Are you bilingual?
Many adult learners who are trying to learn Mandarin again after using English as their preferred language of communication are faced with a difficult challenge. They are constantly translating and think in English as they write or speak. The result is that they can neither speak nor write Mandarin well enough to feel confident about themselves as a bilingual speaker.
A good basic foundation in Mandarin is deemed necessary but that still does not guarantee success for a learner to become bilingual. The good news is if you are native Chinese speaker, you stand a higher chance of improving faster than any non-native Chinese speaker. The word “native”, in this case, means your native tongue is Chinese.
Alas! The difference between in English and Mandarin can be so intricate that you literally have to shift from thinking in English to Chinese to see the connection. It is mentally challenging because the knowledge stored in our memory has not been used to make the connections or links. So we find ourselves struggling to produce the correct forms of English or Mandarin. Sometimes, we even think we are correct until our friends who know better spot the mistakes. Then we understand, we have a long way to go before we ourselves become effectively bilingual.
In the following video, I am addressing native speakers in Mandarin. The speech which I have evaluated has been delivered by a Chinese speaker who has begun to use Mandarin in a Mandarin Toastmasters Club.
What about our children?
Will they face the same challenges as an adult learner? Children have the innate abilities to decipher the difference. However, like all skills, without practice, the knowledge is not used and when the knowledge is not used, the skill is lost. Practise creates a better understanding of how to use the skills in speaking and writing a language. If we continue to practice, we will see progress. So starting young is important but practise is key.