinese language.

There are a few authorities and/or tests which set the standard of Chinese language in the U.S.

They are:

  •  ACTFL: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
  •  China’ s Hanban 汉办 and its HSK, Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi 汉语水平考试(Chinese Proficiency Test) which is launched by (Hanban 汉办).
  •  Taiwan: Children’s Chinese Competency Certification exam (CCCC). [The Steering Committee of the Test of Proficiency-Huayu]
  •  STARTALK – they have training for Chinese language teachers as well as students during the summer. They require teachers to use 90% of the target language to teach the target language. (i.e. 90% of Chinese to teach Chinese.)

CSEB is fully aware of their standards but are not obliged to use their standard and therefore CSEB can flexibly accommodate student’s learning styles and developmental needs.
Because our classes meet infrequently – only once a week, unlike STARTALK camp, which meets everyday for five days a week during the summer. It is very hard to use the language immersion method for our students at first, especially at the lower level classes. We still use English as the instructional language to build a foundation for more language learning to come. It doesn’t mean we are not adhering to standards. We do what it is feasible to develop our students. We develop our own pedagogy based on:

  •  Our cultural understandings of American children
  •  American culture
  •  American educational system
  •  Knowledge of the local communities and
  •  Knowledge of local school districts.

We also take into consideration the time of the day and the frequency of our meetings. (i.e. Our classes meet after school. Sometimes children are tired after a whole day of school).

CSEB teachers take their teaching seriously and go through intensive professional development every summer on top of the professional workshops they attend on weekends during the school year. Qualified teachers at CSEB are evaluated more than a certification that public schools might require. At CSEB, we look at the inside of the teacher, their passion for the “trade”, their care for children and their dedication for teaching and for the Chinese language and culture. We love what we do!

At CSEB, we put students’ learning styles front and Center

We don’t think of how smart a student is but how a student is smart. There are different smarts. We value each one of them. We want to develop a child to her/his full potential.
We have “student-centered” classroom and not a teacher-centered one.
Why should you consider learning a second language early
on in a child’s life?
What are some of the advantages of being bilingual?

Being bilingual not only will increase a student’s marketability for a global economy, it also helps students develop their brain to be more flexible and able to solve problems more easily. Being bilingual boosts one’s executive function of the brain and thus makes children stay focused longer. Studies have shown that being bilingual will delay the onset of dementia in one’s old age.

Why should my child begin learning a second language early?

Learning a second language early will give a student the ability to speak like a native. It eliminates any possibility of speaking with an accent. Because children imitate sounds easily, it sure is an advantage to start early in learning a second language. Also, children’s brains are much more malleable and can distinguish sounds early on so young children are extremely keen in picking up new sounds and it’s much easier for young children to learn a second language.

Is bilingualism suitable for any American family? What if my family does not know any second language? Can my child still grow up bilingual?

Any family is capable of being bilingual. It doesn’t matter if the family has a “heritage” language or not. What it takes is interest and motivation to learn a second language. Families can help children to be bilingual by exposing the children to the language and attending cultural events to reinforce the learning of the target language.

What are some of the different learning processes my child may go through in becoming a bilingual child?

Children just like adults will use the new second language when there is meaning and a necessity to communicate in the second language. Therefore, the best way to nurture children learning a second language is to provide them with the opportunity to use that language. This includes encouraging the children to interact with people who speak the target language while building on their prior knowledge in real-life situations and helping them remain engaged.

For young children who are learning two languages, they seem to have a speech delay but they are really just taking in the information and processing them until they are ready to speak. It’s just simply that they have more information to process.

Second Language Acquisition:

the process and the human brain

What studies have shown about the human brain in the process of acquiring a second language.
The age at which children learn a new language can have a significant impact on the adult brain structure, suggests a new finding. (Science World Report, Aug. 31, 2013)

“A great way to make one’s brain healthier is by learning a new language.” (Science World Report, Aug. 31, 2013)


[1] From David’s English Teaching World:

2 Definitions taken from Wikipedia.

3 Adapted from   For more elaborate explanation of these stages, please check out:

4 Clark, Beverly A. “First and Second –Language Acquisition in Early Children”