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Okay for kids to use a mix of English and Mandarin when speaking: Study

Published on Aug 21, 2014 7:33 AM
A study on pre-schoolers found that code-switching - alternating between two or more languages in a sentence or conversation - could improve the children's Mandarin. More young children are growing up in English-speaking families where Mandarin is hardly used. -- ST FILE PHOTO

Most parents tell their children not to speak in a jumble of English and Mandarin, fearing that it would confuse them and hinder their learning of the language they are weaker in.

However, bilingualism expert Yow Wei Quin disagrees.

The Singapore University of Technology and Design assistant professor, who heads its language and social cognition lab, conducted a study on pre-schoolers and found that code-switching - when a speaker alternates between two or more languages in a sentence or conversation - could improve their Mandarin.

A total of 51 pre-schoolers took part in her study, believed to be the first of its kind in Singapore. Last year, a team of researchers went to two pre-schools and recorded the conversations of the children aged five to six. They followed them throughout their activities, from lessons to group projects to meals and play time, for 10 days.

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Background story


Code-switching is not bad. In fact, it might help children to express themselves in a weaker language. Speaking a little bit of Mandarin is better than not speaking it at all. Otherwise, children may avoid speaking the language altogether.

- Bilingualism expert Yow Wei Quin, who heads the Singapore University of Technology and Design's language and social cognition lab